Power lines are seen against cloudy skies near Kingston, Ont. , Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022 in Ottawa. The Alberta Utilities Commission is fining another power plant in the province for operating without a licence. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The Alberta Utilities Commission has fined another company for operating an electricity generator without a licence — using the power, like other offenders, to operate bitcoin mines.

In a settlement dated Tuesday, Energy Sustain Services is to pay a $10,000 fine for operating the power plant in Brazeau County, southwest of Edmonton, between February and May of 2022.

“(Energy Sustain Services) believed that there was no requirement to obtain commission approval to construct and operate the power plant,” say documents filed by the commission.

It’s at least the third fine over the last year levied by the commission on unlicensed generators powering bitcoin mines.

The commission says the company entered into an agreement with Response Energy to use gas from a previously suspended well to power 87 mines in addition to the well’s operation. Response had suspended the well after closing the pipeline that connected it to its gathering system.

The two companies consulted with local residents and conducted what they felt were adequate environmental assessments, including with regard to noise levels.

But on Feb. 15, when the plant started operating, the company immediately started getting noise complaints, say the documents. Straw bales were stacked to absorb the sound, but the commission began receiving complaints on March 8.

An investigator later found noise levels exceeded guidelines. Energy Sustain Services was not charged with those violations because it wasn’t clear whether the noise came from the generator or the bitcoin miners.

Alberta law says generators smaller than one megawatt that supply power to a single user don’t require regulatory approval.

The plant’s capacity was almost 1.5 megawatts. Its electricity was used by both companies.

“(Energy Sustain Services) erroneously believed that the power plant fell under the small power plant exemption,” the commission wrote.

“These are not the sort of mistakes (i.e., the reasonable belief in a mistaken fact) that would ground the defence of due diligence.”

The generator has since been replaced by a low-noise machine with about one-third the capacity.

Commission spokesman Geoff Scotton said the fine shows the regulator’s enforcement system is effective.

“The (commission) takes this role seriously and has an established compliance and enforcement division to facilitate this aspect of its mandate,” he said in an email. The (commission’s) powers around investigations and compliance and enforcement generally are substantial.”

The fine levied against Energy Sustain Services is a small fraction of those previously handed out by the commission.

In February, Avex Energy was fined more than $240,000 for running a natural gas-fired generator in the County of Stettler in central Alberta while bypassing regulatory tests for safe and unobtrusive operation.

In December, Vancouver-based Green Block Mining reached a settlement agreement of more than $400,000 for running five megawatts of generation in Sturgeon County west of Edmonton. It was also ordered to never operate in Alberta again.

In both cases, the power was being sold to bitcoin miners, which require large amounts of electricity to run their computer servers.

Scotton said it’s difficult to know how many unlicensed power plants in Alberta have been supplying bitcoin miners because the commission’s enforcement division doesn’t necessarily track where the power involved in its investigations goes.

“Anecdotally, I am aware of only a handful of these over the last two or three years,” he wrote.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 9, 2024.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2023. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • 0075 Fast Trucking OutlaW Buckers 01
    0075 Fast Trucking OutlaW Buckers 01
  • 0074 General Well Servicing Outlaw Buckers
    0074 General Well Servicing Outlaw Buckers
  • 0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
    0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
  • 0072 Outlaw Buckers and Oil Kings 2024
    0072 Outlaw Buckers and Oil Kings 2024
  • 0069 Sask Oil Show 2024 banquet tickets
    0069 Sask Oil Show 2024 banquet tickets
  • 0071 Pride Upkeep 2024 Packages
    0071 Pride Upkeep 2024 Packages
  • 0070 Sask Oil Show 2024 pre-register
    0070 Sask Oil Show 2024 pre-register
  • 0068 Sask Oil Show 2024 booth
    0068 Sask Oil Show 2024 booth
  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0015 Latus Viro
    0015 Latus Viro
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001