AUC Updates Process for Module A of the Inquiry on Renewable Energy Development
On Wednesday, October 4, 2023, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC or Commission) released a Notice providing further details on the process for Module A of an inquiry regarding policies and procedures for the development of renewable electricity generation. The AUC’s Notice outlines key deadlines, the processes available for stakeholder participation, dates and locations of open-house sessions, details on expert reports commissioned by the AUC, and the availability of participant funding.
As discussed in our earlier post on August 3, 2023, the Government of Alberta announced the enactment of the Generation Approvals Pause Regulation, which prohibits the AUC from issuing approvals under section 9 or 11 of the Hydro and Electric Energy Act for new hydro developments or power plants that produce renewable energy during a period from August 3, 2023, to February 29, 2024. At the same time, the Government also directed the AUC through another order-in-council to conduct an inquiry into the development of electricity generation in Alberta.
The AUC is to conduct the inquiry and provide the Minister of Affordability and Utilities with a report on its findings and observations by March 29, 2024.
AUC Update Announcement on Module A Process
The AUC’s most recent Notice Sets out further details outlining the process for Module A. Module A will explore the first four issues identified in the order-in-council, which include:
- Considerations on the development of power plants on specific types or classes of agricultural or environmental land
- Considerations of the impact of power plant development on Alberta’s pristine viewscapes
- Considerations of implementing mandatory reclamation security requirements for power plants
- Considerations for the development of power plants on lands held by the Crown in Right of Alberta
Options for Participation
Interested parties will be able to participate in the inquiry by completing a written comment matrix, providing written submissions through the AUC’s e-Filing System in Proceeding 28501, or registering to make a virtual oral submission to the AUC. Interested parties are free to choose their preferred means of participating in the inquiry and are not required to participate in all elements to have their submissions considered.
- Comment matrix: A written comment matrix template, organized by key issues, has been prepared by the AUC. The comment matrix is a public webform that can be submitted directly to the AUC. Alternatively, there is also a Microsoft Word form of the same, for parties wishing to submit via the AUC’s e-Filing system or to use as a guide for parties who participate in other ways such as written or oral submissions.
- Written Submissions: Parties may prepare written submissions in their preferred format on the AUC’s e-Filing System in Proceeding 28501. Written submissions will require interested parties to register to participate in Proceeding 28501 and be limited to the scope of the inquiry. The AUC has indicated it will determine whether it needs to question parties on their written submissions and will notify parties of its intention to do so no later than December 4, 2023. Questions are expected to be directed towards organizations and municipalities, or experts who author reports, rather than individual members of the public.
- Oral Submissions: In addition to the above, the AUC has conveyed that it will provide the opportunity for interested parties to make oral submissions to the AUC panel on inquiry topics. The exact dates and details on how interested parties can register to make an oral submission will be announced in due course. However, the AUC anticipates oral submissions will be heard on the following dates:
- December 4-8, 2023: submissions from members of the public; and
- December 11-15, 2023: submissions from municipalities and other organizations.
Interested parties will have until November 22, 2023 to complete and submit either a comment matrix or written submission. All submissions will be publicly available. As noted above, more information on oral submissions is forthcoming.
The AUC will also be holding open-house sessions, with AUC staff attending and available to answer questions, in three locations across Central and Southern Alberta in November. The purpose of these open-house sessions will be to provide information about the AUC, the inquiry process, and how to participate in the inquiry. The locations, dates, and times of these open-house sessions are provided in the AUC Notice.
The AUC has retained several experts to author reports related to the land impact issues covered in Module A, including providing information on the following issues:
- A review of the costs of decommissioning and reclamation practices, and costs from completed projects;
- Project cost estimates for decommissioning and reclamation based on land use, area, type of disturbance, etc.;
- Models for liability management programs in Alberta and other jurisdictions;
- Provide an inventory of agricultural land in Alberta, its classification and location, and what that means from a productivity perspective;
- An examination of power plant development impacts on agricultural land;
- Best practices for the design of a reclamation security program; and
- A review of the impacts of power plant development on landscapes.
A detailed list of experts and the scope of their reports are set out in the Notice. These expert reports are expected to be made publicly available on the AUC’s e-Filing System in Proceeding 28501 no later than November 10, 2023.
Limited Participant Funding Available
Finally, the AUC has indicated limited funding will be available to parties to assist with the preparation of expert reports in support of their filed submissions. Funding will not be available for legal or other fees or disbursements.
Parties wishing to recover some or all of their costs for the preparation of expert reports must file a budget with the AUC no later than October 13, 2023, containing the following:
- Detailed estimate of the fees for the preparation of the expert report;
- Brief descriptions of the issues that will be addressed and the relevance of those issues to the terms of reference for Module A of the inquiry; and
- Why the party requires financial assistance to participate in the inquiry.
The AUC may approve or deny funding requests and may grant full or partial funding. Approved funding will be provided at the time of the funding decision and is not subject to post-inquiry review.
Summary of Key Dates
|Deadlines for budgets for expert reports||October 13, 2023|
Open house sessions
|Various locations and dates from November 2 to November 8, 2023|
|AUC to release independent expert reports||No later than November 10, 2023|
|Comment matrix and written submissions due||November 22, 2023|
|AUC to identify parties and issues for oral questioning (if any)||No later than December 4, 2023|
|Dates reserved for oral questioning from the AUC (if any) and oral submissions from interested parties||December 4-8 and 11-15, 2023|
The AUC’s most recent announcement sets out the structure and procedural steps the AUC will use to consider the initial set of issues that were identified in support of the approval pause period.
As set out above, many of the timelines, and in particular those related to advance funding requests, are very short. These short timelines may prove challenging for many stakeholders to meet. However, the key dates likely reflect the time restraints the AUC is working towards to meet its ability to submit its report to the Government within the required timeframe.
We will continue to monitor these developments closely. MR’s Environmental & Energy group has extensive experience with renewable energy developments and regulation by the AUC. If you have any questions regarding participation in the inquiry, please contact a member of the McLennan Ross Environmental & Energy group.