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Calgary Climate Hub concerned as Alberta Government puts renewable energy projects on hold

The Alberta Government ask of the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) to pause new approvals for renewable energy projects in the province has prompted concern from local green energy supporters.

The government said that the approvals for projects like wind energy and solar farms would be paused until February 29, 2024, in order to develop standards around approvals, particularly how the installations are dealt with at the end of their life.

“We are proud of our leadership in responsible renewable energy development and we are committed to its continued growth. This approach will provide future renewable investments with the certainty and clarity required for long-term development,” said Nathan Neudorf, Minister of Affordability and Utilities.

The government said they’re responding to concerns raised by municipalities and land owners about the responsible use of land use for these projects, although the government also said that projects can only go ahead on private land with the consent of those that actually own the land.

The government said that the new regulations would govern whether power plants could be placed on certain types of agricultural land, the impact of power plants on “Alberta’s pristine viewscapes,” mandatory reclamation for power plants, development of power plants on crown land, and the impact of green energy and renewables on Alberta’s energy mix.

The government said the new regulations would not apply to homeowners wishing to install their own solar or wind power.

According to the Government of Alberta’s Major Projects list, there has been at least $8.9 billion in wind and solar projects proposed for the province, over 38 projects (not all projects have estimated costs from the GOA).

Outside of those projects, five projects for natural gas, compressed air, and geothermal power generation have been proposed, with an reported total of $653 million in costs (for those projects with estimated costs).

There were, as of the start of August, 15 wind and solar projects under construction in the province, representing $2.8 billion in capital investment.

This list included the $70 million development of a 37 megawatt power station within Calgary’s city limits by ATCO, which when complete will serve to power 8,000 homes.

ATCO told LWC that their projects within Calgary would not be affected by the pause by the AUC.

Decision harmful to investment into Alberta economy says Calgary Climate Hub

Robert Tremblay, co-chair of the Calgary Climate Hub, believes that this decision by the government is counter-productive to energy producing firms.

“This choice does nothing but harm to renewable energy companies here in Calgary. Many of these companies could very well shut down because they don’t have any work to do,” he said.

“There are tens of thousands of people employed in these fields in Alberta alone, and this decision by the AUC is an attack on those people and their jobs. This is the government telling these companies that they can stop them if they want to, and it’s scary.”

The Calgary Climate Hub is a local organization advocating for climate action and promoting sustainable practices in Calgary.

Tremblay says that this decision is especially dangerous due to the nature of Alberta’s electricity market.

“Alberta is very unique to Canada in regards to our energy system because we have a more deregulated electricity system which allows investors to very easily invest in clean energy,” he said.

“All this does is create uncertainty in the market. If I’m a potential investor in clean energy, I’ll be inclined to not put money into the market due to this.”

He also believes that there is a double standard here, due to Alberta’s oil and gas market.

“It’s curious how the government responds to renewable energy, they need to double check all the permitting and liabilities, putting projects on pause because of a letter, but with oil and gas, it seems almost carefree to me. They’re skipping the taxes all over the province,” he said.

“It’s shocking and saddening. If things continue like this, then renewable energy will be set back, and the plan to be net zero by 2050 will be in the gutter.”