Trudeau, Smith meet to discuss emission reductions, 'net-zero' electricity grid

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says compliance would increase residential electricity bills by 40%, leaving ratepayers to cover billions in stranded costs.

Trudeau, Smith meet to discuss emission reductions, 'net-zero' electricity grid
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to discuss emission reductions Friday with Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, including the possibility of a 'net-zero' electricity grid by 2035.

"Two major pieces are coming forward, [including] a 'net-zero' power grid by 2035. [This is] unachievable," Smith told Ryan Jesperson on Real Talk last month.

"If we can keep a target of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, we will be perfectly in sync," she said. "Don't try to accelerate if the technology isn't there and the timeline is too fast."

Alberta's premier told Jesperson the federal government needs to know Alberta's energy mix differs from other provinces.

"In Alberta, 90% of our electricity grid comes from natural gas, so you can't use the same lens here…like in Quebec, where they get the lion's share from hydro or nuclear," she said. 

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault recently threatened provinces not adopting the Clean Electricity Standard by 2030. Alberta refuted those standards, citing concerns about the affordability of residential utility bills.

Smith said compliance would increase residential electricity bills for Albertans by 40%, leaving billions in stranded costs on the backs of ratepayers.

"I would tell you that that's not going to be affordable for people on fixed incomes and everyday families." 

Despite the opposition, Smith remains hopeful that a "breakthrough" will occur between the province and Ottawa.

On June 8, the premier acknowledged the province's electricity grid of tomorrow will use a mix of energy, but to expect them to replace its reliance on natural gas within 12 years is "not achievable."

"These projects take a long time to conceive [and] get the money [to fund]," she said, adding that constantly changing rules fuel uncertainty. 

"Even the Saskatchewan NDP has said a net-zero power grid by 2035 is unachievable," claimed Smith.

On May 17, the Saskatchewan Party and NDP Opposition voted unanimously to support the province's plan for affordable, reliable power generation to 2035 and beyond. That includes not phasing out conventional coal by 2030 or transitioning their electricity grid to net zero by 2035.

"We're going to continue to chart Saskatchewan's path," Premier Scott Moe told reporters. "It may not necessarily be Canada's path, and we'll have more details in the coming weeks."

On May 26, Smith told Rebel News her government intends to "stand with Premier Scott Moe."

The premier also condemned Ottawa's 2035 target as it would come at a massive cost to Alberta's 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.

"The report says the [transition] would have a largely negligible impact on GDP growth. What is your response to that?" asked a 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.

"It will have a huge impact on affordability."

In December, the UCP announced inflation relief explicitly targeting rising utility costs — for $644 million. They provided temporary price protections on regulated electricity rates with $75 rebates in January and February and $25 for March and April.

This story will include updates soon.

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  • By Ezra Levant

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