By Will Verboven for The Calgary Herald, August 19, 2023. Mr. Verboven is an agriculture opinion writer and policy adviser.
I suspect most people criticizing the moratorium on renewable energy projects do not live near industrial windmill sites or have a commercial solar operation as a neighbour. What would be the reaction of Calgary citizens if it was announced that six Calgary Tower-sized windmills were to be erected on Nose Hill Park?
It would be the right thing to do — after all, shouldn’t all citizens, no matter where they live, support the development of local renewable energy sources? Why should the burden of industrial renewable energy industry (REI) development fall on those who live in the countryside?
Not even the most progressive city council would allow industrial windmill development within city limits. Besides, those in the windmill business understand the political sensitiveness of not-in-my-backyard city voters. Much of Western Europe and the U.K. no longer allow the unrestricted development of windmills that despoil the scenery and ecosystem or annoy local voters. It’s why big wind projects are being built offshore in the North and Baltic Seas — out of sight and out of mind.
But city folks could contribute to the expansion of solar energy production. They could support regulations that require the roofs of all warehouses, stores, malls and public buildings to have solar panels installed. In addition, all parking lots could be covered by solar panels. But that won’t happen because buying or leasing a thousand acres of agricultural or grazing land and covering it with solar panels is much more profitable, especially in a jurisdiction that allows such precious land to be exploited with no restrictions.
Few European governments would allow their precious agricultural land to be covered over by solar factory operations. That’s why there is a stampede of foreign developers to build projects before our government restricts this unconscionable loss of farmland in a world that needs more food-producing land, not less.
To get a handle on unrestricted development and to examine some of the issues, the Alberta government implemented a six-month moratorium on new REI projects. The response from the industry lobby and their allies was howls of outrage at the government for having the audacity to even mention that there may be issues with these industrial energy factories. That’s because the REI has for so long sat on its moral high horse, being catered to by progressive politicians that the industry feels untouchable.
To discredit the moratorium, the lobby makes over-the-top allegations that companies will now take their billions to more favourable jurisdictions. Really? Where exactly are they going to take their billions?
The reality is there is no more favourable place in the Western world that is so conducive to unrestricted windmill and solar energy factory development than Alberta. Those in the global REI know what a gold mine of project development Alberta is — they aren’t going anywhere because there is no better place to go.
What about those billions anyway? Most go to windmill and solar panel manufacturers in Denmark, Germany and China, not Alberta.
REI developers are foreign entities that operate through surrogate companies in Alberta, who seem to profit from government tax incentives, grants and premium tariff rates that subsidize the projects. What about those new transmission lines to Montana? Are they for sending our renewable energy to global corporate giants like Microsoft, Amazon and others who willingly pay premiums for Alberta renewable energy to greenwash their corporate images? What about all the carbon credits from projects sold to U.S. corporations and California utilities? Shouldn’t Alberta get a continuous royalty from those credits?
It appears Alberta is being played for a sucker by global REI financial bandits. Alberta desperately needs this moratorium and investigation. It needs to extensively scrutinize every aspect of the renewable energy business.
This out-of-control development has to be regulated and restricted, just like in Europe.