Solas Energy Consulting Inc. (Solas) was commissioned by CanSIA to study the potential electricity market share from solar energy in Alberta by 2030 with respect to the impact of system, economic and policy drivers. The goal was to establish a realistic benchmark for the role that solar could play in Alberta’s electricity system and identify and describe the practical considerations that would affect solar reaching that benchmark.

In advance of her session during Solar West 2017, we chatted with Paula McGarrigle, Managing Director, Solas Energy Consulting Inc, about the study and specifically, the solar outlook for Alberta.

Solar West: What is the report that CanSIA commissioned from you?

Paula: The Alberta Solar Market Outlook was commissioned to explore the potential of the solar industry in Alberta, to examine the impact of the electricity system and determine the potential electricity that could come from solar in Alberta by 2030.

We wanted to provide a benchmark that policy-makers and the electricity sector as a whole could use for planning purposes. To do this, we looked at a few factors: how supply and demand dynamics will affect the need for new generation, policy drivers in a variety of market segments, and practical constraints such as availability of rooftops.

Solar West: What did CanSIA want to achieve in commissioning this report?

Paula: There were a few goals that were achieved with the report:

  • Set realistic benchmarks for 2030
  • Review the impact on the current and future power systems
  • Consider deployment needs and the factors that are tied to deployment

Having this outlook allows CanSIA, and other members of the solar industry, to assess the industry and help their networks make better decisions about when and how to act, where to invest and how much potential there is.

Solar West: What are the key variables affecting the future of solar in Alberta?

Paula: There are numerous variables that affect the future of solar in Alberta but let’s look at three that are interconnected. The first is market dynamics and the outlook of the demand profile today and as we move toward 2030.

The second is policy. As with any industry, the decisions that come from government and other governing bodies play an important role in what is being done in the industry now and what can be done in the future. Solar is no different.

The third is adherence to the Alberta government’s Climate Leadership Plan. The desire and need to decarbonize electricity will have a huge impact on the future of solar across Canada but especially so in Alberta.

Solar West: Were you surprised by any of the findings?

Paula: While we know that Alberta has one of the top resources for solar in Canada (we totally rock!), it is surprising that we only have 16 megawatts of solar connected. People have moved to Alberta because of their love of blue skies and the solar resource quality here is similar to Rio or Miami. We can connect much more than 16 MW to the grid without causing any major speed bumps.

Alberta is perfectly poised for growth and we have an independent system operator that is progressive, open to learning about the industry and who have learned from past lessons in other jurisdictions and are ready to lead the path forward.

Solar West: Why should attendees attend the session?

Paula: Attending my session at Solar West will provide you with a “sneak peek” at how many megawatts can be achieved in Alberta and how big the piece of pie is. If you’re wondering at all if you should come to Alberta, if you should invest or what the potential is, you’ll want to attend. System operators will get some of their most common questions answered — what is achievable and is it achievable by 2030.

Alberta is the hottest market for renewable energy in Canada and we’re going to see a lot of growth happen in the next 10 years. My session will uncover some of the data that supports this and will open up a conversation for the solar industry as a whole.

Be sure to register your spot for Solar West and attend Paula’s session so that you can gain an understanding of the key factors that will affect the development of each solar electricity market segment during the next decade in Alberta and the resultant impacts that these factors will have on the scale and pace of market development.

About Paula McGarrigle

Paula McGarrigle is a professional with over 28 years of experience in the energy sector in North America. The majority of her experience has been in the renewable energy sector.

Paula is the co-founder of Solas. Her experience includes project development, climate change, business development, and strategic planning. Paula was previously the head of Shell Wind Energy for Canada, and started the Suncor Alternative and Renewable Energy group.

Paula’s academic background includes two undergraduate degrees from the University of Alberta, Canada: a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Chemistry and a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. In addition, Paula holds an MBA in Finance from Queen’s University, Canada.

Paula is a member of APEGA and the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) and the Canadian Solar Industry Association. She was invited by the British High Commission to work on sustainability as part of the 2002 G8 summit, and has been a participant in the National Roundtable on Energy and the Environment (NRTEE).