Bigger role for biomass in Alberta?
By Andrew Snook
December 18, 2015 - With a new government in place in Alberta under Premier Rachel Notley, the biomass industry may have an ally to help grow the domestic side of the sector.
Notley recently released her government’s climate change strategy for Alberta, which includes the phase-out of coal-fired electricity, a carbon tax, a cap on oilsands emissions and increased investment in wind power. The government is looking to significantly increase its use of renewable energy throughout the province and achieve 30 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
With the phase-out of coal-fired electricity planned throughout the province, through increased use of renewable power and natural gas, it is unclear if biomass will have a role to play – like in the form of advanced wood pellets used by the Ontario Power Generation for converting coal-fired plants in Atikokan, Ont. and Thunder Bay, Ont., for example.
Renewables are expected to replace about two-thirds of coal-generated electricity in the province with a heavy investment in wind power – with natural gas providing base load reliability. However, biomass has not been ruled out as part of the province’s renewable energy strategy.
“Our government recognizes Alberta’s bioenergy production and the benefits it provides to communities and the economy,” said Ryan Cromb, assistant director for Alberta Energy Communications. “However, it is still too early to tell what mix of renewables we are moving towards within our targets.”
Cromb added that Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan does list biomass for heating as one way small-scale generation can take on a larger role in meeting Albertans’ energy needs.
The carbon tax that the province plans on rolling out is expected to raise $3 billion a year, which will be invested into various renewable energy sectors and consumer rebates to help cover increased energy costs.