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‘Game-Changing’ Analysis: Unsubsidized Renewables, Efficiency Cost Less than New Alberta Gas Plants

Solar, wind, battery storage, energy efficiency, and demand flexibility can reliably replace coal in Alberta at less cost than new gas plants, according to “game-changing” new analysis released last week by the Calgary-based Pembina Institute.

“Canadians don’t need to make financial sacrifices when choosing clean, renewable sources of electricity—the low-carbon option is cheaper for consumers, without subsidies, and delivers the same services as natural gas,” said National Strategy Director Josha MacNab. 

“This is a game changer,” MacNab noted. “Clean energy portfolios are reliable, economically viable, and technologically practical. And that will be good for our wallets as well as for human health and the health of the planet.”

“Clean energy portfolios offer employment and economic development opportunities that should be paired with training and support programs so Albertans have careers in the rapidly-expanding global clean energy industry,” said Pembina Alberta Director Duncan Kenyon.

“Across Alberta, municipal leaders want to bring the benefits of renewable energy development to their communities,” added Clean Energy Director Binnu Jeyakumar. “This study proves they’re on the right path.”

The study shows the combination of technologies providing “the same services as new gas plants, even in peak demand scenarios,” Pembina writes in a release. “The analysis, which uses modelling provided by the Rocky Mountain Institute, shows that when the lifetime output from portfolios of renewable energy is compared against the energy generated at gas plants, the renewable energy will cost C$9 to $24 less per megawatt hour than energy from gas plants that generate power on a steady basis and those producing it at peak hours.”

The savings are largely due to the plummeting cost of renewables and storage, Pembina adds—a trend that is set to continue in the years ahead. “The technology prices of wind, solar, and battery and energy storage have fallen by 66%, 86%, and 73% respectively since 2009-10,” the release notes, and “data from 2017 suggest wind and solar power sources are already more economical to run than coal or nuclear power plants.”

While the analysis was limited to one Canadian province, “the positive results show the need to conduct further analysis in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia,” Pembina adds. “All of those provinces, like Alberta, will be considering new energy options as coal plants are phased out over the next decade.”