Alberta sees potential in bubble-up solar strategy

Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips says programs that support local solar power efforts are starting to pay off. Photo courtesy of the provincial government of Alberta.

April 8 (UPI) — Solar programs at the municipal level are supporting Alberta’s goal of building its renewable energy mix to 30 percent by 2030, a provincial minister said.

A $3.7 million municipal support program from the provincial government provides rebates to municipalities that install solar panels on their offices and community centers. By provincial estimates, the rebates in the last year helped those communities save more than a quarter million U.S. dollars on energy bills and helps support broader goals for renewable energy.

“Municipalities are valuable leaders in helping Alberta achieve 30 per cent renewable energy by 2030,” Shannon Phillips, the provincial environment minister, said in a statement.

The government said solar power in the province doubled in 2015 thanks in part to a municipal and farm-area incentive program. Since the municipal program was launched last year, Alberta said 28 new solar installations have been financed.

Alberta relies heavily on the fossil fuels industry for energy and has advanced diversification schemes during a market downturn characterized by lower crude oil prices. The provincial economy has lingered in recession because of energy sector weakness, but is starting to turn the corner.

Bruce Beattie, the local administrator in Alberta’s Mountain View County, said clean energy was a logical step for municipalities.

“In a carbon-constrained future, those economies that have invested in renewable energy will reap the benefits of those technologies,” he said.

Diversification is on the agenda for the national government after the broader economy faltered in response to lower crude oil prices. Wildfires last year complicated the issue with more than 1 million barrels per day sidelined in Alberta.

The Canadian government estimates it has the eighth-largest wind-energy portfolio in the world, with nearly 12,000 megawatts of installed capacity. Some provincial governments are taking the initiative on clean energy, with Saskatchewan leading efforts with its commitment to source 50 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030.


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