The executive director of Indigenous Clean Energy (ICE) states that the Alberta government’s recent decision to suspend green energy development was not entirely surprising.

Nevertheless, James Jenkins is disappointed in what the Alberta renewables moratorium means for Indigenous communities.

On August 2nd, Alberta Utilities Minister Nathan Neudorf issued an order-in-council instructing the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) to conduct an inquiry into new renewable electricity.

As part of the regulatory review process, new applications for power plants, including wind, solar, thermal, and hydroelectric, are being paused. From August 3rd, 2023, to February 29th, 2024, the AUC is prohibited from granting approvals for new renewable energy developments, as stated by the order-in-council regulations.

According to a fact sheet released by the Pembina Institute, the Alberta renewables moratorium will affect 118 ongoing, pending, or upcoming renewable energy projects within the next few months. The projects represent an estimated investment of over $33 billion. They would create additional annual tax revenue of $263 million for at least 27 municipalities.

Among these projects, six have Indigenous involvement. These include solar projects led by Chiniki First Nation, Paul Band, Ermineskin Cree Nation, and Piikani Nation. In addition, Sawridge First Nation is participating in Capstone Infrastructure Corp.’s Buffalo Atlee Wind Farm across three stages.

Indigenous clean energy in Canada

According to Windspeaker, there are at least 40 green energy projects in Alberta with some form of Indigenous ownership. Across Canada, Indigenous communities are involved in approximately 1,000 clean energy projects.

Indigenous communities have been longstanding leaders in Canada’s clean energy sector. ICE has grown quickly since its establishment in 2016.

According to Jenkins, the range of First Nations green energy development varies from small projects generating around a dozen kilowatts to those exceeding 100 megawatts. He explains that there is a shared commitment between Indigenous communities, who have shared values of conserving the environment and contributing to climate action.

In addition, green projects provide job opportunities for thousands of First Nations people. The Buffalo Atlee Wind Farm alone was projected to create over 550 jobs.

Recently, Chiniki and Goodstoney First Nations announced a partnership with ATCO. As a result of the partnership, the two nations own 51% of the Deerfoot and Barlow solar projects in Calgary. These installations are considered the largest in an urban area in western Canada.

The Barlow project (pictured above) began operations in June 2023. It’s producing 27 megawatts of electricity. The 37-megawatt Deerfoot project is expected to start soon.

Thankfully, both projects were approved before the moratorium began.

What happens next

The AUC will consider several factors before lifting the moratorium. These include development on agricultural lands, impacts on scenic views, and mandatory reclamation requirements.

Jenkins expressed concerns about the Alberta renewables moratorium causing long-term damage to the industry. “The possibility of that happening is certainly a concern, so we remain hopeful and we’ll use our best efforts to underscore the benefits of Indigenous partners and Indigenous-led clean energy projects,” he said in a recent interview.

The AUC provided a timeline for industry submissions and plans to submit a final report by March 29, 2024, with no specified timeframe for the minister’s action on the recommendations.

Image Source: Polar Racking,