Alberta industry is coming to the aid of Premier Danielle Smith as the federal push to transition to 'net-zero' electricity remains in full swing.
As first reported by CTV, Edmonton-based Capital Power Corp. hopes to reach 'net-zero' electricity by 2045 — five years earlier than the province's stated goal.
"We do not believe 2035 is possible. From an Alberta perspective, it is not doable," said Capital Power CEO Avik Dey in an interview. "However, we do believe 2045 is achievable."
Calgary-based TransAlta Corp., which converted its Canadian coal-fired generating facilities to cleaner-burning natural gas in 2021 — nine years ahead of Alberta's coal phaseout plan — is on track for a 2045 target date.
Duane Reid-Carlson, president of Calgary-based energy consulting company EDC Associates Ltd., contends rebuilding the province's entire electric system in 10 to 15 years is "theoretically possible" but says it would be painful for consumers, causing electricity prices to spike.
"All of these [greener alternatives] are technically available, but many of them are unproven technologies at the scale and size and application we're talking about," he said. "A 2050 timeline would be more palatable because we'd have a little more runway to ensure all these technologies work."
A resident asked Smith about the possibility of "rolling natural gas blackouts" this winter owing to the federal government's draft regulations on 'net-zero' electricity. She replied: "No, that simply won't happen. We will not allow people to freeze in [...] our province."
The premier contends that the UCP is "battling it out" with Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault on the regulations.
Under these regulations, environmental officials estimate typical household energy bills would increase by $35 to $61 per year by 2040. With the offsets, ratepayers can expect a 2% hike in monthly electricity costs.
However, Smith projects power bills to skyrocket between 200% and 500% following the release of a report by the Public Policy Forum (PPF).
"[Guilbeault] had no idea what he stepped into," she said, adding the province would not be able to add more unabated natural gas projects."
"[Environment Canada] has no jurisdiction over how we manage our resources [or] power grid — that is our jurisdiction."
The Forum anticipates the cost of expediting a 'net-zero' electricity transition by 2035 would cost $1.7 trillion — more than the country's expected GDP in 2023.
In May, the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) report estimated the transition for Alberta would only cost between $44 billion and $52 billion over the next decade, with power generation costs exceeding $92.2 billion over the same period.
With the regulations, Smith pegs the costs between $200 billion and $400 billion.
"Imagine your home or business power bill increasing by 200% to 500% over the next decade. I can't afford that," she said. "Can you?"
"Let's bring some logic and reason to this conversation and modernize our grid in an affordable and environmentally responsible manner."