By Lethbridge Herald on October 14, 2023.
AT THE LEGISLATURE
Nathan Neudorf – UCP MLA for Lethbridge East
As we head out of summer and into fall, I know everyone is bracing for their power bills to go up as the temperatures drop.
Coming off a period of record-high prices for the Regulated Rate Option, this is not what anyone wants to hear, nor is it the current direction things are headed.
There is good news on the horizon for everyone in Lethbridge and the rest of the province.
In the short-term, several natural gas generators are scheduled to come online by the end of the year or early next spring, which will put further downward pressure on the RRO which has already fallen from a high of 32 cents per kilowatt hour in August to 19 cents this month.
University of Calgary economist Blake Shaffer told CBC News that the added generation should drop the price to below 10 cents in the new year. It’s lowest point since before 2020.
While the opposition points to our inquiry on renewables as adding to the high prices, we were seeing record investment in renewables as prices were skyrocketing. Something is clearly not working in our market and needs to be corrected.
Since the pause was announced, the number of renewable projects entering the Alberta Utilities Commission queue has actually increased.
Too be clear, renewable energy is an important part of our grid going forward, the focus is on how to most efficiently integrate it into our grid for the highest benefit to consumers.
I am looking into long-term solutions to reliability and affordability of electricity for all Albertans.
This means having the right mix of energy sources as well as technology in our overall system management.
I have been busy this past month speaking with groups from across industry and the country looking at different options and technologies.
I spent the first part of last week in southern Ontario where I spoke at the Energy Storage Canada conference and was able to connect with individuals on the development of battery storage. This is an evolving field which does have several players from Alberta.
The challenge, however, is to find a way to make this technology affordable and more efficient in storing wind and solar generated energy and utilizing its many attributes to optimize our grid and energy consumption.
While in Ontario, I was also given a tour of the Bruce Power nuclear plant and was able to discuss the potential of nuclear energy as part of the mix in Alberta. This is a long-term solution, but the federal regulatory process alone can take as long as 12 years for a new facility before a shovel hits the ground.
I was later recognized at the Ontario Legislative Assembly prior to meeting with Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith about what they have done and are continuing to do to ensure the reliability of their electricity grid. While Ontario’s grid is run by a Crown corporation, they do have similar challenges on the horizon if thefed’s Clean Electricity Regulation goes forward, especially when it comes to natural gas which is additional baseload power for them.
This was underscored by Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator which told the Globe and Mail that Ottawa’s draft regulations do not reflect their input or real-world experience.
It warns about how the CER will slow the electrification of their economy and compromise the reliability of their grid while increasing electricity costs. In fact, in 2018, the Ontario government cancelled 758 renewables projects to save approximately 12 cents-per-KWh on consumers bills. We are trying to learn from their experience.
This followed on the heels of the Alberta Electricity System Operator holding a rare press conference to warn of the disastrous potential impacts of the CER to the reliability and affordability of Alberta’s grid.
“In order for us to be a reliable electricity system, through time and well into the future, we need to have dispatchable technologies that can meet the demands of the province when, quite frankly, the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining,” Mike Law, president of AESO, told the media.
That’s the crux of it all.
We are leaving no stone unturned. I’ve talked with companies, with renewable sector-specific groups, municipalities and landowners – including at the Alberta Power Symposium and the Alberta Municipal Fall Convention.
We’ve talked with jurisdictions from across North America while watching the likes of environmental frontrunners California, Germany and England temporarily backtrack on coal and other thermal generation due to their inability to meet energy demands. The goal is to ensure Albertans have power when they need it most and at a price they can afford, and that is what we are going to do.