Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Opposition party pledges 50% renewable generation in Saskatchewan by 2025 and 400 MW of new wind power within 4 years

The provincial opposition party, the NDP, is proposing a new provincial Renewable Energy Act which will expand clean and renewable energy sources to provide 50% of Saskatchewan's electricity by 2025. The NDP have also stated they will build 400 MW of new capacity in wind power in the first four years of government. Given the outstanding and considerable renewable energy resources in Saskatchewan this is not an unrealistic goal and I commend the NDP for having the foresight to recognize this opportunity.

The proposed Renewable Energy Act will legislatively mandate the province of Saskatchewan to aggressively pursue more wind power opportunities and construct those in tandem with other sources to balance the intermittent electricity generated by wind. The Renewable Energy Act will also mandate that the province of Saskatchewan work with northern communities to develop low-impact (e.g. run-of-river) hydroelectricity projects and biomass power plants along the forest fringe that utilize forestry residues to generate energy.

Although the governing Saskatchewan Party have been less ambitious in their renewable energy targets, they have opened up new opportunities for Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to design, build and own their renewable energy generation in the province and sell the electricity to SaskPower under a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). The Saskatchewan Party has prudently recognized that IPPs are essential to developing a competitive renewable energy market and I commend the Saskatchewan Party for having the foresight to recognize this and take action to welcome renewable energy developers into our province.

The NDP candidate for Saskatoon-Greystone and environmental advocate, Peter Prebble has excluded a role for IPPs and is proposing that the provincial monopoly utility, SaskPower, own all renewable energy generation. This prevents private developers from entering the market, restricts foreign investment in Saskatchewan and precludes the deployment of new and cheaper renewable energy technology in the province.

What Saskatchewan needs to capitalize on our abundant renewable resources is a policy which combines the NDPs ambitious (but attainable) renewable energy targets and the Saskatchewan Party’s pragmatic market-oriented approach to building and owning generation. Irrespective of the outcome of the upcoming provincial election, if the NDP and Saskatchewan Party can find some common ground regarding renewable energy we have a real opportunity to transform Saskatchewan into a renewable energy powerhouse.

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