Hydroelectricity in Alberta, a more expensive energy than others, according to the province

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Hydroelectricity in Alberta, a more expensive energy than others, depending on the province

The Kananaskis Dam was built to meet a greater demand for energy in Calgary in the 1910s.

Basins have significant hydroelectric potential in Alberta and could power 5.8 million homes per year, according to a report commissioned by the Public Utilities Commission in 2010. Currently, this energy represents only 3 to 5% of electricity production. x27; electricity. The province believes that the cost of the installations is less advantageous than that of other renewable energies.

According to the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) which manages the electrical system in the province, this energy volume would be sufficient to supply a significant amount of Alberta's energy consumption and therefore play an important role in carbon neutrality. of the province.

Most of the hydroelectric potential is located in northern Alberta, in the Athabasca River and the Peace and Slave River basins. The AESO says that despite the great potential of hydroelectric resources, Alberta's energy market has attracted little investment in this area.

For Alberta Affordability and Utilities, large hydro facilities are associated with high costs and logistical requirements, especially when they require the construction of dams.

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“Downstream water rights, such as irrigation, further complicate the development of hydropower projects. »

— Ministry of Affordability and Utilities

The ministry points out that wind and solar projects are growing faster because they can be produced at relatively lower costs, in shorter lead times and require less logistics management.

According to the senior economist for the Canada Energy Regulator, Jean-Denis Charlesbois, this is the reason why these energy sources break into the middle energy.

Wind and solar sources are increasingly competitive, says Charlebois, explaining that the energy profile in Canada depends on each province or territory.

“Canadian provinces generate electricity differently from coast to coast. The main factors are geographical.

— Jean-Denis Charlesbois, Senior Economist, Canada Energy Regulator

In Alberta and Saskatchewan, we can see potential for wind and solar, which is not necessarily the case on the Canadian coasts, says Jean-Denis Charlebois.

Ryan Braden, director of mining and water operations for Alberta's largest hydroelectric company, TransAlta, points out that although hydroelectricity is renewable, it has negative effects on the environment. These effects can be changes in land use, water flow, fish populations and ecosystems, which must be continuously monitored.

“You have to make sure you manage the downstream effect well, make sure you act in a responsible way for the environment.

— Ryan Braden, Director of Mining and Water Operations, TransAlta

Ryan Braden sees hydroelectricity as having a role to play in Alberta, even with smaller contributions. Electricity from hydro sources currently represents between 3 and 5% of the province's capacity and will represent only 2% in 2050 according to the Canada Energy Regulator's Energy Futures Report in 2021.


According to Ryan Braden, hydropower can support the province's energy needs if wind or solar are lacking.

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Hydroelectricity has already occupied a larger portion of electricity production in Alberta. Waterworks were built in the early 20th century as the province's population grew rapidly.

Grant Berg, principal engineer at TransAlta which has 17 facilities across the province, explains that the first generating station was built in 1911 at Horseshoe, while the second was built in 1913 at Kananaskis.

“It was in response to the expansion of the city of Calgary and its growing electricity needs.

—Grant Berg, Principal Engineer, TransAlta

Other larger infrastructure was built in the 1920s, including the Ghost Reservoir to the west from Calgary. Until the 1950s, about half of the electrical installations in the province were hydraulic. Electricity in Calgary was totally hydro [until that time], says Grant Berg.

With information from Christy Climenhaga

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