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Poll suggests two-thirds of Albertans oppose pause on renewable energy approvals

Solar panels pictured at the Michichi Solar project near Drumheller, Alta., Tuesday, July 11, 2023.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh Solar panels pictured at the Michichi Solar project near Drumheller, Alta., Tuesday, July 11, 2023.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

A poll released Thursday suggests nearly two-thirds of Albertans oppose the provincial government's moratorium on approvals for new renewable energy projects.

"This poll clearly demonstrates that a strong majority of Alberta residents do not support the Alberta government’s ill-conceived ban on new renewable energy projects," said Angela McIntyre, director of the Calgary Climate Hub, which commissioned the poll from Leger.

In late August, the United Conservative Party government brought in a six-month pause for new wind and solar power projects to receive approval from the Alberta Utilities Commission.

The province's renewables industry has been booming and the government said the pause was necessary to ensure land-use and reclamation concerns were taken into account as it grows.

It also said the pause was requested by Rural Municipalities Alberta, which represents counties and municipal districts. That group has said it didn't ask for a pause, although it supports one.

The online poll surveyed 1,000 Albertans between Aug. 25 and 27.

It offered four choices — whether they thought the pause was definitely needed, probably needed, definitely not needed or probably not needed. It found 65 per cent of respondents chose one of the last two options.

The figure was slightly higher in Edmonton and Calgary and slightly lower in rural areas — although 57 per cent of those outside the two big cities still agreed the pause wasn't needed.

Responses were almost uniform across most demographic groups, income and education levels. College-educated respondents were more in favour of the pause than high school or university graduates, with 42 per cent saying the pause was at least probably needed.

The polling industry's professional body, the Canadian Research Insights Council, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

The pause has been widely criticized as unnecessary and a stumbling block that threatens billions of dollars of investment in what has been a booming industry for Alberta.

Minister of Affordability and Utilities Nathan Neudorf has said no projects are being cancelled and only 13 projects before the Alberta Utilities Commission are directly affected by the pause.

But a clean energy think tank said that doesn't include all the projects currently at some point in the regulatory process or proposal stage.

The Pembina Institute said the pause is affecting 118 projects worth $33 billion of investment. It said those projects would create enough jobs to keep 24,000 people working for a year and represent what could be $263 million in local taxes and leases for landowners in 27 municipalities.

The poll follows a previous Leger survey that suggested 57 per cent of Albertans were at least somewhat in favour of some kind of national cap on carbon emissions from the oil and gas sector.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2023. Top Stories

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