Plenty of scope for much more -- Saskatchewan targets

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More large scale wind power should be a key element of the Saskatchewan government's strategy for meeting one-third of the Canadian prairie province's overall energy needs with renewable resources. Installation of 500 MW of wind by 2015 and a focus on overcoming any integration challenges to allow still higher penetration levels are recommended in a newly report, Renewable Energy Development and Conservation in Saskatchewan. The province today has 172 MW of wind power capacity on its 3655 MW system.

"Saskatchewan has a vast wind resource that could ultimately generate between 15 and 20 per cent of our electricity needs, if integration issues are satisfactorily overcome and if some additional transmission capacity is developed," the report says. "Wind power is economically attractive and will readily compete on price with other electrical generation options."

Pointing to the significant wind power penetrations in jurisdictions like Germany, Spain and Denmark, the report argues that SaskPower, the province's government-owned monopoly utility, should be asked to adopt an "equally vigorous" approach. "With this in mind, SaskPower should establish a world- class wind power integration unit to recruit and develop expertise in all facets of wind power."

As a first step, the utility should work with the Saskatchewan Research Council to determine where to strategically locate wind projects to take best advantage of geographic diversity, filing a preliminary report within 18 months and a final report within 30 months. "To date, this kind of mapping work has not been done," the report says. SaskPower should also examine the potential for using existing natural gas generation as a source of backup for wind, the report says. "The combination of green wind power and back-up natural gas electrical generation should be viewed as a major option for meeting base load electricity supply needs."

Aiming for leadership

The report is the result of months of study by Peter Prebble, a member of the legislative assembly charged with the job of examining the options for achieving the government's renewable energy goals. "By the third decade of this century, we want one-third of the energy needs of Saskatchewan people to be met by renewable sources and to lead the country in energy conservation practices," says Premier Lorne Calvert. "This report provides important options to consider."

Prebble makes 32 recommendations, including a legislated requirement that a minimum of 50% of Saskatchewan's electricity come from renewable energy sources and conservation measures by 2025. The target includes existing hydro and wind, which currently accounts for 29% of the province's overall generating capacity.

He also wants SaskPower to continue its strategy of procuring green power from small scale, privately developed projects and recommends a target of 200 MW for wind power connected to the distribution network over the next six years. With Ontario now offering a standard offer price of C$0.11/kWh for electricity from renewable projects of less than 10 MW, Saskatchewan will have to take steps to ensure it can compete, he points out.

"This will influence where mobile capital chooses to invest in renewable energy development in Canada. While Saskatchewan does not need to offer eleven cents, if we want to facilitate investment in high environmental performance renewable electricity projects, we will have to increase our price offers," says Prebble. A standard offer of at least C$0.09/kWh should be considered, he adds.

Prebble's report is now in the hands of Calvert and his cabinet, who will decide how to proceed. Prebble plans a second report, to be tabled in June, that will look at the potential for ethanol and biodiesel use in the transportation sector, as well as the opportunities for small hydro and biomass development in the northern part of the province.

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