Energy & Alternative Energy
Alternative, Renewable and Bioenergy Sector
Southwest Alberta offers immediate opportunities to invest in existing businesses, start a new venture, or explore partnerships with established firms in the thriving renewable, alternative and bioenergy sector.
This unique region is an ideal location to live, learn and invest due to its:
- Low business costs - one of the most competitive tax environments in North America;
- Collaborative community - $1.15 billion in new capital investment and alternative energy industry development is supported by a network of 38 municipalities;
- Strategic location and access - $845 million in major provincial projects have been announced for the Southern Alberta Transmission Reinforcement initiative; and
- Entrepreneurial spirit - a skilled, young and productive workforce populates this stunning area
Alberta Southwest has three Regional Industry Sectors
Download a detailed, printable, PDF version of the Southwest Alberta Energy Sector Profile.
Located in the southernmost region of the province, spanning west and central Alberta, this distinctive landscape is where the beautiful Rocky Mountains meet the sprawling prairies. Covering a land area of 15,466km2, southwest Alberta is home to two World Heritage Sites; Waterton Lakes National Park and Head-Smashed in Buffalo Jump. Mild winters and warm summers make up a unique climate well suited for solar and wind energy production. The region enjoys close to 2,400 hours of sunshine and 264 dry days per year, and is ranked the second highest in Canada days per annum for wind speeds above 40 km/h (24.9 mph).
One of the highest in the world, the quality of life in the region is standard of rural communities. Southwest Alberta is a vibrant recreational setting, containing multiple provincial parks, campgrounds, ski hills and hiking trails. Community values emphasize hard work and multiculturalism, due in part to the fact that one in six Albertans was born outside of Canada. Alberta’s exceptional health care system, publicly administered and funded by the Alberta government, is dedicated to ensuring all Albertans have equal access to the best medical services.
Southwest Alberta lies close to two of the most reputable post-secondary institutions in the province, The University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College. Athabasca University correspondence courses are also made available across the province.
Southwest Alberta’s six major centres are: Cardston; Crowsnest Pass; Fort Macleod; Nanton; Pincher Creek; and Waterton Lakes. They range in size from 2,000 to 5,500 inhabitants, and the regional population is 36,749.
Access to Markets
- Highway 2: CANAMEX trade corridor extending from Alberta to Mexico.
- Highway 3: connects Medicine Hat, through southern Alberta, to Vancouver which has Canada’s largest and most diversified port.
- Highway 1: the TransCanada is the major east to west highway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
- Major port of entry to the USA: 1 hour south of Fort Macleod is the Sweetgrass/Coutts border crossing, the 9th busiest across Canada and open 24/7.
- Encompasses one of Alberta’s longest community runways, managed by the Municipality of Pincher Creek, which rests at 1190 metres (3,903 feet) in elevation and is 2012 metres (6,600 feet) long .
- Within 1 hour to the Lethbridge airport, a key entry point for people, goods and services in Southern Alberta.
- A 2-hour drive to the Calgary International Airport, Canada’s third largest airport. Calgary connects passengers, with over 100 global flights per day, to international destinations and serves as a major cargo hub for Western Canada.
- The Canadian Pacific Railway mainline ships products from the freight handling facility in Lethbridge in all four directions. Whether it is north to Calgary, south to the USA, east to Ontario or west to Vancouver, southwest Alberta is part of an international transportation network.
Alberta is strategically located in the growing western Canadian market, offering overnight or less than 24-hour delivery to a market of over 50 million consumers including the US Pacific Northwest. The southwest region is connected to a network of corridors running from north to south and east to west. The area is also within an hour’s drive of Lethbridge, an important regional hub for businesses.
A Diverse Economy
With a vibrant and diverse economy, the southwest region of Alberta provides a number of investment advantages and opportunities. Over 1,900 businesses operate in this area of economic strength across the agriculture, natural gas, tourism, manufacturing and growing renewable energy sectors.
Businesses in the region benefit from a young, highly skilled and educated workforce. In 2012, 63.3% of the labour force aged 25 and over reported holding a university degree or post-secondary diploma and two-thirds of the region’s population is aged between 15 and 64.
Annually, Southwest Alberta records approximately $40 million in municipal construction value and has $1.6 billion in recently completed or planned municipal/private sector construction projects.
- $150M Windy Point Wind Farm in Pincher Creek planned for 2015 – 2016;
- $500M Transmission Line development - Southern Alberta Transmission Reinforcement (SATR) in Pincher Creek planned for 2017 – 2018;
- $345M South Foothills Transmission Project from Fort Macleod to High River currently under construction; and
- $730M Metallurgical Coal Mine seven kms north of Blairmore Presently in pre-construction approval process. Planned production opening late 2018.
Click here for an up-to-date and complete inventory of Alberta’s major capital projects.
Competitive Business Costs
Alberta has one of the most competitive tax environments in North America and fosters innovation through its pro-business attitude. It is the only province with no provincial retail sales taxes, provincial capital or payroll taxes, nor machinery or equipment taxes found in many other provinces and in the USA.
- Combined federal/provincial corporate income tax rate is 27% for general businesses and 14% for small businesses.
- Among the lowest gasoline tax rates across Canada.
- Alberta Healthcare is one of the best funded in Canada, representing one third of the provincial budget.
Specifically, Southwest Alberta businesses profit from:
- Lower than provincial average labour costs;
- An average house price 58% lower than the Alberta average;
- Municipal property taxes 25% lower than the Calgary region;
- Lower taxes than the Calgary region for comparable enterprise operating space;
- Municipal commercial taxes roughly $1500/$100,000 of assessment, much lower than the Calgary region;
- Competitively low natural gas and utility rates; and
- Internationally competitive manufacturing costs in green energy.
Key Renewable Industries
Alternative and renewable energy sources are an integral part of the Government of Alberta’s energy portfolio, with approximately 45% of Alberta’s electricity generation stemming from wind, hydro, biomass and natural gas cogeneration. Demand for energy has risen and is projected to continue rising given Alberta’s population growth of 1.4 million and an increase in peak demand of over 4,000 megawatts since 1996.
Specifically, the southwest region of Alberta places value in its thriving reserve of natural resources. To capitalize on and encourage sustainable growth in the industry, 38 local communities collaborated in the creation of the Southern Alberta Alternative Energy Partnership (SAAEP). SAAEP has supported more than $1.15 billion in new capital investment and industry development, published research on alternative energy systems and raised awareness of the region both nationally and internationally.
In 2013, The Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC) provided $46 million in funding for eight projects in Alberta, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 5 mega tonnes over 10 years.
Exhibiting the highest amounts of sun across all of Canada, southwest Alberta has the potential to become a key driver in the supply of solar energy. With 2,400 hours of sunshine per year, and a mean winter temperature of -10 degrees (ideal for solar technology efficiency), the region provides an optimal climate for the production of solar energy.
Alberta has set the global stage as an example of excellence in incorporating wind generation into the power grid. Canada’s first wind farm was built in the southwest region in 1993, making it the birthplace of the nation’s wind industry. With the current development of the Southern Alberta Transmission Reinforcement Project, enabling up to 2,700 MW of new wind generation specifically in southern Alberta to connect to the grid, strong opportunities continue to attract investors to the region.
The Canadian biofuel industry has grown significantly over the past 15 years, however current yields account for only 2% of the global production of ethanol and bio-diesel. There is a tremendous opportunity for Canada, and particularly southwest Alberta, to become a global leader in the production of bio-diesel and bio-ethanol to meet global demand.
Bioenergy is derived from biomass, material made from living organisms. Further development will diversify the energy mix in Alberta providing significant carbon reduction, community development and environmental sustainability. The Alberta government is also supportive of the development of bioenergy infrastructure, having approved $195 million in grants since 2006.
Southwest Alberta supports existing, expanding and new businesses through its strategic network of 16 regional communities. Collaborative initiatives with each other, the City of Lethbridge, Lethbridge County, the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College encourage budding entrepreneurs while providing access to market and investment opportunities.
Scientific Research & Experimental Development (SR&ED) Tax Incentive: The SR&ED Program is a federal tax incentive program, allowing companies to deduct SR&ED expenditures from their income and provides an investment tax credit (ITC) to encourage Canadian businesses of all sizes to conduct research and development (R&D) in Canada.
Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP): The National Research Council’s IRAP provides support and funding to small and medium-sized companies in Canada with the objective to undertake technology innovation.
Western Innovation Initiative (WINN): Western Economic Diversification Canada offers repayable contributions for small to medium-sized businesses operating in Western Canada to commercialize innovative technology-based products in later stage research and development. This is a federally driven, $100 million, five-year initiative.
Alberta Innovates Micro Voucher, Voucher and Product Demonstration Programs: Alberta Innovates - Technology Futures Voucher Program supports early to late stage technology and knowledge-driven companies, operating in Alberta, in advancing technology innovation in growing markets including environmental technology.
The Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC): Created in 2009, CCEMC supports climate change initiatives and has funded over 85 projects in areas like climate change adaption, renewable energy, clean energy production and efficiency.
Alberta Investor Tax Credit (AITC): The AITC will support local small and medium-sized businesses to create jobs and diversify the provincial economy. Starting in 2017, the AITC will offer a 30% tax credit to Alberta investors who provide venture capital to Alberta companies in several sectors including clean technology.
Alberta Manufacturing and Fabrication Innovation Program (AMFI): The Alberta Manufacturing and Fabrication Innovation Program (AMFI) aims to help Alberta manufacturers and fabricators be globally competitive by accelerating the adoption of new and advanced technologies to increase productivity and quality.
AMFI offers technical sessions, access to experts, access to resources, and networking opportunities all with the ultimate goal of moving a client's technology and innovations forward and build a more resilient, globally competitive manufacturing sector.