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Alberta’s wind and solar industry is an unqualified success, one that’s leading the country in new installations, attracting billions of dollars in investment and creating thousands of new jobs. Those new wind and solar farms produce electricity that’s cost-competitive with natural gas even before the carbon price is factored in, and those costs are expected to be significantly cheaper than gas-fired power by 2030. And for some reason, a provincial government that prides itself on putting jobs and the economy above all other considerations is deliberately slamming the brakes on this industry’s growth.

On Thursday, the United Conservative Party announced a six-month “pause” for all new renewable projects over one megawatt. This was presented as a way to “create certainty” for project developers and meet the needs of rural Alberta residents, who are apparently concerned about the pace of renewable development and its impact on agricultural land.

It also speaks to the way in which some Albertans, including the province’s own electricity regulator, have been caught out by the pace of renewable development. “A huge reason the AB govt and some stakeholders feel caught flat-footed on renewables growth is they were never led to believe the growth would happen,” University of Calgary economist Blake Shaffer tweeted. “AESO long-term outlooks have consistently under-forecast renewables growth in this province.” Indeed, the Alberta Electric System Operator, which oversees the province’s grid, predicted in 2021 that it would take until 2041 for Alberta to have 1,000 megawatts of solar power. Instead, it happened in 2022.

Most governments would consider this a good news story they could share with the world. That’s especially true for a government as reputationally challenged on climate and the environment as Alberta’s. And yet, that government — which finds the idea of slowing oil and gas development downright treasonous and believes the answer to climate change involves developing and exporting more fossil fuels as quickly as possible — seems determined to slow wind and solar’s roll.

As energy economist Andrew Leach quipped, “Renewables used to be expensive. Now they're cheap. Alberta has had to find new ways to stop them.”

Premier Danielle Smith’s hostility towards renewables is well-documented, and it was reflected in the conspicuous absence of the words “wind” and “solar” in her energy minister’s mandate letter (modular nuclear reactors, by comparison, were mentioned three separate times). But few people expected her government to actually halt development outright, and that list includes the people directly involved in the wind and solar industry. As the Globe and Mail’s Emma Graney reported, while Affordability and Utilities Minister Nathan Neudorf has met with “landowners, stakeholder groups, consumer advocates and power providers that rely heavily on natural gas,” he’s yet to meet with the Canadian Renewable Energy Association — you know, the group that actually advocates for the interests of wind and solar project developers.

What adds insult to this economic and environmental injury is the obvious hypocrisy at play here. In his remarks, Neudorf suggested one of the driving concerns behind the decision was the prospect of unfunded cleanup costs at the end of a solar or wind project’s life. “The sooner we can actually get those expectations clearly defined and outlined for what happens at the end of life and reclamation, who pays how much, the better,” he said.

This is the same government, remember, that has done nothing to address the growing inventory of unreclaimed oil and gas wells and oilsands tailings ponds that could cost as much as $260 billion to clean up. Oil and gas companies have paid less than $1 billion against this massive looming bill, and despite them posting record profits over the last year, the government appears poised to revive its “R-Star” plan to funnel billions of dollars in taxpayer money their way. There has, of course, never been a government-mandated pause on their activity while they get this far bigger house in order.

That this pause will depress investment in the same rural parts of Alberta that helped elect her government doesn’t seem to matter to Smith. Neither does the prospect of new jobs, additional investment or the positive impact that adding more electricity would have on Alberta’s record-high power prices. Binnu Jeyakumar, electricity director at the Pembina Institute, thinks the moratorium could impact 91 projects worth a combined $25 billion. “It creates uncertainty around future investments while adding unnecessary red tape to these projects.”

Everyone knew Danielle Smith was skeptical of wind and solar and their demonstrated ability to deliver low-cost, zero-carbon electricity. But few imagined she'd sacrifice jobs and investment in her own province to prevent it from being built.

In the end, it seems, these are all acceptable casualties in her ongoing war against wind and solar. If the NDP did this, of course, conservatives would be screaming to high heaven about the impact on the business community. But when it comes to energy policy in Alberta, there’s no hypocrisy too big or too obvious that can keep the UCP from rigging things in favour of the oil and gas industry.

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Alberta will increasingly be left behind the rest of the world. Smith and her big oil cronies will be coming to Ottawa with their hands outstretched demanding huge investments for carbon capture projects which are nothing more than a facade to allow them to extract oil and gas in increasing quantities.

Danielle Smith doesn't work for Alberta, she works for the oil and gas industry. Albertans should view this as a huge wake up call, but unfortunately they seem convinced only conservatives care about them.

Conservatives thrive on disinformation to make their followers believe they care about them, but the opposite is true. Their supporters just don't have the cognitive ability to factcheck or understand the real facts. It is pretty clear that the oil and gas sector has brainwashed their workers with disinformation and greenwashing.

Just take Pierre Poilievre as an example, a lot of empty talk, but zero action or policies to support the verbal diarrhea coming out of his mouth. Then his secret use of social media accounts to spread disinformation, misinformation with the only goal to get elected on a false platform. Then, ignore Canadians should they get elected to carry out their hidden agenda. We know Pee Pee has his own ties to the oil & gas sector.

So we are supposed to listen to a grown man that says 'pee pee"?

Kneejerk dismissal of all the the other statements in that commentary leads one to think you are oversensitive to criticism of conservatives. Now why is that?

"And for some reason, a provincial government that prides itself on putting jobs and the economy above all other considerations is deliberately slamming the brakes on this industry’s growth."

This is not a surprise, Albertans need to wake up and understand that Danielle Smith isn't there for the people, she is only there for the oil & gas sector. Basically, the oil & gas sector has planted one of its own into the political system to serve their needs. The sector has brainwashed and fear monger their workers into believing we are looking to throw them out of their jobs. The reality is, it is a transition from one energy source to another.

Oil and gas won't ever disappear, there are so many products that rely on oil, anything plastic, cell phones, adhesive as an example. It is true that not everything may be based on oil, but a lot is. The goal is to burn less to help climate change, cleaner air and reduce our greenhouse footprint.

The key word is fuel. Plastics and paints are not fuels, they are relatively small potato but useful oil products by volume compared to liquid petroleum fuel, and you don't burn them.

So why is Germany opening new coal plants if they have the most wind turbines of ant country on the planet?

Because they made the stupid mistake of shutting down nuclear plants in favour of Russian gas under Merkel. When that went haywire with Putin's warmongering and crimes against humanity on Europe's eastern edge, Germany was caught short and had to fill the vacuum temporarily with coal and non-Russian gas. And they ramped up renewables into high gear along with the EU.

Your comment reflects merely a snapshot in time and is irrelevant to their future in renewables. It's also absurdly off topic.

Gee you'd that they would review fossil fuel projects and how they are going to clean-up and pay for these environmental liabilities first! Or more simply my guess is they are looking for pretexts for making it more difficult and expensive to get renewable energy projects off the ground.

Max says there's no limit to the hypocrisy nor is there to the unapologetic irrationality that Kenney actually had a point about; it DOES feel like the lunatics have taken over the asylum. And the fact that Jason Kenney looks reasonable now provides some real perspective on how bad this could get here in "Alberduh."
Because again it's the always more strapped rural municipalities that will lose tax revenue from renewable projects who have already been burned by oil companies in that regard but somehow that didn't enter into their calculation when voting for the United Clown Posse? Nor did the planned taxpayer subsidy for wealthy oil companies to clean up wells which said oil companies are already supposed to be legally responsible for. And the list of batshit crazy goes on and on and on....
It begs the question, what other form of human affiliation is this irrational and this tenacious? Conservatism really isn't just another political party here in Alberta, it's now officially more of a cult. "Take Back Alberta?" Their leader is openly super religious, but no one wants to bring that up now any more than they want to keep ragging on about the obvious fact that conservatives simply do NOT believe climate change is a thing, but nonetheless these central truths are the bedrock ideology of this "government" who will be in power over all of us for FOUR MORE YEARS. It's beyond unnerving, it's scary and dangerous.
I think the rational element of the population (happily growing but not quickly enough to save us) will have no choice but to explore how to impeach or somehow unseat such fundamentally incompetent people. Bottom line, they're like all these big corporations across the country being challenged right now, and as taxpayers, we're the workers who provide their salaries. Like the rampant evangelicalism among this bunch, I think we also underestimate how much they love the power and money these MLA jobs provide.
And it's not like they respect our system of government, or democracy or the legislature anyway. We all know that just because the NDP won so many more seats doesn't make a shred of difference to the cons because THEY WON so that's it. They won't probably try the earplug trick again, but their profound lack of respect hasn't gone anywhere.

I wonder if there's a lawsuit in there somewhere. If I were someone with a project that just got put on hold for no reason except corruption, I'd sure consider suing.

There are several solar and wind project on the books or under construction in Alberta, one being the largest solar project in the nation. Often they have big customers signed up before construction begins. Large data farms run by outfits like Google and Amazon are key clients of big renewable projects today, and they sign agreements for a guaranteed amount of power to be delivered. I think it's possible that breaking those agreements through government intransigence on permitting a project to proceed could play a key role in lawsuits against the government and its energy agencies.

Getting sued by Google on their way out the door while taking thousands of jobs with them is something Smith et al should be trembling in fear over. They may have already thought about that and will no doubt be picky over which projects are approved and which will be subject to purposeful bureaucratic slowdowns or outright rejection. But even that could become fodder for lawyers, citing an uneven set of standards or no standards at all.

None of this should stop an enlightened federal government from building a national smart clean energy corridor, even through Alberta. The court case over TMX eliminated all concerns about jurisdiction over federal projects. The feds have all authority to deliver renewable electricity to every province through a federal corridor, just as they do bitumen through a federal pipe that crosses boundaries. Smith may try to stop public and private consumers (e.g. solar and wind farms, First Nations, private farmers, cities ...) from connecting to federally supplied clean power interties, but my guess is that the feds can also buy and sell power under contracts with its own customers in any province. Does Smith have the authority to challenge the fed's separate contracts with third parties?

Interesting questions.

Press Release from the CEO of SkyFire Energy:
The majority of large scale projects are being built in rural areas and some land owners feel that prime agricultural land is being swallowed by development of renewable energy projects. Unlike oil and gas projects, land owners can choose to lease their land to renewable energy project developers or not. Land owners can request security deposits or include remediation clauses in their land lease agreements. If post project cleanup is a real concern for this government, there should be remediation security on any development including oil and gas projects or even a commercial building.
Municipalities gain higher municipal tax income from land with solar and wind development on it, in fact Vulcan County earns ~45% of its taxes from renewable energy projects. Renewable energy also reduces overall energy costs for consumers and daytime pool prices have fallen since large solar projects have reached commercial operation as indicated in the recent MSA report.
Minister Neudorf said increased distribution costs are a concern to ratepayers. The fact is that upgrades to the distribution system to accommodate solar projects are paid for by the solar farm developers.
SkyFire is committed to responsible solar development and works with developers and landowners to mitigate risks. The hypocrisy of the province in pausing renewable energy for concerns around cleanup when very little action has been taken with other industries is disturbing. The chill throughout the investment community that can invest in projects anywhere around the world will have an impact on the $4.7B being invested in our province for renewable development.

SkyFire -- great name!

Bravo for their critical public commentary on the UCP's egregious bias, hypocrisy and flawed policy on energy. Their statement clearly outlines a rationale to pull out of Alberta when faced with such irrational hostility from the highest echelons of government.

Where are the other solar and wind proponents and their large corporate clients? Are they too timid to speak up? They need to have some serious private discussions and plan for a permanent Smith lock down on renewables, or many small roadblocks placed in their path to progress. I don't see Smith cracking her thick head to giving any thought to sound reason and planning for the future well being of Albertans.