The energy sector in southern Alberta looks very promising according to experts, especially with over $2 billion worth of renewable energy projects being built in the region.
SouthGrow Regional Initiative, an economic development organization based in Lethbridge, says this boom in renewables took flight about three years ago as the price of installations and equipment dropped low enough that incentive-free builds suddenly made more business sense.
“It really comes down to macro-economic forces, so back in 2017, that was the year in which renewable energy projects broke even with traditional oil and gas projects,” explained Peter Casurella, executive director with SouthGrow Regional Initiative.
“It became competitive from a business standpoint to build renewable energy projects without any incentives from government sources,” he added.
Casurella said there’s been an “unprecedented” number of proposed projects in the province as the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) has received applications for over 90 projects, with most of them located in the south.
Part of the driving force behind this boom is the looming global mandate to reduce carbon emissions.
“All of the major investment firms and banks around the world that deal in huge capital that funds these kinds of projects are divesting away from traditional oil and gas projects — they see them as too risk exposed,” Casurella said.
“They see them as not aligned with their own corporate values anymore either and they’re putting their money elsewhere, with renewable energy, it looks like there’s going to be a lot of good, long-term returns,” he said.
Casurella said another benefit is that returns are quite predictable when it comes to renewable energy.
Greengate Power, is a renewable energy company which is building one of the biggest solar farms in Canada with 1.5 million solar panels, says the project will be offering both clean energy to over 200,000 homes and job opportunities.
“There’ll be more than 500 jobs created during construction, and tens of millions of dollars in municipal taxes that will be flowing into Vulcan County over the life of the project.”
Construction on the Travers Solar project is slated to start early next year. Balaban adds, the ability for such projects to generate considerable amounts of money for municipalities is one that needs to be underscored.
“The renewable energy opportunity in Alberta is a great way for municipalities to shore up their balance sheets.”
Both Casurella and Balaban acknowledge the transition from traditional energy to renewables won’t be a quick one, however they say change is happening nonetheless and with the abundance of sustainable energy in southern Alberta, the region is poised to become a mecca of opportunity for the energy sector.