Generating and Drilling
Drilling through the earth’s surface can release natural gas.
Electricity, however, exists only when we generate it.
Natural gas, coal, nuclear fission, wind and hydroelectric dams fuel powerplants. But right now, this is changing. Alberta is phasing out coal-fired plants and replacing them with wind and solar. This is a major shift.
Large companies have solar and wind operations, but it’s easy now to connect to the grid, and local owners and co-ops are doing that.
Setting the Price
The cost of electrical power changes every hour.
The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) watches the supply and demand and sets the price, which is the hourly Pool Price. This is the pure cost of power—the wholesale price. It doesn’t include delivery or other overhead. The wholesale cost of electricity in Alberta changes every hour (based on supply and demand). We use weighted average power pool prices that take into account our customers’ profiled usage each hour. Unaccounted-for energy, distribution line-losses, uplift charges and trading charges are also factored in.
Several factors affect the Pool Price. One is the type of energy firing the powerplant. Coal, wind and solar energy are the cheapest.
When there’s a large supply of energy, the hourly Pool Price drops. During peak hours, the supply may be low and the demand high. In those times, the grid relies on more expensive forms of electricity.
Electricity travels over transmission lines to substations.
Leaving the powerplant, the energy is high voltage—anywhere from 138,000 to 500,000 volts. Substations lower the voltage and send the current over the lines. The voltage drops again when the distribution companies bring it to your home or business.
Distribution companies install meters at your home or business. Every month, they read the numbers to see how much energy you use.
Your electricity bill’s Transmission and Distribution charges pay for delivery from the generators to your home or business and for the cost of meters and meter reads.
Co-op distribution costs are lower, because the members are also buyers who want affordable energy. Members own the business but also want to keep costs down for everyone. When the larger companies mismanage costs and prices, co-ops hold the line and show the rest of the province what is reasonable.
Supply and demand move electricity prices up and down every hour. The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) sets the hourly price.
Go to AESO.ca to see hourly prices.
Cities and private companies own the powerplants and the electricity. Today, small operators can own micro-generators that produce wind and solar. A local school might have a solar installation. A community may have a windfarm or biofuel project.
Through ACE, you use electricity directly from these neighbours.
Cities and private companies also purchase and supply the gas. In rural areas, the community gas co-op owns more than 100,000 km of pipeline. It supplies more than 25 million gigajoules of gas every year to over 165,000 customers.
The gas co-op sells to its members. It gets the gas through another co-op—Gas Alberta Inc.
Gas Alberta Inc. started Gas Alberta Energy to sell affordable gas to customers outside the gas co-op boundaries. Gas Alberta Energy is part of ACE. When you buy your natural gas from ACE, your supply is sourced from an entity with co-operative values.
Retailers are the storefront. We get you the energy you need. You sign up with us, and we connect you to the businesses that transport your gas and electricity. Retailers also manage your bill and answer your calls.
ACE’s call centre is here in Alberta. Many retailers have call centres overseas or in other parts of Canada. But when ACE customers need help, they dial up locally in the Alberta time zone.
Albertans can choose between Regulated providers of electricity and natural gas (who offer the government-approved rate) or Competitive Retailers (who offer fixed rates and other options).
The government-approved rate for electricity is the Regulated Rate Option or RRO. For natural gas it is the Default Supply Rate. The RRO and Default Supply Rate usually change every month.
With a Competitive Retailer—like ACE—you can receive energy at a set price for one or more years. ACE offers a lower rate and still makes cancelling easy. Switching rates or switching retailers is easy with ACE. Rates can be changed within 1 to 2 business days while switching retailers may take up to 10 days.
Your Regulated Retailer may need 30 days’ notice. If you signed a contract with another Competitive Retailer, join ACE at the end of the agreement as a cancellation penalty may apply if you choose to leave before the end of the term.
As an ACE customer, you can buy electricity from small Alberta generators. You choose which green generator to support. ACE then directs the offset to the green energy producer. The SPARK Green Offset Program has directed more than $70,000 to over 140 Alberta-based micro-generators, helping them to invest in their own systems and supply clean green energy to the power grid.
Additionally, you can choose to purchase a membership with Alberta Renewable Energy Co-operative (a co-operative partner in ACE and founder of the SPARK program). The membership supports education and lobbying efforts of community based renewable energy development.
Energy Costs Estimator
Ever wonder how to calculate how much energy your appliances use?
Below is a simple calculation to help you figure out your appliance wattage.
Electricity bills are based in part on the number of kilowatt-hours a member uses during a billing period. For ease of reference, you can use the following formula:
• Appliance Wattage × hours used per day ÷ 1000 = Daily Kilowatt-hour (kWh) consumption
• 1 kilowatt (kW) = 1,000 Watts
Multiply your kWhs by the number of days you use the appliance during the year for the annual consumption in kWhs per year.
• Total kilowatts (kW) x number of days
To determine the wattage of the appliance look on the back or bottom of the appliance.
You can then further calculate the cost of energy by multiplying your total monthly kWhs by your energy rate, as shown below.
The following are a few examples of energy consumption and costs per year.
(200 Watts × 4 hours/day × 120 days/year) ÷ 1000 = 96 kWh × .0850 cents/kWh = $8.16/year
Personal Computer and Monitor:
[(120 Watts + 150 Watts) × 4 hours/day × 365 days/year] ÷ 1000 = 394 kWh × .0850 cents/kWh = $33.50/year