In June, I was invited to petition Minister McKenna through a federal process of the office of the Auditor General. SaskWind is now officially dead and so the intent was never to advance our project in Swift Current. Rather we hoped to 'put on the public record', through a formal process, the very real concerns that have hindered our efforts since 2012. The Minister's response was underwhelming and we can but hope lessons have been learned from our experience. If British Columbia's Site C is any indication - they have!
Our final letter: this one is to Minister McKenna in Ottawa. It flags the most egregious examples of institutional resistance we have faced over the last five years. The reason for writing it: I hope it provides the Minister with some specific ammunition as she seeks to overcome that institutional resistance as part of the process of meeting Canada's ambitious Paris Agreement GHG targets.
Today the Saskatchewan auditor responded to our letter of 20 November (itself a repeat of our April 2015 communication) asking her office undertake an Audit of Boundary Dam CCS. She advised no decision has been taken re an audit. We respond - again! - highlighting the need for timely action and - again - explaining why we wrote to the Auditor General of Canada.
We ask the Auditor General to audit this $1.5-billion experiment because 1) $1-billion has gone 'missing' 2) the Saskatchewan auditor is unwilling to do an audit 3) SaskPower intends to pursue two more similar schemes 4) Premier Wall has requested $2.65-billion of federal funds to help pay for them and 5) More public subsidies for coal means higher power prices as cheaper options (such as wind) are artificially excluded from the market.
Since our beginnings in the summer of 2012, SaskWind has achieved an enormous amount: we have exposed the (expensive) failings of a one-eyed energy policy focused on hydrocarbons and nuclear power. Renewable energy, led by wind, is now recognised as a critical part of our power generation mix. It is nonetheless time for SaskWind to cease operations. In this, our last blog, we explain why.
Yesterday the federal government announced plans to phase out all Canadian coal by 2030. For Saskatchewan this represents a massive economic and employment opportunity which will have zero marginal cost for electricity consumers. Nonetheless Premier Wall chose to resist in his usual way. As a result development of new renewables continues in a sub-optimal fashion. It could be otherwise.
In this post we consider the employment implications which would result from replacing SaskPower's Chinook gas plant in Swift Current with wind energy. Based on the experience of six operating Canadian wind projects; we find wind turbines would employ three times more people during construction and two times more people during operations, than the Chinook gas plant proposal.
SaskPower justifies a new, $700-million, gas-fired power station in Swift Current by claiming it is needed as backup to compensate for the variability of wind (and solar). This statement is incorrect and, to demonstrate why, we take a look at the amount of gas-fired generating capacity in the leading US wind states. Another myth busted.
Given all the hot air emanating from his campaign and now from his transition team; one may be forgiven for thinking Trump is going to decimate the US wind business. However much of his vote came from wind-rich states. Here's two other little known facts: the top five US wind states all voted for Trump and 68 percent of all wind generated electricity is from Republican states.
Our submission to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency re SaskPower's proposed gas-fired power station in Swift Current. We argue that a federal environmental assessment is required because the GHG emissions from, and cooling water requirements of, the project will be significant. We also note SaskPower has not given adequate consideration to potential alternatives prior to proposing the project.
In May 2015, we produced a detailed financial report which showed that Carbon Capture at Boundary Dam doubles the price of electricity and imposes $1-billion of unnecessary costs on electricity users of Saskatchewan. In April the Parliamentary Budget Office confirmed our findings. Regardless SaskPower has failed to provide financial justification and so, today, we asked the Provincial Auditor to investigate.
Since 2012 we have been trying to build North America's first 100 percent community-owned, multi-megawatt wind project and to do it right here in Saskatchewan. After more than four years of repeated delays to our unique $60-million proposal, today we wrote to the Auditor requesting she address inconsistencies in SaskPower's process for securing electricity from Independent Power Producers.
Today Premier Wall introduced his counter-proposal to PM Trudeau's Federal Carbon Tax. Not surprisingly Premier Wall envisages no carbon tax and instead wants $2.65-billion from Ottawa to invest into R&D in nuclear and CCS. Given the troubled financial history of Boundary Dam CCS, it seems unlikely he will attract additional funds from Ottawa until there is more transparency on BD3 economics.
A CBC article this morning, drawn from an interview yesterday with James Glennie of SaskWind, took many of the comments he made out of context and sought to portray the alternate views, between the two sides of the carbon tax debate, in a needlessly confrontational fashion. This is disappointing since we need more (not less) dialogue in order to resolve our differences.
This morning Prime Minister Trudeau announced provinces have until 2018 to implement a carbon pricing scheme and, if not, Ottawa will introduce a carbon tax. Notwithstanding the expected righteous indignation from Premier Wall, the financial impact on things like gasoline, electricity, natural gas and crude oil is minimal and the total tax burden on final consumers is zero (unless Premier Wall chooses to make it otherwise).
It has been said that regions with lots of inflexible coal capacity in their generation mix are poorly suited to a significant use of wind energy. However analysis of five major US wind states since 2002 reveals that US states with some of the heaviest coal use are also amongst the most enthusiastic adopters of wind energy. Who would have thought?
SaskPower states wind is 'unreliable' while hydro is 'very reliable'. However analysis of 10-year Saskatchewan generation statistics reveals, from season to season, wind is about two times more reliable than hydro. A logical conclusion: wind smooths out hydro seasonal variability and hydro smooths out wind's short-term variability i.e. the two are ideal partners. (And SaskPower might want to revisit their reliability claims)
GE Energy Consulting just published a multi-year study, co-funded by Natural Resources Canada, which looked at what would happen if wind was generating 35 percent of Canada's total annual electricity. In short: major economic savings, billion-$ electricity export opportunities, no negative impacts on system reliability and 15 percent of the total Federal 2030 GHG reduction targets. What not to like?
Ottawa's Parliamentary Budget Office has just released a report which looks at the economics behind reaching Federal GHG reduction targets of 30% by 2030. The report finds Carbon Capture & Sequestration (CCS) at Boundary Dam doubles the price of electricity. Nonetheless it presents a confused picture of CCS economics and dismisses wind based on dated information and misunderstanding of grid integration costs.