It is the AUC’s responsibility to examine and consider whether it is in the public interest to approve the construction of any electric power plant facility in Alberta, including thermal, solar and wind power plants.

The AUC has a well-established, independent and respected review process for considering applications for power plants intended to generate power and may be connected to the Alberta electric system.

The AUC determines whether the facility application is in the public interest, with specific focus on environmental, economic and social considerations and it ensures opportunities for public input. AUC considerations for power plant applications may include:

  • environment impacts
  • wildlife impacts
  • property values
  • noise
  • visual impacts
  • land-use considerations
  • local and municipal economic benefits
  • other issues raised by participants

The project must meet provincial and federal standards and efforts to mitigate impacts are often included in decisions. The cost for a project or its financial viability or need for generating facilities is not something that the AUC considers since the market is deregulated and investment in infrastructure is at the risk of the applicant.

The AUC will review the technical aspects of the proposed project to ensure they are sound, and will review and assess the impact of the proposed power plant on nearby communities, including First Nations communities.​

Some of the organizations that must be involved in the proposal and development of a renewable power plant in Alberta are, or may be:

  • The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), if seeking a transmission connection. Such a connection requires AESO and AUC processes that are separate from the power plant project application.
  • The AESO, if seeking to take part in energy procurement programs.
  • The wires owner, local distribution utility or distribution facilities owner, if the project is to be connected to the distribution system.

Power plant applicants may need to contact:

  • Landowners, residents and municipalities in the area being considered for the power plant.
  • The wires owner, also called the distribution company, in the area of the proposed project.
  • Alberta Environment and Parks.
  • The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
  • Environment Canada.
  • Local municipal districts and/or counties.
  • Transport Canada/NAV Canada.
  • Alberta Transportation.
  • Alberta Culture and Tourism.
  • Indigenous groups.

Certain studies may require noise consultants or other experts as set out in AUC Rule 012Noise Control.

Public participation in the AUC review process

Power plant applications are subject to multi-step process with opportunities for landowner and public involvement and a requirement that landowners will be notified and their concerns considered. The AUC strongly encourages landowner involvement during several initial stages of a project development that may affect them, including when a facility company is developing a project concept, carrying out required consultation, and prior to submitting an application to the AUC. The earlier in the process concerns are brought forward, the better.

The AUC also enables landowner participation in the hearing process before a decision is made that may directly and adversely affect them. Funding may be available to directly and adversely affected people to hire lawyers and experts help represent your views during an AUC proceeding.

Landowner considerations

The site for a power plant of any nature must currently be owned by the applicant (a person or a company that puts forward a proposition or proposal) or agreed to by the landowner through contractual terms. The Alberta Farmers’ Advocate has information regarding the negotiation of a wind or solar lease that a landowner should consider before agreeing to a power plant being built on their property.

While access to or use of land to locate a power plant lies in the hands of the landowner, transmission lines to connect to a power plant can be routed across private land if the 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 AUC proceeding 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 Land and Property Rights Tribunal.