New Opportunities in the Alberta Electricity Market
A BLG Overview
THE NEW ALBERTA ELECTRICITY OPPORTUNITY
Forced closure of coal plants
6,300 MW to be taken out of service.
Government financial support for 5,000 MW of new renewable power development $10.5 billion
of new investment is expected.
First ever Alberta clean power call to start before the end of 2016 more to follow.
Renewable power will account for 30% of Alberta's generation by 2030 likely over
Other new power plants will be required to firm the renewables
opportunity for new gas-fired, hydro, geothermal and energy storage projects.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
01 INTRODUCTION TO ALBERTA AND ITS ELECTRICITY MARKET
1 Alberta and its Recent Electricity Policy Changes 2 A Few Caveats 2 Our Law Firm
2 Our Electricity Markets Group 2Contact
03 THE STRUCTURE OF THE ALBERTA ELECTRICITY MARKET
3 History and Evolution 3 Creation of the Power Pool 1996 3 Power Purchase Arrangements 2000
4 Retail Market Competition 2001 5 The Alberta Electricity Market Today
09 APPLICABLE LEGISLATION AND GOVERNING AGENCIES
9 Applicable Legislation 9 Governing Agencies
11 CHARACTERISTICS OF ALBERTA'S LOAD AND GENERATION MIX
11 Alberta's Load 12 Alberta's Generation Mix 13 Alberta's Interties
15 POWER POOL PRICE
15 Determining the Pool Price 16 Current Pool Prices 17 Ancillary Services Market
19 RECENT DEVELOPMENTS CREATE BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES
19 Change in Government 19 Alberta's Climate Change Advisory Panel 19 Alberta Adopts Parts of Panel Report
20 Alberta Authorizes AESO to Procure Renewables 20 Termination of PPAs
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INTRODUCTION TO ALBERTA AND ITS ELECTRICITY MARKET
Alberta and its Recent Electricity Policy Changes
Alberta is Canada's fourth largest province, with a population of over 4 million people, and a land mass of 660,000 sq kms about twice the size of Germany.
The market, composed of its generators, transmitters, distributors, retailers, electricity consumers, and wholesale electricity market, (the "Alberta Electricity Market") has had a peak load of 11,200 MW, but daily peak load now averages about 9,000 MW. It is predominantly (>60%) an industrial load due to Alberta's large oil and gas industry. The load is currently 90% serviced by thermal generation that is mainly coal based, with renewables generating only about 10% of the required electricity in Alberta. This is about to change.
The Government of Alberta recently announced a number of policy changes that will impact the Alberta Electricity Market. Generators in Alberta will be forced to utilize lower-carbon natural gas and zero-carbon renewable forms of generation. Alberta is one of the last provinces in Canada to mandate a change in its fuel mix for generating power. The Alberta policy changes require that:
1. There will be no pollution from coal-fired power generation in Alberta by 2030, as all coal-fired plants (approx. 6,300 MW) will either be phased out or be pollution free by then.
2. Two-thirds of the current coal-generating capacity (approx. 4,200 MW) will be replaced by renewable energy, and one-third (approx. 2,100 MW) by natural gas.
3. Beginning in 2018, all coal generators will pay
on emissions above plant would emit to
the same quantity of electricity.
4. Renewable power will account for 30% of Alberta's total operating generating capacity by 2030.
These changes have created exciting business opportunities in Alberta for local, national and international power project developers.
Not surprisingly, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP ("BLG") and our Electricity Markets Group have seen a rise in the number of new project developers from outside Alberta who are seeking legal and business advice in this area. In this regard, we are periodically asked by potential entrants into the Alberta Electricity Market to provide an overview of the Alberta Electricity Market to assist them to better understand (i) the structure of the Alberta Electricity Market, (ii) the applicable legislation, regulations and governing agencies, (iii) the existing characteristics of Alberta's load and its generation mix, (iv) the way in which electricity prices are determined in Alberta, and, most importantly, (v) the recent developments that have occurred to create business opportunities for them in the Alberta Electricity Market.
We concluded that this general advice is something that would be of benefit to every new entrant into the Alberta Electricity Market, whether they are a prospective power project developer, investor, lender, constructor, operator or other participant in the market.
More than 25,000 11,200 MW km transmission system peak
About 200 market
Sask. and Montana participants
Over 280 generating units
16,200 MW Installed Capacity
2 | New Opportunities in the Alberta Electricity Market | A BLG Overview
A Few Caveats
A few caveats are in order BLG is a law firm after all. First, the Alberta Electricity Market is constantly changing, especially given the changing government policies and laws that impact the market. This overview is also of a general nature, provided for background information only, and should not be regarded as legal advice. Also, any market or price forecasts in the overview have been gathered from publicly available sources and have not been verified by BLG. Finally, while every effort has been made to ensure that this overview is accurate at the time of publication, the Alberta Electricity Market will evolve and we urge you to seek legal advice regarding your particular business activities in the Alberta Electricity Market.
Our Law Firm
BLG gives clients access to a fully integrated national network of superior legal talent. We offer the collective strength of more than 700 lawyers, intellectual property and other professionals across Canada. Our specialized practice groups understand the challenges you face and the needs of the electricity sector. We know what it takes to give you timely, integrated solutions for the local, national and global electricity marketplace.
Our Electricity Markets Group
BLG has a national Electricity Markets Group, composed of over 40 lawyers in offices across Canada. We have extensive electricity industry experience acting for existing generators, new project developers, transmitters, distributors, lenders, retailers, major consumers, industry associations and other electricity industry stakeholders. In Alberta, we have been active since 1996 when our Calgary-based team advised one of the then principal Alberta utilities on market design issues when the Alberta power market was first established, and then on the power purchase procurement design that occurred in Alberta in 2000. Since 2000, our experience has been ongoing and has included, among other things, advising proponents, investors, contractors and lenders on new renewable and natural gas electricity generation projects, advising both owners and buyers under Alberta's legacy coal power purchase arrangements, advising Alberta's largest transmission company on an array of Alberta transmission, rates and energy market matters, and advising competitive retailers in Alberta, including on the preparation of their electricity contracts with customers.
For a more detailed description of our law firm and our services in the electricity sector, please visit our website at blg.com. For more detailed information about the Alberta Electricity Market please contact the following members of our Electricity Markets Group who are based in our Calgary Office:
Kent D. Howie T. 403.232.9535 email@example.com
Alan L. Ross T. 403.232.9656 firstname.lastname@example.org
We would be honoured to represent you with respect to your business activities in the Alberta Electricity Market.
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THE STRUCTURE OF THE ALBERTA ELECTRICITY MARKET
History and Evolution
Alberta's Electricity Market is unique in Canada. Its uniqueness is best understood through the historical context from which it developed.
Unlike most other provinces in Canada, Alberta did not form one province-wide vertically integrated utility to generate, transmit and deliver electricity when the Province was initially electrified. Instead, the majority of Alberta's electricity infrastructure was developed and owned by either investor-owned or municipally-owned entities.
These entities have now either been taken over or evolved into some of the players that currently operate in the Alberta Electricity Market. For example, in Southern Alberta the Calgary Power Co. Ltd. generated 99% of Alberta's power at one time. It subsequently changed its name to TransAlta, a large generator in today's Alberta Electricity Market. In the City of Calgary, the distribution of power was done by Calgary's municipal power authority that later became ENMAX, another large player in today's market. In the City of Edmonton, the City formed Edmonton Power to generate and distribute power within that city until it became EPCOR, which was later separated into publicly traded Capital Power for generation and municipally-owned EPCOR Utilities for transmission and distribution. Rural Alberta was serviced mostly by Canadian Utilities Limited until 1980, when it was taken over by ATCO. We say this simply to point out that many of the big existing participants in today's Alberta Electricity Market, like TransAlta, EPCOR, Capital Power, ENMAX and ATCO, have, like BLG, a long history and deep roots in the Alberta Electricity Market.
By 1995, on the generation side, Alberta was serviced mainly by three large vertically-integrated utilities, namely TransAlta, ATCO (then Alberta Power), and EPCOR (the "Big 3"), that collectively generated 90% of Alberta's then 8,600 MW of generation capacity. Of that total, 75% was generated by large baseload coal facilities, with the rest split between hydro and natural gas facilities. The Big 3 operated within specific service areas under a cost-ofservice regulatory model. Electricity prices in Alberta at that time were set by a central regulatory body.
Creation of the Power Pool 1996
With the coming into force of the Electric Utilities Act (the "EUA") on January 1, 1996, Alberta moved away from cost-of-service regulation on the generation side. Instead, it established the Power Pool through which all electricity, whether generated in Alberta or imported, in Alberta's Interconnected Electrical System (the "AIES") or grid would be dispatched competitively in a fair, efficient and openly
competitive manner. The Power Pool was Canada's first competitive open-access market for the exchange of electricity.
All electricity that is generated and not consumed on site in Alberta must pass through the Power Pool. The Power Pool itself does not buy or sell electric energy, but acts only as a trading platform with financial settlement. It is also "energy only" in that currently generators only receive payments for the electrical energy delivered into the AIES. They do not receive payments for capacity.
The EUA also mandated open access to all transmission facilities in order to support competitive generation. It also put in place financial mechanisms or hedges intended to protect the then existing generation investments of the Big 3 from the new competitive market, while at the same time preventing them from exercising their concentrated market pricing power. The result was that, though developers of new generation were exposed to the risks of the Power Pool and low prices, the existing generation of the Big 3 was protected in 1996, and effectively continued as if it was still operating under the old cost-of-service regulatory model.
Power Purchase Arrangements 2000
The next big change in the evolution of the Alberta Electricity Market came when Alberta mandated that the existing generation facilities owned by the Big 3 when the EUA was enacted be deregulated and exposed to the risks of Power Pool prices. To do this, Alberta removed the financial mechanisms or hedges that it had put in place when it passed the EUA. They were replaced with a forced auction, whereby the rights to the power from the output from the generation facilities of the Big 3 were sold to qualified bidders. This avoided the Big 3 being forced to divest themselves of their facilities.
The auction was completed using "Power Purchase Arrangements" ("PPA" or "PPAs"). Note the use of the word "Arrangement," as distinguished from the word "Agreement" that we typically equate with the acronym "PPA." In fact, the PPAs are not negotiated contracts they are statutory instruments determined by Alberta, and enacted by the Alberta Government as Alberta Regulation 175/2000, with "quasi-contractual" characteristics.
The PPAs were used as a way to introduce competition into the Power Pool. The PPAs were intended to allow the "Owners" of the generation facilities the opportunity to recover their fixed and variable costs while transferring the right to offer the output of those generating facilities into the Power Pool to the "Buyers" who were successful in the auction.
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The PPAs were, in a sense, a virtual divestiture of the power generated by the existing facilities of the Big 3. They left the ownership and operation of the plants with the Owners, but gave the Buyers of the PPAs the right to offer the electricity into the Power Pool at prices determined by each of the Buyers. The PPAs require that the Buyers pay the Owners their remaining fixed and variable costs, plus a reasonable return on assets the PPAs mimic the historic cost-of-service model. Accordingly, the Buyers take market risk, and make money if the Power Pool prices exceed the amount they are required to pay to the Buyers under the PPAs, but lose money if the Power Pool prices do not exceed the amount they are required to pay to the Buyers under the PPAs.
The main PPA auction of 12 PPAs occurred in August of 2000, though only 8 PPAs were sold in that auction. Additional auctions for the unsold PPAs or power contracts/ strips under those unsold PPAs were held later in 2000, and again in 2002-2003, and in 2005-2006. The approximate $3-billion of proceeds received from these sales was returned by the Province to electricity customers in Alberta as a refund on their bills.
Any unsold PPA was held and managed by a government entity called the Balancing Pool, with it acting as the Buyer under that PPA who offers the electricity from that PPA into the Power Pool. The Balancing Pool is required to manage the PPAs in a commercial manner, which includes managing associated payments, forecasting revenues and expenses, and participating in appropriate regulatory, dispute resolution or other proceedings.
The PPAs expire on the earlier of December 31, 2020 (20 years) or the then estimated end of plant life for the applicable facility. At the end of the term of the PPA the right to the output from the facility reverts back to the Owner.
Currently, there are seven PPAs for coal facilities that have not expired and remain in effect in Alberta:
Battle River 5 Genesee Keephills Sheerness Sundance A (Units 1 and 2) Sundance B (Units 3 and 4)
Sundance C (Units 5 and 6)
ENMAX Balancing Pool ENMAX TransCanada Energy TransCanada Energy TransCanada Energy and AltaGas Pipeline Capital Power
As a result of changes in Alberta's climate change laws, the Buyers identified below have recently exercised rights under the PPAs to terminate their obligations under the PPAs and turn them over to the Balancing Pool. Though this right of termination (really just a turnover to the Balancing Pool) is now being challenged in court by the Alberta Government, the effect is that the Balancing Pool has, for now at least, become the Buyer under all of the existing PPAs and the party who offers that power into the Power Pool. This development is discussed in more detail below in the section titled "Termination of PPAs."
Retail Market Competition 2001
Effective January 1, 2001, Alberta also permitted competition to occur in the retail component of the Alberta Electricity Market for residential and small commercial customers. This permits independent non-regulated companies to retail electricity to customers in the form of fixed-price contracts, flow-through contracts, dual fuel contracts (natural gas and power), green power or on-site generation (e.g. roof top solar). Retailers also provide billing and consumer services to these customers.
Any residential and small commercial customer who does not choose a retailer is provided a regulated rate option ("RRO") at a price that is set by the Alberta Utilities Commission ("AUC") for most of the RRO providers. RRO was meant to be a temporary option until more retailers could penetrate the market, but RRO has been repeatedly extended to provide an alternative for these small customers.
368MW 762MW 766MW 756MW 560MW 706MW
ATCO Capital Power TransAlta TransAlta/ATCO TransAlta TransAlta
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The Alberta Electricity Market Today This evolution has created the current Alberta Electricity Market with the usual four components.
Generation is an openly competitive component of the Alberta Electricity Market. The generators choose the form of energy they will convert into the electricity they offer into the "energy only" Power Pool. If dispatched, the generators are paid the competitively determined Pool Price for the hour in which they are delivering their electricity into the AIES. New generation is built with private capital that takes the investment risk over the life of the project. This risk has to be managed because it is not backstopped by customers. There is also no central planning of generation in Alberta at least there wasn't until Alberta recently announced its new climate change policies.
Apart from a price cap ($999.99) and a price floor ($0), outcomes in the real-time Power Pool are determined solely by the forces of competition. Participants are free to engage in unilateral strategies in an attempt to mitigate the Pool Price risk, as long as they do not impede competition or physically withhold generation from the market. Generators with plants of 5MW or more must also comply with the "must offer, must comply" rule, which requires them to offer all of their power, that they do not consume on site, to the AIES through the Power Pool. The physical withholding of supply is therefore prohibited, although it can be priced in the supply offer at the discretion of the generator subject to the price cap and the price floor.
In order to sell or buy power through the Power Pool, one must become a Power Pool Participant. A Power Pool Participant must sign an agreement to abide by the ISO
Rules (sometimes called the Pool Rules) and the Pool Codes, meet the Power Pool's prudential, technical control, and communication requirements, pay an annual Power Pool Participant fee, and arrange for transmission or distribution access.
Under the EUA, offers to supply power into the Power Pool and bids to purchase power from the Power Pool determine in a spot market, on an hourly basis, the wholesale market price for electricity in Alberta. We explain in more detail below how this works in the section titled "Determining the Pool Price."
Transmission (high voltage from 72KV to 500KV) is generally regulated in Alberta under a cost-of-service model. Customers (commercial and residential) pay the owners of the transmission systems ("Transmission Facility Owners" or "TFOs") their capital and operating costs, plus a reasonable rate of return.
The TFOs are generally large corporations that operate to transmit electricity long distances in franchised service territories. The use of dedicated service territories in Alberta is slowly changing for new stand-alone transmission projects. For example, Alberta recently used a competitive process to contract for a new transmission line called the Fort McMurray West Transmission Project that will run from Wabamun (west of Edmonton) to Fort McMurray, Alberta.
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There are currently four main TFOs in Alberta, namely AltaLink, ATCO, EPCOR and ENMAX.
Notwithstanding that the TFOs own the transmission system in Alberta, the AESO oversees the design and use of Alberta's transmission system to ensure non-discriminatory access for market participants and the safe and reliable operation of the AIES. It provides system access for market participants to the transmission system within the constructs of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council or WECC that governs the interconnected systems of Alberta, British Columbia and 14 of the western United States. Though the AESO determines and develops a need application for new transmission upgrades, it is actually the AUC that approves the AESO need application work and authorizes a new transmission project. The AESO then assigns the project to a TFO. The AESO pays the TFO based on a cost-of-service model. The transmission tariff setting out the costs that the TFO will charge the AESO for the use of its transmission assets must be approved by the AUC. The transmission rate in Alberta is "postage stamp."
As noted above, system access to the transmission system owned by the TFOs is controlled by the AESO. Accordingly, new Alberta generation that will be transmission connected will have to follow the interconnection process that the AESO has designed in order for that new generation to be built and connected to the Alberta transmission system.
The local distribution (low voltage of less than 25 KVs) at the load centres is also regulated under a cost-of-service model. Customers (commercial and residential) pay the owners of the distribution systems ("Distribution Facility Owners" or "DFOs") their capital and operating costs, plus a reasonable rate of return.
The DFOs deliver electricity to most consumers in Alberta all except for very large industrial consumers which are connected directly to the transmission lines. These DFOs include ATCO, FortisAlberta, EPCOR (Edmonton), ENMAX (Calgary), approximately 30 Rural Electrification Associations ("REAs") that are cooperatives that distribute electricity to rural areas of Alberta, and municipalities like Red Deer and Lethbridge. The DFOs operate within specific service areas.
Source: Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC)1
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The AUC approves the distribution rates in a tariff for investor-owned and certain municipally-owned DFOs. The REAs and some municipalities determine their own tariffs. These tariffs cover the cost of connecting and disconnecting customers, providing new services, operating and maintaining the distribution system and providing meter-reading services. Retailers bill this distribution tariff on consumers' bills.
Unlike the transmission system where access is controlled by the AESO, system access to the distribution system is managed by the DFOs. Accordingly, new distributed generation will have to follow the interconnection process that the DFO in that territory has designed in order for that new generation to be built and connected to its local distribution system.
Retail of electricity in Alberta has been deregulated and is competitive for large consumers, while small consumers (less than 250,000 kWh per annum), mostly residential, have a choice of either signing a contract with a competitive retailer or choosing a regulated rate with their default supplier. The RRO price is set by the AUC based on the Pool Price for the service areas of ATCO, FortisAlberta, ENMAX and EPCOR, while other municipalities and REAs that own distribution systems determine their own RRO price.
There are also some very large industrial customers who act as self-retailers and participate directly in the Power Pool instead of using a third party retailer.
All retailers and self-retailers buy electricity in the Power Pool.
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APPLICABLE LEGISLATION AND GOVERNING AGENCIES
The Alberta Electricity Market is regulated by two primary statutes and a number of substantive regulations enacted under these statutes:
1. Electric Utilities Act ("EUA"): The EUA is the main piece of legislation that governs the Alberta Electricity Market. Among other things, the EUA:
(a) Defines the structure of the Alberta Electricity Market, including the competitive aspects of generation and retail, and the regulated aspects of transmission and distribution.
(b) Establishes the Independent System Operator (the "Alberta Electric System Operator" or "AESO") and the Balancing Pool and sets out their roles and powers.
(c) Creates the Power Pool and provides for the making of rules by the AESO that define the fair, efficient and openly competitive (generally referred to as "FEOC") functioning of the Power Pool. The AESO is given authority to make ISO Rules in accordance with Section 20 of the EUA and that authority also requires market participants to comply with the ISO Rules. The AESO has made extensive ISO Rules (over 250 pages of them) that govern the Power Pool, including its operation, exchange of energy, transmission system planning and load settlement.
(d) Permits small consumers to have choice on whether to choose a retailer or choose the RRO.
(e) Provides for the continuation of the PPAs.
(f) Grants broad oversight powers to the AUC, especially with respect to the amounts charged by, and terms of service for, the TFOs, DFOs and the AESO.
Regulations passed under the EUA govern matters such as the role of the Balancing Pool in administering the PPAs, the content of customer bills, codes of conduct for market participants, the distribution tariff, the FEOC obligation, payments in lieu of taxes to be paid by non-taxable market participants (i.e. municipalities), the RRO, distribution connected micro-generation of less than 1 MW, and the regulation of transmission.
2. Hydro and Electric Energy Act ("HEEA"): HEEA is the primary piece of legislation that governs how the AIES or grid is built. It ensures that generation, transmission and distribution facilities are constructed in an economic, orderly, efficient and safe manner that is in the public interest. To construct and connect new generation, transmission and distribution facilities, certain approvals under HEEA must be obtained from the AUC. There is only one regulation that has been enacted under HEEA and it deals with the requirement of generators and transmitters to provide certain statistical information about their operations.
In addition to the Department of Energy for Alberta, the Alberta Electricity Market has four key not-for-profit quasi-government agencies that play a significant role in regulating Alberta's Electricity Market.
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
Appoints AESO Board Members, MSA & AUC Chair
Electric Utilities Act
Balancing Pool Generators
Source: AESO 2
Independent System Operator (AESO)
Transmission Facility Owners
Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC)
Distribution Facility Owners
Market Surveillance Administrator (MSA)
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The roles of the AESO and Balancing Pool have already been previously explained in some detail. The AESO is the public body that plans, develops and controls access to the transmission system, directs the operation of the AIES, and designs and operates the Power Pool that determines the Pool Price. The Balancing Pool is the public body that manages any PPAs for which there is no independent buyer, and also acts as a backstop for the other PPAs in the event of force majeure or termination by Buyers. Any profit or loss of the Balancing Pool from these PPAs is passed on to Alberta consumers.
The AUC is an independent, quasi-judicial agency of the province. The AUC is responsible for implementing the legislation, regulations and policies of the Department of Energy for Alberta. In addition, it is responsible for generation facility oversight; ensuring each facility is built, operated and decommissioned in an efficient and environmentally responsible manner. The AUC does not generally regulate REAs, municipally owned utilities (with the exception of EPCOR in Edmonton and ENMAX in Calgary), or competitive retailers.
The Market Surveillance Administrator ("MSA") is a public agency created under the Alberta Utilities Commission Act whose mission is to take action to promote effective competition and a culture of compliance and accountability in the Alberta Electricity Market. The MSA undertakes surveillance and investigation to ensure that market participants are conducting themselves in accordance with the FEOC (fair, efficient and openly competitive) obligation, the EUA and its regulations, and the ISO Rules. As an example, in 2015 the MSA assisted in the prosecution of TransAlta before the AUC for breaching the FEOC obligation in a manner that caused a manipulation of the Pool Price. This resulted in TransAlta agreeing to pay the MSA approximately $56 million to settle the FEOC prosecution.
Other non-profit agencies that participate on behalf of their members in shaping the Alberta Electricity Market include the Independent Power Producers Society of Alberta, the Industrial Power Consumers Association of Alberta, Alberta Direct Connect Consumer Association, Alberta Federation of Rural Electrification Associations, Canadian Wind Energy Association and the Canadian Solar Industries Association.
All of these public agencies and non-profit associations have websites that also provide useful background information about the Alberta Electricity Market.
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CHARACTERISTICS OF ALBERTA'S LOAD AND GENERATION MIX
Alberta's Load Alberta's load is composed of a mix of residential, farm, small commercial and large industrial users, though it is predominantly made up of industrial consumers (>60% of the load) who demand a large baseload of power 24/7. Demand in Alberta has peaked at 11,200 MW but daily peak now averages about 9,000 MW. Load growth has slowed from the 2% to 3% level that occurred between 2010 and the end of 2014, and is expected to remain somewhat flat, as a result of the current downturn in Alberta's oil and gas economy.
Source: AESO 3
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Alberta's Generation Mix
The Alberta load is met by a supply mix of coal, natural gas, wind, hydro, biomass and other sources of fuel that have an installed capacity of approximately 16,300 MW. Of this, approximately 9,000 MW was new generation added in Alberta, at an estimated cost of $16 billion, since generation was first deregulated in 1996. The most recent significant new generation projects to come into service in Alberta were the 800 MW natural gas-fired Shepard Energy Centre in 2015 and the 300 MW Blackspring Ridge wind farm in 2014.
Alberta Installed Generation Capacity (as of June 2016) 4
Capacity By Fuel
44% 39% 6% 9% 3% 1% 100%
Due to varying capacity factors and the competitive aspects of the Power Pool, the installed capacity is not reflective of the fuel types for the generation facilities that are actually being dispatched in the Power Pool to meet Alberta's load.
2015 Alberta Electrical Generation (YE Dec 2015)5
Gigawatt Hour (GWh)
Generation Share By Fuel
51% 39% 2% 5% 3% 0% 100%
The large percentage of carbon-based generation in Alberta is a reflection of the province's wealth in carbon resources. For example, it is estimated that Alberta's remaining coal reserves stand at about 34 billion tonnes, equivalent to 1,000 years of supply at Alberta's current production rate of just over 30 million tonnes a year. Alberta is also resource rich in natural gas. It is estimated that 33 trillion cubic feet of recoverable conventional gas remains in Alberta, plus large quantities of coalbed methane and shale gas.
4 www.energy.alberta.ca/Electricity/682.asp 5 www.energy.alberta.ca/Electricity/682.asp
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As part of Alberta's new climate change policy, the mix of generation in Alberta used by the AESO in its 2016 Long-term Outlook illustrates likely changes.
Generation Capacity Composition (forecast) for Alberta:
Source: AESO 6
Alberta's Interties7 Alberta also has interties with the neighbouring two provinces of Saskatchewan (150 MW) and British Columbia (1,000-1,200 MW), and with the United States through the state of Montana (300 MW), that are used to meet Alberta's load or to export power.
6 www.aeso.ca/downloads/AESO_2016_Long-term_Outlook_WEB.pdf 7 www.auc.ab.ca/applications/decisions/Decisions/2013/2013-025.pdf
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POWER POOL PRICE
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Determining the Pool Price A general understanding of how the Pool Price is determined in Alberta is very important for anyone entering the Alberta Electricity Market. This is because it is the way in which the electricity price that Alberta generators receive, and Alberta customers pay, gets determined.
HOURLY REAL-TIME MARKET
Power Purchase Arrangements
Hourly AESO Pool Price
As we have noted previously, all electricity that is bought and sold in Alberta on its AIES is done so through a competitive wholesale market called the Power Pool. The AESO operates the AIES, and also operates the Power Pool that has market participants who generate, buy or sell, transmit, distribute, trade, import or export electricity in the AIES. There are over 200 participants who buy and sell power in the Power Pool.
The AESO's system controllers manage the real-time operation of the AIES. Their goal is to perfectly match supply (electricity generated/imported) with demand (electricity consumed/exported) every moment of every day. The AESO's Energy Management System ("EMS") continuously collects information from generators and wholesale consumers (e.g. retailers) to ensure that generation is being dispatched or, if necessary, consumption is being reduced to ensure that the perfect match occurs.
The AESO's Energy Trading System ("ETS") is part of the EMS. Market participants in the Power Pool who wish to sell electricity submit supply offers while those wholesale customers who wish to buy electricity at a maximum price submit demand bids. Loads that do not make a demand bid
into the market simply pay the resulting Pool Price. In practice, loads rarely make a demand bid in the Power Pool choosing instead to pay whatever the Pool Price is for a particular hour. Offers must be done a day ahead (by noon) for each delivery hour and may be updated periodically, provided that the price in a generator's supply offer can only be changed up to two hours before the applicable delivery hour.
The ETS then sorts the supply offers and the demand bids from the lowest to the highest price and matches them to create an economic "merit order." The supply offers with the lowest price are used each minute to meet the demand until all of the demand has been satisfied. The last supply offer that is used to meet the demand in a particular minute is designated as the System Marginal Price ("SMP") for that minute it is the single equilibrium price. The last offer dispatched to meet demand sets the SMP for electricity. For example, if offers in the merit order are priced from $0 to $100, and the last offer dispatched to meet demand is priced at $60, the SMP for that minute is $60. SMP is a price that reflects the intersection of supply and demand for a minute in the electricity market. This is done in real time, and posted on the AESO website.
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The Pool Price for each MWh of electricity is set by the AESO for each hour by calculating the time-weighted average of all 60 SMPs (one for each minute) for that hour. The Pool Price is also posted on the AESO website at the end of each hour.
Each generator that dispatched power into the AIES in that hour is paid the Pool Price for that hour regardless of the price specified in its supply offer. It is a one price system across Alberta there is no locational pricing. Likewise, each wholesale consumer who used electricity from the AIES in that hour will pay the Pool Price for that hour. These receipts due to generators and payments due by wholesale consumers are facilitated by the AESO's financial settlement system.
In practice, wind generators make supply offers at $0 given that they have minimal marginal variable costs and coal generators will also bid in the minimum stable generation
of their facilities at $0 to ensure that they are dispatched, yet they are both paid the same as the generator (e.g. gas-fired generator) who offered power at the highest price used to set SMP. In this regard, these wind generators and coal generators (at least for part of their generation) are described as "price takers" and the gas-fired generator is the "price maker" for that SMP.
Subject to any contractual arrangements that a generator has in place with a third party, the Pool Price will be the generator's primary source of revenue.
Current Pool Prices
Power Pool prices are directly proportionate to the costs that generators incur to generate the electricity since the costs are the primary determinant of the price at which a generator will offer its electricity to the Power Pool. The following illustrates the historic Power Pool prices in Alberta.
Wholesale Electricity Prices; Not Including Transmission or Distribution
Source: Climate Leadership, Report to Minister8 8 www.alberta.ca/documents/climate/climate-leadership-report-to-minister.pdf
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With natural gas prices being low, the Alberta oil and gas economy struggling, and generators having an installed capacity that is greater than the average load, it is not surprising that average Pool Prices have continued to fall in Alberta. Recently, Alberta's Pool Prices have fallen below $20 per MWh, well below both historic averages in Alberta and the levelized replacement costs for new natural gas combined cycle, wind, solar and other types of generation. That said, there are a number of price forecasts in the market that indicate that historic low pool prices will not continue over the long term.
Forecast Electricity Prices, 2016-2020
Source: Andrew Leach & Trevor Tombe, "Power Play: The Termination of Alberta's PPAs" (2016) 8:11 The School of Pulbic Policy University of Calgary at 8.9
Ancillary Services Market
Generators may also earn revenues from Alberta's Ancillary Services Market. Ancillary services are defined under the EUA to be those services required by the AESO to ensure that the AIES is operated in a manner that provides for a satisfactory level of service, with acceptable levels of voltage and frequency.
The AESO currently procures four types of ancillary services from generators or consumers in Alberta:
1. Operating Reserve: electricity that can be dispatched, or load that can be reduced, on short notice to maintain system reliability if an unexpected imbalance occurs between electricity supply and demand in the AIES. Operating Reserve is composed of two types, "regulating reserve" from output that needs to be able to respond instantaneously using an automatic generation control system, and "contingency reserve" that needs to be able to respond immediately or within ten minutes at the latest.
Source: AESO 10
9 www.policyschool.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Albertas-PPAs-Leach-Tombe.pdf 10 www.aeso.ca/29864.html
18 | New Opportunities in the Alberta Electricity Market | A BLG Overview
2. Transmission Must Run Service: output that is supplied by a generator that is required to be online and operating at specific levels in parts of the AIES where local transmission capacity is unable due to congestion to meet local demand. It is a "non-wires" generation solution to a "wires" problem.
3. Load Shed Scheme Service: is supplied by large consumers who have agreed to be automatically curtailed (tripped off) to instantly reduce demand if an unexpected supply and demand imbalance occurs that requires immediate reductions in consumption.
4. Black Start Service: is supplied by generators that are able to restart their facilities with no outside power, and can be used in a system-wide blackout to start other generators and help re-energize the electric system.
The AESO procures and manages these services through a competitive process except where there is a locationspecific need that only certain eligible generators can meet. How the services are procured depends on the type of ancillary service. The majority of operating reserves are procured via an independent day-ahead third party platform known as Alberta's Watt Exchange Ltd. ("Watt-Ex"). Other ancillary services are procured using bilateral contracts. The prices paid by the AESO for ancillary services are included in the AESO's transmission tariff that is paid by all load customers.
For more information on the Alberta ancillary services market one should refer to the Ancillary Services Participant Manual published by the AESO that describes these services and how they are procured by the AESO in much more detail.
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RECENT DEVELOPMENTS CREATE BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES
There have been a number of recent developments that will change the Alberta Electricity Market and create business opportunities for companies that operate in the electricity sector.
Change in Government
On May 5, 2015, Albertans elected Premier Rachel Notley and her left-of-centre New Democratic Party government to govern the province. They replaced the Progressive Conservative government that had ruled the traditionally conservative province for over 40 years. A key promise of the new government is to tackle climate change and "green" the province that has been built mainly on an oil and gas carbon-based economy.
Similarly, Canadians elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his left-of-centre Liberal Party on October 19, 2015, to govern. The Liberal Party also replaced a former conservative party, and also made climate change and the environment a key pillar of its election campaign.
Not surprisingly, both the Alberta and Canadian governments were quick to attend and sign on at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference ("COP 21") in Paris in November 2015, making significant climate change commitments to the rest of the world. Greening Canada's, including Alberta's, electricity generation mix will be required in order to satisfy these climate change commitments.
Alberta's Climate Change Advisory Panel
One of the first actions the new Alberta Government took was to appoint a Climate Change Panel to advise the Province on measures needed to reduce Alberta's greenhouse gas emissions. Though all Alberta industries were reviewed, the Panel targeted the Alberta Electricity Market given that electricity generation is the second largest emitter in Alberta and accounts for 17% of the province's greenhouse gas emissions. Also, Alberta accounts for 65% of all coal-fired power production in Canada, and therefore the new Alberta Government requires big changes from the power industry if it is going to satisfy the climate change promises it made to Albertans.
The Climate Change Panel issued its final report in early November 2015 that encompassed some Alberta Electricity Market recommendations, including that:
1. Alberta should adopt a clean power call mechanism to enable increased renewable generation based on an annual schedule, e.g. 350 MW to be available by 2018.
Alberta's Carbon Emissions Profile
Source: Government of Alberta11
2. Participants should be pre-qualified to ensure that they can deliver on projects and to provide performance security to protect the Province if they do not deliver on their projects.
3. The Alberta Government support should be in the form of the purchase of renewable energy credits ("RECs") on long term contracts using money from Alberta's new carbon pricing regime. The Panel indicated that this incremental revenue (along with the Pool Price) should be enough to justify new renewable power project development in Alberta.
4. Contracts should be awarded to those requiring the lowest level of support using evaluation criteria and would be technology-neutral (solar, wind and geothermal to compete on level playing field).
5. Projects built with the government financial support would still offer their power into the Power Pool at the Pool Price such that the Alberta energy only merchant market would continue to operate.
Alberta Adopts Parts of Panel Report The Alberta Government expressly adopted certain parts of the Panel's report, and immediately thereafter announced the following policy changes for the Alberta Electricity Market: 1. There will be no pollution from coal-fired power generation
in Alberta by 2030.
20 | New Opportunities in the Alberta Electricity Market | A BLG Overview
2. All coal-fired plants will be phased out and replaced by natural gas and renewable power generation, or become pollution free by using technology (e.g. a coal plant adopts carbon capture and storage). All of Alberta's coal-fired plants (6,300 MW), including Alberta's newest supercritical coal units built at Genesee (2005) and Keephills (2011) with the best coal-fired technology, are likely to be gone by 2030.
3. Two-thirds of the coal-generating capacity (4,200 MW) will be replaced by renewable energy, and one-third (2,100 MW) by natural gas.
4. Beginning in 2018, all coal generators will pay $30 per tonne of CO2 on emissions above what Alberta's cleanest gas plant would emit to generate the same electricity. This will provide a clear economic advantage to lower emitting and more efficient generation in the Power Pool's "merit order" and encourage its dispatch in the Power Pool. It should also cause Pool Prices to increase.
5. Renewable resources will account for 30% of Alberta's total operating generating capacity by 2030.
6. All of the new electricity policies will fit within Alberta's unique Power Pool to ensure the electricity system continues to be reliable.
Alberta Authorizes AESO to Procure Renewables
The Alberta Government also agreed with the Climate Change Panel's recommendation that renewables needed financial support from the Alberta Government, and that a clean power call should be held in Alberta to procure renewables. Recently, the Alberta Government stated that it was prepared to provide the financial support required to have 5,000 MW of new renewables built in Alberta between now and 2030. The Alberta Government has asked the AESO to lead this procurement. As a result, the AESO consulted with the market earlier this year and made a recommendation to the Alberta Government on the size and design of this procurement. The AESO's confidential recommendation includes the form of the financial support for renewables, for example whether it will be in the form of RECs, feed-in-tariffs, contracts for differences, or a longterm government power purchase agreement.
The only thing we know for sure at this stage is that:
1. To be eligible for support in the procurement, a renewable project will have to be (i) be based in Alberta, (ii) 5 MW or greater, and (iii) be new or be an expansion of an existing project.
2. The definition of "renewable" in the procurement will align with the definition used by Natural Resources Canada.
3. The procurement is anticipated to be fuel-neutral. Thus, at least for the first clean power call in Alberta, there will likely not be a carve-out for solar or other forms of renewable power that cannot compete strictly on price.
4. Facilities are expected to be in-service in 2019. The year 2019 was likely selected based on the feedback from renewable developers about their difficulty in meeting a 2018 in-service date.
5. It is anticipated that the existing transmission system will be leveraged existing capacity will be used or a new project may have to pay for any new transmission required for that project instead of it being a system cost.
The Alberta Government has just confirmed that the first clean power call for renewables will occur later this year. It is presently reviewing the confidential recommendations that it received from the AESO and should announce the size and design of the first ever Alberta clean power call in the next few months. This will be the first of many clean power calls another clean power call is already proposed to be held in Alberta in 2017.
Termination of PPAs
An interesting development also occurred recently in the Alberta Electricity Market as a result of low Pool Prices and the changes in law that the new Alberta Government made to combat climate change by increasing the price on carbon. The PPAs contain a change in law provision that permits termination by Buyers. Though the exact wording and interpretation is now before the Courts in Alberta, Section 4.3(j) of the PPAs provides that:
"Notwithstanding any of the foregoing, to the extent that a Change in Law, ... could reasonably be expected to render continued performance by the Parties to this Arrangement for the balance of the Effective Term unprofitable, [or more unprofitable], to the Buyer in respect of a Unit, ... then the Buyer may terminate this Arrangement and shall not be liable for, nor entitled to any Termination Payment"
As a result of the increased climate change costs that have been imposed by the new Alberta Government, all of the Buyers of the remaining seven PPAs for coal-fired plants discussed above in the section titled "Power Purchase Arrangements 2000" have exercised their right under this section to terminate their PPAs. Under the provisions of the EUA, the Balancing Pool (a government entity) steps in to manage the PPAs over their remaining term when they are terminated by Buyers under Section 4.3(j). Thus, it is more of a turnover to the Balancing Pool than a termination, with the Balancing Pool passing on any resulting profits or losses to Alberta electricity consumers.
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These PPAs are now out of the money, with the Province estimating the aggregate PPA losses based on projected Pool Prices over the remaining term of the PPAs (ending December 31, 2020) to be about $2 billion, an amount that a number of industry players believe is greatly overstated. The Province has therefore taken all of the Buyers (and interestingly its own Balancing Pool and AUC) to Court, and in a complex case is arguing that the Buyers did not have a right to terminate the PPAs as they did not become unprofitable because of a change in law.
Subject to a Court finding in favour of the Province, it creates an interesting dilemma for the Province given its stated policy desire of phasing out the coal facilities in
Alberta. As noted, its own agency, the Balancing Pool, is now the Buyer under the PPAs, and could be instructed by the Province to terminate the PPAs, pay out the owners of the facilities under the PPAs, and encourage their early retirement. Alternatively, the Province could instruct the Balancing Pool to continue to offer the power through the Power Pool just like the original Buyers, or to sell its rights as Buyer under the PPAs to a third party, in an attempt to mitigate the expected losses to Alberta consumers.
Suffice it to say that the outcome of this litigation is likely to impact the planned phase out of the coal facilities in Alberta, and may create expedited business opportunities in the Alberta Electricity Market for replacement generation.
New Opportunities in the Alberta Electricity Market | A BLG Overview | 23
The Alberta Electricity Market was already interesting because of its unique competitive wholesale power market. Recent elections and changes in government climate and electricity policy have made the Alberta Electricity Market even more interesting. BLG witnessed the business opportunities that occurred in 1996, when the Alberta Electricity Market was first deregulated. We also know, first hand, the business opportunities that rapid changes in electricity policy in other national and international markets generated for our clients.
To capitalize on the Alberta electricity opportunity, prospective power project developers, investors, lenders, constructors, operators and other players need to understand how the Alberta Electricity Market operates. We hope that this overview assists in this regard and would be pleased to answer any detailed questions you may have about the Alberta Electricity Market, and this overview. BLG would welcome the opportunity to assist you with your current and proposed business activities in the Alberta Electricity Market.
Kent Howie | Partner 403.232.9535 | email@example.com
Alan Ross | Partner 403.232.9656 | firstname.lastname@example.org
This publication is not intended to constitute legal advice, a complete statement of the law, or an opinion on any subject. No one should act upon it without a thorough examination of the law after the facts of a specific situation are considered. You are urged to consult your legal adviser in cases of specific questions or concerns. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior written permission of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.
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