Monday, November 23, 2015

Saskatchewan to Get Half of its Energy from Renewables

Last week Brad Wall the premiere of Saskatchewan announced that his province will get half of its energy from renewables by 2030. This includes a combination of wind, solar and geothermal energy. To achieve this goal the province will have to double its renewable energy production. Saskatchewan currently gets 25 percent of its power from renewable sources, mostly wind and hydro.

This is welcome news from a province that has been repeatedly identified as a climate laggard. In a 2014 report titled "Tracking the Energy Revolution" from the climate think tank, Clean Energy Canada, Saskatchewan was singled out as one of the worst provinces in Canada in terms of its renewable energy efforts.

Saskatchewan has been ranked as the worst province in Canada for its climate efforts.  Despite being one of the least populated provinces, Saskatchewan has the fourth highest levels of emission in Canada accounting for 10 percent of the nation's greenhouse gases (GHGs). This is noteworthy because Saskatchewan's emissions are even higher than the far more developed province of B.C. Emissions in the province increased by 7.6 percent (5.3 Mt) between 2005 and 2013.

Saskatchewan is also the worst per capita GHG emitters in a country that itself has high per capita GHG levels. Saskatchewan generates more per capita GHGs than Alberta, Canada's fossil fuel producing giant.

The people of Saskatchewan have been slow to accept the anthropogenic origins of climate change. A 2012 poll revealed that only 21 percent of that provinces population believed that climate change is man-made. This is the lowest percentage of any province in Canada. A 2014 poll shows that Saskatchewan has the lowest levels of belief in the science of climate change. However a more recent poll reveals that the people of Saskatchewan want more renewable energy.

The combination of climate related events and the demise of the oil industry may have played a role in changing attitudes in the province. This summer Saskatchewan has suffered from some of the most destructive climate related forest fires in its history. Low oil prices have hurt the provinces own oil industry and this is having a ripple effect on the wider economy. Under the former Conservative federal government the province received considerable financial support for a carbon capture project. However, the plant has been operational less than half of the time and it has yet to prove that it is economically viable.

At a news conference Wall told reporters the 50 percent target is “achievable, and that’s what we’re going to be moving toward.” Wall added that renewables share of power generated in the province “can be much greater, we want it to be greater and we need it to be greater because … we have high emissions in this province.”

The official announcement was made by Crown utility SaskPower on Monday, November 23. "I think this is a realistic plan that we believe the people of Saskatchewan will support," Bill Boyd, minister responsible for SaskPower, said Monday. The cost of increasing the amount of renewable energy in the province is estimated to be $1.5 billion. This will translate to an increase of less than $1 a month for SaskPower customers.

While wind has a history in the province, solar is a new addition to the province's energy mix. the premiere has indicated that the introduction of solar this is due to technological advancements. In addition to large scale solar projects private citizens will also be given incentives to encourage them to put solar arrays on their homes. SaskPower’s Net Metering program currently allows customers to be compensated for feeding excess renewable energy into the grid.

The 50 percent target is even better than the 40 percent target that was contained in an NDP bill. Opposition Leader Cam Broten is skeptical. He said that he’ll believe in the government’s commitment to renewables when he sees it, because the Sask. Party record hasn’t been great.

In addition to concerns about implementation, others have expressed disappointment that Wall has no plans to introduce any form of carbon pricing. Perhaps most discouraging is the provinces ongoing reliance on coal powered electricity generation. Boyd said, "we see coal as part of the mix for the next number of years."

While the addition of more renewable energy in Saskatechewan is laudible it is not enough to be considered as serious climate leadership.  

Canadian PM and Provinces Unified for COP21
What Canadian Provinces are Doing to Combat Climate Change
Alberta's New Climate Plan is a Quantum Leap Forward
Canada's Provincial and Territorial Governments Draft Principles for a Clean Energy Strategy
The Merits of Carbon Pricing in B.C.
Canada's Green Provincial Report Card

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