Thursday, September 23, 2010

Paul Gipe in Edmonton promoting feed-in-tariff in Alberta

Renowned wind power expert, Paul Gipe was in Edmonton today advocating hard for a feed-in-tariff (FIT) in Alberta.

As readers of this blog now, I am also a strong advocate for FITs and have been actively promoting and encouraging a FIT in my home province of Saskatchewan.

While Alberta adopted a free market for energy several years ago, with generators bidding their production into the provincial grid several times each hour, Ontario is doing the opposite by offering long-term contracts to renewable producers, Paul Gipe stated. Saskatchewan continues to have the crown utility, SaskPower mandate all programs but SaskPower currently has a competitive standing offer program and is procuring an additional 175 MW of generation to be built and operated by the private sector.

Using the example of a northern German state, Gipe said farmers and community groups there have installed 560 megawatts of wind power, about the same amount as produced by one of the coal-fired power plants near Wabamun Lake owned by TransAlta Utilities or Capital Power.

"They view the wind as their resource, and these are farmers in one country who have decided to make money from it."

Globally, about 75 per cent of all solar for electricity, 50 per cent of all wind and most biogas developments depend on feed-in-tariffs, which guarantee producers set rates upwards of 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour, much higher than current Alberta power rates but also not subject to the whims of rising fossil fuel prices.

"You could view this as an insurance policy, because the price consumers pay won't change for 20 years, but oil and natural gas will likely be higher than today," said Gipe, who has written extensively about wind power.

As I have mentioned in this blog, Nova Scotia is introducing their feed-in-tariff but only community-owned projects will qualify for the special rates.

Ontario's program has attracted utilities from around the world to build renewable projects. From Alberta, TransAlta and Capital Power are both big players, benefiting from a tariff system not available to them in their home province.

Alberta has 656 kW of installed wind energy out of Canada's 3,499 total, with some of the projects supported by earlier incentive programs. But even without the feed-in-tariffs offered in Ontario and green energy contracts being put out by B.C. Hydro, new projects are proceeding in the province.

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