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Pause on renewables development addressing rural concerns: MLA Hunter

Posted on September 20, 2023 by Sunny South News
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By Trevor Busch
Sunny South News

The province’s six-month moratorium on renewable energy projects has proven to be a controversial move for the UCP as they continue to defend the action, pointing to rural concerns about development of agricultural land, reclamation security and system reliability.

Announced on Aug. 3, critics of the moratorium say it will cost millions in lost investment revenue and casts a chilling pall over the further development of Alberta’s renewables industry.

Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter argues his government isn’t against renewable energy, and that the moratorium is about determining shortcomings in existing legislation and ensuring development isn’t detrimental to other industries, like agriculture.

“We don’t have any regulations that are providing us with understanding how to move forward in a responsible way. And so we took the pause for six months to be able to actually get those regulations and policies in place, so that all stakeholders can be assured about the rules and the regulations and how to be able to move forward. We did not expect to have so much interest in renewables, and so we weren’t really prepared for it. And this has provided us with that opportunity be able to be prepared for for that search. In terms of how much has been the surge? Well, right now, we have 23,000 megawatts of renewable projects that are in the hopper waiting to be addressed. And so to put that in perspective, right now in Alberta we have about 18,000 megawatts of electricity use. So you can see that there’s been real interest. We’re excited about the interest in it. We’re excited about the investment, the jobs, we just need to make sure that we get it right.”

Implemented through the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), the moratorium applies to approvals for wind and solar projects greater than one megawatt, and the AUC is initiating an inquiry into issues surrounding development on agricultural land, project aesthetics, reclamation, the role of municipalities and system reliability.

Although many in the renewables industry and more urban environments in Alberta have been opposed to the moratorium, in rural southern Alberta there has been a somewhat different narrative with some municipalities welcoming the pause.

“Yes, they have, and they want to understand their relationship as well in this, so where they play their role,” said Hunter. “And I think that it’s important to make sure that we have that right as well. But there’s also other stakeholders and other interested parties as well, that need to be heard. And so we need to make sure that those interested parties, whether it be landowners, or counties, that their concerns are addressed as well. For instance, when you start building a big project, like a solar array, or a big wind project, there’s lots of traffic on the roads. So that’s something that counties would be concerned about. If there is concerns with landowners, neighbours, we want to make sure that they have the proper tools to be able to address these issues that they might have as well. So there’s just so many things that have to be really worked through, that we just were not prepared for. And so we just need to make sure that we’ve got it right. We’ve crossed all of our T’s and dotted all of our I’s.”

In 2022, 17 per cent of Alberta’s power was generated through wind and solar, outpacing the province’s 15 per cent goal. Since 2019, corporate renewable energy deals have represented a $4.7 billion injection of investment into Alberta and provided 5,300 jobs.

Hunter was unable to comment on whether the moratorium has impacted any projects in the riding that may have been on the launch pad.

“But I will say that any project that has been approved is not affected by this moratorium.”

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