The greening of Medicine Hat

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The south-eastern Alberta town of Medicine Hat, which operates its own electric utility, has signed a five year deal with Calgary's Vision Quest Windelectric for 13,050 MWh of wind generated green tags annually. The purchase represents 3% of the utility's residential and commercial customer load, says Gerry Labas, the city's chief administrative officer.

Homeowners will pay C$0.33 a month and large businesses C$5.90 a month. Industrial customers, who are helping pay the costs of air quality monitors in the region, are not being charged.

The utility owns a 200 MW gas power plant and generates enough electricity to supply its 25,000 customers, says Labas. But environmental stewardship, including the increased use of renewables, is a priority. A 2001 customer survey found that 90% would pay more to add green power to the supply mix and most preferred a city-wide, rather than voluntary, program. The utility examined several renewable energy technologies and found the most "financially attractive" was wind, says Labas.

The utility may increase its green tag purchases after a year, he says. It may also get into the business of producing wind power, although proximity to good wind resources, which tend to be concentrated in the province's south-west corner, is an issue.

"There is an interest in researching this a little bit further because there are some members of our council that would prefer to see actual generation in the Medicine Hat area," says Labas, adding, "We produce our own natural gas and we produce our own electricity, so they would like to see us look at these other forms of renewable energy too."

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