Alberta's UCP forewarned voters of a "costly" NDP promise to shift the province's electricity grid to net-zero emissions by 2035. UCP candidate Brian Jean claimed the policy objective would cost billions and decimate the economy.
According to the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) report, transitioning to a net-zero grid would cost between $44 billion and $52 billion over the next decade. However, power generation costs would exceed $92.2 billion during the same period.
"It is the most expensive political promise ever made in Alberta history," Jean told reporters on Wednesday. At a separate press conference, Premier Danielle Smith said electricity bills would jump 40% for Albertans.
On Thursday, a reporter asked Smith to clarify the AESO report that questions the net-zero push by 2035.
"The report says the [transition] would have a largely negligible impact on GDP growth. What is your response to that?" asked the reporter. Smith replied: "It would result in a cumulative reduction of $35 billion."
"We have two reports — the AESO report that said we would have to invest $52 billion to get to a net zero power grid, and then Navius [Research]...said it would have a cumulative effect of reducing GDP by $35 billion," she said.
"After people got over this most recent winter season, a lot of the NDP decisions are coming home to roost. They phased out coal early to natural gas, and billions in stranded costs were worked into ratepayers' bills," continued Smith.
On July 25, 2016, the Alberta NDP claimed Enron caused $2 billion in power purchase agreement (PPA) losses from Alberta electricity consumers. However, the NDP government amended Alberta's Specified Gas Emitters Regulation by Ministerial Order 13/2015 in June 2015 to increase carbon taxes on large carbon-emitting facilities, including coal-fired electricity generation.
Under these low market price circumstances, all the power purchase agreements (PPAs) either became "unprofitable or more unprofitable." PPA buyers, including Enmax Energy, could rightfully terminate their PPAs per PPA Change in Law Clause 4.3(j) without paying a financial penalty to the Balancing Pool.
After the government sued the buyers for consumers incurring the $2 billion cost, they embarked on a media campaign, alleging a "secret backroom deal" between previous governments and industry to deflect from the NDP carbon tax.
On Wednesday, ATCO CEO Nancy Southern called the energy transition policies "inflationary by nature" that strain an overburdened system. Smith said Alberta had recently observed a build-up in their grid's transmission system, prompting an increase in transmission and distribution costs for power bills.
It is "painfully clear that the transition for energy will not be easy, nor will it be cheap," added Southern, adding that solutions for affordable and reliable energy need to be pitched.
"Look at what you saw this past winter and add 40% to that," said Smith. "I would tell you that that's not going to be affordable for people on fixed incomes and everyday families."
"That is the most expensive campaign promise proposed this election campaign. It will have a huge impact on affordability."
In December, the UCP announced inflation relief explicitly targeting rising utility costs. They provided temporary price protections on regulated electricity rates with $75 rebates in January and February and $25 for March and April.
The Alberta government also suspended the 13-cent carbon tax on gasoline and diesel until the end of June, with subsequent three-month reviews after the fact to assess the need for further suspensions of the fuel tax.