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In Alberta, residents, industry and governments are getting a crash course in a relatively new business that’s recently landed at our doorstep: Bitcoin mining. Although the business may be new the regulatory requirements have existed for many years to ensure that the power plants that provide electricity to these facilities operate in a safe manner.
Bitcoin is a digital currency and the world’s first completely open payment network, which anyone with an internet connection can participate in. It was designed to be used on the internet, doesn’t depend on banks or private companies to process transactions, allows for secure peer-to-peer transactions on the internet, and is not owned by an individual or company.
It’s an appealingly simple concept: unlike credit card networks like Visa and payment processors like Paypal, Bitcoin can be sent between users without the need for a central bank, leveraging blockchain technology to maintain a decentralized ledger of transactions.
The process of unlocking new bitcoin to add to the existing supply is called “mining.” This requires the use of computers with powerful processors in an energy-intensive process.
Bitcoin mining operations have recently started within Alberta, with the potential for more companies looking here to set up operations. It’s certainly an exciting and interesting time for Alberta, but it’s important that organizations understand the regulatory rules and requirements necessary for operating within the province prior to committing investments and resources.
Like all power plants in Alberta, companies cannot construct or operate without approval from the AUC, unless they fall within an applicable exemption. The AUC’s Rule 007: Applications for Power Plants, Substations, Transmission Lines, Industrial System Designations, Hydro Developments and Gas Utility Pipelines, sets out application requirements and exemption criteria for power plants.
The rule details the information required for each application category such as a participant involvement program, technical information on the proposed facility and potential environmental impacts. It ultimately provides an outline and guidance that companies must consider for preparation of an application, an overview of our eFiling System, and the AUC’s process for reviewing and deeming an application complete. Specific guidance on whether a power plant meets the criteria for exemption from AUC approval is available on the AUC’s Proposing a power plant application page.
With more crypto-currency-focused companies looking to Alberta to base their operations, it’s important for all prospective bitcoin operators to understand the AUC’s application process and to follow the necessary requirements that all power plants in Alberta adhere to. Prospective market participants must also ensure that they meet any applicable market rules.
As we work to develop the processes and structures to meet future challenges of new and evolving industries, the AUC remains committed to modernization, effectiveness and efficiency in its regulatory approach.