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Confusing set of rules holding back geothermal development in Alberta, Canada

Banff Upper Hot Spring, Canada (source: flickr/ Andrew Bowden, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 4 Feb 2019

With federal funding given to geothermal project in Saskatchewan, there are calls for similar support in the Province of Alberta. With a struggling oil and gas sector and untapped geothermal resources, there are opportunities but public money for a pilot project would be needed to kick start development.

With support announced for a geothermal project in the province of Saskatchewan by the Federal Government of Canada, the question arises why Saskatchewan and not Alberta or British Columbia.

With a struggling oil industry in Alberta and good resources, this is indeed a question that Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) targets in a short article.

Talking to Colleen Collins, VP of Canada West Foundation, a pan-western non-partisan think tank based in Calgary, Alberta, she highlights the lack of “geothermal regulatory framework in the province, meaning everything from the resource itself to drilling rights are governed under different, confusing sets of rules.”

A report published by the organisation in July 2018, highlights that “clarifying the licensing process and reviewing the rules that govern small plants would be good steps toward building a geothermal energy industry in Alberta.”

“With its existing oil and gas industry and significant accompanying technical expertise relevant to geothermal drilling, the province is particularly well-positioned to take advantage and develop a geothermal industry,” the report reads.

“However, Alberta’s regulatory environment is not yet adapted for both geothermal development and distributed electricity production.”

Mike McKinnon, a spokesperson for the Alberta Energy Minister’s office, said new regulations governing small-scale and community generation went into effect Jan (this year). He says the government is working on developing a long-term policy.

To see actual development, there is though need for some public money for the province’s first geothermal. Geothermal energy projects are “still (a) high-risk project(s) until the project is de-risked through a pilot well.”, so T.M Gunderson one of the founders of geothermal company Epoch Energy.

Pembina Institute, another renewable energy organisation in Canada, has also pushed for support of geothermal ambitions in Alberta.

The Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA), a Calgary-based industry association representing the geothermal industry in Canada, and Geothermal Canada, a research-focused association are pushing the story of geothermal in Canada.

Source: CBC