With temperatures soaring on a sultry Monday, Alberta witnessed a burgeoning demand for electricity, compelling the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) to issue a grid alert lasting roughly five hours. Leif Sollid of AESO clarified the nature of a grid alert, stating it communicates to both the industry and general public that the grid is buckling under intense stress and struggling to match the escalating demand.
Several underlying reasons sparked this alert, Sollid further elaborated, including the simmering weather inflating demand for power, complications regarding energy imports from British Columbia, and a shortage of wind generation in the province.
In response to the situation, Premier Danielle Smith took to social media, encouraging Albertans to restrict their power consumption and lobbying to augment the power supply in the system. “It is crucial for Alberta to supplement our electricity grid with more base-load power derived from natural gas and other sources to safeguard the system’s reliability and affordability,” read an excerpt from one of her posts.
Smith repeated her plea to supplement the grid with more natural gas production while simultaneously developing other technologies by 2050. Disagreeing with Ottawa’s 2035 net-zero regulations, she claimed they would undermine Alberta’s goals, adding, “That’s why our UCP government will oppose the implementation of this appalling federal plan here.”
This argument came hot on the heels of new draft Clean Electricity Regulations released by the federal government earlier this month. These regulations set a goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2035 — a timeline firmly rejected by Alberta and Saskatchewan, who argue that a 2050 deadline is more feasible.
Commenting on Smith’s point, Industrial Professor Tim Weis from the University of Alberta said, “The premier doubts the viability of cost-effective carbon capture and storage technology by 2035, which is why she’s demanding more natural gas generation.”
As Smith continues to lobby for more natural gas generation, the AESO is gearing up to integrate two new plants into their system. “AESO values renewable energy,” Sollid said, “but we are moving through a transition phase. With more large gas plants coming online — one this fall and another next year — we anticipate a substantial improvement in our supply scenario.”
Although the heatwave on Monday partially provoked a grid alert, the increased level of wind-generated power on Tuesday significantly improved the system’s sustainability.
“Grid alerts are serious,” Weis conceded, “yet the situation would be far more concerning if no new projects were proposed. Currently, there’s a wealth of planned projects in the pipeline.”
However, on Tuesday evening, another grid alert was triggered at 5:29 p.m. Despite earlier indications that another alert was unlikely, the AESO, encountering similar challenges like Monday: blistering heat, intensified demand, inadequate wind for windmills, waning solar power, and an outage in B.C. affecting energy imports, necessitated another alert. Albertans were once again asked to execute conservation measures. The alert was eventually lifted at 8:02 p.m.