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Geothermal development heating up in Alberta

Posted on November 18, 2020 by Taber Times

By Trevor Busch
Taber Times

With the UCP government targeting energy diversification as a key objective for 2021 and beyond, Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter is excited about the geothermal potential for his riding.

New legislation in the fall session, Bill 36, is intended to clarify rules for geothermal energy development, establish the legislative authority for land use and liability management, and protect landowners and mineral rights.

“The Geothermal Resource Development Act, Bill 36, Minister Savage introduced that one into the house, and that’s actually a really interesting one because throughout Alberta there are geothermal spots that make sense to be able to set up some innovative approaches to greenhouses,” said Hunter, who also serves as associate minister of Red Tape Reduction.

Alberta is uniquely positioned to attract investment in this emerging industry because of its geothermal resources, leadership in drilling technology and extensive oil and gas expertise.

However, development has been limited as without a specific regulatory framework, geothermal project applications have been assessed on a case-by-case basis, which is inefficient for both industry and government.

Hunter reports there has already been interest expressed from U.S. agricultural investors over the geothermal potential they see right here in Taber-Warner.

“My office was approached by an innovative company out of the States, that said you know you’ve got some really good geothermal caches in your riding, and we’d like to be able to set up a greenhouse and start growing produce year round. The cost is so cheap because once they set it up, it’s basically free heating. And they would use this to basically heat rather than natural gas.”

Modelled after the Oil and Gas Conservation Act, this legislation would provide the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) with the authority to regulate the safe, efficient and responsible development of Alberta’s geothermal resources. The legislation will clarify industry requirements, establish the AER’s oversight authority, and establish government’s ability to receive revenues, such as royalties and fees, for geothermal development.

“I’m really excited about his one to tell you the truth, because we really didn’t have a regulatory framework for geothermal resource development,” said Hunter.

“Which just goes to show, yes, we are an oil and gas producing province, but we do have lots and lots of other opportunities as well in the geothermal, solar, wind — these renewable resources in the province.”

To help inform the next steps of implementing this policy and regulatory framework, the government is planning to hold discussions with key groups in the near future.

“The other neat thing about it is that with this geothermal resource development, we have done a lot of innovative drilling techniques in Alberta — we’re the ones who actually innovated and invented them — and we can use a lot of the horizontal well drilling in order to be able to access geothermal.”

Geothermal energy is natural heat that originates from the Earth, and can be used for heating and cooling or to generate clean electricity.

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