Alberta led the way in renewable energy development in 2023 accounting for more than 92 per cent of Canada’s overall growth, according to industry data released last month by the Canadian Renewable Energy Association (CanREA).
CanREA says the province saw growth across both solar and wind, adding a total of 2.2 GW installed capacity.
The numbers come as Alberta prepares to end a pause on new renewable energy projects that was implemented last August.
The province said the ban, which impacted all projects larger than one megawatt, was necessary to allow the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) to review policies and procedures for the development of renewable electricity generation.
“This approach is in direct response to a letter received from the AUC and concerns raised from municipalities and landowners related to responsible land use and the rapid pace of renewables development,” the province said in an August news release announcing the pause.
The commission delivered the first phase of its report to the province at the end of January.
On Feb. 5, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith announced the ban would not be extended past the original end date of Feb. 29.
The pause left many in the industry waiting for more details on the future of renewable energy in Alberta.
“There was no warning, it came out of left field and stopped in our tracks everything we were doing. We were a week or two away from launching a solar project in Alberta,” said Don Pettit of Peace Energy Cooperative.
Pettit says his company has a five-megawatt solar farm planned for the peace region.
“We’ve spent three and a half years getting ready to do this. We’re not going to disappear any time soon. If we have to pivot the project to some other province or some other project, well then we’ll have to.”
Experts say Peace Energy Cooperative isn’t the only business exploring other options.
“This has started companies looking in other jurisdictions when it wasn’t on their radar before because there was opportunity in Alberta,” said Jordan Dye of Business Renewables Centre Canada (BRCC).
BRCC estimates renewable purchase agreements in Alberta brought in $6.4 billion last year.
It also led to the creation of 6,313 jobs, and produced enough energy to power 1.7 million homes.
Dye says he’s hoping to see the playing field levelled for renewable energy projects in the final AUC report.
“Fairness and certainty – we cannot continue to see the renewable energy singled out and treated differently than other forms of energy in the province.”
CanREA says the pause will have limited impacts on Alberta’s renewable energy sector growth for 2024, because most anticipated projects are already under construction, but the effects will be felt in 2025.
“While Alberta has led the country in renewables growth for several years, its progress in the near future will depend on a stable and supportive investment and policy climate, to compete with other provinces that are now looking to scale up significantly in renewables,” CanREA said.
In a statement, Alberta’s minister of affordability and utilities says the province is committed to ensuring success in the sector.
“I am confident that the pause will provide clarity for our partners in the renewable energy space, ensuring that Alberta remains a leader in renewable energy projects while meeting the needs and concerns of Albertans going forward,” Nathan Neudorf wrote.
The final phase of the AUC report is due March 29.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Chelan Skulski
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