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It’s been a rough year for the many Albertans who care about the impact of global warming on their children’s future. Despite opinion polls showing that 75 per cent of respondents would like to see more renewable energy projects in their communities and 65 per cent oppose the seven-month ban on regulatory approvals for wind and solar projects, Premier Danielle Smith is taking her ideological crusade against clean energy to the next level.

Global investment in Alberta’s wind and solar resources has been on a tear since the Alberta NDP introduced the Renewable Electricity Act in 2017. The act resulted in nearly $5 billion invested in Alberta renewable energy projects, with the 465-megawatt (MW) Travers Solar Project alone providing an investment of approximately $700 million.

In the face of this outstanding business opportunity, the United Conservative Party (UCP) implemented an ill-conceived seven-month ban on renewable energy projects. According to a Pembina Institute report, “Public data shows that 118 projects are currently in development and are either waiting for permitting approval or could submit an approval application within the next few months. These projects represent at least $33 billion of investment and more than 24,000 job-years.”

The ban on project approvals is also a setback for rural municipalities that have welcomed the injection of an estimated $28 million in tax revenue and stand to benefit from the continued development of renewables in a region of Alberta where conventional oil revenues are declining rapidly.

Despite the UCP blindside on renewables, Amazon recently announced an investment in a massive 495-MW wind project near Vulcan. Texas-based Proteus Power has a date set for approval of its $200-million solar project near Medicine Hat, and one of Alberta’s largest power generators, TransAlta, just announced it will be investing $3.5 billion in renewables by 2028.

We have significant growth opportunities across Canada, the United States and Australia with a focus on renewable and storage power solutions for large customers,” said John Kousinioris, TransAlta’s president and CEO.

The future of energy development in southern Alberta is in renewables, but now Smith is creating more uncertainty by invoking the Alberta Sovereignty Act and introducing legislation that blocks federal Clean Electricity Regulations. On the surface, it doesn’t appear to make any sense.

In her former role as a right-wing media personality, Smith joined Republican politicians in blaming wind energy for causing massive power outages in Texas during a winter storm in February 2021 despite the final report concluding that 60 per cent of the power outages were due to lost natural gas generation.

According to Smith, “Wind and solar have had their chance to demonstrate they were the only answer. They’ve failed. Now let’s get serious about the real options so we aren’t the next ones worrying about freezing to death.”

In addition to the province's economy, Alberta's ban on renewable project approvals is a setback for rural municipalities that need the estimated $28 million in tax revenue, writes Rob Miller @winexus #ClimateChange #renewables #electricity

Smith’s personal views have reappeared in an ongoing misinformation campaign against renewable energy funded by Alberta taxpayers. The campaign warns that the endgame of clean energy is to replace all natural gas plants with wind and solar.

In reality, the goal is to burn fewer fossil fuels when renewable sources and grid batteries are generating. When gas turbines are needed, the CO2 emissions will be abated by Smith’s promised carbon-capture technology.

Unlike Texas, Alberta has a history of providing reliable power to the province during extreme cold weather. Even in the unlikely chance that wind and solar are experiencing low output across the entire province, there is enough reserve capacity in the system to accommodate peak demand.

On Jan. 4, 2022, the Alberta Electricity System Operator (AESO) reported a record for electricity usage in the province when temperatures plunged towards -30 C across the province. The AESO reported peak output of close to 12,000 MW, which is still two gigawatts below maximum generating capacity from all sources, excluding wind and solar.

The federal clean electricity regulations allow for continued use of natural gas electricity generation. The regulations call for carbon capture technology on power plants that generate carbon pollution and generous tax credits have been offered to assist utilities in adopting this technology.

Smith has already said the federal regulations can’t be met by the 2035 target date. Instead, she would like to shirk the province’s responsibility to reduce CO2 emissions until 2050. This distant goal is unlikely to be met if Alberta introduces legislation that removes regulatory clarity on what Alberta utilities need to do.

Transitioning to clean electricity in Canada by 2035 is possible. If a clear goal is set, utilities will invest accordingly. Smith’s opposition to renewables isn’t popular in Alberta and it sends the wrong message to the rest of Canada, misinformation campaigns notwithstanding.

Albertans aren’t a bunch of me-focused adolescents who want to take away your pension money, pollute your skies with planet-warming gases and poison Canada’s watersheds with effluent from coal mining, tarsands leaks and natural gas flaring.

Most Albertans understand the consequences of climate change and support a transition to clean electricity. Unfortunately, they overlooked Smith’s views on the matter when they cast their votes last spring.

Rob Miller is a retired systems engineer, formerly with General Dynamics Canada, who now volunteers with the Calgary Climate Hub and writes on behalf of Eco-Elders for Climate Action, but any opinions expressed in his work are his own.

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Election results would indicate that a majority of Albertans are, in fact, "a bunch of me-focused adolescents".

Ha! True, the numbers don't lie, so how DO we explain the fact that a majority supposedly want climate change action, want to stay in the CPP AND in Canada, and if polled would probably prefer a separation of church and state? I mean we value freedom of religion and religion's fine and all, but who's comfortable with a home-schooled evangelical like David Parker having so much influence on the UCP or with acknowledged separatist Rob Anderson being Smith's right-hand man?
So what happened? Did a bunch of these people stay home on election day then? Or did the NDP, in what can be seen as typical "deer in the headlights" style inexplicably pull their punches as if the entire political landscape hasn't fundamentally changed? That here in bible belt Alberta, cult central, evangelicals have now become organized enough after the "shamdemic" to start taking over not only the UCP board, but school boards so they can restore "parents' rights" and stop the loony left. What no one seems to realize is that these people are serious and that they still don't even accept homosexuality as a lifestyle choice and that they ACTUALLY believe religious myths. Recall that lake of fire incident that sunk Smith and the Wild Rose Party, the fringe party that is now basically in charge but with another name. But a rose by any other name....So hiding in plain sight obviously works.
There is a group in Calgary called Rocky Mountain Atheists that I'm a member of and I keep suggesting that now would be the time for them to become more political but like most people they don't want the confrontation.
But what would people here choose if given a clear choice between theocracy and democracy?
Because the two simply cannot coexist, as we are seeing in the U.S. now along with the regression of human rights, particularly women's, the giveaway that religion is winning the day.

If there was a national clean energy corridor in place with multiple interties spaced along its entire length, then nearby farmers, municipalities and First Nations in Southern Alberta would be able to ignore the Smith government and sell wind and solar power directly to the federal grid for export markets beyond Alberta's borders.

If the feds can build a far more technically challenging and expensive oil pipeline just for Alberta citing the "national interest" -- with legal confirmation from the top court in the land that it indeed has the jurisdictional authority to do so over provincial objections -- then it can build a smart grid truly in the national interest, eventually to three coasts.

At the local scale, what's to stop a municipality from forming its own power company to purchase zero emission energy from individual residents with solar roofs (or possibly with town-owned PV panels installed on leased private roofs), distribute it through its own town grid for consumption and stored in its own mass battery packs placed in industrial warehouse zones, and tell the provincial power brokers to take a hike?

What's to stop individual homeowners from generating the majority of their power from their own rooftop panel array and sharing the cost of storage in a neighbourhood battery bank, all on private property?

Danielle Smith is setting herself up to foster a renewable energy revolution among private and municipal entities motivated to tell her and her pals in gas to go to hell.

Trudeau could quietly increase the federal grants for EVs, rooftop solar, heat pumps, energy conservation measures and large solar and wind projects across the land, financed in part with money redirected from public subsidies for private oil companies.

Is that not a part of the nitty gritty effort of nation building while addressing climate change? And it can be done without directly challenging the religion-tainted ideologically crazy rule of one or two provincial governments.

Make it appealing and easy for individual families, businesses, farmers, First Nations and towns to do the math and come out ahead in their long term energy and financial security by going off grid (or to create their own independent grid) and silently bypass provincial governments when necessary.

A province would discover a decrease in grid connectedness and profit margins among a provincial oligarchy of gas-fired power companies and try to use the provincial Electrical Code to attempt to force the protection of a price-manipulating private grid by making connection to it mandatory. But that effort would probably be defeated by private consumer renewables exceeding the Code, leaving only a jurisdictional squabble between the state and freedom-loving Alberta residents, farmers, First Nations and towns.

Now that would make an interesting court case, Smith the Freedom Fighter fighting her own constituents over freedom of choice in energy.

Alberta does need a solution for the situation that obtained in the last days of December, 2022. Very high electrical demand from the -30C temperature, but the cold front also stilled about 80%-90% of the wind output; and obviously, cloudy days with 8 hours of low (<20 degrees from horizon) sunlight, had solar at about 5%.

The solution, temporarily, could be to keep the old gas-peaker plants ready to spin up, when renewables replace them - replace them before they wear out, and preserve the asset. Longer-term, the need for increased interconnections east and west need to be looked at, a continental generation strategy. Manitoba and BC both have 95% hydro, see no need for other renewables. They could put them in and hoard their hydro reservoir levels, to step in and be saviours for Alberta and Saskatchewan, in just such situations - and have some guaranteed sales in the many years when it doesn't get that bad, with Alberta paying for some interprovincial power as a hedge.

And, of course, batteries, batteries, and maybe pumped-hydro. Alberta needs to know how well those "iron-air" batteries work, ASAP, and decide whether to blow several billion on hundreds of gigawatt-hours of battery. A "simple" matter of money, and scaling.

December 2022 shows that Alberta/SK - and states to the south that "enjoy" the same weather extremities - are one of the hardest places in the world to give 100% assurance of power to, without carbon.

But Alberta could also be the shining light of green technology, god knows they've got 100,000 engineers that can be re-targeted to green work - and already has one of the most-promising geothermal experiments going.

Talk about a stark choice - Smith allying herself with Americans who want a bridge back to 1860, or Notley with her eye on surviving 2060.

Form Energy (iron-air batteries) and Ambri (liquid metal batteries) have both left the MIT labs and entered the commercialization phase. Iron-air can store MWs of charge for up to 100 hours. Liquid metal can do the same for four hours. One is viable for many cycles over four days, while the other is ideal for daily fluctuations. Both offer power in milliseconds.

Some flow batteries can store power indefinitely. Zinc bromide is one of them. Australia's Redflow Batteries operate over a 12-hour cycle, but can store power for long periods in "hibernation" mode. It seems possible to rank battery packs to achieve weeks of back up power when needed. Vancouver's Invinity is a flow battery already active in large scale battery storage. There are others.

All of the above batteries avoid the use of lithium and instead use more common, cheaper materials. However, some battery labs are now successfully building lithium batteries with sodium or silicon, therein avoiding unstable chemistries that cause dendrite growth and short circuits through nickel and cobalt. Lithium iron phosphate is currently displacing lithium ion (with Ni and Co) worldwide and therein a safer chemistry has been achieved albeit with a small drop in energy density. In some experiments LFP chemistries are also being mixed with a little manganese, sodium or silicon to boost the energy density and achieve good cold weather performance.

As always, there is a backlash against batteries by vested interests and critics who have problems keeping up with the pace of improvements not just in safer, better formulations, but in deeper and more complete recycling and efforts to source common and cheaper metals from nations with good labour and environmental standards. Note that the largest deposit of lithium was discovered in Nevada, not exactly the Congo with respect to labour and environmental exploitation.

The tech innovations in renewable just keep on growing. The pace is picking up.

Here's a quick synopsis on what we can expect in the coming year with respect to progress in all aspects of renewables.

"Albertans aren’t a bunch of me-focused adolescents who want to take away your pension money, pollute your skies with planet-warming gases and poison Canada’s watersheds with effluent from coal mining, tarsands leaks and natural gas flaring."

I have close friends from Calgary who call themselves "proud Alberta rednecks". We agree to not discuss our politics, but every so often I have to satisfy my curiosity. When I recently asked them about the proposed Alberta pension plan, and Alberta's reluctance to embrace responsible climate policy, here's the answer, verbatim: "Whatever pisses of the rest of Canada is fine by me."

These are the people you ignore at your peril. They'd don't like Danielle Smith. But they'll keep her in power as long as they need to.

"These are the people you ignore at your peril."

Well, these are also people who need to be challenged, not feared. Push back against the bullying. They don't have a valid, feasible method to achieve even half of their goals regarding getting more for Alberta by bullying the rest of the nation, let alone the threat to leave the confederation. But that has worked to a limited degree for 50 years, so why stop now, eh?

I lived in Calgary for 22 years and visited over 100 times since, and know hubris when I see it, especially the red neck kind. Not one of my hundreds of friends and relatives there have ever expressed a willingness to give up their Canadian citizenship despite the hard right tilt of too many of them. Not one. I suspect you won't find more than a low single digit percentage of Albertans who think true, genuine separation is an idea worthy of their support. If they did, they they would've had a referendum on 100% sovereignty when the first Trudeau dared to roll into Cowtown.

My best advice is to accept red neck opinions from Alberta with a big pill, especially as oil demand decreases in the world over the next decade. I suspect the hubris will change to pleading once the transition to renewables reaches full steam in the global economy.