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MLA Scott Cyr calls for stricter criteria for renewable energy development

MLA Scott Cyr says there needs to be better and more structured criteria that developers of green energy projects are required to follow in the province.

LAKELAND – Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul  MLA Scott Cyr says there needs to be better and more structured criteria that developers of green energy projects are required to follow in the province.

“Right now, there is no balance. You can literally put up [renewable energy projects] anywhere you want,” said Cyr, speaking with Lakeland This Week. “I want to see full transparency. I want responsible growth when it comes to anything we’re doing up in the area. When it comes down to it, I’m not against responsible green energy. But I am hesitant to just go wild, wild west with this stuff.” 

In a letter addressed to the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), Cyr has expressed concerns regarding the current state of green energy technologies, particularly when it comes to wind turbines and solar panels. 

“I am writing to express our support for your recent decision to pause approvals of new renewable electricity generation projects over one megawatt and to initiate an inquiry into the development of renewable electricity generation policies and procedures,” wrote Cyr in the letter. 

Earlier this year in August, AUC paused the approval of new renewable electricity generation projects greater than one megawatt. The pause is in place until Feb. 29, 2024. An inquiry is taking place, looking into “the ongoing economic, orderly and efficient development of electricity generation in Alberta,” according to the Aug. 3 announcement from AUC. 

In his letter, Cyr says, “I wish to share the concerns of my constituents regarding the current state of green energy technologies, particularly wind turbines and solar panels.” Cyr noted there are “local environmental and potential human impacts, which seem to be held to different standards compared to the oil and gas industry, or any other industry for that matter.” 

According to Cyr, the “alarming” extensive land use required for large-scale wind projects could potentially lead to the permanent alteration and loss of prime farmland and natural landscapes in the Lakeland.

This is an issue that he says must not be worsened “by poorly planned and irresponsibly executed green energy projects,” especially those that receive substantial subsidies but fail to fulfill their promises regarding environmental benefits and efficiency. 

Cyr has concerns about the potential environmental impacts on soil and groundwater, including surface warming, alterations to local climate conditions, as well as contamination of critical groundwater that could occur during the construction and operation phases of large-scale projects. 

Health impacts and more

In addition, in his letter Cyr also touched on the impact to property values, wildlife – particularly endangered species like the whooping crane – and the potential negative health effects on residents living in proximity to wind turbines. 

“Studies and court decisions have highlighted serious negative health effects for people residing within up to 10 kilometres of wind turbine plants, primarily due to ‘noise’ emissions. These health concerns, along with the potential for negative external effects on local communities, add another dimension to the renewable energy debate,” says Cyr.

He told Lakeland This Week that “comprehensive impact assessments” are required to address these concerns. “I don’t believe this is being done right now,” he says, explaining there also needs to be a better opportunity for people to voice their concerns. 

Cyr says he believes rural Albertans are also worried about whether the power grid can remain stable and if current batteries can prevent issues like power cuts and blackouts, “especially given that the limitations of these battery technologies are not where they need to be.” 

In the letter, he says it’s crucial that the energy grid remains viable for both urban and rural areas.

“Hailstorms knocking out entire solar farms not only put the system at risk, but also raise concerns wrote. 

Additionally, Cyr also questioned the sincerity and effectiveness of some corporations building green energy projects. Some corporations have no intention of operating these green energy projects and instead are simply looking to “obtain green tax credits or to artificially enhance their environmental reputation for PR (public relations),” he claimed. 

Cyr also pointed out that emissions produced when making green energy or importing energy into Canada are not being tracked, which increases costs to local consumers. “Many rural Albertans, especially those outside major cities, are already burdened with high energy costs. The transition to renewable technologies must not exacerbate this financial burden of expensive energy,” he says. 

Criticizing the Alberta NDP 

Cyr criticized the Alberta NDP for their call to resume renewable energy development, deeming it environmentally irresponsible. He says the Alberta NDP’s discrepancy in their stringent stance on environmental assessments for oil and gas compared to other energy sources is hypocritical. 

Last month, the Alberta NDP formally filed to the AUC opposing its “ban” on development of renewable energy, claiming it led to the loss of around 24,000 jobs and $33 billion in investments. 

Nagwan Al-Guneid, Alberta NDP Energy & Climate Critic for Electricity, Utilities & Renewables, says lifting the pause will restore investor confidence, protect jobs, and any new rules can be applied across all energy sectors. “This is about building our future, lowering emissions, and moving our economy forward,” she says. 

But Cyr says a balanced approach is required, while weighing the economic benefits against potential long-term environmental costs of renewable energy development. 

Transparent consultation process 

Cyr is asking AUC for an open and transparent consultation process, with significant involvement from rural Albertans, to discuss the issues at hand. “This will ensure that the voices and concerns of those most impacted by these developments are heard and addressed.” 

Cyr also urges the AUC to establish green energy restricted zones “around environmentally sensitive areas and areas of natural beauty,” and to implement a policy that would require green energy projects to submit reclamation plans like those of oil and gas initiatives. Cyr believes this will protect the environment in the future. 

“The AUC has a responsibility to the environment, but that responsibility does not end there. We need to ensure that future generations are not burdened with decisions we make today,” concluded Cyr in his letter. 

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