Alberta's seven-month pause on approving new renewable power projects in the Canadian province has caused four major international companies at various development stages to stop work on their plans, an industry official said.
Alberta's surprise move this month has also prompted some domestic companies to consider whether to refocus investment on other provinces and the US.
Wind and solar energy producers have criticised Premier Danielle Smith for creating business uncertainty and jeopardising billions in potential investments.
Alberta, the country's main oil and gas producing province, paused approvals on August 3 of new renewable electricity generation projects over one megawatt until February 29, chilling investment in the fast-growing industry. The pause is necessary to address concerns about renewables' reliability and land use, said a spokesperson for Alberta's utilities minister.
The move has increased tensions between Smith and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government, which is drafting regulations to force provinces to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from their grids on a net basis by 2035.
One of the international companies that has paused its work had applied to build a renewable power project in the province, said Jorden Dye, acting director of the Business Renewables Centre, a Calgary-based organisation that matches renewable developers and buyers.
A second company has paused design work on its first Alberta project, Dye added.
A third company delayed plans to secure Calgary office space, while a fourth was making preliminary inquiries about investing in Alberta before deciding to wait, he added.
"Those investment decisions ... are not going to move forward until the government clears this up," Dye said.
He said he could not name the companies because plans are confidential.
Alberta has led the country in building renewable capacity and is on track to eliminating combustion of coal for power next year, six years ahead of plan.
Along with domestic firms, foreign companies like Berkshire Hathaway's BHE Canada, EDF Renewables and Enel Green Power generate renewable power in Alberta. Companies have invested nearly C$5 billion ($3.7 billion) since 2019, according to the Pembina Institute.
The pause directly affects 15 projects in the approvals queue, the government spokesperson said. But Pembina said the freeze puts at risk a total of 91 projects at early development stages.
Calgary-based BluEarth Renewables is reviewing the 400 megawatts' worth of early-stage wind and solar projects it was considering for the province, although it has no projects currently in Alberta's approval queue, said CEO Grant Arnold.
"Without certainty as to what the outcome of this pause will be, we will prioritise investment into other jurisdictions," Arnold said. BluEarth also operates in three other provinces and the US.
Alberta Utilities Commission is deliberating whether to stop receiving applications during the pause period, rather than just halting approvals, a move that would suggest it may freeze development even longer, Dye said.
"You could see a scenario where an investor says, 'Alberta is now a risky place to invest so I need a higher return to justify the political risk,'" said Dan Balaban, CEO of Greengate Power, which built Canada's biggest solar farm in southern Alberta with fund manager Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, producing power for Amazon.com.
"We need to get back to the Alberta way, which is very pro-business."