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Alberta renewable power seen as cheaper than coal in next decades

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Tags: Alberta

Alberta, which relies on coal to generate about half its power, would see electricity rates drop faster in coming decades through an increasing use of renewable energy, the Pembina Institute said.

Prices for electricity would be 4-percent lower by 2033 with a transition to more wind, solar and hydroelectric power than a persistent reliance on coal and natural gas, according to a report published today by the Calgary-based environmental research firm. The price per kilowatt-hour in Calgary has averaged less than $0.10 over the past decade.

The province that holds the world’s third-largest crude reserves is reviewing renewable-energy policies as exports from its oil sands face increasing opposition from environmental groups and lawmakers in the U.S. and Europe. The pressure to curb emissions from Alberta’s bitumen production threatens U.S. approval of TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline linking the oil sands to the Gulf Coast.

Alberta, which boasts Canada’s sunniest weather and only harnesses about 1 percent of its potential wind power, has eliminated most incentives for renewable energy in past decades, making it difficult for investors to compete with fossil-fuel generation, the Pembina report said.

“Alberta could cut its reliance on high-polluting energy dramatically,” said Ben Thibault, electricity program director at Pembina and co-author of the report. “The lack of a renewable policy framework has been a real barrier.”

The province, whose farmers pioneered wind-power development in Canada two decades ago, is working on a new renewable energy policy, Energy Minister Diana McQueen said last month.

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