SASKATCHEWAN ELECTRICITY GENERATION: PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE
Trends in Electricity Generation: 2006 to 2015
The chart to the right shows how Saskatchewan has generated its electricity over the last decade.
Wind energy. SaskPower has certainly been making all the right noises however actions speak louder than words and, in that department, matters are not overly impressive. In the last 10 years the amount of electricity generated by wind energy has been unchanged at 2.9 percent of the total. This makes Saskatchewan one of the very few jurisdictions in North America, indeed worldwide, to have seen no change in its use of wind in ten years.
Coal to gas switch. In the last decade SaskPower's policy has been to reduce reliance on coal while increasing its use of natural gas. Over the period coal use declined from 56 to 46 percent while natural gas generation increased from 18 to 34 percent.
Renewables. In the same ten year period Saskatchewan renewables have operated under a policy of benign neglect. Electricity generation from renewable sources (almost exclusively hydro electricity and wind but also now including a tiny amount of solar) has remained essentially unchanged at around 23 percent of total electricity.
One might remark on the sharp drop in the use of renewables in 2015 (to 17 percent) however this was due to a dry year - which reduced hydro generation - rather than to active policy neglect.
2015 Generation Mix
In 2015 Saskatchewan's electricity generation was dominated by fossil fuels with a total share of 80 percent. This was higher than at any time since 2004. Coal dominated with 46 percent followed by natural gas with 34 percent.
Today 17 percent of our electricity is generated from renewables - mainly hydro-electricity - this is the second lowest renewables usage in Canada.
Despite our best-in-Canada wind resource and the excellent economics of wind energy, Saskatchewan currently sources almost as much of its electricity from imports (2.1 percent) as it does from wind energy (2.9 percent).
Future Generation Mix?
2020. SaskPower has recently either built (North Battleford) or announced (Queen Elizabeth Power Station expansion and Swift Current) three major gas-fired power stations. One sizeable new wind project (Chaplin) was planned for 2017 although, due poor project siting in the middle of a major bird reserve, it appears increasingly unlikely the project will proceed. There is also a further 100 megawatts of wind which has yet to be awarded but which is liable to be commissioned before 2020 (See here for details of wind projects).
From all of this information and factoring in growth in electricity demand; we can estimate with reasonable accuracy that, by 2020, wind will be generating about 4 percent of our electricity. About 75 percent will still be generated by coal and gas and around 20 percent from hydro.
Although 4 percent represents an increase on today's share of electricity from wind (2.9 percent) it is a staggeringly unambitious figure given the excellent economics of wind energy, our world-class wind resource and also what has been achieved in many other North American jurisdictions in much less time.
2030. The October 2014 'resignation' of the previous SaskPower CEO appears to have resulted in a much-needed breath of fresh air (pun intended) at SaskPower. Wind energy was the first major policy announcement of their new CEO, Mike Marsh. And it came only a few weeks after he was appointed in early April 2015.
Those initial targets were subsequently expanded in December and now amount to an increase in electricity generation from renewable sources from today's levels of 17 percent to 44 percent by 2030. Details here.
This is all positive stuff. Nonetheless this Government has a record of lofty renewable energy promises - followed by equally unambitious implementation. Indeed there has been no concrete action on these new renewable energy targets since they were announced last year and we await developments with interest.