Last Friday, the Alberta government released a lengthy “fact sheet” to justify its freeze on new renewable energy power projects.
Nathan Neudorf, the Utilities Minister in Premier Danielle Smith’s Conservative government, states that the fact sheet was created in response to misinformation spread by interest groups. The fact sheet appears to be a response to a document that was recently published by the Pembina Institute, a Calgary-based clean energy think tank.
The Pembina Institute estimates that the government’s moratorium will put 24,000 jobs and $33 billion in renewable-resource generated electricity investments at risk. The moratorium will delay 118 projects currently in development.
The government’s fact sheet tries to downplay the impact by claiming that only the 13 projects seeking approval from the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) will be affected. However, since no more applications are being accepted during the seven-month moratorium, this attempt to minimize the impact lacks persuasiveness. (The moratorium started on August 3.)
The fact sheet also contradicts itself by stating that the pause temporarily stops the approval of additional projects.
The government contends that 105 out of the cited 118 proposals are still months (and in some cases years) away from being presented for approval to the AUC. However, the government does not explain how this fact rebuts the claims made in the Pembina Institute document.
Mr. Neudorf’s characterization of the pause as “the AUC’s pause” is in contrast to Premier Smith’s claims. According to the fact sheet, the AUC sought policy and regulatory clarity on the matters under consideration, prompting the government to direct the AUC to conduct an inquiry. The government states that this was done “in fairness to the proponents of applications which had not been received yet.”
However, it appears that this decision was not viewed as fair by the proponent companies, some of whom have reportedly suspended their projects in Alberta and may withdraw altogether.
The statement elaborates, at length, on the government’s position that for every kilowatt of renewable energy generated, an equivalent amount of natural gas-powered generating capacity must be built to address times when solar or wind power is not available. Although this assertion has some validity, it fails to acknowledge that peak energy demand often coincides with sunny weather and high temperatures in Alberta.
The fact sheet optimistically asserts that the pause allows for meaningful discussions to take place. However, it remains silent on the critical question: Why weren’t industry stakeholders consulted or informed before the moratorium was announced?
Ultimately, little is changing as the moratorium persists. In the minds of many critics, the Alberta government is releasing a “fact sheet” not to address concerns, but rather to generate positive media attention.