WHEREAS the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) regulates the utilities sector, natural gas and electricity markets to protect social, economic and environmental interests of Alberta where competitive market forces do not; and
WHEREAS the AUC ensures that electric facilities are built, operated and decommissioned in an efficient and environmentally responsible way; and
WHEREAS provincial growth and policy decisions have contributed to increased development of solar power plants and their associated infrastructure in recent years; and
WHEREAS solar power plants have a limited life-cycle and will require either decommissioning or repowering at the end of that life cycle; and
WHEREAS if a solar power plant is abandoned during or after its life cycle, the components and associated infrastructure may be abandoned on the landscape, becoming an unsafe and unsightly nuisance, creating a costly cleanup for landowners, and further, the affected municipality; and
WHEREAS pursuant to Section 5(1)(h) of the Hydro and Electric Energy Act, the AUC may make regulations as to the measures to be taken in the construction, operation or abandonment of any power plant for the protection of life, property and wildlife; and
WHEREAS pursuant to Section 5(4) of the Hydro and Electric Energy Act, subject to the approval of the Minister responsible for the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, the AUC may make regulations as to the measures to be taken in the abandonment of any power plant for the control of pollution and ensuring environment conservation; and
WHEREAS the AUC falls within the structure of the Ministry of Energy, and the Ministry develops policy for renewable electricity;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta request the Government of Alberta to direct the Alberta Utilities Commission to establish a method of ensuring that there is funding in place for abandoned wind and solar energy to be decommissioned and reclaimed in an environmentally responsible way.
As end-of-life remediation and reclamation liability has evolved to become the top priority for the Alberta Energy Regulator in the oil and gas context, Alberta Environment and Parks and the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) require details regarding the proposed decommissioning and site reclamation of wind and solar projects. In the absence of a reclamation standard for wind and solar, the AUC stated that it would review and approve reclamation plans for wind and solar power plants, if no such standard is adopted in the future.
The AUC also recently indicated that it expected the Government of Alberta to issue a Ministerial Order requiring project proponents to provide reclamation security for solar projects. In the future, Alberta may consider setting up a statutory framework similar to the Alberta Orphan Well Fund and Association to address end-of-life liability for wind and solar power plants.
20-18F: Decommissioning Costs for Wind Energy Developments
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta request Alberta Energy to direct the Alberta Utilities Commission to establish a method of ensuring that there is funding in place to ensure that an abandoned wind energy plant is decommissioned and reclaimed in an environmentally responsible way.
DEVELOPMENT: RMA has not yet received a government response to this resolution.
Alberta Energy and Alberta Utilities Commission
Alberta Energy and the Alberta Utilities Commission have no input as the resolution is not in their mandate.
Alberta Environment and Parks
The Government of Alberta is committed to ensuring that renewable energy operations generating renewable electricity, like solar, are abandoned and reclaimed in a responsible way. Alberta Environment and Parks understands that reclamation of industrial lands is important to Albertans.
In response to those concerns, the Conservation and Reclamation Regulation was recently amended to include renewable energy operations as activities requiring reclamation at end of life. In addition, the Conservation and Reclamation Directive for Renewable Energy Operations was released in support of the new regulatory requirement. The directive sets out the conservation and reclamation requirements and outcomes for Renewable Energy Operations, specifically those producing renewable electricity from wind, solar, or geothermal.
The Government of Alberta response indicates that this resolution is not within the mandate of the Alberta Utilities Commission. However, Alberta Environment and Parks has amended the Conservation and Reclamation Regulation to include renewable energy operations (REO) as an activity requiring reclamation at end of life. While RMA recognizes that AEP has amended the Conservation and Reclamation Regulation, there is no requirement for an operator of a REO to provide a reclamation security. Landowners have the right to allow or deny REOs on their property and have the ability to negotiate reclamation security for activities related to REOs on their property. RMA assigns this resolution as Intent Not Met and will continue to work with AEP on ensuring that there is funding put in place for abandoned wind and solar energy to be reclaimed.