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Conference to Spotlight Alberta's Renewable Potential

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Photo: David Dodge, the Pembina Institute

Everyone knows that Alberta is awash in natural resources. What is perhaps less widely understood is that not all of them lie underground.

Last week, the province’s wind-energy sector surpassed 1,000 megawatts of installed capacity. Yet this is barely touching what’s actually possible—largely due to a missing supportive policy framework from the provincial government.

“Alberta’s renewable energy industry has thrived with no clear direction from the province,” says Kris Hodgson, an Alberta Clean Technology Industry Alliance board member. Hodgson will moderate a panel on the Alberta opportunity at next week’s National Renewable Energy Forum (NREF) in Toronto.

“The industry has gone ahead anyways, because we have some of the best resources anywhere,” Hodgson adds.

Enough breezes sweep across the prairie to power the province’s energy needs multiple times over. It’s the same deal with solar. According to Natural Resources Canada estimates, some 830 Million gigawatt hours of sunshine brighten the province each year—240 times energy than all the coal, oil and gas, and bitumen extracted in 2007.

“The resource is massive,” confirms Marlo Raynolds, vice president of market development for Calgary-based Bluearth Renewables. “Wind and solar are still untapped. They haven’t even been scratched.”

That may be about to change. The provincial government is now actively developing and consulting on its Alternative and Renewable Energy Strategy. Premier Ed Stelmach initiated that strategy years ago, but the process was eventually shelved. Premier Alison Redford has recently picked it up again.

Susan Carlisle, the director of alternative energy electricity for Alberta’s Department of Energy will deliver a keynote next week to bring NREF delegates up to speed on the strategy. Hodgson’s panel will be discussing its implications.

Premier Redford has stated her support for renewables as an element of her vision for a national energy strategy, which aligns with the recommendations of Towards A Clean Energy Accord.

Separately, Clean Energy Canada at Tides Canada director Merran Smith will be speaking at the National Renewable Energy Forum, on a panel focusing on the social license for renewables. If you can’t make it to the Toronto event, follow along via @canadianclean and/or #ofit2013.