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Pause on renewables projects to lift at month's end as planned

Alberta's seven-month moratorium on approving wind and solar power projects will end on Feb. 29, 2024, according to Premier Danielle Smith. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Alberta's seven-month moratorium on approving wind and solar power projects will end on Feb. 29, 2024, according to Premier Danielle Smith. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The Alberta government's seven-month moratorium on approving wind and solar power projects will end on Feb. 29 as planned.

Premier Danielle Smith confirmed the date on Monday in Ottawa.

"We are the destination for solar and wind investment in the country," Smith said.

"We want to continue to be the leader, in adding a responsible amount of wind and solar onto our grid. But people need to remember what happened in the middle of the month when it was -35, in some cases -61 with the wind chill. At 5 o'clock at night, there was zero solar and there was seven megawatts of wind blowing."

She said reliability and affordability are the top priorities for the government when it comes to electricity.

In August, the provincial government announced the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), the agency which evaluates and approves electricity generation projects, would hold an inquiry on land use and reclamation.

As the commission conducts its work — with its report due at the end of February — officials paused power plant project approvals for wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydroelectric generators.

The pause surprised renewables developers and was criticized by environmental groups. The Pembina Institute, a green energy think tank, said the pause would put at risk billions of dollars in investment and tens of thousands of jobs.

But a number of farmers and rural municipalities welcomed the decision, hoping the commission's review would examine their concerns with the immediate and long-term impact of renewables infrastructure.

To that end, the commission is to report back to government on how to foster an orderly development of renewable power in the province, considering the effects on agricultural, recreational and Crown land.

The report is also to look at whether developers should pay a security to account for future site cleanup costs.