Newfoundland turns to wind power to broaden its energy mix

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Gusts crossing Newfoundland and Labrador off the North Atlantic Ocean stunt the growth of tuckamores, crack homes and give the region the honor of being perhaps the windiest place in the world. Canada.

Now the provincial government intends to harness this energy to stimulate its economy. He lifted a 15-year moratorium on wind power development earlier this month, and is eager to develop both the on- and offshore potential of a renewable resource that has been keenly felt by all those who have lived in the province.

“The fact that we can capitalize on this resource that tortures us, and the fact that we can generate jobs, economic activity, income, it is simply enormous. It’s absolutely massive,” provincial Industry, Energy and Technology Minister Andrew Parsons told The Globe and Mail last week.

In that sense, Newfoundland and Labrador is kind of following a global trend.

Offshore wind capacity growth in Europe is set to hit a record high this year, according to analysis from Rystad Energy, topping four gigawatts (GW) for the first time and more than doubling the additions seen in 2021. Capacity is only expected to increase in the coming years, almost doubling in 2023 and increasing to 8.6 GW in 2025, mainly driven by projects in Britain.

And the Paris-based International Energy Agency says increasing the percentage of wind power in the global electricity mix will be crucial to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Parsons is therefore aware that his province does not have the luxury of taking its time when it comes to wind energy. In the Atlantic region alone, it is already competing with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to attract crucial investment funds.

“We don’t want to see ourselves in a situation where years later we look back and say, ‘You know, we really could have handled this better,'” he said. “We have to get into the game. So there is a sense of urgency. »

The province’s ban on wind farms was part of its 2007 energy plan, called Focusing our Energy, which specifically prohibited the granting of leases or grants on Crown land for commercial wind power projects. .

In addition to lifting this long-standing ban on onshore wind developments, the province this month announced a new green technology tax credit – 20% for Newfoundland-based companies that invest in equipment for energy conservation and clean energy generation.

Yet the province still has a series of hurdles to overcome before wind energy becomes a realistic option.

It has to define Crown land policies and project authorization rules, for example, and figure out how to merge electricity with the power grid. In the case of offshore wind projects, he will also have to work with the federal government on appropriate regulations.

And while Mr Parsons says it’s important to encourage green power and help people move away from diesel, his government also wants to continue developing Newfoundland’s non-renewable resources. Labrador – even with a provincial goal of reducing emissions to net zero by 2050.

That’s why he was delighted that Ottawa gave the green light to the Bay du Nord oil development offshore the province earlier this month, and why his government wants Cenovus Energy to revive the stalled West White Rose project.

The $2.2 billion offshore oil project is approximately 70% complete. It was meant to access 200 million barrels of crude, but its future was thrown into doubt when Cenovus acquired former project operator Husky Energy Inc. last year.

Cenovus CEO Alex Pourbaix recently told an industry forum that the company will decide this spring whether to retire or continue West White Rose, saying “there really is no option to do nothing with the asset”.

“We still have some work to do with our partners in the Newfoundland government, and we expect to make a decision later in the second quarter,” he said.

Mr Parsons told The Globe talks over West White Rose are “extremely advanced”. And while he won’t comment on whether he thinks it will go ahead, he believes his government has done what it can to push the project forward.

“But at the end of the day…it comes down to what they think is best for their shareholders,” he said.

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