CALGARY — The Alberta Utilities Commission says it will continue to accept and process applications for renewable energy developments in the province, even in the face of a seven-month government-imposed moratorium.
The regulator issued a release this week clarifying how it intends to implement the UCP government's announced seven-month pause on wind and solar energy development in the province.
While no approvals will be issued until the moratorium is lifted, the AUC said it will continue to process existing and new applications during the pause period.
It said its decision to interpret the moratorium in this way came after receiving more than 600 submissions from stakeholders since the Alberta government first announced the renewables pause on Aug. 3.
Alberta's move to pause renewables development, which has attracted international media attention, is intended to give the regulator time to hold an inquiry on how the rapid pace of renewable energy development in the province is affecting agricultural land and system reliability, as well as what plans are in place for reclamation of wind and solar projects.
However, Premier Danielle Smith has faced criticism for announcing the moratorium with no advance notice and without consulting stakeholders, jeopardizing billions of dollars in potential investment in renewables.
On Wednesday, the Business Renewables Centre-Canada said that by choosing to continue accepting and processing applications during the pause period, the Alberta Utilities Commission is signalling to the market that it understands the severity of the market risk introduced by the moratorium.
"In the absence of the Alberta government removing the moratorium, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) took the least worst option," said Jordan Dye, acting director of BRC-Canada, in a news release.
With few regulatory barriers to entry and abundant wind and sunshine, Alberta has been a leader in renewable energy development in Canada. Last year, 17 per cent of its power came from wind and solar — exceeding the province's 15 per cent goal.
There are 15 new renewable energy projects before the province's utilities commission for approval right now, and more than 90 in various stages of development.
According to BRC-Canada, corporate renewable energy deals in Alberta have supported nearly $4.7 billion in new capital investment and provided 5,300 jobs since 2019.
The UCP moratorium on renewable energy project approvals applies to all wind and solar projects greater than one megawatt in size. The moratorium is intended to last until Feb. 29, 2024.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 23, 2023.
Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press