Can Alberta Quit Coal? Pembina Institute Thinks So


Jennifer Grant, Pembina Institute
Jennifer Grant, Pembina Institute

In just the past few years the great state of Texas, traditional home of the country’s mighty oil industry, has become a huge and growing source of renewable energy. So If Texas can do it, why not Oilberta?

Well it can. The green-minded Pembina Institute, along with Clean Energy Canada, outlines a pretty logical way forward in a new report that would help Alberta embrace its inner renewable and slash its unhealthy addiction to coal.

Thanks to the energy intensive nature to produce bitumen from the tar sands, Alberta uses more coal than all the rest of the Canadian provinces combined. Ontario has just phased coal out entirely, by the way.

“Though Alberta’s oilsands sector attracts a great deal of critical attention both at home and abroad, the province’s electricity sector generates almost the same quantity of carbon pollution,” according to the report.

Pembina zeros in on why the province has not kickstarted its renewable energy sector: the lack of government action. Surprise, surprise, neither the provincial capital of Edmonton or the federal government in Ottawa are doing much of any consequence to stop its carbon heavy ways.

“Alberta could cut its reliance on high-polluting energy dramatically, but the lack of a renewable policy framework has been a real barrier,” said Ben Thibault, Pembina’s Electricity Program Director in a statement.

“The faster we begin that deliberate transition away from over-reliance on fossil fuels, the sooner Albertans will see the benefits of cleaner air, improved health, a more resilient energy system and, ultimately, less pressure on consumers’ electricity bills.”

Here is a excerpt from Pembina’s statement on the plan to take Alberta into the renewable age: 

‘Within 20 years, Alberta has the potential to drastically reduce its over-reliance on fossil fuels for power generation and replace it with renewable energy sources such as wind, sun, biomass, hydro and geothermal energy, according to a new report released today by Clean Energy Canada and the Pembina Institute.

 New modelling conducted for the report—Power To Change: How Alberta Can Green its Grid and Embrace Clean Energy—also shows that increasing clean electricity production will actually cost consumers less in the long run than continuing to rely so heavily on coal or natural gas combustion.
The report finds that a large-scale shift to clean energy would slightly increase the average price paid for electricity in the near-term (6.3 per cent by 2023). Soon after, however, the price difference would begin to shrink and ultimately head in the opposite direction. By the year 2033, modelling shows, the cost of power would be four per cent lower than it would be if the province opted to continue to rely on carbon-based generation. The clean scenarios could also provide greater security for consumers against unexpected fuel price shocks.

Merran Smith, Executive Director of Clean Energy Canada added: “Polling tells us that the vast majority of Albertans are ready to reduce their reliance on coal power and transition to a renewable energy future. Now we know that a wholesale energy transformation is not only technically possible, but that in the long-run it will actually save Albertans money.”

Here is some geeky stuff on the abundance of renewable energy in Alberta from the report:

*Alberta enjoys some of Canada’s most abundant and reliable renewable energy
resources—including 150 gigawatts of potential wind power, 11 GW of
potential hydroelectricity, and 120 GW of potential demonstrated geothermal

*As for solar photovoltaics, it would be possible to meet Alberta’s annual electrical energy needs with solar panels alone; doing so would require 1,746 km2—or 0.26 per cent—of the province’s total land area.

*Myriad opportunities also exist to use electricity much more efficiently.


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