SaskPower should be aiming to create a carbon-neutral electrical grid before 2040 in order for the province to meet its wider greenhouse gas reduction responsibilities in line with federal commitments, says the Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES).
“For Saskatchewan to meet that kind of target, they need to deal with SaskPower sooner rather than later,” said Bob Halliday, the lead author of the Saskatchewan Environmental Society report, titled Carbon-Free Electricity for Saskatchewan, released on Tuesday.
It follows up with the organization’s 2013 report Yes They Can: A 2020 Vision for SaskPower, which offered short- (2020), medium- (2030) and long-term (2050) recommendations for the crown.
Canada is aiming for net-zero by 2050 and SaskPower spokesperson Joel Cherry said the utility is planning for that as well.
He said the crown received the SES report Tuesday as well and is currently reviewing it.
“Going forward, we are going to change the way we’re generating power,” he said. “And we’re looking at the full gambit of options to determine how we’re going to do that.”
Halliday said that while SaskPower has made significant advancements in wind power generation, it could be doing more to invest in solar options.
According to the utility, three wind farms are expected to come online later this year and there is a major solar project in the works.
But according to the report, coal, which has the federal government aiming to have phased out or equipped with carbon-capture technology by 2030, still makes up 29 per cent of SaskPower’s generating capacity.
SaskPower has carbon-capture technology up and running at one of its three coal power plants. The SES is calling on the Crown to release more on its plans for the other two sites.
Additionally, Halliday is questioning investments made in natural gas in recent years.
“Getting off hydrocarbons in electricity generation is the easiest thing that any jurisdiction can do,” Halliday said.
“It does kind of concern SES that SaskPower’s leisurely pace doesn’t seem to be portraying any sense of urgency. Saskatchewan itself has to go through major greenhouse gas reduction challenges anyway and having SaskPower on the right path would certainly help them in that direction,” he said.
SaskPower has agreed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and is on track to exceed that goal, Cherry said.
SaskPower continues to increase its renewable energy sources, as illustrated by previously mentioned projects, “but by and large, they’re intermittent power sources,” Cherry said.
“We need to have ways to back that up. That’s why we’ve made investments in recent years in combined-cycle natural gas technology,” he said.
SaskPower is aiming to have half of its generating capacity in renewable sources by 2030.
“That’s not a very aggressive target,” said Halliday, who would like to see the Crown producing half of its electricity with renewable sources by 2030.
“Really, from a Government of Saskatchewan perspective, SaskPower should be directed to be off hydrocarbons by 2040,” he said, adding more provincial government oversight when it comes to setting benchmark targets and resourcing the crown to meet them would help SaskPower.
The provincial government deferred to SaskPower for comment. Cherry said that while the Crown works to offer suggestions and solutions, the executive council is best positioned to speak on policy.