What if Canada had spent $200bn on wind energy instead of oil?

In explaining Canada’s decision to nationalise the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5bn, Bill Morneau went hard on the economic argument. “Make no mistake,” the finance minister said. “This is an investment in Canada’s future.”

In fact, since 1999, more than $200bn has been invested into the Alberta oil sands for that future. But what if that cash had gone into wind energy instead? Let’s compare.

In 2017, the Alberta oil sands produced roughly 912m barrels. About 60% was turned into gasoline and diesel, enough to fuel 73m vehicles for 16,000km (the roughly average yearly driven distance). Had $200bn been invested in the wind energy sector, at the current cost of $1.8m megawatt (MW), Alberta would have 111,000 MW of capacity. Based on what Alberta actually generated in 2017, it could power more than 122m electric vehicles for the same 16,000kmMORE

New Lazard analysis shows that wind energy costs have dropped 69 per cent since 2009

Building and operating new wind energy can cost less than continuing to operate fully-depreciated conventional generation facilities

Wind energy has solidified its position as the most cost-effective source of new electricity generation, coming in now at less than one-third the price seen in 2009. The full “levelized cost” (LCOE)* for a megawatt-hour of onshore, utility-scale wind energy in the United States is now between US$29 and $56 on an unsubsidized basis, according to an authoritative analysis just released by U.S. investment firm Lazard.

Wind energy costs have dropped 69 per cent since 2009, and seven per cent just in the last year. In comparison, the key conventional energy sources of coal plants, natural gas combined cycle plants, and natural gas peaker plants have seen much more modest declines in the same period, while the LCOE of nuclear has actually increased.

Remarkably, the low-end of the wind energy cost range also falls within the range of operating costs alone for existing nuclear and coal generation. In other words, it can be less expensive to build and operate new wind generation than to continue to operate fully-depreciated conventional generation facilitiesMORE