Skip to main content

Pause on renewable energy proposals lifted, new rules put in place

Pause on renewable energy proposals lifted, new rules put in place
Premier against “sacrificing our future agricultural yields, or tourism dollars, or breathtaking viewscapes to rush renewable developments through.”
Premier against “sacrificing our future agricultural yields, or tourism dollars, or breathtaking viewscapes to rush renewable developments through.”
IMAGE: Dave Lueneberg
New wind energy projects will now fall under a new set of regulations introduced by the Alberta government Feb. 29. Also included are future solar, geothermal, hydro, and bio-gas developments. Buffer zones are also being established under the new guidelines.
IMAGE: Dave Lueneberg
New wind energy projects will now fall under a new set of regulations introduced by the Alberta government Feb. 29. Also included are future solar, geothermal, hydro, and bio-gas developments. Buffer zones are also being established under the new guidelines.

Pause on renewable energy proposals lifted, new rules put in place

By Dave Lueneberg
By Dave Lueneberg
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Shootin’ the Breeze Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
March 8, 2024
March 8, 2024

While not fully closing off any new applications for renewable energy projects from being submitted since last August, the Alberta government announced last week that it was ending a seven-month hold on their approvals, effective Feb. 29.

“Alberta is Canada’s leader in renewable energy. In fact, as much as 92 per cent of the renewables investment in Canada that happened in 2023 happened in Alberta,” Premier Danielle Smith said at a Feb. 28 news conference.

“Our unique deregulated electricity market and competitive tax mean we are Canada’s hub for investment, but growing our renewable energy industry must happen in well-defined and responsible ways. That wasn’t happening.”

But, although it lifted the moratorium, the province also announced a new set of guidelines that the industry will need to follow moving forward.

While the list of new rules is fairly lengthy, there were some points that stood out after the release of the AUC’s Module A Report.

Leading the most notable is a decision to not allow any future developments on Class 1 and 2 lands unless the proponent (applicant) can demonstrate the ability for crops and/or livestock to coexist with the project.

Class 1 is defined as “soils with no significant limitations in use for crops” while Class 2 is “soils with moderate limitations that restrict the range of crops or require moderate conservation practices.”

“Our goal is to ensure that Alberta’s electricity grid is reliable, affordable and sustainable for future generations to come,” said Affordability and Utilities Minister Nathan Neudorf in his statement to reporters.

“However, the rapid, unrestricted growth [of renewable energy projects] raised concerns that needed to be addressed. As a responsible government, we will not kick that can down the road for someone to deal with. We are committed to a clear and responsible path forward for energy development.”

But, Alberta’s Opposition NDP critic for energy, Nagwan Al-Guneid, is questioning why the process for approving applications was stopped back in August.

 

Aerial view of the Cowley Lions Campground on the Castle River in southwestern Alberta

 

“Government must always improve regulations. This is their duty. This is their job. They did not need to impose a seven-month moratorium,” Al-Guneid said to Shootin’ the Breeze.

“That’s sending a chilling message to global investors and it was done without zero consultation to renewable energy companies and the generators, as well. It’s unacceptable to treat big companies trying to invest here in Alberta,” Al-Guneid said.

“This is a dent in our investment reputation.”

When asked if there was anything she felt was good in the new regulations, the MLA for Calgary-Glenmore termed the guidelines as very vague.

“I think the vague was more than clear, to be honest with you. So, pristine viewscapes … I think that was extremely confusing. What does that even mean?”

Among the projects impacted by the pause were proposals involving wind, solar, geothermal, hydro or bio-gas technologies.

With the new regulations, the province has pledged to establish the tools necessary to ensure Alberta’s native grasslands, irrigable and productive lands continue to be available for agricultural production.

Municipalities, such as the MD of Pincher Creek, will have more active engagement in the permitting process, with the automatic right to participate in AUC hearings and eligibility to request cost recovery for participating.

“You know, it addresses some of our concerns,” Reeve Dave Cox responded.

“We have a concern about taking our agricultural land out of production. We also have a concern about accountability after the life of a project ends.”

 

 

In its reclamation component, the province stated that developers will be responsible for the eventual cleanup, either through a bond or security.

The reeve said he’s waiting for more details about proposed buffer zones that will be established around protected areas and other pristine viewscapes — that determination to be made by the government.

“I think it’s actually a pretty important first step to resolving some of these land use conflicts that exist in our area,” said Bobbi Lambright, communications co-ordinator with the Livingstone Landowners Group.

“As an organization, we’ve obviously been really concerned about things like our watershed management, native prairie preservation … even our very iconic scenic and recreational landscapes, and one of the challenges that I think we’ve been experiencing over the last number of years has been the concentration of proposed development in this area.”

Lambright, though, is not singling out just renewable energy or coal mining per se.

“There really isn’t a clear land use policy guideline. There’s been lots of work done on it, but projects seem to be addressed one by one.”

In August, when it was decided to hold off on approving any new projects, Premier Danielle Smith said there were 13 projects in the queue — that figure last week, she said, had doubled to 26.

“We need to ensure we’re not sacrificing our future agricultural yields, or tourism dollars, or breathtaking viewscapes to rush renewable developments through,” she added.

 

Ace of spades card on ad for Chase the Ace at the Pincher Creek Legion

 

Below is a summary of policy changes unveiled in the AUC’s Module A report, released Feb. 28:

Agricultural lands

—The AUC will take an “agriculture first” approach when evaluating the best use of agricultural lands proposed for renewables development.

—Alberta will no longer permit renewable generation developments on Class 1 and 2 lands unless the proponent can demonstrate the ability for crops and/or livestock to coexist with the renewable generation project.

—Alberta’s government will establish the tools necessary to ensure Alberta’s native grasslands, irrigable and productive lands continue to be available for agricultural production.

Reclamation security

—Developers will be responsible for reclamation costs via bond or security. The reclamation costs will either be provided directly to the Alberta government or may be negotiated with landowners if sufficient evidence is provided to the AUC.

Viewscapes

—Buffer zones of a minimum of 35 kilometres will be established around protected areas and other “pristine viewscapes” as designated by the province.

—New wind projects will no longer be permitted within those buffer zones.

—Other proposed developments located within the buffer zone may be subject to a visual impact assessment before approval.

Crown lands

—Meaningful engagement will be required before any policy changes for projects on Crown land and would not come into effect until late 2025.

—Any development of renewable development on Crown lands will be on a case-by-case basis.

Transmission regulation

—Changes to Alberta’s Transmission Regulation are expected in the coming months as the engagement process continues. Renewable projects should expect changes in how transmission costs are allocated.

Municipalities

—Automatically grant municipalities the right to participate in AUC hearings.

—Enable municipalities to be eligible to request cost recovery for participation.

—Allow municipalities to review rules related to municipal submission requirements while clarifying consultation requirements.

 

 

Ad for Ascent Dental in Pincher Creek

While not fully closing off any new applications for renewable energy projects from being submitted since last August, the Alberta government announced last week that it was ending a seven-month hold on their approvals, effective Feb. 29.

“Alberta is Canada’s leader in renewable energy. In fact, as much as 92 per cent of the renewables investment in Canada that happened in 2023 happened in Alberta,” Premier Danielle Smith said at a Feb. 28 news conference.

“Our unique deregulated electricity market and competitive tax mean we are Canada’s hub for investment, but growing our renewable energy industry must happen in well-defined and responsible ways. That wasn’t happening.”

But, although it lifted the moratorium, the province also announced a new set of guidelines that the industry will need to follow moving forward.

While the list of new rules is fairly lengthy, there were some points that stood out after the release of the AUC’s Module A Report.

Leading the most notable is a decision to not allow any future developments on Class 1 and 2 lands unless the proponent (applicant) can demonstrate the ability for crops and/or livestock to coexist with the project.

Class 1 is defined as “soils with no significant limitations in use for crops” while Class 2 is “soils with moderate limitations that restrict the range of crops or require moderate conservation practices.”

“Our goal is to ensure that Alberta’s electricity grid is reliable, affordable and sustainable for future generations to come,” said Affordability and Utilities Minister Nathan Neudorf in his statement to reporters.

“However, the rapid, unrestricted growth [of renewable energy projects] raised concerns that needed to be addressed. As a responsible government, we will not kick that can down the road for someone to deal with. We are committed to a clear and responsible path forward for energy development.”

But, Alberta’s Opposition NDP critic for energy, Nagwan Al-Guneid, is questioning why the process for approving applications was stopped back in August.

 

Ad for Shadowbar Shepherds Training in Pincher Creek

 

“Government must always improve regulations. This is their duty. This is their job. They did not need to impose a seven-month moratorium,” Al-Guneid said to Shootin’ the Breeze.

“That’s sending a chilling message to global investors and it was done without zero consultation to renewable energy companies and the generators, as well. It’s unacceptable to treat big companies trying to invest here in Alberta,” Al-Guneid said.

“This is a dent in our investment reputation.”

When asked if there was anything she felt was good in the new regulations, the MLA for Calgary-Glenmore termed the guidelines as very vague.

“I think the vague was more than clear, to be honest with you. So, pristine viewscapes … I think that was extremely confusing. What does that even mean?”

Among the projects impacted by the pause were proposals involving wind, solar, geothermal, hydro or bio-gas technologies.

With the new regulations, the province has pledged to establish the tools necessary to ensure Alberta’s native grasslands, irrigable and productive lands continue to be available for agricultural production.

Municipalities, such as the MD of Pincher Creek, will have more active engagement in the permitting process, with the automatic right to participate in AUC hearings and eligibility to request cost recovery for participating.

“You know, it addresses some of our concerns,” Reeve Dave Cox responded.

“We have a concern about taking our agricultural land out of production. We also have a concern about accountability after the life of a project ends.”

 

 

In its reclamation component, the province stated that developers will be responsible for the eventual cleanup, either through a bond or security.

The reeve said he’s waiting for more details about proposed buffer zones that will be established around protected areas and other pristine viewscapes — that determination to be made by the government.

“I think it’s actually a pretty important first step to resolving some of these land use conflicts that exist in our area,” said Bobbi Lambright, communications co-ordinator with the Livingstone Landowners Group.

“As an organization, we’ve obviously been really concerned about things like our watershed management, native prairie preservation … even our very iconic scenic and recreational landscapes, and one of the challenges that I think we’ve been experiencing over the last number of years has been the concentration of proposed development in this area.”

Lambright, though, is not singling out just renewable energy or coal mining per se.

“There really isn’t a clear land use policy guideline. There’s been lots of work done on it, but projects seem to be addressed one by one.”

In August, when it was decided to hold off on approving any new projects, Premier Danielle Smith said there were 13 projects in the queue — that figure last week, she said, had doubled to 26.

“We need to ensure we’re not sacrificing our future agricultural yields, or tourism dollars, or breathtaking viewscapes to rush renewable developments through,” she added.

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Below is a summary of policy changes unveiled in the AUC’s Module A report, released Feb. 28:

Agricultural lands

—The AUC will take an “agriculture first” approach when evaluating the best use of agricultural lands proposed for renewables development.

—Alberta will no longer permit renewable generation developments on Class 1 and 2 lands unless the proponent can demonstrate the ability for crops and/or livestock to coexist with the renewable generation project.

—Alberta’s government will establish the tools necessary to ensure Alberta’s native grasslands, irrigable and productive lands continue to be available for agricultural production.

Reclamation security

—Developers will be responsible for reclamation costs via bond or security. The reclamation costs will either be provided directly to the Alberta government or may be negotiated with landowners if sufficient evidence is provided to the AUC.

Viewscapes

—Buffer zones of a minimum of 35 kilometres will be established around protected areas and other “pristine viewscapes” as designated by the province.

—New wind projects will no longer be permitted within those buffer zones.

—Other proposed developments located within the buffer zone may be subject to a visual impact assessment before approval.

Crown lands

—Meaningful engagement will be required before any policy changes for projects on Crown land and would not come into effect until late 2025.

—Any development of renewable development on Crown lands will be on a case-by-case basis.

Transmission regulation

—Changes to Alberta’s Transmission Regulation are expected in the coming months as the engagement process continues. Renewable projects should expect changes in how transmission costs are allocated.

Municipalities

—Automatically grant municipalities the right to participate in AUC hearings.

—Enable municipalities to be eligible to request cost recovery for participation.

—Allow municipalities to review rules related to municipal submission requirements while clarifying consultation requirements.

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Ad for Dragons Heart Quilt Shop in Pincher Creek
Leave a Reply
Ad for Sara Hawthorn, Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass realtor