Saskpower: Coal-dependent laggard or renewable energy leader?

January 11, 2011

Regina — The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Saskatchewan Office released today Transforming Saskatchewan’s Electrical Future: The Potential for Wind and Solar Power, by Mark Bigland-Pritchard, a member of Green Energy Project Saskatchewan. The report offers a practical and workable set of integrated proposals for electrical generation in the medium and long term that has the potential to transform Saskatchewan from coal-dependent laggard to a renewable energy leader.

Bigland-Pritchard demonstrates how Saskatchewan continues its dubious distinction as the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the country due to its reliance on burning coal to generate electricity. The province's greenhouse gas emissions per capita - 74 tonnes per person annually - are the highest in Canada, and vastly exceed those of nearly all other wealthy developed industrial societies.

Despite the urgent need to retire coal-fired generation in the province, SaskPower continues to prioritize coal to the detriment of renewables as the recent retrofit decision at Boundary Dam illustrates.

With the best solar profile in Canada, and the best onshore wind profile outside of Canada's coasts and the mountaintops, Saskatchewan is well positioned to be at the forefront of wind and solar development. Despite such a favourable environment, Saskpower continues to underachieve, with its targets for wind and other renewables modest at best with no plans for further expansion.

Bigland-Pritchard outlines a much bolder vision for our provincial energy corporation that would see renewables like wind and solar make up a larger proportion of our future energy mix. This proposal could result in our electricity supply reaching 25 per cent wind before 2030, whereas SaskPower currently seeks to increase wind generation to only about 6 percent by 2013-2015.

Remedying Saskatchewan’s coal addiction requires further priority actions as recommended in the report:

1. Saskatchewan should set a target of at least 120 MW new wind capacity added each year, with the specific intention of being able to displace coal-fired capacity. This level of investment in wind power would displace a fresh 320 to 380 GWh of coal generation each year, or 380 to 460 thousand tonnes of carbon dioxide. It would replace a 140 MW coalfired unit in about 3 years, and would make possible the achievement of 25% grid penetration before 2030.

2. Introduction of a “Feed in Tariff” – similar to successful programs in Europe – whereby Saskpower would be required to purchase all power generated by certain renewable means. This would provide the security of market access necessary for the renewable industry to enter the power market.

3. Local ownership of generating capacity should be a priority, as it ensures that profits, employment and decision-making remain in each respective community.

4. Development of demand-side management technology to create a “smarter” grid. Such technology – currently in operation in the U.S. is capable of saving 5 to 10 percent of demand during peak consumption periods that could reduce our need for reserve capacity.

Substantial expansion is justified for both wind and solar power. Both technologies can, and will need to, play a major role in the province in the creation of a sustainable electricity grid, sustainable energy use more generally, and a sustainable economy. Without these two technologies, there can be no adequate response in the province to the global crises of climate change, resource depletion and fuel security.

For more information contact Simon Enoch, PhD – Director, CCPA-SK, (306) 924-3372.

To view the full report, visit: