Premier Brad Wall says 50 per cent of the province’s power will come from renewable energy sources by 2030, but is that feasible?
Martin Boucher researches decentralized sustainable energy systems at the University of Saskatchewan School of Environment and Sustainability and he calls it a very encouraging step forward.
According to SaskPower, three per cent of the provincial power grid is generated by wind power while 20 per cent is from hydro power and 44 per cent is from coal. The SaskPower website says about 400 homes and businesses use solar power as a secondary power source.
“There’s definitely a lot of room for improvement,” Boucher commented. “In other districts the renewable energy portfolio is a lot larger, so there’s definitely the technical capabilities to increase that.”
He says the potential for solar and wind power generation is very good in Saskatchewan.
In comments to the media on Wednesday, Wall said the goal will be achieved through a combination of wind, solar and geothermal energy.
Boucher said the premier was spot on when he said we need the right mix of power sources. He pointed out that there are challenges and benefits associated with different types of power generating technology.
“On a day to day basis, wind energy is very intermittent, but actually on a yearly basis it’s pretty predictable,” Boucher said.
“Solar has been helpful in other districts to deal with the peak load. During the summer time when you’re using your AC and whatnot, the photovoltaic energy compliments that increased demand very well.”
Boucher says it will take a balanced approach to gradually build up the grid to achieve a 50 per cent mix of renewable energy.
“Most of the technologies that are currently used to generate electricity are base-load electricity in Saskatchewan, so we’ll be able to continue using those but being very pragmatic about how we incorporate more renewable energy,” he said.
Boucher’s current research focuses on decentralized energy systems that people choose to install in their own homes or businesses at their own expense.
“We could have a bit of a conversation about maybe increasing those incentives for folks that want to have renewable generation,” he said.
For example, he says right now it takes nine years for individuals to make back the money they spend on installing solar panels. Boucher says there could be a better mix of incentives for people to switch to renewable energy sources and he expects that would drastically increase the uptake.