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WHEREAS the emerging solar micro-power generation industry has the potential to reduce operation costs and produce a more sustainable agricultural sector in rural Alberta; and
WHEREAS the price of solar panels has dropped dramatically in recent years and now only requires a drop in the corresponding installation and regulation costs to become competitive with traditional power generation methods over time periods of 15 years or more at today’s rates; and
WHEREAS the environmental and long term economic benefits of a competitive solar industry in Alberta is not priced into the current market rates being offered to individuals who invest in solar power for their farm or residence; and
WHEREAS the up-front costs of becoming an independent micro-generator utilizing on farm solar power are substantial; and
WHEREAS in recognition of these benefits and costs the Government of Alberta instituted the “Light Up Alberta” program which under the Micro-Generator Regulations enabled electricity retailers to pay private individuals with solar installations of up to 10KW 15 cents a kilowatt hour for power put back onto the grid; and
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta’s “Light Up Alberta” program provided a valuable incentive for private investors in small scale solar while industry and local governments work to bring down the costs of installation and regulation; and
WHEREAS without any consultation with local governments, the micro generation industry, or private micro-generators themselves the Government of Alberta has ended this program and intends to remove the legislation which made it possible;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties support Alberta’s small rural power producers by lobbying the Government of Alberta to reinstate the “Light Up Alberta” program and engage in a thorough stakeholder consultation before amending the Micro Generation Regulations.
Following the 2009 passage of the Micro Generation Regulations which allowed for a streamlined regulatory process for the connection of solar producing installations of up 10 kilowatts to the electricity grid, the Government of Alberta instated the “Light Up Alberta” program. Meant to build on the new regulatory approach contained in the regulations, the program offered a rate incentive for these small producers now defined as “Micro-Generators”. The incentive of up to 15 cents a kilowatt hour for energy sent back to the grid could be paid to producers while any energy consumed on site or drawn from the grid would be priced at the market rate. While not enough to change the economics of private investment decision, the incentive did show the government’s support for a new industry with serious potential for economic and environmental benefits in Alberta.
Since this time a number of small energy retailers have started up business with the intention of creating a market for this program by becoming the energy supplier for new micro-generators by offering them the incentive rate for energy that was put back onto the grid. Over the course of their operations these retailers have signed up numerous individuals to their electricity plans under the pretense that their decision to invest in solar power was being supported by the provincial government. Following the repeal of this program these individuals will no longer be able to receive this incentive which may have formed part of their basis for making their investment decision in solar.
At the same time several rural and urban municipalities have at the request of their residents pursued solar energy over the past several years as a way to show economic and environmental leadership in their communities. Through partnerships with industry and electric line operators they have been working to lower the barriers to private investment by streamlining and lowering the cost for the process for permit application, installation and start up. Until now the Government of Alberta has been a willing partner in this endeavor which is why the recent policy change is both surprising and disappointing. As the program cost is estimated at less than 1% of the cost of provincial carbon capture initiatives. The reason for this policy shift is unclear and seems to contradict this government’s intended aim of greening energy production in the province as is clearly stated in their climate change strategy.
In addition to the problem with the change in policy direction is how that new policy was arrived at. No stakeholder consultations were held and no advance notice was given. As the provincial government is now considering amending the Micro Generation Regulations to remove the clause which allows for the “Light Up Alberta” program, it is important to give those groups and individuals who are most affected the right to have their opinions heard. As the major electricity retailers in Alberta are already deeply involved in this process it is only fair the public also get a chance to comment.
Beginning in 2008 the Government of Alberta started the movement to small scale solar projects in Alberta communities and that movement has been taken up by municipal governments, private citizens and local businesses. To abandon them now would be a great disappointment.
EM5-09S: Climate Change
Climate Change was identified as an Emerging Issue by the AAMDC Board of Directors. Though there are no active resolutions related to this topic, the AAMDC is actively involved with the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre.