Hearing in process: Proceeding 28369 - ATCO Pipelines 2024-2026 General Rate Application

Power plant capability between one and less than 10 megawatts

Effective April 25, 2022, owners proposing to generate electricity with a total generating capability equal to or greater than one megawatt and less than 10 megawatts can file a checklist application form rather than submitting a full application to the AUC. The information required in the new checklist application includes:

  • The location and capability of the power plant.
  • The type of power plant (e.g., thermal, wind, solar).
  • Information about the project, including some technical considerations.
  • Confirmation that the power plant:
    • Does not directly and adversely affect any person.
    • Complies with AUC Rule 012Noise Control.
    • Has no adverse effect on the environment.

The AUC will review each checklist application received to assess whether it meets the eligibility criteria and issue an approval for a complete checklist application within five business days.

No direct and adverse effects

Anyone who intends on operating a power plant must consider whether any person may be directly and adversely affected by their power plant. The AUC is bound by Section 9 of the Alberta Utilities Commission Act to give notice and hold a hearing if it appears that its decision or order on an application may directly and adversely affect the rights of a person.

When deciding whether a person may be directly and adversely affected by a proposed project (i.e., in its standing decisions), one of the factors the AUC regularly considers is the rights-holder’s proximity to the proposed facility and the type of project. Appendix A of AUC Rule 007 provides useful guidance on the typical proximity to stakeholders at which power plant operators are required to consult.

Compliance with AUC Rule 012: Noise Control

The AUC requires power plants operating in Alberta to comply with the permissible sound levels as set out in AUC Rule 012. If a complaint arises, or if the AUC becomes concerned with the power plant sound levels, the operator of the power plant would be responsible for demonstrating that the sound emitted from its power plant is compliant with the applicable permissible sound levels.

No adverse effect on the environment

The AUC requires that the proposed development will not result in an adverse effect on the environment, which includes a wide range of impacts. For example, a power plant with a small footprint, located on a brownfield site will be more likely to fulfill this criteria than a large operation proposed on land that is not pre-disturbed.

Power plant operators should be aware of other applicable regulatory approvals, which also factor into whether the proposed facility is likely to have an adverse effect to the environment. For example, thermal power plants above one MW​ in Alberta require approval under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, and must also meet the Alberta Air Emission Standards for Electricity Generation and the Alberta Air Emission Guidelines for Electricity Generation.

The person proposing to operate a power plant in Alberta must assess whether they meet all the applicable criteria for a power plant to be considered exempt and, should they choose not to apply for an approval on that basis, they take on the risk that, upon a later complaint or investigation, they are found to be not in compliance.

Persons wishing to commence operating a power plant in Alberta are encouraged to review these requirements, and if they have questions to contact the AUC at 310-4AUC (310-4282 in Alberta), 1-833-511-4AUC (1-833-511-4282 outside Alberta) or info@auc.ab.ca.​

Power plant capability greater than 10 megawatts

Companies or organizations that intend on building and operating any power plant with a capability of 10 megawatts or greater must obtain AUC approval. This includes renewable power plants (such as wind and solar farms) or facilities used to generate cryptocurrency.

Applicants are required to compete a number of steps, outlined in AUC Rule 007 before submitting a request for approval of a power plant application. The most notable requirements for power plant applications that may be required are:

  • A participant involvement program.
  • A noise impact assessment.
  • Compliance with Alberta Wildlife and Parks directives and land use guidelines.
  • Alberta Electric System Operator interconnection information.

Consultation with provincial and municipal governments, and sometimes federal (e.g. endangered species).

Power plant applications

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.

Cryptocurrency mining

Cryptocurrency mining is the process of verifying blockchain transactions. It requires the use of sophisticated computers with significant electricity needs (sometimes called digital currency processing facilities). While some digital currency (ex. Bitcoin) processing facilities are directly connected to the electrical grid to fulfill their energy needs, others may not be connected, and instead use electricity generated from power plants located on-site.

Effective April 25, 2022, all new power plants, including power plants that are used for mining cryptocurrency, require approval by the AUC. Specific requirements for these types of power plants are outlined above and vary depending on the generation capacity.

The requirements are set out in Section 11 of the Hydro and Electric Energy Act. For power plants that meet the exemption requirements and commence operation prior to April 25, 2022, the operator must demonstrate the power plant is exempt from requiring approval.