Still seeking policy commitment -- Good progress, but limited

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Canada's wind energy industry made significant strides over the past year even though the ability of developers to tap into the country's full wind power potential remains hampered by the lack of a comprehensive national strategy for renewable sources of energy as well as limited access to electricity markets. About 13 MW of new wind was added, bringing Canada's total wind capacity to 137 MW.

"I think wind in Canada is moving ahead in spite of national policy, because it's making more and more sense to Canadians," says Fred Gallagher, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association. Gallagher's company, Calgary-based Vision Quest Windelectric, made the largest gains during 2000 with the opening if its 10.5 MW Castle River wind farm. And Canadian Hydro Developers, another Calgary company, installed five new wind turbines, with a total capacity of 1.875 MW, at its existing Cowley Ridge wind plant.

Both Vision Quest and Canadian Hydro are pursuing plans to expand their southern Alberta generating facilities by 29 MW and 20 MW, respectively. Two more developers, Pincher Creek-based Wind Power Inc and Calgary's Benign Energy Canada, also have plans for 150 MW of Alberta projects (Windpower Monthly, February 2000). And the Peigan Indian Utility Corporation has laid claim to a share of the province's wind resource, with a deal to supply Edmonton electricity retailer Epcor with power from a 750 kW NEG Micon turbine for ten years, starting in 2001.

It is no accident, says Gallagher, that much of Canada's wind activity is centring on Alberta. The province is the first, and so far only, jurisdiction in the country to deregulate its electricity market place. "The only reason why Alberta is moving forward is because there is a market there that we can access."

On the horizon

Ontario had planned to move to full retail competition in November, but is suffering a bout of cold feet having witnessed the California debacle and seen prices soar in Alberta. It will not move forward into deregulation until it is sure consumers will benefit. Last summer, Toronto Hydro Energy Services issued a request for proposals for 131 million kWh of green power, but has yet to announce winning bidders. "The biggest barrier we have is not knowing the date of the market opening here. It's making everybody nervous about signing contracts," says Joyce McLean, manager of green energy generation.

Potential spotted

Despite the lack of competitive markets, interest in wind is growing across Canada. Yukon Energy installed a 660 kW Vestas wind turbine as part of its drive to commercialise wind power in Canada's north. SaskPower issued a request for proposals for at least 25,000 MWh of wind a year to supply federal government facilities in the province. Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is evaluating proposals for a 5-25 MW wind farm, while BC Hydro began an intensive wind monitoring campaign. The utility also announced that 10% of new supply will come from green sources.

While another year went by without action on Quebec's proposed nine year, 450 MW wind set-aside, the province did invest another $800,000 on wind assessment activities. In Ontario, the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-op and Toronto Hydro issued a call for suppliers to construct North America's first urban-based wind turbine, to be located along the waterfront in the city's east end.

Mainstream energy companies began to waken in 2000 to the potential of wind. Alberta-based TransAlta Corp, Canada's largest investor owned power producer, paid C$5 million for a minority stake in wind energy developer Vision Quest and announced it would invest another C$5 million to help finance the company's expansion plans. Shell Canada, the country's third largest integrated petroleum producer, signed a three year deal with Canadian Hydro to purchase three million kWh of wind a year.

Still, if Canada's wind energy sector is to meet its recently unveiled goal of 10,000 MW by 2010, broad market based policy instruments, designed to encourage investment in renewables and lay the foundation for a strong domestic industry, are required, says Gallagher. He could still have a long wait.

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