By 2015, Canada will have a total of 10 GW of installed wind capacity, nearly 40% greater than the 6.5 GW operating currently. However, policy initiatives in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta – the country’s four largest wind markets – are being re-evaluated, and the outcomes could have a dramatic impact for the world’s ninth-largest wind market.
“It is the end of the first cycle for wind development in Canada,” explains J.F. Nolet, vice president, policy and government affairs, at the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), adding that unless a framework is established in the key wind markets, “the Canadian wind industry could be facing radical changes after 2016.”
Nowhere is the angst over large wind energy being felt more than in Ontario, where the provincial government has de-emphasized utility-scale wind projects for reasons both macroeconomic and political (see cover story, “Political Football: Ontario Sacks Large-Scale Wind”).
And it is not just Ontario. From Montreal to Medicine Hat, there are questions surrounding the future of wind energy.
The time to act is now, as the scope of wind energy development in Canada beyond 2016 will be determined by policies implemented in the next 18 months, according to Nolet.
There is a ray of optimism in some markets, such as British Columbia, where utility-scale wind energy has been slow to take hold. In fact, it was the last province in Canada to host a utility-scale project. However, the opportunity could be significant, as Premier Christy Clark is currently presiding over the province’s Integrated Resource Plan.
According to a CanWEA-commissioned study, British Columbia will need an additional 23,600 GWh of electricity production to meet domestic demand in 2025. As of 2011, British Columbia had nearly 250 MW of installed capacity in the province, producing just over 1% of the province’s electricity requirements. CanWEA, which advocates for 5.3 GW of installed capacity by 2025, envisions that wind energy can make up much of the difference.
In a world where there is competition for wind energy investment, clear long-term policy objectives and stable policy frameworks are critical to keep Canada competitive for such investment.
Although it may be too late for the Ontario wind market, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia are still very much in play. Developers, original equipment manufacturers and component suppliers need to be active in shaping these discussions; Canada’s future depends on it. w