The gusts that rip through Newfoundland and Labrador off the North Atlantic Ocean stunt the growth of tuckamore trees, set houses creaking and give the region the honour of perhaps the windiest place in Canada.
Now, the provincial government is intent on harnessing that energy to help drive its economy. It lifted a 15-year moratorium on the development of wind power earlier this month, and it’s eager to develop both the on and offshore potential of a renewable resource that has been sharply felt by anyone who has lived in the province.
“The fact that we might be able to capitalize on that resource which is torturing us, and the fact that we might be able to generate jobs, economic activity, revenue, it’s just huge. It’s absolutely huge,” the province’s Industry, Energy and Technology Minister, Andrew Parsons, told The Globe and Mail last week.
In that sense, Newfoundland and Labrador is following something of a global trend.
The growth of offshore wind capacity in Europe is poised 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 additions seen in 2021. Capacity is only expected to grow in the coming years, almost doubling in 2023 and jumping to 8.6 GW in 2025, primarily driven by projects in Britain.
And the Paris-based International Energy Agency says increasing the percentage of wind power in the world’s electricity mix will be crucial to lowering global greenhouse-gas emissions.
Mr. Parsons is cognizant, then, that his province doesn’t have the luxury of taking its time when it comes to wind power. In the Atlantic region alone, it’s already competing with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to draw crucial investment dollars.
“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 that better,’ ” he said. “We have to get in 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 expressly forbade issuing Crown land leases or grants for commercial wind energy generation projects.
Along with lifting that long-standing ban on onshore wind developments, the province this month announced a new green technology tax credit – 20 per cent for N.L.-based companies that invest in equipment for energy conservation and clean-energy generation.
Yet the province still has a series of hurdles to jump before wind power becomes a realistic option.
It needs to nail down Crown land policies and project-permitting rules, for example, and figure out how to merge power into the electrical grid. In the case of offshore wind projects, it will also have to work with the federal government on appropriate regulations.
And while Mr. Parsons says it’s important to incentivize green energy and help people move away from diesel, his government also wants to continue developing Newfoundland and Labrador’s non-renewable resources – even with a provincial goal of reducing emissions to net zero by 2050.
That’s why he was pleased Ottawa gave the green light to the Bay du Nord oil development off the coast of 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 about 70 per cent complete. It was intended to access 200 million barrels of crude, but its future was cast in doubt when Cenovus acquired the project’s former operator, Husky Energy Inc., last year.
Cenovus CEO Alex Pourbaix told an industry forum recently that the company will decide this spring whether to decommission or continue West White Rose, saying, “there really is no do-nothing option with the asset.”
“We still have a bit of work to do with our partners in the Newfoundland government, and we would expect to make a decision later on in Q2,” he said.
Mr. Parsons told The Globe that discussions on West White Rose are “extremely advanced.” And while he wouldn’t weigh in 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 … this comes down to what they think is best for their shareholders,” he said.
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