In the 1990’s I worked at TransAlta supporting their Sundance, Keephills and Wabamun coal plants that powered Alberta’s electricity needs. Back then there was talk of changing to Natural Gas for base power but not much action.
In 1995 I started working for an oil and gas exploration firm and on my first day the CEO told me that Natural Gas had been in the sub $3 range so long it just had to go up in the next couple of years. It seemed that while Natural gas was so much easier to work with (just drill it and pipe it, and it never talked about going on strike) that this fear of future price increases caused electricity producers to not get too serious about gas.
Fast forward 25 years and we see:
- The price of Natural Gas has been steady at the $2 to $3 range for nearly a decade
- Alberta, like many jurisdictions around the globe, has legislated coal phase out date of 2030
- The Shale Revolution has unlocked more than 100 years worth of cheap Natural Gas in Canada and the United States
- Alberta conventional exploration is dominated by Natural Gas, because a thinner named Condensate (which is used to make thick oil sands oil pipeable) is found with Natural Gas
- The spot (daily) price for Natural Gas has been below zero several times a year in recent memory because producers want the Condensate even when they have to pay to get the rid of the Nat Gas
- It is now general knowledge (citizens, politicians, and electricity producers) that while Natural Gas still has notable environmental issues it is dramatically cleaner than coal
Beyond Nat Gas, the cost for solar has dropped dropped 90% and the cost for wind power has dropped 50% in the last 25 years.
Put all of this together and you have an energy revolution in Western Canada.
Alberta Electricity Generation 47% Coal + 40% Natural Gas + 13% Renewables
Click this map to see the Alberta’s electricity generating sites as of 2017.
Calgary Electricity Generation: 86% Natural Gas + 14% Wind & Solar
In 2001 Calgary used 100% coal sourced electric but today it is 0%
Edmonton Electricity Generation: 40% Natural Gas + 60% Coal
UPDATE: On September 12th 2018, Mayor Don Ivison told Bloomberg that Edmonton is planning to be at 100% renewable energy “within the next few years”.
SOURCES For Further Reading:
- Coal power starting to go offline in Alberta as shift to cleaner energy picks up
- Natural gas killed coal – now renewables and batteries are taking over
- National Energy Board: Provincial and Territorial Energy Profiles – Alberta
- Solar Is Booming … Costs Keep Falling
- World invested more in solar energy than coal, gas and nuclear combined in 2017, UN report reveals
- Solar and wind are now the cheapest energy around—unless you need to store it
- Half Of All Power Set To Come From Renewable Energy By 2050, While Coal Recedes To Just 11%
- As renewable energy costs fall, natural gas producers buy in