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Alberta’s close brush with blackouts stiffens Moe’s resolve


17 minute read

From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Brian Zinchuk

“We will not risk plunging our homes, schools, hospitals, special care homes and our businesses into the cold and darkness because of the ideological whims of others.”

Alberta’s close brush with possible rolling blackouts stiffens Moe’s resolve to keep the lights on.

Moe reiterates: “We will not attempt the impossible when it comes to power production”

The past weekend proved to be a close-run thing for the Alberta electrical grid, and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is making statements resolving he won’t allow that to happen here.

Specifically, after having nearly completely divested itself of coal-fired power production, Alberta’s dramatic buildout of wind and solar proved impossible to keep the lights on in that province when the chips were down and temperatures hit -35 C, or worse.

“In Saskatchewan, we will not attempt the impossible when it comes to power production in our province,” Moe said in a post on X and other social media the evening of Monday, Jan. 15.

“We will not risk plunging our homes, schools, hospitals, special care homes and our businesses into the cold and darkness because of the ideological whims of others.

“To support the ongoing power demands across western Canada, Boundary Dam 4 has been restarted to ensure families can continue to keep the heat on. Net zero by 2035 is not only impossible, it’s irresponsible as it would leave Saskatchewan and Western Canadian families freezing and in the dark.”

It was in response to the extraordinary events that occurred in Alberta over the weekend, in which Saskatchewan played a key part. And it was also a tacit acknowledgement that as much as SaskPower’s been trying to wean itself off coal, it just can’t do it yet. We still need it to keep the lights on.

The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) declared four “grid alerts,” over four days in a row, starting the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 12. Desperately cold temperatures drove up demand for power, just as the same temperatures reduced wind power generation to nothing at times, and close to nothing for most of the weekend. And since the mass of cold air stretched from the Yukon to Texas, every grid operator in between was in the same boat – high demand but short supply. The Southwest Power Pool, which incorporates parts of 14 states from south of Saskatchewan to the Texas Panhandle, as well as Texas grid operator ERCOT, all put out various forms of alerts suggesting their clients reduce electrical consumption.

Staring into the abyss

The first three of Alberta’s grid alerts ran from mid-afternoon until late evening, but the fourth occurred for an hour on Monday morning, as the workweek began.

The second of those grid alerts turned out to be the most significant. On Saturday, Jan. 13, Alberta came within a half-hour of rotating blackouts, an Alberta Electric System Operator spokesperson told CBC News on Jan. 15, confirmed by Alberta Affordability and Utilities Minister Nathan Neudorf the same day.

Indeed, the province stood at the brink of the abyss Saturday night, as rotating blackouts would have impacted different areas of the province for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, as temperatures ranged from -30 to -45 C, depending on where you were in the province. As the province’s grid-scale batteries neared depletion, and there was nothing left to call upon, the AESO and provincial government put out an emergency alert to all cellphones and TV screens, asking Albertans to shut off and unplug everything they could, from electric vehicle chargers to ovens to bathroom fans.

SaskPower ups its game

Alberta had run out of reserves, and with British Columbia unable to provide much more in the way of additional power, and Montana unable provide much at all, Saskatchewan’s Crown utility SaskPower responded, by sending 153 megawatts westward.

And that, in itself, was extraordinary, because limits were pushed to provide Alberta with as much as possible on the intertie between the two provinces.

SaskPower spokesperson Joel Cherry told Pipeline Online by email, “One hundred fifty-three megawatts is the interconnection’s maximum capacity, but it has been derated to 90 megawatts for the past several months because of ongoing work at a interconnection station at the border. AESO and SaskPower Grid Control have agreed to temporarily increase the transmission capacity to make the extra 63 MW available to Alberta when they declare energy alerts.

Contingency reserve had run out

Generally speaking, power needs to be consumed at the instant its produced. There is very little in the way of grid-scale storage in the Canadian electrical grid, although Alberta has built 10 grid-scale batteries totaling 190 megawatts capacity. All of that capacity would come into play Saturday evening.

Grid operators must maintain a small amount of excess capacity at all times, known as a “dispatched contingency reserve” (DCR) The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) standard is to maintain at least 4 per cent DCR. That’s because if the DCR runs out, all sorts of bad things happen, with voltage drops and frequency variance which then can lead to cascading brownouts, including additional power generating units tripping off and whole areas going without power.

With demand hovering around 11,800 megawatts, four per cent would have been around 472 megawatts DRC. Instead, for the better part of an hour, the DCR was 20 megawatts, or 0.1 per cent, a razor thin margin. The extra 63 megawatts SaskPower sent in part meant the difference between rotating blackouts or not.

In a very real way, it was payback for Alberta’s weeks-long help for SaskPower during the outage of the Poplar River Power Station at Coronach, Saskatchewan. For weeks on end, Alberta supplied Saskatchewan with around 150 megawatts for parts of the day to keep the lights on in this province.

BC played critical role, too

On any given day, imports and exports of power between Alberta and British Columbia will often run up to 600 megawatts going either direction. But with BC also in the deep freeze, it didn’t have much to give at various points during the weekend, including parts of the crucial Saturday evening. Indeed, around the time the grid alert was first sounded on Saturday, Alberta was still exporting 38 megawatts to British Columbia, according to X bot account @ReliableAB, which posts hourly data from the AESO on the status of the Alberta grid.

For a few hours, BC Hydro was able to ramp up its exports to Alberta during the crucial time. At 5:39, they were exporting 251 megawatts to Alberta, nearly 100 megawatts more than Saskatchewan. For the next few hours they sent around 200 megawatts, but it was not enough, and the AESO sent out its alert.

Additionally, during the third grid alert on Sunday, British Columbia ramping up its power exports at a critical time saved the day, as the Alberta Dispatched Contingency Reserve had briefly hit zero. BC bumped its exports up to 496 megawatts while Saskatchewan contributed 153 and Montana nine. Those increased megawatts from British Columbia appeared to make all the difference on that day.

The cat came back, and so did Unit 4

While all of this was going on, SaskPower spent the weekend getting its coal fired power station Boundary Dam Unit 4 back into play. It’s been on cold standby for months. Officially, by federal regulations it was supposed to retire Dec. 31, 2021, but SaskPower has been forced to bring it back into service multiple times to fill a need, such as when Poplar River went offline last June. It was 139 megawatts that could have been used, but SaskPower has shown reluctance to bring it back into the game, as it were.

And that’s what Moe alluded to in his social media post, saying, “We will not risk plunging our homes, schools, hospitals, special care homes and our businesses into the cold and darkness because of the ideological whims of others.”

This was an oblique reference to the push by the federal government to shut down coal and natural gas-fired power generation by 2035, according to the proposed Clean Electricity Regulations, using similar words that Moe has expressed before. The federal preference is for more renewables, in particular wind and solar.

Several years ago, the federal government and Saskatchewan reached an equivalency agreement, recognizing the Boundary Dam Unit 3 Carbon Capture and Storage Project and therefore allowing a few more years operation out of other coal units. But to get that agreement, SaskPower had to agree to adding a further 3,000 megawatts of wind and solar by 2035, according to SaskPower president and CEO Rupen Pandya in an interview Sept. 25, 2023.

Pandya said, “When we signed the equivalency agreement with the federal government in 2014 to allow us to keep using coal to the end of 2030, part of that agreement required us to build out renewables in the province, so that we could operate coal assets, coal generators, past their end of life. And that’s what we’ve been able to do. And we continue to do. So, part of the build out of renewables that’s required as part of the equivalency agreement, that 3,000 megawatts that we need to put in place by 2035. I think 2,000 by 2030. A good tranche of that will be in that south central part of Saskatchewan around the Coronach. So we currently have in the market an RFP for 700 megawatts of wind and solar in the Coronach region, so it’ll will actually go into power, if all goes well with RFPs, in 2027.”

On a typical fall day, SaskPower’s total power demand hovers around 3,000 megawatts. On a cold winter day, it’s closer to 3,500 megawatts. But that’s before widespread adoption of electric vehicles, which the federal government is also trying to force upon Canadians.

Saskatchewan held up to the cold

SaskPower’s Joel Cherry told Pipeline Online on Jan. 15, “Saskatchewan’s system has held up during the extreme cold. We had no major issues.”

However, “Poplar River Power Station was operating at reduced capacity earlier in the weekend because of issues with coal supply. As of yesterday (Sunday) we are back to normal operations there.”

That means the reduced capacity occurred the same day Alberta was stretched nearly to the breaking point.

Asked if we lost a major unit, while Alberta was at the same time in crisis, what did we have for backup? Was there additional capacity available from Manitoba and/or Southwest Power Pool?” Cherry replied, “SaskPower has maintained adequate reserves to allow for the continued stability of the system even if we lost a large unit. We have also been importing from Manitoba and the SPP when available.

Collapse of wind

Major factors in Alberta’s power woes were the utter collapse of wind and solar power generation. Even at its best, solar power production during the day was around a third of maximum capacity.

Wind turbines started shutting down Thursday night as temperatures plummeted below -30 C, the temperature where cold brittle behaviour of materials risks catastrophic failure of the turbines. The three evening grid alerts all came on as the sun went down and the roughly 500 megawatts (of 1,650 megawatts capacity) faded with the setting sun. On Friday, Alberta’s wind generation fell to 6 megawatts at one point. It was minimal on Saturday. On Sunday morning, multiple times wind hit zero – not one megawatt from the 4,481 megawatts of wind generation capacity.

SaskPower’s Where Your Power Comes From webpage noted on Friday, Jan. 14, Saskatchewan’s 617 megawatts of grid-scale wind produced a 24-hour average of 21 megawatts. On Saturday, that number was 19. On Sunday, the average was 22 megawatts. Unlike the previous week, where there were seven days where wind in Saskatchewan hit zero power output, Jan. 12-14 did not have any periods of zero.

“We had four hours of less than 10 megawatts wind output on Jan 12, despite the low average through the day on Jan. 13 we only had a half hour below 10 megawatts and on Jan 14 we had 7.8 hours below 10 megawatts,” Cherry said.

Ten megawatts is 1.6 per cent of total grid-scale wind capacity in Saskatchewan.

As for Unit 4, in April of 2023, Pipeline Online reported Cherry said at the time, “We’re going to keep BD 4 in laid up status until Great Plains Power Station comes online, or until March 31, 2024.”

The most recent plan, as of April, 2023, was to shut down, for good, Unit 4 by March 31, 2023. Whether Moe’s statement on Jan. 15 will extend that is unknown at the time of writing.

Brian Zinchuk is editor and owner of Pipeline Online, and occasional contributor to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. He can be reached at [email protected]. For further information read the original publication here.


Alberta politician hosts sold-out conference on COVID jab harms with Drs. Trozzi, Bridle

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Calgary-Lougheed MLA Eric Bouchard                                                                                                  Alberta Politics / YouTube

From LifeSiteNews

By Anthony Murdoch

The ‘Injection of Truth’ event organized by MLA Eric Bouchard included well-known speakers critical of COVID mandates, including Dr. Byram Bridle, Dr. William Makis, canceled doctor Mark Trozzi and pediatric neurologist Eric Payne.

An event hosted by a newly elected member of Alberta’s legislative assembly, which featured prominent doctors and experts speaking out against COVID vaccines and mandates, sold out in Calgary this week

Dubbed “An Injection of Truth,” the event took place on June 18 in Calgary and was hosted by the Calgary-Lougheed Constituency Association of the United Conservative Party president Darrell Komick and MLA Eric Bouchard. 

The event was geared around the question, “What’s scientifically different today than 2020? And why are an excess number of Alberta’s children dying?”  

“Many doctors and medical experts are saying that the COVID mRNA shots that began use in 2021 in Alberta are unsafe and ineffective for children. An Injection of Truth Town Hall is hosting world-class experts to present the medical and scientific case for stopping COVID mRNA injections in children,” the event’s website noted.  

The “Injection of Truth” event included well-known speakers critical of COVID mandates and the shots, including Dr. Byram BridleDr. William Makis, canceled doctor Mark Trozzi and pediatric neurologist Eric Payne. 

Bridle, who has been reported on by LifeSiteNews extensively, is an Ontario virologist, vaccinologist, immunologist, and associate professor of viral immunology in the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Guelph. He is critical of the COVID shots and said at the event that all his concerns regarding the COVID shots have been “repeatedly proven correct by scientific data.”  

“COVID is less dangerous than the flu for children,” he said.  

He noted how research shows “multi-dosing with lipid nanoparticles” that the mRNA jabs use “is dangerous,” explaining how years ago this was the reason the use of lipid nanoparticles was “abandoned” by Big Pharma except for a “few” who “clung onto it.” 

“It was supposed to be a one-and-done technology, not 10 doses,” he said.  

Payne noted that when it comes to public health officials, it seems “they’re trying to pretend they never said these things” because the “lies are coming down from the very top.”  

Payne observed that he knows of not one healthy child who died from COVID, even though the government messaging was that kids as young as six months old should get the shot.  

He noted that when it comes to the COVID shots, they are not even “vaccines.” 

“To call these things vaccines, it’s just not the truth,” he said, referring to them as an experimental drug based on mRNA technology. 

Payne and four other Alberta doctors launched a lawsuit against Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) mandatory workplace COVID jab policy in October 2021. 

Trozzi, who was stripped of his medical license by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario for speaking out against the COVID shots and was a guest speaker at the LifeSiteNews 2023 general meeting, observed that the COVID crisis would have been over sooner if everyone just lived their normal lives. 

He said all that was needed was for the vulnerable to be isolated and that it was important kids were exposed to the virus to build immunity. He observed how mortality rates for kids were already on the rise before the COVID shots came out due to isolation causing damage to their immune systems. 

The COVID shots were heavily promoted by the federal government as well as all provincial governments in Canada, with the Alberta government under former Premier Jason Kenney being no exception. 

The mRNA shots themselves have been linked to a multitude of negative and often severe side effects in children. 

As for AHS, it still is promoting the COVID shots for babies as young as six months old, as recently reported by LifeSiteNews.   

The full event has now been posted to YouTube and is available for all to watch freely.  

Conversation about COVID jabs ‘should have happened four years ago,’ says politician   

MLA Eric Bouchard spoke with LifeSiteNews about the “Injection of Truth” event, saying that open discussion about the COVID injections is a conversation that “should have happened” four years ago.

He noted that the speakers invited to the event all “presented their own data, factual peer-reviewed data,” and that “they were all canceled” in some way for simply asking questions. 

Bouchard said that his event had the full support of his local constituency board. 

“They voted 22-1 to championing the Town Hall,” he said, which was attended by UPC president Rod Smith.  

Bouchard noted that he did have pushback from the “mainstream media” over the event, but the decision to host the conference never wavered.

Bouchard said that despite being invited to the event as well as a press conference, members of the mainstream media failed to show up, which he says shows how one-sided they were and still are in relation to asking hard questions about COVID jabs and mandates. 

Bouchard became a first-time UCP MLA in 2023 after an election that saw UCP leader Danielle Smith elected as premier of the province on a pro-freedom and pro-business platform. Smith’s election followed the resignation of Premier Jason Kenney, who suffered low approval ratings after implementing a number of COVID-related mandates, including lockdowns.

Ironically, Bouchard is now the MLA representing the same riding Kenney represented until stepping down as party leader. Bouchard is a former restaurant owner who was forced to close in part because of the Kenney-mandated COVID lockdowns.

Bouchard, as reported by LifeSiteNews earlier this year, has praised the anti-mandate Freedom Convoy protesters for standing up for what “was right.”

Under Kenney, thousands of nurses, doctors, and other healthcare and government workers lost their jobs for choosing to not get the jabs, leading Smith to say – only minutes after being sworn in – that over the past year the “unvaccinated” were the “most discriminated against” group of people in her lifetime.  

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Alberta parents want balance—not bias—in the classroom

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From the Fraser Institute

By Tegan Hill and Paige MacPherson

74 per cent of parents in Alberta believe teachers should present both sides of controversial issues (e.g. sexuality/gender, climate change) or avoid them entirely.

With the Alberta government set to test its new draft social studies curriculum in September, a new poll reveals a clear consensus: Alberta parents of K-12 children want schools to provide balance—not bias—in the classroom. And when it comes to controversial material in schools, they want to make their own choices for their children.

Specifically, the poll (conducted by Leger and commissioned by the Fraser Institute) found that 88 per cent of Alberta parents (with kids in public and independent schools) believe teachers and the provincial curriculum should focus on facts—not teacher interpretations of those facts, which may include opinions. Only 10 per cent of Alberta parents disagreed.

Moreover, despite ongoing debates in the media and among activists about K-12 school policies, curriculum development, controversial issues in the classroom and parental involvement, according to the poll, the vast majority of parents agree on how schools should handle these issues.

For example, 74 per cent of parents in Alberta believe teachers should present both sides of controversial issues (e.g. sexuality/gender, climate change) or avoid them entirely.

An overwhelming majority of Alberta parents (86 per cent) believe schools should provide advance notice when controversial topics will be discussed in class or during formal school activities. This isn’t surprising—many parents may want to discuss these issues with their children in advance.

In fact, when controversial topics arise, about three quarters (73 per cent) of Alberta parents believe parents should have the right to remove their children from those lessons without consequence to their children’s grades. Of the minority who do not believe parents should have this right, most said “children need to learn about all topics/viewpoints, regardless of their parents’ bias.”

And almost nine in 10 Alberta parents (89 per cent) believe classroom materials and conversations about potentially controversial topics should always be age appropriate.

These polling results should help inform provincial and school-level policies around parental information, consent, school curricula and teacher curriculum guides. For instance, given that parents overwhelmingly favour facts in classrooms, curriculum guides should require the teaching of specific details (e.g. the key players, dates and context of specific historical events). Currently, teachers are allowed to interpret events based on their opinions, which means students may hear completely different interpretations depending on the particular teacher.

While the preferences of parents with kids in K-12 schools are often presented as contentious in media and politics, polling data shows a clear consensus. Parents overwhelmingly value balance, not bias. They want their kids taught age-appropriate facts rather than opinions. And they expect prior notice before anything controversial happens in their kids’ schools. According to most parents in Alberta, none of these opinions are controversial.

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