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Canadian industry takes stock after budget slash

CANADA: Lack of support for wind in Canada's federal budget has underlined the extent to which the industry will now have to rely on provincial support.

The June budget also confirmed industry concerns that the ecoEnergy for Renewable Power (ERP) programme would not be renewed.

"Clearly, it's disappointing to see the federal government is not taking a more active role," says Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CANWEA). "Having said that, our expectations were not that it would."

There is some new money for clean energy scattered through the 2011-12 spending plan, unveiled by finance minister Jim Flaherty, but the details on exactly how it will be spent are sparse.

"We have to work with various government departments to drill down into the details and determine whether or not these new funds do represent some real opportunities," says Hornung. "We hope they will, but that's not certain."

The budget earmarks C$8 million (US$8.24 million) over two years to promote the clean-energy development in First Nation and northern communities. It's a far cry from the C$63 million over five years CANWEA had sought to spur deployment of hybrid wind-diesel systems in off-grid communities, but could provide support for some smaller wind-related initiatives.

The C$25 million set aside to advance the ongoing Canada-US Clean Energy Dialogue could fund some work on wind energy integration, says Hornung. It is not clear, however, if the budget's allocation of C$97 million for the research, development and demonstration of clean energy and energyefficiency technologies will help the industry.

Wind has not been eligible for similar funding before, and even if it is this time, it will face stiff competition for limited funds, says Hornung.

End of the road

The budget also confirmed industry expectation that the government would not renew its now-expired ERP programme. This paid a C$0.01/kWh production incentive for the first ten years of a project's life.

Newly released figures show the programme ended with C$41 million of its budget not spent. The government set aside money for approved projects based on expected production. If they under-produced, or failed to come online before the March 31 deadline, the money was forfeited.

The programme supported development of 104 projects with a total capacity of 4.46GW. Of that, 67 projects, or 3.52GW, were wind. Wind energy also received the lion's share of funding, taking C$1.014 billion of the available C$1.390 billion. Out of 350 applications submitted to the ERP programme, 225 were wind projects, and 158 of these were still in the queue for funding when the programme expired.

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