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New rules on renewable energy are driving away investment, Alberta government told

Press Coverage
May 6, 2024
Globe and Mail

Cardston County covers a big swath of rolling Alberta grasslands nestled between the Rocky Mountains and the city of Lethbridge, extending south to the Canada-U.S. border. Its local government had been banking on a major new renewable-energy project spinning out tax revenue to support its budget. No more.

TransAlta Corp. TA-T had planned to build its Riplinger Wind Farm there, with first power from its 47 turbines expected in 2027. Then last week, the company cancelled the 300-megawatt project, saying new restrictions on renewables imposed by the Alberta government made it impossible to proceed.

The region’s voters have reliably supported Premier Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party. But Randy Bullock, Cardston County’s reeve, laments what the new rules have wrought on the local spending plans. Council wants to build a water treatment plant, pave roads and reconfigure a thoroughfare to build commercial developments alongside it.

“We want to do things, but all we do is tell people, ‘No, no, we can’t do it. We can’t afford it.’ So that’ll continue for us for the next many, many years, if not decades,” Mr. Bullock said.

The UCP touts a “libertarian, stay-out-of-my-face style of government,” Mr. Bullock said, but with renewables it has taken a heavy-handed approach.

Riplinger would have been located within a 35-kilometre buffer zone that Ms. Smith’s government announced on Feb. 28 would be off-limits to wind, an area of so-called pristine viewscapes. Those are among restrictions that the province established after a seven-month freeze on new renewable-energy projects.

Others include limits on the ability of the industry to build projects on irrigatable lands, and a new system of requiring secure funds for the eventual cleanup of turbines and solar panels.

The province is also making adjustments to its electricity market, which prompted TransAlta to put three other projects – a solar farm, a battery storage venture and a gas-fired power plant – on hold until it is more certain about the impact on the economics.

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