Major hope emerges in green pricing

At the 12th international Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) conference in Alberta in October new initiatives by the federal government and by Ontario Hydro to help wind power develop were announced. Although the conventional power industry retains its grip on the Canadian electricity market, customers are becoming more vocal in their demands for the right to choose green power

Alberta's Kananaskis Village, west of Calgary and surrounded by the snow-capped Rocky Mountains, hosted the 12th international Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) conference in early October. One hundred and twenty delegates learned of new initiatives by the federal government and by Ontario Hydro to help wind power develop and viewed the displays of sixteen wind industry and government exhibitors. Many also hiked the trails and mountain passes of Kananaskis Country, near the better known tourist area of Banff.

A number of wind power projects were discussed, although delegates received no new information on the fate of several Canadian high profile wind efforts, including the Kenetech contracts with Hydro Quebec to build major wind plants in the French province (Windpower Monthly, September 1996). In Alberta, the province which has the highest installed wind capacity in Canada, a heavily subsidised and politically powerful fossil fuel industry and its supporters in government have so far delayed further wind development, although increasingly vocal citizens are trying to counter this. The fossil fuel industry, which supplies much of the electricity generation in Alberta, has also resisted binding commitments to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide. The need to combat global warming and public opinion in favour of cleaner power could turn things around and these were subjects which received much attention at the conference.


In a seminar sponsored by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), conference participants toured the 18.9 MW Cowley Ridge facility in windswept southwest Alberta, consisting of 52 Kenetech turbines. The show-case wind farm was built by Kenetech in the foothills of the Rockies and is now owned and operated by the Ontario electric utility Canadian Niagara Power. Cowley Ridge has experienced none of the significant blade problems which have plagued other Kenetech projects, according to its operators.

Delegates also visited the provincial Alberta Renewable Energy Test Site (ARETS) in Pincher Creek, and the adjacent CWT Power Inc plant, consisting of seven 150 kW Adecon vertical axis wind turbines. With the support of NRCan, CWT is refining the turbine design of Peter South. ARETS develops renewable energy technology for agricultural uses, and is developing wind and photovoltaic-powered pumpers to aerate dugouts and pump water on farms and cattle ranches where water supply and quality are major concerns. A new perimeter-bladed, high-torque/low-speed wind-powered water pumper, the Dutch Industries' "Delta Junior" is under development at the site, to complement the company's larger "Dutch Delta" model. The models use the novel perimeter-blade design of Professor Jack Kentfield of the University of Calgary, who has just published a reference book "The Fundamentals of Wind-Driven Water Pumpers."

The CWT and Cowley Ridge wind plants, and many smaller wind and other renewable energy installations ,were developed with help from two Alberta government programmes: the Small Power Research and Development Act (SPRDA) and the Southwest Alberta Renewable Energy Initiative (SWAREI). The act established an electricity purchase rate for 125 MW of renewable electricity generation projects whose power was slated for purchase by TransAlta Utilities. However, the Alberta government of premier Ralph Klein allowed only 98 MW of projects to proceed. SWAREI's $3 million funding, drawn from oil and gas royalties collected by the Alberta government, dried up over a year ago, but previously helped CWT and several other smaller scale wind and other renewable energy projects to go ahead.

Green power IS customer power

Premier Klein has expressed a keen interest in wind power in his province, particularly a proposal by the town of Pincher Creek for a major wind development involving green power pricing and a second project by a German and Canadian consortium, Enercon-York-Wind Power Inc for a 700 MW wind plant (Windpower Monthly, October 1996). But the task force to discuss these initiatives had yet to hold its first meeting at the time of the CanWEA conference. The meeting was reportedly delayed by a provincial energy minister who, in the words of one Alberta participant, "doesn't like wind power," and an environment minister who "doesn't believe in global warming."

Jason Edworthy of Nor'wester Energy Systems of Calgary spoke on "Why green power?" and indicated that buying green power at a premium price is of increasing interest and demand in Canada. "Green power acquisition mechanisms" are now being worked out in Alberta and elsewhere, he added. "Everybody likes green power," he said. "It's a low-fat, guilt free energy," which allows renewable energy development through customer choice, without further regulation and measures such as a carbon tax (which is anathema to many in Alberta).

A citizens' movement demanding wind power, green power pricing and customer choice is emerging in southwestern Alberta, the region of the province with the best wind regime and which has seen the benefits of wind power due to SWAREI and SPRDA projects. Several thousand petitions supporting the Enercon project have been recently faxed to Klein. It sees major job creating and economic development potential in wind energy which could replace the region's dwindling oil and gas industry. The petition stated: "We support the [Enercon-York] project, which is greatly needed to boost the economy of southern Alberta. The north part of the province has had its economic boost [in the recent expansion of the oil sands industry] and now it is time for the south."

Roy Davidson of the Pincher Creek economic development board, the leading advocate of the scheme, said the development would lead to a $5.5 billion investment, create 2500 jobs and supply 2.5% of Alberta's electricity in ten years.

CanWEA banquet speaker, maverick oil industry columnist Frank Dabbs, said the Klein government should be voted out of office and a new government elected which will implement major new wind power development. "Ralph Klein's cabinet . . . is now talking about the past, but you are talking about the future." Dabbs predicted that the Canadian wind industry "will succeed beyond its wildest dreams" and now "must prepare for success."

Renewables and the pool

All electricity within the province is now exchanged and transacted through the new Alberta power pool (APP), which began January 1 and allows a degree of competition in wholesale electricity supply. It now has 30 participants. The APP currently covers the fixed costs of Alberta's existing coal fired and other generation, with which new projects will need to compete without comparable subsidies.

Lorry Wilson, APP CEO, said that some 200 MW per year will be needed in Alberta shortly as demand grows and existing coal generation is retired. Renewable generation will be able to compete to supply this new capacity, he asserted.

Wilson, like Alberta deputy minister of energy Rick Hyndman who spoke at the conference, saw an opportunity for green "contracts for differences" (CFDs) for future generation in the APP. CFDs are financial arrangements outside of the pool between customers and generators which would enable customers to manage price risk or pay a premium to obtain green power. They involve a contracted price for electricity and a settlement between the producer and the consumer on the difference between the pool price and the contract price. The arrangement "ensures that the customer always pays -- and the green power producer always receives -- the agreed upon price, regardless of the pool price." Green CFDs could fund wind power and other green generation.

Guido Bachmann of the Independent Power Producers Society of Alberta (IPPSA) presented a case study by which an independent wind producer with 20 MW of wind power could market it to a municipality within the APP, utilising a CFD, at a residential cost of C$0.09/kWh. He estimated the current Alberta wind power market potential at over 100 MW.

One conference session dealt with Alberta's large carbon dioxide emissions and the role which wind power could play in displacing fossil fuels. Francois Tanguay of Greenpeace Quebec warned of the environmental impacts of man made global warming on Alberta, the other western provinces and Canada as a whole. Boreal forests are slowly moving north as warming proceeds and Canada's northwest is warming, like the entire circumpolar area. "Canada's voluntary greenhouse gas reduction is not enough," he said. "Canada will have one of the worst records in the western world."

Environmentalist Robert Hornung of Alberta's Pembina Institute pointed out that from 1990-94, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions grew by 5.6%, with the single biggest factor being increased oil and gas production in Alberta. Canada could be as high as 13% above its 1990 levels by 2000. A new commitment to increased renewable energy production could be one of the "creative solutions."