September 14, 2016 / 4:57 PM / 4 years ago

Alberta says will support 5,000 MW of new renewable energy capacity

(Reuters) - The Canadian crude-producing province of Alberta said on Tuesday it will support the creation of 5,000 megawatts of additional renewable energy capacity by 2030 to help achieve goals laid out in its climate plan last year.

A wind farm generates electricity near bales of hay in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near the town of Pincher Creek, Alberta September 27, 2010. REUTERS/Todd Korol

Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks, said Alberta now has a firm target of 30 percent of electricity used in the province coming from renewable sources such as wind, hydro and solar.

Previously, Alberta said it would aim for up to 30 percent renewables and industry analysts said the clarification would boost activity in the sector.

“The renewable energy target will stimulate billions in investment in the province to build the electricity system of the 21st century, bringing jobs to Alberta. This target sends a clear signal to investors, providing the certainty required for investment,” the Pembina Institute said.

Phillips estimated at least C$10.5 billion ($7.97 billion) will flow into the provincial economy as a result of the Renewable Electricity Program, creating at least 7,200 new jobs as projects are built.

Alberta, home to Canada’s vast oil sands and No. 1 exporter of crude to the United States, has been seeking ways to diversify its economy to ease the pain of the two-year slump in global oil prices.

It is also Canada’s biggest greenhouse gas polluter, mainly as a result of energy-intensive oil sands production, but also because of reliance on coal-fired power stations.

Last November, the New Democratic Party government pledged to phase out coal-fired electricity generation by 2030 and replace it with a mixture of gas and renewable power.

Investors have been awaiting further details on how Alberta will implement its climate targets since the plan was first unveiled last year.

Paula McGarrigle, managing director of Solas Energy Consulting, said the fact the renewables target is based on the amount of energy used, rather than the province’s energy capacity, was positive but further details on the structure of energy project contracts would be crucial.

“I have already emailed a bunch of my clients and there are cheers happening, people are happy with this,” she said. “Even so, the devil is in the detail.”

The province will release more details of its renewables program in November. So far it has stipulated projects must be based in Alberta, be new or expanded and be at least five megawatts in size to be eligible for support.

($1 = 1.3181 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by Nia Williams, editing by G Crosse

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