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Inching toward greener pastures: Alberta's new solar energy program

March 15, 2017

As the Canadian renewable energy story evolves from feed-in tariffs, mega-projects and government industrial support in the East – to freer markets, “right-size” projects and technology innovation in the West, industry players are adapting to change and redefining how to participate in the new energy policy paradigm. Many would cite the Alberta Renewable Electricity Program (the “AREP”) as emblematic of Canada’s newer approach. The Alberta Electric System Operator is implementing AREP, Alberta’s first substantive renewables program, by using a competitive procurement approach and “right-sizing” it by adopting a phased-procurement approach to add 5,000 MW of wind over the relatively long period of 13 years.  The first tender award, aiming to secure 400 MW of projects, will be coming out in 2017.

A new opportunity has arisen in the form of the Alberta government’s recently announced Residential and Commercial Solar Program (the “Program”) – which commits $36 million over the next two years towards the take-up of smaller-scale roof-top solar projects for qualifying individuals and businesses that meet the soon to be announced Program requirements - all in order to achieve approximately 10,000 additional solar roof-top installations by 2020. 

As a consequence of this investment, it is expected that the Program will result in decreased solar installation costs for business by up to 25%, residential costs by up to 30% - and create approximately 900 new jobs in the province, while simultaneously helping the province achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions of up to half a million tonnes. 

The Program is complementary to the larger-scale AREP, and other programs like the Alberta schools rooftop solar initiative involving 36 participating schools – and together will help Alberta make great strides in achieving the promotion of solar energy generation over the next several years, on top of the doubling of solar generation capacity since 2015 that has already taken place.

For savvy developers, this program provides a unique opportunity to hit the ground running in Alberta, develop contacts and local market expertise, before or in conjunction with the opening of renewables market that many believe the AREP promises.  While eligibility requirements have not been published yet owing to the timing of the February announcement, the Program is expected to launch in the summer of 2017, and hopefully will help “inch” Alberta towards greener pastures.


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