Alberta power grid regulator finalizing plan to boost renewable energy investment

CALGARY – The head of Alberta’s power grid operator says he expects to finish a report before the end of the month on how to increase renewable energy investments in the province.

David Erickson, chief executive of the Alberta Electric System Operator, said Tuesday that the report will then be submitted to the provincial government, with details of the plan expected to be finalized in the third quarter.

That would give enough time to initiate the first round of bidding on various renewable energy projects by the end of the year, with the aim of having the new power sources coming online in 2019.

Erickson described the timeline as achievable.

“It’s an aggressive timeline but I don’t think it’s too aggressive. I don’t think it’s going to lead to inappropriate outcomes because of the short timeline,” he said.

Erickson said the renewable energy procurement process should generally follow the recommendations of the government-commissioned climate leadership report tabled last November, but that the AESO is still refining details on the issue after hearing from some 140 stakeholder groups.

The process will include requests for interest and proposals, with the government aiming to have the first contracts awarded in the second quarter of 2017.

Erickson said there is already strong interest in building renewables in Alberta and that he expects numerous bids in the process.

“I don’t think we will lack for competition if we do this right,” he said.

Alberta’s NDP government has committed to phasing out coal-fired power plants and increasing renewable energy’s share of the power supply to as much as 30 per cent by 2030.

Erickson said phasing out coal won’t be easy, but that its feasible.

“Getting 40 per cent of your capacity off the system in 14 years is a tall order,” he said. “That said, we’re confident we can do it.”

Follow @ibickis on Twitter.