Alberta’s best deal

Friday, June 20th, 2014

There exist some pretty significant misperceptions about wind energy in Alberta, some were put forward in a recent letter-to-the-editor in the Calgary Herald – Blowin’ in the wind   (Jun 16, 2014). While the letter writer correctly points out that there is a difference between generating capacity and actual electricity generation – his numbers are somewhat dated. Wind power’s contribution to Alberta’s electricity market was over 5 per cent in 2013, and with 1,434 MW now operating in the province, that percentage will likely increase in 2014.

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Another commonly misunderstood point in understanding the Alberta electricity system – and any electricity system for that matter –is that an operating reserve is a requirement on any electricity system. The reserve is available to maintain system reliability as demands go up and down, and as any type of generator comes off line for maintenance and repairs – for example, 1,630 MW of coal units were off-line during the week of June 15, according to AESO’s Daily Outage Report (see image below) . While clearly wind operates differently than coal, there has never been any back-up generation built exclusively to support wind energy in Alberta.

Finally, Albertans do not pay for the capital costs of any electricity generator in Alberta; rather the private sector does, who then provides bids into the Alberta’s electricity market. Wind energy is consistently the lowest price supply in Alberta’s market, and with no fuel supply risk, increasing wind energy can help protect consumers from future price volatility.

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Source: 2013 Annual Market Statistics Data File

Dr. Tim Weis is the Alberta Regional Director at the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA). He is a professional engineer and works on public policy, research and advocacy activities for Alberta’s wind energy industry. He is based in Edmonton, Alberta.

AESO Daily Outage Report:

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Source: AESO’s Daily Outage Report