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Alberta’s emergency grid alert underscores vital role diverse energy mix plays in Canada


6 minute read

From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Cody Ciona

After a major cold spell affected the capacity of Alberta’s power grid to provide electricity, experts weigh in on the need for multiple sources of energy

The crucial need for Canada to have a flexible and diverse energy grid was given a practical demonstration this past weekend as frigid winter temperatures in Alberta prompted a grid emergency.

With temperatures in some places dropping to almost –50C with the wind chill, provincial officials issued an emergency alert asking Albertans to immediately reduce electricity usage, with the grid approaching maximum capacity during peak hours.

With wind and solar assets unable to contribute power and the unexpected shutdown of two natural gas plants, Albertans faced the possibility of rolling blackouts in dangerously cold conditions.

A day after the emergency, the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) thanked Albertans who responded quickly to reduce the demand load.

“This is an example of why we need to ensure that we have sufficient dispatchable, dependable generation available to us as a province to meet what is always our most challenging time, which is those cold, dark winter nights,” Michael Law, CEO of AESO, told the Calgary Herald.

The prospect of failure in the worst possible circumstances prompted energy analysts to highlight the critical need for a diverse and flexible energy grid.

“You could have had 50,000 megawatts, all the solar farms and wind farms in the world located in Alberta, and it still wouldn’t have come anywhere close to closing that gap,” University of Alberta economics professor Andrew Leach told CBC News.

Wind and solar can be major contributors to the grid when conditions allow, but when the sun goes down and the wind stops, base load power sources like natural gas reliably protect the system.

Leach said system operators need to plan for supply to manage adverse weather conditions to ensure the reliability of the grid.

“Whether it’s natural gas, nuclear, import capacity, battery storage, etc., geothermal, there’s nobody that’s arguing against that.”

With policymakers pushing for more electrification, University of Alberta industrial engineering professor Tim Weis said Alberta isn’t alone in the need for resilient and stable power supply.

“I think we need to wrestle with that and realize that we are moving into a world where there’s going to be more electrical demands on the system,” he told Global News.

“We are moving into a new world. We’re not the only ones facing some of these challenges. I think we’re a little bit behind responding in terms of dispatchable demand and allowing consumers the opportunity to automatically respond to some of these things.”

As the federal government aims to decarbonize Canada’s electricity generation by 2035 with sweeping regulations, flexibility for some jurisdictions is a key factor that needs to be addressed, said University of Calgary associate professor of economics Blake Shaffer.

“I do think that this shows us that no amount of renewables would push us to have solved that winter peak on Saturday,” he told CTV Calgary.

“And that means flexibility to have a gas fleet, for example, that is capable of being there for a few hours for a few days, maybe a few weeks a year. And we need the technical and economic setup to make that worth their while to be there,” Shaffer said.

“We saw this cold weather coming, everybody was preparing for it. The wind forecast was out a week ago we saw there was going to be no wind. Thankfully, the gas thermal fleet performed amazingly well.”

Natural gas generation was able to backstop the reduction in renewable power, said ARC Energy Research Institute executive director Jackie Forrest.

“The system delivered during the deep freeze this past weekend… so reliably that no one even noticed… I have long argued that gaseous fuels are needed in the mix for energy transition and the need to become cleaner; this is why,” said Forrest on X, formerly known as Twitter.

According to Forrest’s colleague, energy economist Peter Tertzakian, Alberta’s oil sands industry also plays a big role in power generation in the province with the prominence of natural gas-powered cogeneration facilities.

“The power that’s generated in this province during this cold spell, about 40 per cent of it comes from cogeneration. The bulk of which comes from the oil sands and all their big generators which have surplus electricity that they feed into the grid,” said Tertzakian on ARC Energy Institute’s latest podcast.

“I think it’s important to understand that any policies that affect oil sands also affect the electricity grid.”


Province to stop municipalities overcharging on utility bills

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Making utility bills more affordable

Alberta’s government is taking action to protect Alberta’s ratepayers by introducing legislation to lower and stabilize local access fees.

Affordability is a top priority for Alberta’s government, with the cost of utilities being a large focus. By introducing legislation to help reduce the cost of utility bills, the government is continuing to follow through on its commitment to make life more affordable for Albertans. This is in addition to the new short-term measures to prevent spikes in electricity prices and will help ensure long-term affordability for Albertans’ basic household expenses.

“Albertans need relief from high electricity costs and we can provide that relief by bringing in fairness on local access fees. We will not allow municipalities – including the city of Calgary – to profit off of unpredictable spikes in electricity costs while families struggle to make ends meet. We will protect Alberta families from the extreme swings of electricity costs by standardizing the calculations of local access fees across the province.”

Danielle Smith, Premier

Local access fees are functioning as a regressive municipal tax that consumers pay on their utility bills. It is unacceptable for municipalities to be raking in hundreds of millions in surplus revenue off the backs of Alberta’s ratepayers and cause their utility bills to be unpredictable costs by tying their fees to a variable rate. Calgarians paid $240 in local access fees on average in 2023, compared to the $75 on average in Edmonton, thanks to Calgary’s formula relying on a variable rate. This led to $186 million more in fees being collected by the City of Calgary than expected.

“Albertans deserve to have fair and predictable utility bills. Our government is listening to Albertans and taking action to address unaffordable fees on power bills. By introducing this legislation, we are taking yet another step towards ensuring our electricity grid is affordable, reliable, and sustainable for generations to come.”

Nathan Neudorf, Minister of Affordability and Utilities

To protect Alberta’s ratepayers, the Government of Alberta is introducing the Utilities Affordability Statutes Amendment Act, 2024. If passed, this legislation would promote long-term affordability and predictability for utility bills by prohibiting the use of variable rates when calculating municipalities’ local access fees.

Variable rates are highly volatile, which results in wildly fluctuating electricity bills. When municipalities use this rate to calculate their local access fees, it results in higher bills for Albertans and less certainty in families’ budgets. These proposed changes would standardize how municipal fees are calculated across the province, and align with most municipalities’ current formulas.

“Over the last couple of years many consumers have been frustrated with volatile Regulated Rate Option (RRO) prices which dramatically impacted their utility bills. In some cases, these impacts were further amplified by local access fees that relied upon calculations that included those same volatile RRO prices. These proposed changes provide more clarity and stability for consumers, protecting them from volatility in electricity markets.”

Chris Hunt, Utilities Consumer Advocate

If passed, the Utilities Affordability Statutes Amendment Act, 2024 would prevent municipalities from attempting to take advantage of Alberta’s ratepayers in the future. It would amend sections of the Electric Utilities Act and Gas Utilities Act to ensure that the Alberta Utilities Commission has stronger regulatory oversight on how these municipal fees are calculated and applied, ensuring Alberta ratepayer’s best interests are protected.

“Addressing high, unpredictable fees on utility bills is an important step in making life more affordable for Albertans. This legislation will protect Alberta’s ratepayers from spikes in electricity prices and ensures fairness in local access fees.”

Chantelle de Jonge, Parliamentary Secretary for Affordability and Utilities

If passed, this legislation would also amend sections of the Alberta Utilities Commission Act, the Electric Utilities ActGovernment Organizations Act and the Regulated Rate Option Stability Act to replace the terms “Regulated Rate Option”, “RRO”, and “Regulated Rate Provider” with “Rate of Last Resort” and “Rate of Last Resort Provider” as applicable.

Quick facts

  • Local access fees are essentially taxes that are charged to electricity distributors by municipalities. These fees are then passed on to all of the distributor’s customers in the municipality, and appear as a line item on their utility bills.
    • The Municipal Government Act grants municipalities the authority to charge, amend, or cap franchise and local access fees.
  • Linear taxes and franchise fees are usually combined together on consumers’ power bills in one line item as the local access fee.
    • The linear tax is charged to the utility for the right to use the municipality’s property for the construction, operation, and extension of the utility.
    • The franchise fee is the charge paid by the utility to the municipality for the exclusive right to provide service in the municipality.
  • Local access fees are usually calculated in one of two ways:
    • (1) A percentage of transmission and distribution (delivery) costs, typically 10-15 per cent.
    • (2) A fixed, cents per kilowatt-hour of consumed power charge (City of Edmonton).
  • Calgary is the only municipality that employs a two-part fee calculation formula:
    • 11.11 per cent of transmission and distribution charges plus 11.11 per cent of the Regulated Rate Option multiplied by the consumed megawatt hours.

Related information

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Alberta moves to protect Edmonton park from Trudeau government’s ‘diversity’ plan

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From LifeSiteNews

By Clare Marie Merkowsky

If Trudeau’s National Urban Park Initiative is implemented, Alberta could see its parks, including Edmonton’s River Valley, hijacked by the federal government in the name of ‘sustainability, conservation, equity, diversity, inclusion, and reconciliation.’

Edmonton is working to protect its River Valley from the Trudeau government’s “diversity” park plan. 

On April 15, Alberta Legislature passed MLA Brandon Lunty’s private members’ Bill 204 to protect the Edmonton River Valley from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s National Urban Park Initiative which would give the federal government power over provincial parks to enforce a variety of quotas related to the “climate” and “diversity.”  

“Albertans elected our United Conservative government with a majority mandate to, among other things, protect families and communities from federal overreach and intrusion. That’s exactly what this bill accomplishes,” Lunty said in a press release  

Bill 204, titled the Municipal Government (National Urban Parks) Amendment Act, is a response to the National Urban Park Initiative which would give the Trudeau government jurisdiction over Alberta’s provincial parks.  

The Trudeau government’s plan promises to “provide long-lasting benefits to the urban area” by using “sustainability, conservation, equity, diversity, inclusion, and reconciliation.” 

If the program is approved, the Edmonton River Valley could be “fully owned by the Federal Government,” which will use the space to advance their values, including addressing the impacts of “climate change” and creating spaces where “diversity is welcomed.”  

The plan also promises that equity will be “intentionally advanced” while “respecting indigenous rights” through “reconciliation.”   

However, many Edmonton citizens were concerned with the Urban Park Initiative and met with their MLAs to discuss the issue.  

Edmonton citizen Sheila Phimester worked with MLA Jackie Lovely to create a petition to prevent the River Valley from becoming federally owned. The petition has received over 5,000 signatures.  

“Oh, and because it’s the federal government, their ‘priorities’ for these parks are ‘healthier communities’, ‘climate resilience’, ‘reconciliation’, ‘equity’, ‘diversity’, and ‘inclusion,’” it continued.   

Already, Trudeau has attempted to assert power over Alberta’s industry by placing “climate” restrictions on their oil and gas production in an attempt to force net-zero regulations on all Canadian provinces, including on electricity generation, by as early as 2035.   

However, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has repeatedly vowed to protect the province from Trudeau’s radical “net zero” push. 

In December, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith blasted Trudeau’s Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault’s plan to slash oil and gas emissions by 35 percent to 38 percent below 2019 levels as “unrealistic” and “unconstitutional.”  

Trudeau’s current environmental goals are in lockstep with the United Nations’ “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” and include phasing out coal-fired power plants, reducing fertilizer usage, and curbing natural gas use over the coming decades.  

The reduction and eventual elimination of the use of so-called “fossil fuels” and a transition to unreliable “green” energy has also been pushed by the World Economic Forum (WEF) – the globalist group behind the socialist “Great Reset” agenda – an organization in which Trudeau and some of his cabinet are involved. 

In November, after announcing she had “enough” of Trudeau’s extreme environmental rules, Smith said her province had no choice but to assert control over its electricity grid to combat federal overreach by enacting its Sovereignty Act. The Sovereignty Act serves to shield Albertans from future power blackouts due to federal government overreach.  

Unlike most provinces in Canada, Alberta’s electricity industry is nearly fully deregulated. However, the government still has the ability to take control of it at a moment’s notice. 

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