According to an industry official, Alberta’s decision to pause the approval of new renewable power projects in the province for seven months has caused major international companies and domestic firms to halt their plans.
This unexpected move by Alberta has also led domestic companies to reconsider their investments in other provinces and the United States.
As renewables companies announce their departure, Premier Danielle Smith is facing increasing criticism for creating business uncertainty and jeopardizing potential investments worth billions.
Alberta, known for its oil and gas production, implemented the pause to address concerns regarding the reliability of renewables and land use. This decision has strained the relationship between Smith and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, who are developing regulations to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from grids by 2035.
According to Reuters, several international companies have paused their work, including one that had applied to build a renewable power project in the province. Another company has suspended design work on their first project in Alberta. A third company has delayed plans for securing office space in Calgary.
These investment decisions are dependent on the government providing clear guidance. However, due to confidentiality, the names of the companies cannot be disclosed.
Alberta has been a leader in renewable capacity, aiming to eliminate coal combustion for power ahead of schedule in 2022. Both domestic and foreign companies, such as Berkshire Hathaway’s BHE Canada, EDF Renewables, and Enel Green Power, have invested nearly C$5 billion ($3.7 billion) since 2019, according to the Pembina Institute.
According to a government spokesperson, the pause directly impacts 15 projects awaiting approvals. However, Pembina warns that a total of 91 projects in early development stages are at risk due to the freeze.
Calgary-based BluEarth Renewables, although not having any projects in Alberta’s approval queue at the moment, is reevaluating the 400 megawatts’ worth of wind and solar projects it was considering for the province. CEO Grant Arnold stated that without knowing the outcome of this pause, they will prioritize investments in other jurisdictions. BluEarth also operates in three other provinces and the US.
The Alberta Utilities Commission is currently considering whether to stop receiving applications during the pause period, indicating a potential longer freeze on development. This could lead to investors perceiving Alberta as a risky place to invest and demanding higher returns to compensate for the political risk.
Ironically, the news of the clean energy exodus comes as Alberta Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz travels to Germany to celebrate Calgary-based Eavor Technologies. Eavor Technologies has built a revolutionary geothermal system that is scalable and produces zero greenhouse gas emissions.
The Ministry of Environment responded to criticism by stating that geothermal power projects are not affected by the Alberta moratorium.