The increasing industrialization across the world has resulted in increasing demand for energy and subsequent pressure on energy resources. The impending global shift towards renewable energy sources has significantly compounded pressure on nations to develop energy systems that are safe, reliable, secure, environmentally friendly and sustainable for the delivery of the national demands for energy. In Saskatchewan, this pressure in energy demand has been felt particularly due to the shift towards renewable energy resources. Currently, an energy system characterized by the combination of traditional fossil-based energy sources and renewable energy sources exists in Saskatchewan. While energy generation in the area is currently adequate for the existing needs, it still has great potential for renewable energy investment, and an effective energy system would incorporate all the available renewable energy potential to realize the intended energy effectiveness.
Background Information – Existing System
The energy system in 2017 was at a total capacity of 4491 MW, which included 949 MW of purchased power. A large percentage of this capacity is fossil-fuel driven, with inputs from the renewable energy. Gas, coal, hydro and wind energy contributed 40%, 34%, 20% and 5%, respectively, of the total energy generated in Saskatchewan in 2017 (Patel and Dowdell 1). With more than 70% of the energy in the area being from a fossil fuel origin, there needs to be a deliberate shift towards renewable energy solutions (Barrington-Leigh and Ouliaris 3). Previously, there have been various efforts to support this shift including government incentives for the implementation of renewable energy generation, and the current energy system in Saskatchewan reflects this intention. The adoption of the electric vehicle as a technology for the future also justifies the implementation of more effective plans in energy generation and utilization.
Saskatchewan currently ranks as the third highest energy consumer in Canada, with a reported consumption of approximately 17.6 MWh per capita in 2015 (Barrington-Leigh and Ouliaris 3). It is expected that with the growing adoption of technology, this per capita consumption is expected to increase in the future. Currently, SaskPower is the main provider of energy in Saskatchewan, and has elaborate plans for the province’s energy generation up to 2030. In its plans, a 50% renewable energy mix is to be attained by 2030 (Patel and Dowdell 2). This renewable energy is projected to be a mix of hydro power, wind energy, and other sources at 15%, 30% and 5%, respectively. The projected energy distribution by 2030 is most probably an indication of the SaskPower’s capacity for investment in renewable energy, and not a direct indication of the province’s capacity to generate energy. For instance, Saskatchewan is reportedly the sunniest province in Canada, and solar energy has significant potential for application yet it is covered by only the 5% of the renewable energy as reported in SaskPower’s energy plans for the province in 2030 (Patel and Dowdell 2). Other opportunities are also available for power generation in the province.
Proposed Energy System for 2040
The objective of this proposal is to present an energy system for the province of Saskatchewan. The system will exhibit various characteristics, including reliability, safety, security, environmental considerations, and cost factors. A combination of different sources of energy is proposed to create a balance between renewable energy and fossil fuel-based energy, with the goal of reducing fossil-fuel generation by up to 95%. The different energy compositions will be based on the strengths of Saskatchewan as a province and the energy demands of the province. Additionally, considerations will be made on the ownership of the proposed energy system, as the current owner is not a constraining factor. A different ownership structure is thus considered for the proposed energy system.
In most countries, it is the responsibility of the government to provide its people with energy. The government has sufficient data, including on the national/provincial demographics, the economic capacity of the province, the financial capability to fund energy projects, the expected economic growth rates and outcomes, and the existing energy demands and gaps in the province, to make decisions. For the proposed energy system, therefore, the Saskatchewan provincial government is expected to be the overhead authority in both planning and execution of progress. The provincial government is expected to gain support from the Canadian national government, particularly in terms of funding and the provision of other resources and partner with any other organization with sufficient capability, or even with diverse organizations to handle energy generation through different channels. The different energy organizations would generate energy and channel their productions to the national grid, which will be under the management of SaskPower as has been in the past.
Choice of Technology
Governments consider various factors when developing energy systems that would be appropriate for the target population. Such factors include economic outcomes, environmental impacts, and citizen satisfaction, and they have been considered in the design and planning of the proposed energy system for the province of Saskatchewan. In contemporary society, environmental impact has particularly been a key consideration for the development of the energy sector due to the global agreement and intention to shift towards renewable energy (Prebble 4). Technologies that are more accessible in Saskatchewan are prioritized in this proposal.
The province of Saskatchewan has a wide range of natural resources that are considered effective for the generation of renewable energy. For instance, the area is reported to be the sunniest in Canada, indicating the potential for solar energy generation in the province, yet the current solar energy capacity is zero and is reported to potentially result in much lower output than the projected 350 MW, unlike the wind energy capacity, which is already nearly 221 MW (Patel and Dowdell 4). Solar energy still has significant potential in Saskatchewan due to the availability of several small-scale developments that have been encouraged by the net metering program run by SaskPower (Patel and Dowdell 3). Moreover, the area is reported to have one of the strongest average wind speeds in North America, and wind energy generation has been experimented in the past with confirmed sustainability, albeit to a small scale. The proposed system will thus consist of a combination of solar power and wind energy in different proportions, and will be implemented at different stages, expanding the capacity of solar energy and wind energy continuously. Both energy technologies are environmentally friendly. Besides these, hydro power has been confirmed a reliable energy generation technology in Saskatchewan as it currently produces nearly 19% of the total energy consumption in the province (Barrington and Ouliaris 15). In provinces such as Quebec, Newfoundland and Manitoba, hydropower is already contributing nearly 90% of the energy demand and is also cost effective and sustainable as an energy source. All these three energy sources have been considered for introduction to Saskatchewan by 2040.
Geothermal energy is another energy consideration for the future of Saskatchewan based on its environmental impacts. Recently a $ 50 million geothermal power plant was set up in Saskatchewan, the first ahead of other provinces, such as Alberta, where the expertise for geothermal energy set up is available (Rieger par. 1-2). Barrington and Ouliaris also report high potential for geothermal power generation in Saskatchewan (33). The geothermal power negation is thus expected to displace a large percentage of the fossil energy that is current utilized in Saskatchewan. A combination of wind power, solar power, hydroelectric power and geothermal power will be suitable for Saskatchewan.
The second consideration is the cost effectiveness of the technology. In this aspect, choice of technology was based on the affordability and availability of existing structures. The most potentially cost-effective technology would be hydroelectric power since there are already existing infrastructures for large scale hydropower generation. As such, expanding the capacity of hydroelectric power generation will be least costly. Both wind energy and geothermal energy have been developed to some extent and there is both expertise and existing infrastructure, which will only need expansion. On the other hand, solar energy will require investment in both expertise and infrastructure hence can potentially be the most costly.
The implementation plan for this proposed energy system will begin with the expansion of the existing energy systems and piecewise initiation of the solar energy system. The objective over the next 10 years is to reduce fossil energy by nearly 50% through replacement with hydroelectric power, wind energy, geothermal energy, and solar power. Wind energy and hydro energy is expected to replace 20% of the total expected change in fossil energy generation. Geothermal power has already shown the potential to power nearly 5000 homes in Saskatchewan, and to result in a reduction of nearly 27,000 MT of carbon dioxide emissions per year (Rieger par. 1). Two more geothermal power plants will be constructed in the next 5 years, and another 3-4 within the next 10 years. By 2040, geothermal power capacity is expected to cater for nearly substitute 50% of the current fossil energy capacity. Solar energy is expected to satisfy 15% of the current fossil energy generation, while wind and hydroelectric power will contribute 35% of the fossil energy generation. For the wind and hydroelectric power, the total generation will be the sum of the current energy generation and the additional capacity.
Considering the proposed energy generation technologies, it is evident that various factors, including reliability, citizen satisfaction, and economic incomes have also been considered. The reliability factor has been catered for by the presence of multiple energy generation technologies, all channelled through the national grid to supplement each other; a smart grid is the newest technology for accomplishing such operations as recommended by Liserre, Sauter and Hung (19). Citizen satisfaction is a function of reliability, efficiency, and cost effectiveness of the energy system. As such, by addressing the other factors, the issue of citizen satisfaction will be inadvertently resolved. Currently, the highest energy consumer in Canada as a whole is the industrial sector, releasing an average of approximately 20.1 MT of carbon dioxide every year (Prebble 10). The industrial sector requires high volumes of energy, good reliability and cheap energy sources, in order for them to gain economic returns. With the implementation of the proposed energy system, it is expected that industries will also benefit from the economic outcomes of the renewable energy system. For instance, Prebble (12) reports on the incentives that are provided for investment in the renewable energy sector. Companies in the industrial sector can therefore start initiatives for investment in the renewable energy sector such as solar energy and wind energy.
The province of Saskatchewan is one of those that have exhibited expansive potential for renewable energy investment in Canada. The area has several features and natural resources that can be utilized for renewable energy generation, and some efforts have been made previously under the current energy system that envisions the 2030 goals. The proposed energy system will rely on a combination of various energy sources including solar energy, wind energy, hydroelectric energy, and geothermal energy. The energy sources have been proposed following a consideration of the characteristics of the province, existing research done in the industry and currently existing energy systems. Factors such as environmental sustainability and cost effectiveness have been considered, concluding with a recommendation that technologies that are already implemented, and which need to be expanded to obtain the required target capacity. This proposal was made with the projection of reducing fossil fuel consumption by nearly 90% within the period of the project. The gaps left by the reducing fossil fuel consumption will be filled by the renewable energy sources.
Barrington-Leigh, Chris and Mark Ouliaris. “The Renewable Energy Landscape in Canada: A Spatial Analysis. McGill publications, 2015. wellbeing.ihsp.mcgill.ca/publications/Barrington-Leigh-Ouliaris-IAEE2015.pdf. Accessed on 17 May, 2020.
Liserre, Marco, Thilo Sauter, and John Y. Hung. “Future Energy Systems: Integrating Renewable Energy Sources into the Smart Power Grid Through Industrial Electronics.” IEEE Industrial Electronics Magazine, vol. 4, no. 1, 2010, pp. 18-37. www.researchgate.net/publication/224127525_Future_Energy_Systems_Integrating_Renewable_Energy_Sources_into_the_Smart_Power_Grid_Through_Industrial_Electronics. Accessed on 17 May, 2020.
Patel, Sonak and Elizabeth Dowdell. “Saskatchewan Energy Market Profile: Measuring the Costs and Benefits of Energy Transitions.” University of Alberta, Future Energy Systems, 2018. www.futureenergysystems.ca/public/download/documents/70247. Accessed on 17 May, 2020.
Prebble, Peter. “Transforming Saskatchewan’s Electrical Future.” Canadian Centre for Energy Alternatives, 2011. https://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/Saskatchewan%20Office/2011/07/SK%20Electrical%20Future%20-%20Part%205-2.pdf. Accessed on 17 May, 2020.
Rieger, Sarah. “Canada’s 1st geothermal plant is being built in Sask., but why hasn’t the industry taken off in Alberta?” CBC News, 2019 Jan 21. www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/alberta-geothermal-potential-1.4986104. Accessed on 17 May 2020.