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WHEREAS the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada have a mandate to transition to a low carbon economy; and
WHEREAS renewable energy has been determined to be one way to transition to a low carbon economy; and
WHEREAS renewable energy projects in Alberta have been and continue to be located on productive agricultural lands; and
WHEREAS Alberta’s Renewable Energy Act has mandated that 30% of electricity generated must come from renewable energy sources by 2030; and
WHEREAS the Alberta Electric System Operator calculates, for 2021, 17% of electricity generation in Alberta comes from renewable energy sources; and
WHEREAS achieving this growth in renewable energy generation by 2030 could result, according to industry calculations, in a further 120,000 acres (187.5 sections) of agricultural land being lost; and
WHEREAS no quantitative studies have been completed in Alberta that calculate the overall effect to the economy from the loss of agricultural land and subsequent food production as the result of renewable energy projects;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta request the Government of Alberta to work collaboratively on policy that will find a balance between the development of renewable energy and protection of valuable agriculture lands.
Albertans must ensure that the development of small and large scale renewable energy projects do not come at the price of losing productive agriculture lands. Without oversight as to where these developments may occur, the price of farmland will significantly increase, putting it out of reach for agriculture producers and into the hands of speculators who believe they can profit from the land rental rates being offered by the renewable energy companies.
The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) approval process for renewable energy projects on private land currently has little to no regard for the rural municipalities’ statutory plans or requirement for consultation with the Municipalities. Rural municipalities have historically been the stewards of long-term land use planning within municipal borders, through municipal development plans, land use bylaws and area structure plans. The creation and update of these plans include significant public consultation with residents, landowners, businesses, and our neighboring municipal partners. Most, if not all rural municipalities are proud to say agriculture producers are valued, and this is reflected in the focus on preservation of agriculture lands in all our statutory documents.
Mountain View County supports the provincial strategy of development of renewable energy and reductions in carbon emissions; however, it is imperative to learn from past mistakes, with the focus being on upfront development of resources with no consideration for the unintended or ignored long-term costs. Since the province retains full authority over land use planning with respect to renewable energy development, we also believe the Government of Alberta should be responsible for implementing policy to protect agriculture lands and find a balance to protect the two most important industries in Alberta: energy and agriculture.
The first step in this process is the collection and analysis of all pertinent data in order to provide a complete picture of the long-term costs and benefits. This cannot be another short-sighted approach to an issue without understanding and calculating the future consequences it brings.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation
In 2016, the Renewable Energy Act established the “30 in 30” target, which states at least 30 per cent of the electric energy produced in Alberta must be produced from renewable energy resources by 2030. In addition, the deregulated electricity market and rich solar and wind resources have resulted in a surge of investment in renewable energy projects in Alberta. Protecting individual property rights, conserving Alberta’s finite agricultural land base and the growth of renewable energy resources are important – and at times conflicting – priorities.
Agriculture and Irrigation (AGI) is committed to working collaboratively with Rural Municipalities of Alberta and other stakeholders to identify issues with commercial solar developments on agricultural land and opportunities to resolve them.
Balancing the introduction of renewable energy and preserving agricultural land is critical to the future of rural Alberta. While no specific policy to preserve agricultural land is proposed, RMA is pleased to see a commitment to work collaboratively to develop a solution. However, until this work commences or more details are provided by the Government of Alberta as to how this balance will be achieved, this resolution is assigned a status of Intent Not Met. RMA will follow up with Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation to learn more about developing a path forward.