Alberta gives hint of changes to follow renewables pause
Alberta’s likely direction to overhaul renewable energy development is taking shape, including a new agricultural land-rating system to restrict where wind and solar farms can be built, and a rigid security deposit program to cover clean-up costs when projects reach the end of their life.
Renewable project approvals have been on ice in the province since August, when the United Conservative government abruptly ordered the Alberta Utilities Commission to halt application green-lights and to review issues around reclamation, viewscapes and what agricultural land can be used for wind, solar, geothermal and biomass plants. The AUC has until March to return to the government with recommended changes.
Dozens of recommendations are contained in a series of consultant reports about land impact issues, posted Friday to the AUC website. The AUC commissioned the analyses as part of its inquiry into rules that govern the province’s multi-billion dollar industry. They will be used to inform public feedback during the review.
While the reports have brought optimism that the commission will wrap up its inquiry in a timely manner, industry and experts worry that adopting some of the recommendations will lead to an unfair system where renewable energy projects are subject to rules that don’t apply to oil, gas and other industries.
Take reclamation security, said Jorden Dye, director at Business Renewables Centre Canada (BRC-Canada), a Calgary-based organization that matches renewable developers and buyers.
In other jurisdictions with strong renewables sectors, financial security requirements are flexible or limited to projects on crown or public land. Developing such a program in Alberta needs to be carefully and thoughtfully designed, he said, or it risks delaying or nixing projects altogether.
“Reclamation security has a significant ability to impact the viability of projects,” Mr. Dye said in an interview Sunday.
“This is an industry that is competing for capital, for people and for supplies – not just within Canada, but in the United States and Europe. And so making sure that we don’t essentially price ourselves out of the market is probably our biggest concern.”
Mr. Dye was also critical of the fact that the studies failed to assess whether there’s a growing wind and solar liabilities problem, and were instead conducted with a foregone conclusion that the renewables sector needs a reclamation system.
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