According to newly released documents, it appears likely that Alberta premier Danielle Smith misled the public regarding the Alberta government’s reasons for implementing a pause on renewable energy projects.
These documents, revealed through a freedom of information request, suggest that the government had already planned this pause before the announcement and that it was not a response to requests from provincial regulators, as publicly stated. It’s now evident that the government was already preparing speaking notes on this decision ahead of receiving input from regulators.
The new information raises significant questions about why the government instituted such a lengthy pause on renewable energy approvals.
The sudden pause, announced on August 3, surprised both Albertans and the industry, effectively halting the development of wind and solar projects throughout the province. The government cited letters from the Alberta Electricity System Operator and the Alberta Utilities Commission as justification for the decision.
However, the utilities commission letter did not request a pause, and the system operator letter simply stated its support for the implementation process. Despite this, Premier Smith maintained that the government had been asked for a pause by the Alberta Electric System Operator to ensure grid stability.
The office of utilities minister Nathan Neudorf subsequently clarified that the government’s decisions were not solely based on the letters. There were multiple briefings and conversations with the Ministry of Affordability and Utilities.
The new briefing note
According to a briefing note that was recently obtained by The Narwhal, the Alberta government had already solidified its plans before receiving the letter from the Alberta Utilities Commission. Neudorf’s ministry creating the briefing note to prepare Neudorf for how to respond to questions about the moratorium.
The note mentioned a meeting between Neudorf and an unidentified individual or company. This unknown entity discussed its investments in Alberta, as well as collaboration opportunities in the clean electricity sector.
The briefing note highlighted the increase in renewable energy and praised the government’s policies. The note also praised Alberta’s open electricity market, claiming that it maximizes returns for investors and cuts prices for consumers.
The subsequent segment of the briefing memo then expounds on the appropriate response if the minister is queried about the impending halt on new projects.
The memo urges Neudorf to mention that the renewables moratorium was motivated by concerns about agricultural land use, natural beauty, grid reliability, and technical reliability.
The remaining content remains undisclosed.
The true reason for the Alberta renewables moratorium appears to be Premier Smith’s political fights with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Premier Smith has suggested as much herself in the past.
Earlier this year, Smith publicly opposed Trudeau’s plans to create a net-zero power grid by 2035. Smith claimed that the power grid needs gas plants due to the intermittent nature of wind and solar.
Halting wind and solar approvals makes it harder for Trudeau to achieve his goal.
However, Smith’s decision has had significant economic effects. The Pembina Institute estimates that the moratorium has jeopardized $33 billion in investment.
Moreover, new practices are addressing many of Smith’s concerns about the effect of renewables development on rural land. For instance, agrivoltaics (the placement of crops underneath solar panels) protects farmland from being lost to energy projects. Agrivoltaics has also been proven to boost agricultural productivity.
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