Separated at Birth? Alberta, Texas, and the Renewable Energy Opportunity
Author — Dan Woynillowicz
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Growing up in Calgary, I always suspected Alberta and Texas were separated at birth.

Both have abundant oil and gas, a deep appreciation of steak, and a general love of free markets, rodeos, and so on. I subsequently learned the shared cross-border DNA runs deeper than Prime Rib; with some of the continent’s breeziest open-range landscapes, both Alberta and Texas proved early wind-power leaders.

On this front, Texas continues to excel. In 2013 the state generated more energy from the wind than any other state in the union—an amount equivalent to about half of Alberta’s total power supply. While Texas has benefited from federal policies, notably the U.S. Production Tax Credit, it has taken significant steps at the state level:

  • A Renewable Energy Mandate to deliver 5,880 MW by 2015; with a goal of 10,000 MW by 2025.
  • The Competitive Renewable Energy Zones project (CREZ) designated five zones where wind could compete against fossil fuels in energy generation, and then built almost 3,600 miles of high-capacity transmission lines to deliver the output from an estimated 18,500MW of new wind capacity.

Municipally-owned utilities, such as Austin Energy and San Antonio’s CPS Energy have joined the game too, setting and delivering on renewable-energy targets. Little wonder then that Ernst & Young ranked Texas as the third-most attractive state for renewable energy investment (#1 for wind and #6 for solar).
Alas, Alberta has not kept up with its American cousin.

As Bloomberg New Energy Finance recently noted, “The drivers that have fuelled Alberta wind build in the past…are mostly no longer relevant. The province has the third-largest installed wind capacity in Canada, but did not install a single megawatt of wind last year.”

With a competitive electricity market similar to Alberta’s, Texas has found ways to diversify its electricity mix and encourage clean energy investment. And as our most recent report with the Pembina Institute revealed, Alberta has the Power to Change. The province can drastically reduce its reliance on fossil fuels for power generation and replace it with renewable energy sources such as wind, sun, biomass, hydro and geothermal energy.

So how did a conservative, market-oriented, oil-and-gas focussed jurisdiction emerge as a national renewable energy leader? It’s an important question, given the Alberta government is currently developing its long-awaited, and oft-delayed, renewable and alternative energy framework.

To help answer that question, we’re bringing Austin-based renewable energy pioneer Michael J. Osborne to Calgary on July 15 for America’s Clean Energy Maverick—the latest event in our Low Carbon Leadership Speaker Series. Osborne—a long-time entrepreneur, author, and renewable-energy advocate—will will share his insights at a lunchtime event.

Over the past four decades, Osborne has built energy-friendly homes; developed the first wind farm in Texas; helped form the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association, and marketed solar and wind equipment around the state. He most recently served as a senior executive at Austin Energy, where he helped position the city-owned utility to achieve its goal of obtaining 35 percent of the city’s energy needs with renewables by 2020.

“America’s Clean Energy Maverick” promises to be an insightful, engaging event—and we hope you’ll join us.

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