Canada: Wind In The News

Across the country, the wind industry is in the news and on government priority lists. Even the new federal government, still formulating its energy policy, has been supportive of at least some of the initiatives beneficial to the wind industry that were set in motion by the Martin government.

On December 17, 2005, the federal government published proposed amendments to the Exclusion List Regulations under the Canadian Environment Assessment Act (CEAA). The amendments constitute an effort to eliminate the requirement of an environmental assessment for projects that cause little or no effect on the environment by exempting them from the CEAA requirements. The draft of the amended Exclusion List Regulations included the addition of the expansion of a wind farm by up to 20% of installed capacity (subject to certain conditions), as well as certain amendments in respect of transmission lines and related infrastructure. A significant number of comments are now being considered, including a submission by the Canadian Wind Energy Association to eliminate the environmental assessment requirement for all wind projects under 10 megawatts (MW) in nameplate capacity. According to representatives of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, there is no indication that the present government will withdraw the proposed amendments and the amended Regulations could be in force as early as June 2006.

Beyond these changes, members of the Conservative cabinet have reportedly mused about plans to introduce U.S.-style tax credits to promote construction of wind farms in Canada. Details of any specific proposal have not been released.

Several provinces currently have Requests for Proposals (RFPs) or Requests for Expressions of Interest (REOI) open, either specifically for wind energy or for clean power production. New Brunswick Power is evaluating nineteen proposals in response to its 400 MW October REOI, while Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro received thirteen responses to its 25 MW REOI, for which proposals are due at the end of August. Manitoba reportedly received 10,000 MW of proposals in response to its 1000 MW November REOI, and BC Hydro received bids for fifty-three projects in response to its December 2005 Open Call for Power of 2700 GWh, constituting 6500 GWh of potential production (1800 MW of nameplate capacity). The vast majority of the projects bid into the BC Hydro Call for Power relate to renewable energy. Finally, Quebec has a 2000 MW RFP open, which is restricted to wind energy projects to come online between 2009 and 2013; this RFP is open for bids until April 17, 2007.

In Ontario, the government has continued to delay finalization of its RES III RFP (for small renewable projects) and has not set a timeline for an anticipated RES IV RFP (expected to award power purchase agreements for larger renewable energy projects). However, Ontario has recently issued a standard offer contract program (see article below) that has encouraged wind power enthusiasts. Ontario is also considering changes to the Planning Act that, among other things, could help to streamline the approval process for wind farms in Ontario; Bill 51 is currently being debated by the legislature.

At the far end of the development process, a number of projects have recently been commissioned or achieved commercial operation. In Ontario, the 99 MW Erie Shores Wind Farm owned by Clean Power Income Fund has recently been commissioned, EPCOR’s 40 MW Kingsbridge I Wind Power project is now generating power, and Canadian Hydro’s 67.5 MW Melancthon I Wind Farm has achieved commercial operation. In Manitoba, construction on the province’s first wind farm, AirSource Power’s 99MW St. Leon project, is now complete. Every week brings more announcements of ground-breaking ceremonies and commissionings.

Overall, it appears that 2006 will be another record-breaking year for the Canadian wind industry; from January to early April, 260 MW of wind energy capacity had been installed , bringing total Canadian capacity to 943 MW. Provided that the federal government’s inevitable changes to existing wind energy development incentive programs (the Wind Power Production Incentive and the Canadian Renewable and Conservative Expense) do not result in a net detriment to the industry, the current pace should continue for some time.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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