By: Nigel Bankes
Case Commented On: The decisions of various buyers to “terminate” their interests in power purchase arrangements (PPAs)
In December 2015, Enmax announced that it was “terminating” its interest in a power purchase arrangement (PPA) with the owner of the Battle River 5 coal plant subject to the PPA (see Enmax terminates unprofitable-coal-fired electricity contract). That was followed this month (March 2016) with announcements from TransCanada Energy and ASTC Power Partnership (a partnership of Trans Canada Energy and AltaGas Pipelines) that they too had given notice to terminate and would be walking away from their obligations as buyers under PPAs relating to Sheerness and Sundance A and B. In announcing its decision, TransCanada indicated that it was doing so because “Unprofitable market conditions are expected to continue as costs related to CO2 emissions have increased and they are forecast to continue to increase over the remaining term of the PPA agreements.” It is generally understood that reference to “costs related to CO2 emissions” is a reference to the emissions penalty imposed by the Specified Gas Emitter Regulation (SGER), Alta Reg 139/2007. This Regulation, first introduced in 2007, requires regulated emitters (including owners of coal fired generating plants) to achieve improvements in emissions intensity at their facilities (or purchase offsets or emissions performance credits) failing which these emitters must pay into the Climate Change and Emission Management Fund. The emissions intensity target was originally set at 12% over the original baseline for the facility and the fund contribution at $15 a tonne (payable only for emissions in excess of the emissions intensity target for the facility). While the previous government dithered and procrastinated on changes to the intensity target and changes to the level of fund contribution (indeed the previous government extended the sunset provision in the regulation twice), the Notley government grasped the nettle, and, in June 2015 announced, as an interim step in the development of a more comprehensive climate change policy, that regulated emitters will be required to achieve an emissions intensity target of 15% in 2016 and 20% in 2017, while the compliance price for excess emissions will rise from $20 per tonne in 2016 to $30 per tonne in 2017. Those developments are discussed in an earlier post here.