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Smith calls for more natural gas power generation amid Alberta grid alert

As temperatures climbed on Monday, so too did demand for electricity across Alberta – so much so that the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) issued a grid alert for about five hours. 

"Basically what it means when we issue a grid alert is we're telling industry and the public that the grid is under a lot of stress. We're struggling to meet demand," said Leif Sollid with AESO. 

There were a number of factors that prompted the alert, Sollid explained, including the hot weather driving up demand, energy import issues from British Columbia and low wind generation in our province. 

The alert prompted Premier Danielle Smith to issue a number of social media posts urging Albertans to limit power usage and also calling for more supply be added to the system.

"It is critical that Alberta add more base-load power from natural gas and other sources to our electricity grid to protect the reliability and affordability for Albertans," read part of one post.

In another, Smith again called for more natural gas generation be added while other technology is developed by 2050. 

"Ottawa's 2035 net-zero (regulations) will make this impossible to achieve. That is why our UCP government won't let this terrible federal plan be implemented here," Smith said. 

Earlier this month, the federal government released its draft Clean Electricity Regulations, with a goal to achieve net-zero by 2035. Alberta and Saskatchewan have adamantly opposed the timeline of the regulations, saying 2050 is instead a more realistic timeline. 

"What the premier is saying is she doesn't believe that we'll have carbon capture and storage technology that's either cost-effective or technically ready by 2035 for the for those gas plants to operate," said Tim Weis, an industrial professor with the University of Alberta. 

Smith's insistence on more natural gas generation comes as AESO prepares to welcome two new plants into the system. 

"The AESO welcomes renewable energy, but we are in a bit of a transition," Sollid said. 

"We have a couple more large gas plants coming online – one this fall, then next year – which will really improve the supply picture," he said. 

While Monday's high temperatures contributed in part to a grid alert, a higher level of wind-generated power Tuesday helped keep the system in better shape. 

"So when we see a situation like (a grid alert), obviously we take it seriously," added Weis. 

"But I would be much more concerned if we weren't seeing anything in the queue that's being proposed. We're seeing a huge lineup for new projects to be built."

On Tuesday, another grid alert was declared by AESO at 5:29 p.m.

Despite signalling earlier Tuesday that it was unlikely, AESO issued another grid alert.

It was lifted at 8:02 p.m.

Just like Monday, AESO said hot weather, heavy demand, low wind for windmills, declining solar and a B.C. outage affecting power imports were to blame, and asked Albertans to conserve. Top Stories

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