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Questions remain as NDP says Alberta will have 30 per cent renewable power by 2030

Alberta’s NDP government says it’s committed to having 30 per cent of the province’s electricity supply come from renewables by 2030, but details still need to be worked out on how to get there.

The NDP’s climate change strategy, released last fall, set a target of 30 per cent from sources such as wind and solar to accompany the plan’s accelerated phase-out of coal power by 2030.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said in a news conference Wednesday that target is now “firm” and the province will support the creation of an additional 5,000 megawatts of renewable power.

“Alberta will lead forward, not go backwards,” she said.

The report from the province’s climate change panel called for an auction system where producers will bid to receive government support for the development of new renewable capacity.

The government’s website says that $3.4 billion out of the nearly $10 billion expected to be collected from the incoming broad-based carbon tax over the next five years will go toward “large scale renewable energy, bioenergy and technology.”

Phillips, however, would not put a price tag on how much will go toward subsidies for renewables.

And while there will be an auction system, how it will function is still being developed by the Alberta Electrical System Operator (AESO), which will oversee the program.

“There are many different ways to structure renewable procurement,” said Phillips.

“We are currently examining how that looks in Alberta so that we get the least-cost procurement. What we know about renewables is they lower the price for consumers.”

Patrick Bateman of the Canadian Solar Industries Association said he anticipates that costs to the province will be low because there will be a competitive bidding process.

But he said there needs to be revenue certainty for potential producers, perhaps through mechanisms such as contracts that would see the province top up revenue if it dropped below a certain level, for projects to go ahead.

“We’ve got a situation where investment in any generation technology is a challenging prospect … for any new generation we’re going to need to see the new policy certainty the minister has been describing today,” he told reporters.

There are wind projects that would produce about 6,800 megawatts and solar projects responsible for 600 megawatts that are currently under development in Alberta.

“We’re not looking at getting government subsidies necessarily for all of these 7,000 megawatts in the queue to come online,” said Evan Wilson, regional director for the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

“It’s waiting to see what the system is going to look like, waiting to see what the policy will look like and how that will shape the market moving forward.”

With 30 per cent renewables, the remainder of Alberta’s power supply by 2030 will come from natural gas.