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Alberta electric grid operator sees falling reserve margin


Alberta's reserve margin is expected to increase next year, but then go into a steady decline, if more generating resources are not built, according to a report the Alberta Electric System Operator released Thursday.

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Assuming that Alberta's intertie connections to Montana, British Columbia and Saskatchewan are available, the province's reserve margin stands at about 27% and will climb to about 32% next year as new power plants come online, according to the report on long-term adequacy metrics, which the grid operator releases quarterly.

Starting next year, the AESO expects the province's reserve margin to begin a sharp decline to about 12% in 2019.

Four natural gas-fired and two biomass projects totaling 1,965 MW are under construction in Alberta, according to the report. The largest, Enmax's 851-MW combined-cycle Shepard Energy Center, is expected to start operating in the first quarter next year. Two Imperial Oil natural gas-fired projects totaling 270 MW are slated to be operating by the end of December.

Provincial regulators have approved an additional 24 projects totaling 2,950 MW. Most of the projects are natural gas-fired, followed by seven wind farms,one hydroelectric and one solar project. Another 40 projects, totaling 9,030 MW, have been announced.

The AESO released in June a long-range forecast that found Alberta will need about 14,250 MW of new generation in the next 20 years to handle the province's roughly 2.5% annual load growth and expected coal unit retirements.

Three gas-fired projects have been delayed, according to the report. Maxim Power's 180-MW Deerland project has been delayed from November 2015 to March 2016. BowArk Energy's 141-MW Queenstown project has been pushed out to August 2016 from December 2015. Grand Prairie's 95-MW Harmattan project is now expected online in May, versus earlier plans for a January start date.

--Ethan Howland,
--Edited by Valarie Jackson,