New coalition aims to scale barriers

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A new Canadian wind group is attempting to organise a co-operative in southern Alberta to raise capital and develop up to 200 MW of wind energy in five years. Members of the CanAlta Wind Energy Coalition (CAWEC)-an organisation of wind advocates, municipalities, economic development authorities and a wide range of industry sectors-"have been frustrated by the lack of a level playing field for wind power development and the inability of anybody to move this forward at an industry scale in Alberta," says Don Reimer of CAWEC.

The coalition seeks to overcome barriers to wind development in the province, which has long been dominated by oil and gas interests. "We found a tremendous number of ad hoc or individual project development initiatives put forward with no strategic synthesis at an industry level," says Reimer. He notes that wind development to date in Alberta has been mostly small scale demonstrations, spawned by the province's Small Power Research and Development program. While this has led to some 100 MW of renewables, including the 18.9 MW Cowley Ridge wind farm completed in 1994, CAWEC seeks to develop larger projects with a strategic synthesis across the south.

CAWEC's initial catalyst for action is "Bill 27," Alberta's proposed law to deregulate its electricity industry. With Bill 27, says Reimer "there is an opportunity to inject another entire layer of energy marketers operating between generators and retailers."

The bill's schedule is to bring different sectors of customers on stream in the next 24 months. It creates a fully competitive market among power suppliers and allows for customer choice. It also allows for marketers who can buy from any Alberta power generator and then sell the electricity to the Alberta Power Pool, opening up price competition. The need to gain provincial approval for large scale wind development will no longer be necessary if the bill becomes law, Reimer points out. As a result, the coalition will concentrate on promoting wind to federal and municipal governments, since it still lacks a level playing field for pricing and full-cost accounting.

Alberta officials have clearly indicated that wind will have to survive alone in the free market brought into play by the passage of Bill 27. CAWEC will also lobby Alberta's electricity regulators and selected senior managers in provincial departments, Reimer says.

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