Calgary Economic Development (CED) is a sponsor at Solar Canada 2018. They partner with business, government and communities to put Calgary at the heart of investment attraction, trade and workforce development. One of their key focus areas is the development of all kinds of energy, including renewables. Calgary has enormous potential to be a global leader in renewable energy. To learn more about their work, and how Calgary and Alberta stay on the leading edge of this exciting area of growth, we spoke with Megan Zimmerman, CED’s Business Development Manager for Energy, Green Economy & Technology.
What examples would you point to of big success in solar?
Elemental Energy, with the new 17-megawatt (MW) Brooks Solar project, has had an outstanding year. They are a unique success story for a couple of reasons: One being it was a company that came into the market, from outside of Alberta, sending the message to other investors that this market is open for business and you don’t have to already be here to build successful projects (Elemental is based in Vancouver); the second thing is it’s the first utility-scale solar project in Western Canada and its accessible to Albertans, seeing it right off the Trans-Canada highway near Brooks (between Calgary and Medicine Hat).
One really exciting part about the Brooks project is that all the power from that site is being sent, as a part of a virtual Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA), to a corporate client, meaning that the user of the energy is buying it directly from the project. That’s inspired, because many developers in this market would like to do the same thing and it is a demonstration that there are buyers looking for energy. Alberta has a market that can provide what they are looking for.
The other success story I like to talk about is we have, for the first time, a government putting solar incentive programs into the market, like the rooftop solar program Energy Efficiency Alberta is running. They have a 25% rebate for homeowners and 30% rebate for business owners. We met with them the other day and they plan to do 40-45 MW of solar so the program will run for a few years and there’s certainly still lots of support for projects available.
Many residential, commercial and government facilities are taking advantage of this and the City of Calgary is ramping up their installation plans. I think it’s important that we give the Government of Alberta kudos for putting these programs into place, helping accelerate the solar market for Alberta.
What are the most significant opportunities in Alberta for solar, what should people be watching?
In addition to the significant small-scale project opportunities I have mentioned, I’ll start with Alberta Infrastructure’s procurement of 135,000 megawatt-hours of solar electricity that has evolved since its announcement in 2017 and is now expected to take place later this year. Once commissioned, the 80-100 MW of solar facilities that provide that electricity will supply the Government of Alberta with more than 55% of the electricity that they require to run their operations.
Another opportunity to watch is the push towards more corporate PPAs and virtual PPAs. We did a market report in partnership with the Pembina Institute and the Rocky Mountain Institute on corporate non-utility procurement of renewable energy, called Plugging In. There are many developers who want to do PPAs – what we need now is stronger demand on the customer side. Our research looked at agricultural, agrochemical, cannabis and tourism industries that potentially have large load and could procure power easily here in Alberta through these kinds of agreements.
What would you like to see in the next few years in the industry or in the dialogue surrounding solar energy?
The discussion around waiting for the economics of solar to become better and better, that’s certainly important, but looking forward, this is still a province and a country polarized when it comes to energy. People seem to think we need renewables or fossil fuels and that there’s not a place for both of them in the future. Many people, our organization included, strongly believe the way forward includes renewables AND fossil fuels. Yes, we are phasing out coal, but there’s still a huge role for oil, gas, and petrochemicals. I would love to see Albertans being the champions of “And.”
If you have a solar or other renewable energy business and interested in expanding into Alberta, Megan and the staff at CED would love to talk and support you in accelerating your market entry. Contact us, today!
If you would like to learn more about opportunities in solar energy in Alberta and the rest of Canada, join industry leaders at Solar Canada 2018, the country’s largest solar energy conference and exhibition.