Early in January, the temperature took a sharp turn, even prompting an Alberta Emergency Alert advising Albertans to cut back on electricity consumption.
“Extreme cold resulting in high power demand has placed the Alberta grid at a high risk of rotating power outages,” the alert read.
The cold snap put into perspective how important power is in our city and communities, especially as the decarbonization of our electric grid has us relying on energy that is not reliable during our harsh weather events – both hot and cold.
“As we make the transition to renewable energy, on both a large and small scale, our province will need to balance federal mandates and timeframes with impacts to reliability and affordability as demand soars,” said Kayla Carnovale of DES Engineering, and UDI’s Shallow Utilities Working Group.
To think through the health of our power transmission and distribution grid, UDI – Edmonton Metro invited Minister Neudorf to share what his government is doing to support the future power demands of residents.
Minister Neudorf spoke to nearly 180 UDI members and partners on a range of issues impacting the real estate industry, from affordability and reliable electricity, market design, and his plan to modernize the grid.
In 2023, Minister Neudorf assumed his ministry portfolio of affordability and utilities and the Vice Chair of the Treasury Boad. He previously served as Deputy Premier and the Minister of Infrastructure.
Prior to his service as an elected official, the Minister worked in commercial construction. With a diploma in civil and structural engineering and experience as a red seal journeyman carpenter, Minister Neudorf spoke quite passionately about enabling a mix of power that Albertans need, while balancing the economic, environmental, and social pressures ahead.
“Like they say in the Game of Thrones, winter is coming,” joked Minister Neudorf. “We can’t just wish for the sun to shine. We need to balance federal net-zero requirements and increased municipal regulations with practical considerations today – so that we do not impact affordability.”
After his presentation, the CEO of BILD Alberta, Scott Fash, convened a conversation with the Minister. BILD Alberta represents Alberta’s home builders, land developers, renovators, trades, and suppliers on provincial advocacy issues.
Fash asked the Minister about what he was doing to make everyday life affordable for those living in or choosing to call the region their home.
“Our power generation capacity will be adversely affected once coal and gas fired generators are decommissioned,” said Fash.
He asked the Minister what would be needed to replace and ultimately increase generation to meet future demands.
He said that while his government has put a pause on renewables, it is to understand the implications to affordability.
“We need a timeout to work with utilities to understand the unintended consequences,” said Minister Neudorf. “We need to understand usage and demand and costing. And we really need strong integrated planning.”
He pointed out how there will be a need to generate a balance of power so electrification can grow, to look at market pricing structures, and to explore new technologies like SMR (Small Modular Reactors).
“Our government is open to making new technologies an opportunity.”
During the presentation, Minister Neudorf also highlighted innovations like hydrogen blending for new communities.
“Hydrogen is an incredible element that can be incorporated into our technology and systems.”
Minister Neudorf explained that the first step is hydrogen blending to lower emissions. He said blending is around 20% or less but can get closer to 80%.
“As we get to that target, then we should also explore demand in communities that have hydrogen appliances.”
“Alberta hopes to be a literal powerhouse for current and future residents, and to help our neighbours,” Minister Neudorf said.
As provinces like British Columbia, Manitoba, and Northwest Territories face energy deficits, the Minister noted how Alberta can play a leadership role.
“If we achieve a powerful balance and efficient system, to not only meet our needs at peak loads, we will be able to also help our neighbours.”
5 Key Takeaways
- Innovation. The province is open to introducing and enabling different types of technologies to support a balance of power needs.
- Integrated Planning. We need to optimize our efforts and ensure that we do not have multiple systems or redundant processes and policies.
- Collaboration. A strong and efficient Alberta power system can support regional municipalities and even other provinces across the nation.
- Practical Solutions. Policy intentions can often conflict with practical considerations. Planning for the future requires both imagination and wisdom – is it the best solution, is there a cost to the solution?
- Housing Affordability. Changes to utilities can adversely affect and impact housing affordability.