Alberta’s Affordability and Utilities Minister Nathan Neudorf said on Monday he has “high concern” about whether the Canadian province has a big enough power supply to avoid electricity shortfalls as freezing weather in the region puts strain on the grid.

Neudorf, who is also in charge of Alberta’s electricity network, said in an interview that power capacity “is still an area of high concern”.

“As we saw this weekend, if you have a couple of plants go down due to the cold or mechanical issues you can be in a tough spot very quickly,” he added, referring to a grid alert issued on Saturday by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO).

The AESO’s alert warned consumers that it may impose power outages after extreme cold weather caused a surge in electricity use. Quick responses from consumers, who cut their energy use immediately after the warning, avoided forced outages by the grid operator.

According to Neudorf, the strain on power supply has been caused in part by Alberta’s efforts to rapidly phase out coal-fired electricity. In 2015, the local government set a target to eliminate emissions from coal power by 2030, but the district is on track to beat this by some margin as it expects to phase out all coal generation by early this year.

The freezing conditions and depleted power sources in Alberta were a “perfect storm” for strained supply, Neudorf added. Electricity output was depleted further by a lack of wind to power the region’s wind farms and the limited ability for neighbouring provinces to share electricity due to their own problems arising from frigid weather.

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Alberta currently generates most of its power from natural gas. In August last year, its government halted all approval of new renewable energy projects until March 2024, citing concerns about the intermittency of clean energy sources, their required land use and the rapid speed with which renewables projects were coming online.

The province’s new 900MW Cascade gas power project, currently in construction by power developer Kineticor Resource, is almost finished and due to come online soon. Once connected to the grid, it will be capable of supplying up to 8% of Alberta’s average electricity demand and is expected to ease future strains on output.