Members of the Estevan Chamber of Commerce had the opportunity to learn more about what is happening at SaskPower during the chamber's meeting on April 9.
SaskPower vice-president of special projects Judy May spoke about the impact that the province's growth is having on SaskPower, the Crown corporation's infrastructure needs and its future power generation plans.
SaskPower expects demand for power to increase by more than 30 per cent over the next 20 years, May said, and it is to double between now and 2050. Historically, SaskPower has had more than enough capacity to meet the province's needs.
But decisions have to be made on several fronts, including carbon capture and storage.
“One thing is certain: we can’t continue to operate in the same way we used to,” said May.
Coal currently accounts for 37 per cent of Saskatchewan's power production, but the federal government has stated that there won't be new money for conventional coal power plants, such as the Shand Power Station and several units at Boundary Dam. So SaskPower has to find other ways to generate electricity.
“Our most obvious example is right at your back door: the carbon capture and storage project at Boundary Dam,” said May. “When it’s up and fully running later this year, we expect to see carbon dioxide emissions from Unit 3 cut by up to 90 per cent or approximately one million tonnes a year.”
The Carbon Capture Test Facility at the Shand Power Station will offer international clients the chance to test their carbon capture technologies, she said.
Geothermal is one option that SaskPower is exploring for renewable power.
“We have an agreement with Deep Earth Energy Production Corp, based here in Saskatchewan, to study the feasibility of small-scale geothermal generation,” said May. “Geothermal’s ecological footprint is small, and the technology produces nearly zero emissions.”
Deep Earth's first proposed plant would be constructed in the Estevan area.
Saskatchewan's power distribution grid is the second-oldest in the country, May said, and nearly 40 per cent of SaskPower's unplanned outages are due to aging equipment.
There are more than 1.25 million wooden power poles in the province, and the average age of those poles is almost 38 years. Their life expectancy is 50 years.
A quarter of SaskPower's distribution poles were built in the 1950s.
“If all we do is replace those poles at the existing rate, it’s going to take us 20 years just to get the ones from the 1950s taken care of,” May said.
About 41 per cent of revenues from power bills will have to be directed to infrastructure this year, she said.
May also discussed SaskPower's aging workforce, and the impact that it could have on the Estevan area, and answered questions from the audience.