Canada’s oil-rich Alberta curbs new wind, solar projects


Canada’s oil-rich Alberta curbs new wind, solar projects

by AFP Staff Writers

Ottawa (AFP) Feb 28, 2024

Oil-rich Alberta on Wednesday unveiled new rules for renewable energy projects, effectively banning wind and solar on large swaths of agricultural lands and in areas that could obstruct the majestic Rocky Mountain views the Canadian province is known for.

The region, known for sunshine and strong winds, has led Canada in renewable energy development, home to nearly Can$5 billion (US$3.7 billion) in new capital investment since 2019, according to the Pembina Institute, a nonprofit focused on the energy sector.

Before announcing Wednesday’s rules, the government of Alberta had already come under fire for pausing all new projects over the past six months while it assessed their reliability and impacts on the landscape and power grid.

Critics said that risked a chill on investment, which the local government rejected. The move also challenged the federal government’s ambitions for a net-zero power grid by 2035.

At a news conference in Edmonton, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said that moratorium would be lifted on March 1, while announcing new regulations on the sector going forward.

She said new projects will not be permitted on prime agricultural lands — about 28 million acres — unless the landowner can show that turbines or panels can coexist alongside crops or livestock.

There will also be a 35-kilometer (22-mile) buffer around some viewscapes. These areas were not immediately defined, but views of the Rocky Mountains, protected environmental areas and other “beautiful natural features” were touted by officials as examples.

“We need to ensure that we’re not sacrificing our future agricultural yields or tourism dollars or breathtaking viewscapes to rush renewables development through,” Smith said.

Alberta produces more than 80 percent of Canada’s total oil output, and generates most of its electricity from natural gas.

Smith said it will have to double its baseload power generation by 2050 to meet soaring demand.

Alberta and neighboring Saskatchewan, both led by conservative governments that have clashed with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s liberals over climate policies, have called the 2035 target for a net-zero power grid unrealistic and are aiming instead for 2050.

According to the Pembina Institute, 64 companies and partnerships with plans for 118 projects in Alberta worth over Can$33 billion had been left hanging by the moratorium.

Alberta Utilities Minister Nathan Neudorf said on Wednesday there are currently 26 renewable projects awaiting approval.

He added that, despite the moratorium, Alberta accounted for 92 percent of all new renewable energy and energy storage projects in Canada last year.

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