British Columbia could reach 5GW in wind capacity

CANADA: A proposal for British Columbia (BC) to meet 17% of its electricity demand with wind energy by 2025 is realistic given the unique characteristics of the province's power system, industry advocates say. But it will require the government to stick with its aggressive clean-energy and climate goals.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CANWEA) unveiled a plan at its annual conference last month that would see the province install 5.25GW of wind over the next 15 years. While the target represents a 21-fold increase over the province's current 248MW of installed capacity, Roby Roberts, vice-president of communications and government affairs for EDP Renewables North America, said that it is not radical. "I don't even think it is overly aggressive. It's quite modest, frankly," he insisted.

Skyrocketing demand in the province's mining, shale-gas and liquefied natural gas sector means that electrical generation needs to be ramped up quickly, and wind is well positioned to fill the gap, said Nicholas Heap, CANWEA's BC policy manager.

BC has an extensive resource, with an estimated generating potential of 39TWh at project sites already under investigation by developers alone, and a hydro-based grid that has the flexibility needed to integrate large amounts of intermittent generation. It is also strategically positioned to meet renewable-energy demand in neighbouring US and Canadian markets, added Roberts. "To me, it's a perfect storm for success. It's a question of political will at this point. The pieces are all there," he said.

A key to CANWEA's strategy is electrification of the province's new industrial activity. Companies are currently using diesel generators or gas-fired compressors to supply the power they need, and getting them connected to the grid is critical if BC is to have any hope of meeting its greenhouse-gas emissions-reduction target of 33% below 2007 levels by 2020, said CANWEA present Robert Hornung.

In its new jobs plan, the BC government is targeting development of eight new mines by 2015 and three liquefied natural gas terminals by 2020, with sufficient electricity supply to make the investments possible.

But the plan is vague on where the power will come from. The province has laws in place requiring BC to source 93% of its electricity from clean or renewable resources and generate sufficient power to meet its domestic needs by 2016. However, the government has said it will scale back its energy self-sufficiency goals and rely more heavily on imported power to keep a lid on rising electricity prices.