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Alberta's moratorium on renewable energy projects 'large mistake': national advocate

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The Alberta government faced criticism Friday for its decision to pause renewable energy projects in the province for six months.

The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) issued a moratorium Thursday on the approval of wind and solar projects greater than one megawatt until the end of February, and will review policies and procedures for renewable electricity generation development.

Nathan Neudorf, Alberta's minister of affordability and utilities, said in a government statement Thursday the decision to halt them was made to "provide future renewable investments with the certainty and clarity required for long-term development.”

The statement also said the move to issue the moratorium came as a result of a letter from the AUC and from concerns expressed by municipalities and landowners.

An advocate for renewable energy, however, said the announcement — which she said came as a surprise and was thrust upon the industry at the last minute — is misguided and will have negative implications on the Alberta economy.

"This was, in my opinion, a large mistake and it could be costly for Alberta communities expecting revenue from these projects, for Alberta investors who are now going to have to look to other jurisdictions and for Alberta consumers who have an expectation that their electricity prices will be affordable," the Canadian Renewable Energy Association's Vittoria Bellissimo told CTV News Edmonton on Friday.

Bellissimo, president and chief executive officer of the national advocate for wind, solar and energy solutions, said Neudorf consulted with her group about the move but not until "it was going live, which is very unfortunate."

"We didn't have an opportunity to affect change, which is very disappointing," she said.

If Neudorf had an opportunity to listen to what the industry is already achieving for the establishment of further renewable energy projects, Bellissimo said "it would have been a different story."

"Alberta has been a very good news place for renewables," she said. "Seventy-five per cent of all the renewable (projects) built in Canada last year were built in Alberta, so anything to stifle investment in this industry is a bad news story."

Neudorf said he didn't meet with industry before the announcement because of scheduling problems.

With few regulatory barriers to entry and abundant wind and sunshine, Alberta has been a leader in renewable energy development in Canada. In 2022, 17 per cent of its power came from wind and solar - exceeding the province's 15 per cent goal.

There are another 15 renewable energy projects before the Alberta Utilities Commission and more than 90 in various stages of development. Since 2019, corporate renewable energy deals in Alberta have supported nearly $4.7 billion in new capital investment and provided 5,300 jobs.

That boom has created concern in rural communities where wind and solar farms get built.

Paul McLauchlin of Rural Municipalities Alberta said his members have too many abandoned wells and other oil and gas infrastructure on their land to take chances on a new industry that's still getting established.

Bellissimo said while the concerns expressed are valid and that the renewables industry "is working hard" to alleviate concerns, "none of what is happening right now warrants a blanket moratorium on approval."

"The wind continues to blow, the sun continues to shine, and landowners really are in a position to make the contracts that they want and negotiate the language they want," she said. "The timing of this could not be worse."

With files from The Canadian Press 

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