"We're pleased to support this fledgling industry," says Rick George of Suncor Energy Inc. The company, based in Fort McMurray, Alberta, extracts oil from heavy oil tar sands and also conducts oil exploration, refining and production. "Our agreement with Vision Quest is another small step towards reducing Suncor's greenhouse gas emissions," adds George.
Suncor has agreed to buy up to 350,000 kilowatt hours of credits per year from Vision Quest for five years, a figure translating to 350,000 kilograms of greenhouse gasses avoided per year, according to Vision Quest. "It's a modest purchase so they are obviously just getting their toes wet," says Jason Edworthy of Vision Quest. "The real important thing to us is that it's a petroleum sector comany."
The contract is particularly notable following the global warming agreement signed by Canada and 38 other countries in Kyoto in December (Windpower Monthly, January 1998). A global emissions trading system was agreed upon as one mechanism to reduce greenhouse gasses. Vision Quest is one of the first companies in the world to use such a system commercially with wind generated power (Windpower Monthly, November 1997).
Traded through the pool
In September it hooked a Canadian utility, ENMAX, to buy more than three million kWh of credits a year, stemming from energy generated by two Vestas 600 kW wind turbines. The agreement with Suncor follows the same idea, where Suncor will sign a "contract for differences" with Vision Quest for green energy. "They pay us to put it on the grid for them and they get the emissions reduction credits, and that's how it works," says Edworthy.
The credits, certified by Environment Canada under its Environmental Choice programme, are being traded through the Power Pool of Alberta, where the wind energy is to be sold. Vision Quest has sold all the credits for the existing two turbines over the next ten years, amounting to 30,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, says Edworthy. He declines to divulge a dollar figure.
The company has yet to sell enough credits to pay for the new project. "There are only three things that I've got to do: market, market and market," Edworthy stresses. "Because we can sell the physical electricity [in Alberta] and the offsets elsewhere, we can sell anywhere in the world."
Vision Quest, which announced the Suncor deal last month, has not yet decided on the details of the wind project that will be built to supply the energy. The company, however, hints at "multiple turbines" and the possible use of the Vestas 660 kW machine.
"The offsets are a tradable commodity," says Edworthy. "It's my opinion that offsets will be extremely important for all countries to make their Kyoto commitments -- particularly Canada -- and our industry can provide high quality offsets for people to put in their portfolio of offsets that they're going to be needing, and there's a large market there."