Wednesday, February 17, 2016

BC Alt. Power Doldrums Force Canadian Wind Energy Association to Set Sail for the Prairies

Canadian Wind Energy Association pulls out of B.C.

by Mike Carter - Alaska Highway News

February 13, 2016

The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is pulling out of B.C. because of a lack of calls for power from BC Hydro tied to the Site C dam.

At a time when the governing Liberal Party boasts about turning the province into a clean energy leader, the country’s largest wind energy organization has announced it is pulling out of B.C. to chase better opportunities in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Vice-president Jean-Francois Nolet of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) made the announcement in a letter to members of his B.C. Caucus Feb. 5, obtained by the Alaska Highway News.

The news affirms some suspicions within the opposition NDP that the Site C dam has killed the inspiration for independent power producers to come up with new and innovative renewable energy projects by effectively stopping BC Hydro from putting out a call for power in the foreseeable future.

“In the last few months we have seen significant new commitments to renewable energy in Alberta and Saskatchewan, but much work remains to be done to make those commitments a reality,” Nolet wrote.

“At the same time, despite the hard work and efforts of CanWEA and other stakeholders over many years in British Columbia we have not yet secured any significant new opportunities for wind energy in the province and both the BC Government and BC Hydro have indicated that they do not expect to proceed with a new call for power within the next decade.”

In response, CanWEA determined it must shift its focus from B.C. to emerging markets in Alberta and Saskatchewan. With the announcment comes the closing of the office for CanWEA's BC regional director, Ian Baille, who will be leaving the organization.

The NDP’s critic for Green Energy Technology says the government is trying to have it both ways by saying it will be a clean energy leader, but stunting growth in the sector by putting all their eggs in one basket: the Site C dam.

“They say they support wind power and renewable energy but both the premier and (Energy and Mines) Minister Bennett have been clear that with Site C there will be no need for any other power for a minimum ten years,” he said.

“This decision by CanWEA to close down its B.C. operations is a clear signal that they don’t see any future here at least for the foreseeable period of time and that’s a shame.”

While this announcement does nothing to change the Meikle Wind Energy project near Tumblr Ridge, which already has a 25-year power purchasing agreement with BC Hydro and is expected to finish construction at the end of the year, according to the projects website, it will mean the future of other projects is put in doubt, like the Red Willow wind (also near Tumbler Ridge) which would have been the province’s largest wind farm once complete.

“There are a number of projects that either have their environmental assessment (EA) certification and are just waiting for a power call or others that are quite serious and would be ready to start the EA process, and they’re just not going to happen because all our eggs are being put into the Site C basket and we’re not going to be in a position as British Columbians to benefit from the dropping prices in both wind and solar and the rapidly advancing efficiency of the technologies,” Heyman said.

Heyman added that as climate change progresses, British Columbia may regret pursuing a massive controversial hydroelectric dam that will flood prime agricultural areas.

In an email to the Alaska Highway News, Ministry of Energy and Mines communications director David Haslam said CanWEA’s decision to back away from B.C. and focus on operations in Alberta and Saskatchewan is because these provinces have a long way to go to catch up to B.C. in the clean energy sector.

“We have a target of generating 93 per cent of our power from clean sources and last year, more than 97 per cent of our power came from clean sources,” he wrote, adding that independent power projects provide about 25 per cent of British Columbia’s electricity and will “continue to play a vital role in meeting the province’s growing energy needs.”

Haslam also pointed to a Memorandum of Understanding signed last year between BC Hydro, the provincial government and the Clean Energy Association of B.C. as proof that the province is committed to renewable energy sources.

“The (agreement) will… strengthen B.C.’s competitive advantage of reliable and affordable clean electricity and support continued investment and growth in the independent power sector,” Haslam wrote.

He added that the governments plan to meet future growth in demand through a mix of conservation, renewing contracts with current independent power producers and Site C, which he says “provides us with firm, cost-effective energy and capacity over many decades.”

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