It’s one of the oldest political maxims in the book: Never let a good crisis go to waste. Rarely has that spirit of political opportunism been more obvious than in the UCP government’s handling of last weekend’s near-crisis in the Alberta electricity market, when the province flirted with rolling blackouts in the face of record-cold temperatures. For a government desperate to shovel as much dirt as possible onto wind and solar energy, it created an irresistible invitation to prove its point.

On Friday evening, Danielle Smith tweeted that “the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) has issued a grid alert for Alberta. Right now, the wind is generating almost no power. When renewables are unreliable, as they are now, natural gas plants must increase capacity to keep Albertans warm and safe.” This was actually an improvement on the initial version of this message, which suggested that renewables were only producing enough electricity to power 10 homes when the underlying math suggested it was actually 10,000. Either way, her desire to politicize a potentially lethal emergency was abundantly clear.

Never mind, for the moment, that this had nothing to do with wind and solar. It was a 300-megawatt natural gas plant going offline and another that was down for maintenance that had more to do with the shortfall than wind and solar, which aren’t (and shouldn’t be) treated as baseload sources of energy. As the AESO noted, it was actually wind and solar that bailed the grid out on Monday.

The real culprit here is Alberta’s deregulated electricity market, and the failure to replace it with one that rewards things like capacity. The NDP started to do that (with the backing of the province’s independent AESO) but the UCP cancelled it almost immediately after forming government in 2019. Then-energy minister Sonya Savage suggested the NDP was “fear-mongering about blackouts and price spikes” in criticizing that decision, but they have since been proven completely right. Last year, Albertans paid by far the highest electricity prices in Canada, and last weekend was just the latest near-blackout scare.

This sort of chaos is not normal. Over in British Columbia, record-cold temperatures also resulted in record-high demand for electricity. And yet, there was no warning about potential brownouts, no calls from the government for people to reduce their consumption and no emergency alert texts blasting on phones across the province. As BC Hydro noted, they were even able to send some electricity across the border to help out their Alberta neighbours. Unlike Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who used the opportunity to virtue signal on behalf of his province’s fleet of fossil-fuelled generators, B.C.’s David Eby didn’t even take a victory lap for it.

Alas, his maturity was in stark contrast to some of the reactions in Alberta, where all the province’s noisiest idiots were out in force declaring the blackouts the work of “dangerous Marxists” or “the green agenda” and that “Scott Moe’s coal plants saved the lives of thousands of vulnerable Albertans.”

None of that is even remotely true, of course, as experts like the University of Calgary’s Blake Shaffer and the University of Alberta’s Andrew Leach valiantly kept trying to point out. As Shaffer said, “The constant slagging of ‘wind isn’t blowing/sun isn’t shining’ gets tiring. They’re not dispatchable capacity resources. This is not news. We need flexible options coupled with the cheap raw energy renewables provide for an efficient, reliable system.”

This signal will almost certainly be lost in all the noise created by the UCP and its proxies. Smith will double down on her own anti-renewables argument that allows her to cast the blame in both Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau’s direction. Her government will renew its campaign against the federal government’s Clean Electricity Regulations. And the broader culture war being waged against climate solutions like electric vehicles will continue apace.

What we need is a nuanced and expert-driven conversation about how best to maximize the economic value of Alberta’s renewable resources and the stability of its electricity grid. It should push for the construction of a bigger intertie between B.C. and Alberta’s grid, something the federal government can and should encourage. It should embrace demand-side technologies like smart meters and other measures that proactively reward consumer flexibility. And yes, it should welcome more wind and solar power in places where it’s economically viable.

Alberta's electricity grid nearly collapsed over the weekend in the face of record-cold temperatures — and no, it wasn't because of wind and solar. Why those facts aren't about to get in the way of Danielle Smith's feelings about renewable energy.

What we’re probably going to get is a populist-driven campaign against technologies the rest of the world is continuing to adopt and deploy at record pace. The UCP will continue to wage war against Ottawa’s climate policies, effectively cutting off Alberta’s nose to spite Justin Trudeau’s face. Given their dire standings in the polls, the increasingly desperate federal Liberals will almost certainly welcome the fight.

None of this is good for Alberta’s future. None of it augurs well for an informed debate about its electricity system or the sources of energy that will power it. But then, politics in Alberta has never really been about what’s best for the future.

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This is all and well for Danielle Smith to play politics, but the real truth is that successive provincial governments and the electrical authority in Alberta have neglected the grid for 15 years. We know Danielle Smith works for the oil & gas industry and not Albertans, which is why her only solution is more fossil fuels. The conservatives have also gone as far as to blame EVs for the issue, but 15 years of neglect is the real problem and failure by conservatives. The electrical authority has failed to keep up with the times and growth.

It seems conservatives love misinformation and mostly due to their base being gullible enough to believe them at face value than fact check the disinformation. Have people gotten that lazy that we are no longer capable of weeding out the truth over misinformation, or has the education system produced brain-dead individuals who are incapable of thinking for themselves?

Yes and it really seems Alberta is the Texas of the north. I did not know about Alberta's unregulated and poorly maintained grid. This whole episode is just like what happened in Texas except Smith didn't take a vacation to Cancun.

Now a tired refrain, after Ted Cruz used it in Texas and was debunked.

The papers are not doing enough to highlight that it is the lack of payment for "capacity", the policy of non-resilience, that is almost unique to Alberta.

There are many homes in Alberta that installed solar PV arrays on their roofs. The ones that also installed LFP batteries are likely laughing at Smith during the cold snap, especially those who have EVs plugged in to their house grid, therein adding huge additional power storage capacity. They likely had excess power they could have sent to the grid.

The harder Smith and Moe fight renewables the more investors will laugh.

Key error of the article: "What we’re probably going to get is a populist-driven campaign against technologies the rest of the world is continuing to adopt and deploy at record pace."

No, we are not going to get a "populist-driven" campaign. We are going to get a money-driven campaign, which is exactly what we've had up to now, including the premiership of Danielle Smith, in which the oil lobby spent plenty of money buying the premiership for one of their lobbyists, both for the power and so that their lobbyist would be in a great position to propagandize for their cause. The so-called "populist" support for oil and opposition to renewables is not an organic thing, it is driven by oil money. Social media is a great venue for paid propaganda precisely because it feels to the real people involved like a grassroots phenomenon. But it's not, it's just that all those oil billions buy a lot of astroturf.

"...buying the premiership..."

Indeed. But it' been thus since Peter Lougheed left the premiership.

There's an unusually tribal and therefore unusually receptive audience here though.
In one of the comments on Rob Miller's last article a man talked about close friends of his in Calgary saying something to the effect that whatever pissed off the rest of Canada sounded worth doing?
When you've lived here most of your life that remark is typical of the considerable and definitive proud boy/bad boy contingent here, the lifeblood of the nightmarish "conservative movement" currently wreaking havoc. This "convoy" element was fully mobilized by a bunch of women AND socialists being put in charge (of THEM ie.) in 2015, an interchangeable horror because these ignoramuses also regard "socialism" as wholly "effeminate." Like we aren't all social beings who have survived as a species by supporting each other Pffffttttt......so short-sighted, so stupid.
So those fumes of outrage have become one with fossil fuel combustion, now wholly threatened by climate change and also easily dismissed as effeminate when alarmism/hysteria is perceived as the trademark. Especially when that's also actually lurking at some unacknowledged existential level in many of THEM. Utter fools, every one of them, and so stunningly self-centred, they're willing to accept deluded evangelicals (leading examples of both how dangerous the assault on truth AND "identity politics" are to a democracy) outright separatists, and the shamelessly unethical as frontmen for them.
Hence my point that the amount of tribal stuff here makes this place ripe for any and all propaganda. 40 plus years of conservatism/political complacency probably further dulled political wit.
Speaking of trademark though, the extreme, irrational and prolonged Republican reaction to Obama winning is what seems to have triggered this nasty wave on the right. And I don't think the current vitriol against Biden (an exemplary president by all measures) is just about him being too old; it's also about Kamala Harris in the wings, a potential double whammy for all these guy guys.

". these ignoramuses also regard "socialism" as wholly "effeminate."

LOL! The very highway and arterial road system these supposedly mature males drive their penis trucks on while belching black soot is one of the most insidious forms of socialism ever invented. It's publicly owned. It's a form of government control. It divides people into left and right. And crossing the line can have deadly consequences. Somebody should tell them they are nothing without the support of this key effeminate asset. ;-)

Haha, indeed.
You could try telling them Alex since you're a man; your chances of being listened to would far surpass mine even if you don't live here anymore.
I miss emojis. A rueful/furious chuckle inserted here....