New ELC Publication – Here Comes the Sun: Solar Law in Alberta


New ELC Publication – Here Comes the Sun: Solar Law in Alberta

New ELC Publication –
Here Comes the Sun: Solar Law in Alberta

 

Here Comes the Sun: Solar Law in Alberta by Rebecca Kauffman

The ELC is pleased to announce the publication of Here Comes the Sun: Solar Law in Alberta which summarizes the legal landscape in Alberta as it relates to solar energy. This report was conceived of in a world where advances in solar energy are a near-daily headline. For example, when drafting this blog, the headlines of the past few weeks included – “Solar power in Australia outstrips coal-fired electricity for first time”, “Dawson City, Yukon will soon harness the midnight sun”, and “Alberta solar projects raise tensions over agricultural land use.” Clearly, solar is on people’s minds. Further, harnessing solar energy is key to mitigating the production of greenhouse gas emissions, making the legal and policy context of solar energy development a foundational pillar to address climate change.  In recognition of this, Here Comes the Sun provides a review of the existing regulatory framework for solar energy in Alberta.

Part 1 of this report highlights the relevance of solar as a response to our energy needs and the need to mitigate our greenhouse gas emissions from energy production. Part 2 identifies the relevant regulatory framework at play in Alberta. Part 3 highlights select jurisdictional approaches that can shed some light on how Alberta can move forward to increase solar energy production and Part 4 identifies several policy and regulatory recommendations to help solar become a central pillar of Alberta’s energy system.

Solar energy makes up a small but growing proportion of Alberta’s electricity grid. For example, according to Major Projects Alberta[1] there are more than 20 major solar projects currently in the works.[2] If we want our law and policy framework to keep up with these advancements, reforms are needed. Specifically, there is the need to ensure law and policy are aligned to overcome barriers to adoption of solar energy. These barriers and recommended policy responses and set out in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Barriers to the efficient adoption of solar energy and policy responses for Alberta

Barrier Regulatory or policy response
Conflicting land use priorities Integrated planning for renewable development
Legal uncertainty around access to light

Solar easements

Integrated planning for renewable development

Solar covenants for new development

Solar readiness of building stock

Building code reform

Municipal bylaws

Load and storage challenges Integrated renewable planning
Financial impediments

Policy support for community and coop generation

Reforming the Municipal Government Act to streamline the property assessed clean energy programs (Alberta’s clean energy improvement tax)

Feed-in tariff, renewable portfolio standard and other large-scale incentives

The ELC’s recommended approach is focused on minimizing conflict and risk associated with solar developments both at a utility and a micro scale, increasing standards for solar readiness, and creating a supportive policy environment for community based solar, coop solar and the increased adoption of solar projects on built infrastructure.

Throughout this report, we also strive to highlight the need for action now. With climate change effects already upon us, it is past time for aggressive action. Climate change is already occurring and if we are going to make it to our legislative goal of net-zero by 2050, not to mention keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, change needs to happen, and fast, and solar needs to be one part of this puzzle.[3]

In conjunction with this report, the ELC has released three supplementary guides. These topical guides are designed to help Albertans get more involved in solar energy.

So you want to Start A Solar Coop
So, you want to Lease Your Condo Roof to a Solar Company
So, you want to Lease Your Property to a Solar Company

While these documents do not replace independent legal advice, they can help individuals, companies, and condo boards decide if their property is right for solar energy. Although solar leases and co-ops have yet to be widely adopted and utilized in Alberta, they can be a key part of society’s move to renewable energy. These guides highlight key considerations in pursuing opportunities for solar energy production in various ways, all of which will need to be deployed to get to our climate change mitigation goals.

Join us for a zoom webinar October 13, 2021
Join us for a zoom webinar hosted by the Environmental Law Centre.
In this webinar, we will take a look at our report Here Comes the Sun and facilitate a discussion about solar energy in Alberta.
When: October 13 2021 11:00 AM Mountain Time
Topic: Here Comes the Sun: Solar Law in Alberta with the ELC’s Rebecca Kauffman

Register in advance for this webinar:
https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Vxk6gwC4QK6UXhQZV10S1g
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
Here Comes the Sun: Solar Law in Alberta by Rebecca Kauffman

 

[1] In order to qualify as a ‘major project’, projects must be valued at $5 million or greater.

[2] Government of Alberta, “Alberta Major Projects” online: https://majorprojects.alberta.ca/#/?type=Power_Solar&includeNoEstimates=1.

[3] Bill C-12, An Act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada’s efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050, 2nd Sess, 43rd Parl, 2021 (as passed by the House of Commons 29 June 2021).

 


ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CENTRE:

The Environmental Law Centre (ELC) has been seeking strong and effective environmental laws since it was founded in 1982. The ELC is dedicated to providing credible, comprehensive and objective legal information regarding natural resources, energy and environmental law, policy and regulation in Alberta. The ELC’s mission is to advocate for laws that will sustain ecosystems and ensure a healthy environment and to engage citizens in the laws’ creation and enforcement. Our vision is a society where our laws secure an environment that sustains current and future generations and supports ecosystem health.

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