Canada’s wind energy industry holds Spring Forum

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Over the course of a two-day CanWEA Spring Forum in Banff, Alberta, many of Canada’s wind-energy leaders shared a sense of optimism about the growth of wind energy in Canada and the economic and environmental benefits it is delivering as the lowest-price, emissions-free source of new electricity for not only Alberta and Saskatchewan, but for other provinces across Canada.

They also discussed the implications of the Alberta election and subjects such as indigenous engagement, recent developments in Canada’s wind markets, new technologies, and the evolution of government electricity and climate policies.

A Day-1 highlight was a wide-ranging keynote address by Peter Tertzakian, executive director of the ARC Energy Research Institute in Calgary, who described the new energy revolution driven by competition, innovation, supply additions, and lower prices.

“Prices for wind, solar, energy storage, and fossil fuel extraction have come down rapidly,” Tertzakian said. “Alberta, with an abundance of energy sources — both renewable and non-renewable — is well-positioned to lead as an energy powerhouse in Canada.”

The Forum concluded with Chris Turner, a prominent author and journalist, who provided his insights on the challenges the wind-energy industry must address if it is to capitalize on the potential clean-energy development opportunities offered by the Alberta electricity system.

“There is a global energy transition underway, and Canada has a huge opportunity to join the front ranks of this vital project,” Turner said. “We have extraordinary renewable energy resources, conventional energy resources, and a really strong tech sector — all the tools we need to become global leaders.”

The Spring Forum attracted more than 170 attendees and a sold-out exhibitor space to the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel for the April 17-18 conference.

Much of the focus of Canada’s wind-energy industry is now on Alberta and Saskatchewan, where it is poised to grow rapidly in the next few years. Wind energy has proven attractive to the prairie provinces because it has become the low-price leader, and because it helps to de-carbonize the electricity grid. In competitive electricity-supply auctions in Alberta in 2017 and 2018, the auctions secured 1,363 MW of wind energy at average weighted prices of $37 to $39 per megawatt-hour. Saskatchewan’s most recent procurement attracted widespread interest from the wind-energy industry, with the winning bid coming in below $35 per megawatt hour. These recent prices were new lows for wind energy in Canada and make wind energy the lowest-cost option for new electricity generation in the country.

Auction results such as these explain the wind-energy industry’s optimism at the Spring Forum, not only for the prairie provinces, but for all of Canada’s provinces as they strive to deliver affordable, emissions-free, reliable and safe electricity to the benefit of all Canadians.

“The four key attributes of wind energy — low price, emission-free, reliable and flexible — underpin my optimism that wind energy can compete with, and win against, every other large-scale electricity option to meet Canada’s future needs,” said Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association. “We are the lowest-cost provider; we generate emission-free power; our product is increasingly contributing to the reliability of the grid; and we offer a flexible and scalable solution to system operators as well as decentralized grids.”

The Spring Forum began just as the Alberta election results were announced, revealing a victory by the United Conservative Party. Forum speakers emphasized that the wind industry expects to work closely with the new government and the electricity system operator to continue to build the new wind-energy projects that will deliver low-priced power, keeping electricity affordable for Albertans. New wind-energy projects will also help to diversify the economy through the investment of billions of dollars, while creating thousands of jobs that benefit Alberta’s economy and its host communities.