TransAlta looks at developing pumped storage, welcomes carbon credit regime

Canadian utility TransAlta Corporation is looking to the future in terms of climate change and clean energy, as two recent announcements show.

On Dec. 6, the company announced its board of directors approved additional elements in the company’s strategy to accelerate its transition to gas and renewables generation. Specific to hydropower, the company provided details on the Brazeau Pumped Storage Project, a “key cornerstone” of its gas and renewables strategy. The company said it “expects dispatchable renewable resources to be valuable in a future where carbon emitting plants will mostly provide back up to low cost intermittent renewable resources.”

The conventional Brazeau Hydro plant has a capacity of 355 MW and operates on the North Saskatchewan River northwest of Edmonton. The facility delivers electricity to the Balancing Pool under a power purchase agreement that expires at the end of 2020. Brazeau Pumped Storage will create up to 900 MW of additional generation and storage capability using the existing footprint. “It is particularly competitive for ensuring that low cost, intermittent wind and solar generation resources can be stored for use in high demand periods,” TransAlta says.

Also on Dec. 6, the government of Alberta announced its intention to adopt a carbon credit regime that will fully recognize the value of carbon reductions from the generation of electricity from existing renewable assets. This means TransAlta’s existing wind and hydro facilities will receive credits for emissions below the performance standard of 0.37 tonnes of CO2 per megawatt-hour.

These credits can be used, effective Jan. 1, 2018, to offset up to 40%, escalating to 60% by 2022, of the carbon price obligations incurred by generation that exceeds the performance standard. These will be charged a price of $30 per tonne of CO2. The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, agreed to in late 2016 by the government of Canada and most provinces and territories (including Alberta), is expected to result in the carbon price increasing to $40 per tonne in 2021 and $50 per tonne in 2022

TransAlta responded favorably to this determination, saying, “The carbon credit regime will allow the Company to allocate the emissions benefits from its existing renewables generation in Alberta to offset the direct carbon costs of its thermal generation, including generation from its coal-to-gas converted units.”

TransAlta President and Chief Executive Officer Dawn Farrell said, “By treating existing renewable generation equally, we expect to eventually receive $30 million to $50 million annually in credits attributable to our existing renewable assets.”

TransAlta is “Alberta’s largest producer of hydro-electric power,” with 27 such facilities and a total hydro generating capacity of 936 MW in operation in Canada and the U.S.

HydroVision International tie-in

Several panel presentation sessions are planned for HydroVision International 2018 in Charlotte, N.C., U.S., that may be of interest:

2D: Hydro — The Renewable Friend with Benefits

4F: Pumped Storage: How to Make It Work

5D: Bold, Beautiful and Powerful — Case Studies of Large Conventional and Pumped Storage Projects

Click here for more information on these sessions and others.

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