Capital Power gets go-ahead to build Genesee 4 and 5

By Bill Mah, Edmonton Journal | August 13, 2014

Artist’s rendering of proposed Genesee 4 and 5 power generating plants.
Artist’s rendering of proposed Genesee 4 and 5 power generating plants.

A gas-fired electricity generating plant proposed for the Genesee site southwest of Stony Plain has been approved by the provincial utilities regulator.

A joint project of Capital Power and Enmax, the two-unit plant known as Genesee 4 and 5 is planned to come into service between 2018 and 2020, coinciding with the looming retirements in 2019 of several coal-fired power plants.

In its decision released Wednesday, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) set several conditions, including noise-mitigation measures.

The companies are building the plant to meet rising power demand and prepare for federal regulations that will see most coal-fired plants retired by 2030 unless they add carbon-capture technology to reduce emissions.

Genesee 4 and 5 will produce a total of 1,050 megawatts of new electricity after being built next to three existing coal generating units.

“The AUC found that construction and operation of the proposed plant is in the public interest,” said Capital Power spokesman Michael Sheehan.

“The Alberta Electric System Operator forecasts peak demand to grow at an average annual rate of 2.5 per cent over the next 20 years. Under the federal coal regulations, approximately 870 megawatts of coal-fired generation is scheduled to retire in 2019. Additional coal-fired units are scheduled to retire in the next decade, totalling approximately 2,900 megawatts.”

The project still needs approval by Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. A decision is expected early next year, after which construction could start in late 2015.

The commission disagreed with environmentalists who warned that air pollution in the Edmonton region will likely exceed provincial standards if the new plants are built without shutting down some of the coal-fired facilities.

“Capital Power’s evidence demonstrated that emissions from the project alone were predicted to be much lower than the Alberta Ambient Air Quality Objectives,” the AUC decision said.

The regulator also accepted the company’s assertion that the plants would add only negligible secondary particulate emissions to the airshed.

“Based on all of the above, and given the nature of the proposed power plant, the natural gas technology used, the planned replacement of existing coal generating units and the power plant’s distance from area residents, the commission finds that the project’s impact on air quality will be negligible,” the AUC decision said.

Capital Power, a spinoff of taxpayer-owned Edmonton utility Epcor, is using high-efficiency, combined-cycle technology, where gas turbines work in concert with steam turbines to generate power with greater efficiency and lower emissions.

Ben Thibault, electricity program director at environmental research group Pembina Institute, said the regulator’s decision was anticipated but troubling.

“It’s the result one expects after they decide to go through the process that doesn’t have a hearing,” Thibault said, referring to the AUC’s refusal to hold a public hearing. It said none of the concerned landowners or groups qualified as interveners under rules which require they be directly and adversely affected and live within 2,000 metres of a proposed power plant.

“In the world we live in that relates to air emissions and pollution-causing health impacts downwind, a two-kilometre radius is crazy,” said Thibault.

He lauded the company for choosing efficient technology, but wanted the commission to make approval contingent on coal-fired plants shutting down at the same time.



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