Alberta Hits Pause on Renewable Approvals

Jennifer Leakos
car driving against mountain background with wind turbines
Courtesy of Global News

Alberta is known for being the Texas of Canada, both sharing an affinity for trucks, cowboys, and oil and gas. If you’re planning a visit, get those sunnies out and maybe pack a windbreaker because it’s also the sunniest province in Canada and over one third of the province’s land can support wind production.

But while there is significant potential for solar and wind development in Alberta, a recent announcement from the government may hinder that growth.

What happened: The Government of Alberta did its best “you shall not pass” impression to all new renewable energy projects by issuing a six-month moratorium on approvals until February 2024.

  • The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) is the regulatory body that approves power projects and requested this pause so that the government could come up with new rules for approvals.

Background: Last year in Canada, 1.8 gigawatts of solar and wind capacity was added, with over 75 percent built in Alberta. Projects are currently evaluated and approved on a case-by-case basis.

Renewable energy investments have been growing quickly, but now the AUC needs a breather. They’ve been unable to keep up with the demand while still ensuring that everyone has been consulted appropriately.

Alberta power generation capacity

Alberta power generation capacity
Courtesy of Calgary Herald and Alberta Electric System Operator

The hold up: Farmers and rural municipalities have raised concerns around the development of power plants on high value farmlands and reclamation needs for the new facilities.

  • The AUC will use the next six months to identify criteria for a new, more efficient framework. While this is underway, all new project applications are paused.

Renewable companies are concerned about the impacts this will have on investment and critics of the move believe this will have detrimental impacts on “business… environment… and Albertans”.

  • Alberta has set a target of 30 percent renewable electricity by 2030. It achieved 17 percent renewable power last year, exceeding its 15 percent target.

Zoom out: According to the International Energy Agency, implementation of clean energy generation is on track in order to achieve net zero. Actions like this by regional governments may put this at risk.