Edmonton could potentially beat its own 2030 target to transition to green energy

An Edmonton councillor is going to ask if city layoffs should be considered to help keep tax increases from going up. Eric Beck/ Global News

Edmonton could potentially beat its 2030 target that city council set in May to power all of its buildings, transit and vehicles through green energy, according to a city program manager.

But how the City of Edmonton manages its energy contracts over the next few years will be the key to accelerating that goal, according to Mayor Don Iveson.

“We’re hopeful that in the next cycle here, as our power contracts come up, that we’re going to be able to move towards more renewable energy for the city’s operations,” Iveson confirmed on Monday.

That prediction was made during a noon hour forum at city hall on Monday that saw the mayor of Georgetown, Tex., explain how his community became the first — and largest — U.S. city to go to 100 per cent renewable energy.

“This is a pocketbook issue,” Dale Ross said. “And let me tell you what, if you win the economic argument, by default you win the environmental argument.”

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Ross, the mayor of the suburb of Austin, whose population is roughly the same as Mill Woods or St. Albert, is a speaker at the 2018 Alberta Climate Summit.

He said current contracts are probably the only things that hold cities back from jumping into renewable energy with both feet.

“We broke our contract, but we wrote a big cheque to get out of it because we did the cost savings over the terms of the contracts,” he told reporters.

“It more than made up for the amount that we had to break the contract price for,” Ross added. “That’s what a lot of the cities can’t do right now, because they’re in these contracts and they’re not going to expire anytime soon.

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“Even if they want to go 100 per cent renewable, they can’t because they’d have to pay a really big price to get out of the contracts.”

Georgetown relies on 60 per cent wind and 40 per cent solar for its energy needs. Its current contracts with providers go through 2041.

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Edmonton is evaluating the current producer market, according to Mill Millross, the city’s program manager for energy transition.

“I think that we could be optimistic and say we could get there sooner,” he said about the 2030 city council target.

However, the next five-year block of contracts will still be based on fossil fuels.

“We have to renew that contract in the meantime, just to ensure we have electricity to keep the lights on while we do this procurement evaluation.”

A trend Millross said he has seen is that producers are looking to expand solar and wind supply.

“They know we’re thinking about it. I get enough phone calls about it. In that May and June time frame, when council was deciding on this — the 100 per cent green goal — the market was listening.”

“Part of the window of timing for us is that the city’s power purchase agreements — as a big customer with 300,000 megawatt hours a year that we buy — where we get those from is up for negotiation in the coming year,” Iveson said. “That’s where we’re going to be going out and looking for opportunities to buy more renewable energy and we said we wanted to be 100 per cent renewable by 2030.

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“But if the right pricing and the right deal comes along, and we can get there in 2019, that would be fantastic,” Iveson added. “I’m hopeful the market is there, but we’ve got to make a good business decision and a good environmental decision — I’m hopeful those two lines can cross in the short-term.”

City council’s mandated target is for the city corporation only. Homeowners and property managers will have the option to turn to the province’s PACE program, Iveson said.

“Through PACE legislation and other things, homeowners are going to have those choices to put solar on [their homes] themselves, for example, and people have the opportunity today to choose green power — so the market is shifting.”

PACE legislation was passed by the province in June, however, it will still be a while before municipalities will have all of their individual programs in place to make the program available to homeowners.

PACE will allow Albertans to borrow the upfront costs to shift the source of energy for their homes to renewables. If homeowners then put their homes on the real estate market, whoever buys it takes over the payments. Regulations are expected to be announced by the province shortly.

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READ MORE: Alberta offering up to 30% off solar panel installation with $36M program

Watch below: In June 2017, Fletcher Kent filed this report about Alberta’s solar program that offers up to $10,000 in rebates.

Click to play video: 'Alberta provides solar panel rebates'
Alberta provides solar panel rebates

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