14 Sep Alberta’s Renewables are on Hold: Utilities Commission Sets Path Forward to Gather Input
As has been widely reported, in early August, the Government of Alberta (GOA) unexpectedly placed a moratorium on the issuance of approvals for hydro developments and power plants producing renewable electric until February 29, 2024. This was accomplished by passage of the Generation Approvals Pause Regulation.
In addition, the GOA issued an Order-in-Council ordering the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) to conduct an inquiry into the “ongoing economic, orderly and efficient development and operation, in the public interest, of electricity generation in Alberta, in accordance with the terms of reference [set out in the order]”. The terms of reference for the inquiry are:
- considerations on development of power plants on specific types or classes of agricultural or environmental land;
- considerations of the impact of power plant development on Alberta’s pristine viewscapes;
- considerations of implementing mandatory reclamation security requirements for power plants;
- considerations for development of power plants on lands held by the Crown in Right of Alberta; and
- considerations of the impact the increasing growth of renewables has to both generation supply mix and electricity system reliability.
The AUC has been ordered to submit a report to the Minister of Affordability and Utilities no later than March 29, 2024. The report is to “make findings or provide observations or considerations for options, as it deems appropriate, based on its analysis of the evidence received during the inquiry and in accordance with these terms of reference”.
The AUC’s Response to the Approval Moratorium
After a brief public consultation, the AUC has announced its process for reviewing applications during the approval moratorium. The AUC has indicated that it will continue to process existing applications (filed before August 3, 2023) and new applications (filed between August 3, 2023 and February 29, 2024) but no approvals will be issued until the moratorium ends.
In order to address the concerns that were raised by the GOA in its Order-in-Council, the AUC has developed interim information requirements (which are in addition to the usual Rule 007 application requirements). New applicants will be subject to the interim information requirements whereas existing applicants may or may not be required to respond to the interim information requirements at the discretion of the AUC.
The interim information requirements are set out in AUC’s Bulletin 2023-05 as follows:
- Using the current version of the Agricultural Regions of Alberta Soil Inventory Database (AGRASID), please describe the agricultural capability of soils intersecting the project footprint as provided in the spring-seeded small grains (“SSSGRAIN”) attribute of the Land Suitability Rating System (“LandSuitabilityRatings”) table. SSSGRAIN provides the Land Suitability Rating System (LSRS) classification for spring-seeded small grains for the related AGRASID soil polygons. Provide a table showing the amount of area for each LSRS class impacted by the project in hectares (e.g. 2.01 hectares of Class 2A).
- From the Agricultural Regions of Alberta Soil Inventory Database (AGRASID), please describe all soil series within the project area and report all potential material impacts to:
- Soil quality (i.e. compaction, rutting, salinity, sodicity, fertility, contamination, clubroot)
- Soil quantity (i.e. wind erosion, water erosion)
- Hydrology (i.e. topography, soil drainage, depth to groundwater)
Describe how these material impacts to soil quality, quantity and hydrology will be
adequately mitigated during construction, operation and reclamation.
- Describe all earthworks (e.g., stripping and grading) planned for the project, including the
- Methodology to anchor structures (e.g. screw piles, concrete footings, etc.).
- The extent of stripping and grading, with an estimate of the area of agricultural land impacted.
- Description of how these activities have been reduced in both extent and intensity (as practical) to protect the quality, quantity and hydrology of impacted soils.
- Description of how and where stripped soils will be stockpiled and what steps will be taken to preserve the quality and quantity of stockpiled soils prior to replacement on site.
- Description of how soils will be replaced on site to preserve the quality, quantity and hydrology of the disturbed soils.
- Describe the potential for co-locating agricultural activities (e.g. grazing, haying, crops, apiculture) into the project design. If co-locating agricultural activities is not feasible, please explain why.
- List the qualifications of the agrologist(s) who prepared or reviewed the responses regarding agricultural land.
Municipal land use
- Confirm whether the proposed power plant complies with the applicable municipal planning documents including municipal development plans, area structure plans, land use by-laws and other municipal by-laws.
- Identify any instances where the proposed power plant does not comply with applicable municipal planning documents and provide a justification for any non-compliance.
- Describe how the applicant engaged with potentially affected municipalities to modify the proposed power plant or to mitigate any of its potential adverse impacts to the municipality, prior to
List and describe pristine viewscapes (including national parks, provincial parks, culturally significant areas, and areas used for recreation and tourism) on which the project will be imposed. Describe mitigation measures available to minimize impacts from the project on these viewscapes.
Describe the reclamation security program for the proposed power plant, including details on:
- The standard to which the project site will be reclaimed to upon decommissioning.
- How the amount of the reclamation security will be calculated.
- The frequency with which the reclamation security amount will be updated or re-assessed.
- When the reclamation security will be in place to be drawn upon, if needed.
- What form the reclamation security will take (e.g., letter of credit, surety bond, other).
- The security beneficiaries to whom the reclamation security will be committed.
- How the beneficiary can access the security and any constraints on such access.filing the application.
The AUC’s Process for the Inquiry
The AUC has divided its inquiry process into two modules. Module A will explore land impacts issues:
- power plant development impact on specific types or classes of agricultural or environmental land;
- power plant development impact on pristine viewscapes;
- implementing mandatory reclamation security requirements for power plants; and
- power plant development on Crown lands.
Module B will consider the impact that increasing growth of renewables has to both generation supply mix and electricity system reliability.
While details are still forthcoming, the preliminary schedule for the Module A inquiry includes opportunities for written and oral submissions, as well the opportunity to respond to expert reports which are being commissioned by the AUC. Additional detail and information will be published on the AUC’s eFiling System which can be accessed here. It should be noted that if a person or organization has not previously used the eFiling System, they must set up an account (at no charge, using their email address).
|AUC notice with additional updates/participant information||Mid-September|
|Oral submissions (in-person)||Late October to mid-November|
|Written submissions||Mid to late November|
|Reply submissions||Early December|
(by invitation on pre-filed submissions)
|Deadline to submit report to the Minister of Affordability and Utilities||March 29, 2024|
At this time, there is no preliminary scheduling or detail for the Module B inquiry.
 Generation Approvals Pause Regulation, A.R. 108/2023, online: https://kings-printer.alberta.ca/documents/Regs/2023_108.pdf.
 Province of Alberta, O.C. 171/2023 (August 2, 2023), online: https://kings-printer.alberta.ca/documents/Orders/Orders_in_Council/2023/2023_171.pdf.
 Alberta Utilities Commission, Announcement: AUC to launch inquiry, implement pause on approvals for new renewable electricity generation (August 3, 2023) and Alberta Utilities Commission, Announcement: Update to AUC application review process during approval pause period (August 22, 2023).
 Alberta Utilities Commission, Rule 007: Applications for Power Plants, Substations, Transmission Lines, Industrial System Designations, Hydro Developments and Gas Utility Pipelines (March 18, 2022), online: https://www.auc.ab.ca/rule-007/.
 Alberta Utilities Commission, Bulletin 2023-05: Interim Rule 007 information requirements (September 6, 2023).
 Alberta Utilities Commission, Announcement: Update to AUC application review process during approval pause period (August 22, 2023).
 Alberta Utilities Commission, Bulletin 2023-05: Interim Rule 007 information requirements (September 6, 2023) at pages 1 to 3.
 Alberta Utilities Commission, Bulletin 2023-06: AUC inquiry into the ongoing economic, orderly and efficient development of electricity generation in Alberta (September 11, 2023).Share this: