Renewable power is an important and growing component of Alberta’s electricity supply that helps support reliability and meet Alberta’s electricity needs and reduce carbon emissions. Under Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan the government of Alberta has set a target of 30 per cent of Alberta’s power generation being provided by renewable sources by 2030. This section of the website provides information on what the role of the Alberta Utilities Commission is in renewable power generation, how our process works, what other organizations must be involved, and the different types of renewable power generation.
Alberta Utilities Commission approval is generally required for the construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning of power plants in Alberta. It is the Alberta Utilities Commission’s responsibility to examine and approve siting and construction of any electric power generating facility in Alberta, including solar and wind power plants. There are special, streamlined processes for certain, generally smaller-scale power plants including micro-generation producing less than five megawatts, however proponents still need to assess impacts before proceeding with an application. Some small projects may proceed without an application, if they meet the criteria for an exemption.
The AUC has a well-established, independent and respected process for considering applications for power plants intended to generate power and to be connected to the Alberta electric system. In examining applications, the AUC determines whether the facility is in the public interest, with specific focus on environmental, economic and social considerations and it ensures opportunities for public input. However, the AUC cannot consider the economic viability of, and need for, generating facilities, as to whether there is adequate demand for the electricity a plant will generate at a price that will support the investment. In Alberta’s deregulated environment, financial viability risk associated with demand, price and other factors affecting the economic viability of a facility is assumed by the proponent, or applicant.
The site for a power plant of any nature must currently be owned by the proponent or agreed to by the landowner through contractual terms.
In discussions with landowners, power plant siting negotiations are not like those involving mineral rights. Unlike oil and gas leases, a landowner can refuse to allow a power plant on their property. It is important for a landowner to protect their own interests in negotiating land access and land use with a power plant proponent. The Alberta Farmers Advocate has excellent information on factors a landowner should consider. While access to or use of land to locate a power plant lies in the hands of the landowner, transmission lines to serve a power plant can be routed across private land, if such routing is determined to serve the public interest. This could include lands neighbouring a power plant. The regulation of transmission routing is also a responsibility of the AUC. While power plant siting cannot be forced on a landowner, transmission siting may be, but only after a public proceeding of the Alberta Utilities Commission determines such routing is in the public interest. Landowners whose lands are used or accessed for transmission projects are eligible for compensation, subject to negotiation with the transmission facility owner, or transmission company. Disputes related to transmission siting compensation are adjudicated by the Alberta Surface Rights Board.
While the AUC approves or oversees the approval of all power plants in Alberta, a number of other organizations are and must be involved in the development and approval of a proposal to build a power plant. Information on some of those other organizations can be found here. The same AUC application process for renewables applies to non-renewable generation such as natural gas-fired.
As noted, there are exemption or special processes for certain small-scale power plants. These situations are described below:
Micro-generation is the generation of electrical energy from a generating unit with a total capacity of five megawatts or less, is connected to the distribution system, exclusively uses sources of renewable or alternative energy and the electrical energy output is intended to meet all or a portion of the customer’s electricity needs.
Micro-generators do not require AUC approval. Instead, the micro-generator must inform the wire service provider in their area of its plan to construct a micro-generating unit and use the wire service provider’s application form for connection approval by the wire service provider.
The micro-generator must ensure no person is directly and adversely affected by the proposed generating unit and there is no adverse effect on the environment, including noise.
Small power plants generating less than 10 megawatts
An application to the AUC is not required for small power pants generating less 10 megawatts if the generated electricity is intended solely for the generator’s own use, all generating facilities are located at the site of consumption, it does not directly and adversely affect any person and does not have any adverse environmental impact, including noise.