Electricity industry in Calgary
Critical to residential, commercial and industrial properties, Alberta’s energy industry utilizes its framework of transmission lines to move electricity from generator to consumer. As Canada’s only fully deregulated electricity market, Alberta offers extensive opportunities for renewable power generation and smart grid technology. Alberta’s competitive electricity market has resulted in over 6,500 megawatts (MW) of new electricity generating capacity since 1998. There is currently 13,638 MW of installed generating capacity in Alberta and 21,000 kilometres of transmission lines. There is interest from industry to invest another 16,000 MW of new power development in the future to meet demand.
Alberta Energy lists thermal sources as the primary producer of Alberta’s installed generating capacity. Coal-fired plants account for almost 45 per cent, while natural gas accounts for approximately 40 per cent. The remaining 15 per cent is generated through hydro, wind and biomass.
Critical as well to Alberta’s electricity industry is the use of cogeneration. The process of cogeneration is economically friendly and efficient as the input fuel (such as natural gas or biomass) generates electricity and steam/heat for industrial processes simultaneously. Cogeneration of electricity strongly contributes to Alberta’s energy supply with over 3,900 MW of grid-connected installed generation capacity in 2009. The majority of cogeneration in Alberta is natural gas cogeneration (3,146 MW). The province has one biomass cogeneration facility and five waste heat facilities.
Alberta’s electricity system is owned and operated by a mix of investor-owned and municipally owned companies, of which many are based in Calgary. However, the ability to deliver electricity throughout Alberta must also be increased in order to keep pace with the province’s continued strong economic growth. The Government of Alberta is developing a new transmission development policy to encourage cost-efficient and timely investment in transmission infrastructure.
One key innovation in the electricity industry is the development of electric vehicles. An electric vehicle could be more environmentally beneficial than vehicles burning onboard fuels like gasoline. In addition, based on the type of fuel used to generate the electricity to charge the batteries in the vehicles, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced.
Calgary has seen innovation in the electric vehicle industry with local firm Motive Industries. Motive is a full vehicle development firm that is currently working on the Kestrel EV, Canada’s first biocomposite electric car. With a surplus of clean technology experts, funders and other business development groups, companies like Motive are able to find funding and strategic business partners to further innovation in renewable energy and electricity.