Alberta is a global leader in responsible energy development and leads the country in renewable energy projects and investment. With a competitive tax system, unique deregulated electricity market and the government’s commitment to reducing economic barriers, Alberta remains a destination of choice for all investors.

Alberta municipalities and landowners have been raising concerns about the rapid growth of renewable energy projects. Investors were also seeking clarification on rules for project development. To address these concerns, Alberta’s government introduced a short pause on final approvals for large renewable energy projects so the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) could conduct an inquiry and issue a report. This pause on final approvals will lift on Feb. 29.

“Alberta has led the country in renewable energy investment, and we will continue to lead the country. At the same time, we must grow our renewable energy industry in well-defined and responsible ways. The past months have enabled us to do the work that we need to do to ensure that the standards we have in place serve Albertans best while continuing to guarantee the affordability and reliability of our electricity grid.”

Danielle Smith, Premier

With the pause lifting as the Generation Approvals Pause Regulation expires, Minister of Affordability and Utilities Nathan Neudorf has sent a letter to the AUC to provide policy guidance based on the first report (Module A) it submitted to government. Once the minister has reviewed the AUC’s second report, Module B, a new letter will be sent to the commission with additional policy direction.

“Thank you to everyone who provided their input throughout the inquiry. I am confident that this process has provided the clarity needed for the future. We are committed to continue listening to Albertans on this issue as we set a clear and responsible path forward for energy development.”

Nathan Neudorf, Minister of Affordability and Utilities

Alberta’s government remains committed to ensuring Albertans have an electricity grid that is reliable, affordable and sustainable. Renewable energy projects will continue to be an important part of the province’s electricity generation mix and the government remains committed to the security of the electricity grid. The work done by the AUC lays the groundwork for new government policy so investors, municipalities and landowners alike can rely on clear and consistent rules when it comes to responsible land development.

“We would like to thank the Government of Alberta for taking action to address the energy needs of Alberta while protecting property rights, native grasslands ecosystem and the interests of agricultural producers. An ‘agriculture first’ approach supports the rural economy and conserves grasslands, preventing the release of the several million tonnes of stored carbon and allowing wildlife, including species at risk, to thrive. These changes will bring security to landowners and rural communities.”

Brodie Haugan, chair, Alberta Beef Producers

“We believe this announcement is a very balanced and thoughtful approach to long-term sustainable renewable development in Alberta. We greatly appreciate the province and Minister Neudorf’s willingness to listen to concerns brought forward by our residents and feel the policy changes being announced will help create ‘win-win’ opportunities for our municipality, our residents, and for developers. Wind and solar has become a very large part of Vulcan County, and we look forward to seeing what the future holds.”

Jason Schneider, reeve, Vulcan County

“This announcement shows a recognition by the Government of Alberta that a strategic approach to growing the renewables sector will best position the industry for long-term success and provide maximum benefit to all Albertans. While many of the details are still to be determined, RMA is cautiously optimistic that this approach will reduce conflicts between renewable projects, local land use plans and agricultural land preservation, and ensure that project owners are responsible for decommissioning and reclamation costs. RMA also appreciates the changes to the AUC project approval process to ensure municipal involvement, as this will help to allow for local project risks and benefits to be properly considered by the AUC when reviewing new project applications.”

Paul McLaughlin, president, Rural Municipalities of Alberta, and reeve, Ponoka County

“With the new policy changes, I’m encouraged to see how they have created some common ground and continue to recognize the importance of agriculture in Alberta. They seem to have realized the need for more of a both/and approach to renewable energy development alongside maintaining primary agriculture production, which is the essence of agrivoltaics. This approach can also bode well for regenerating soil health in the province, ensuring we can maintain the production of food calories per acre while producing renewable energy calories on the same land.”

Jason Bradley, president, Regenerat8ve Ag Inc.

Summary of policy changes from the AUC’s Module A Report

  • 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 both 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.

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