A big green stride for Canada -- Government on the move

The Canadian government will buy at least 25,000 MWh of wind a year to help power its facilities in Saskatchewan, paying a premium of $12.4 million over ten years. About 10 MW will be required. SaskPower, the government-owned utility, will issue an RFP for a third-party supplier and expects the successful bidder to start generating by early 2002. Any excess capacity will be offered to SaskPower customers. It is "the largest single purchase of green power ever in Canada," says Ralph Goodale, Canada's minister of natural resources, and is designed to help build a market for renewable electricity in Saskatchewan. It is also the long awaited expansion of the government's green power procurement initiative, launched in 1996 with the purchase of wind and biomass power for federal facilities in Alberta.

Funding for the agreement with SaskPower was announced in the February 2000 budget, which committed $15 million over ten years to increase the government's own use of renewables. Negotiations are under way for a similar agreement in Prince Edward Island, and a round of exploratory discussions has taken place with Nova Scotia Power. Along with Alberta, these three provinces have the most carbon intensive electricity supply in Canada.

Purchases may soon expand into other provinces. The government recently released an action plan on climate change that includes a commitment to supply 20% of its electricity requirements from low- or non-emitting energy sources. The plan also promises financial incentives for renewable technologies.

"At long last, Canada is starting to 'walk the talk' on support for new, cleaner energy sources," says Fred Gallagher of the Canadian Wind Energy Association. "These programs, when implemented, will demonstrate that the government is committed to helping renewables gain a foothold in the new electricity market, creating jobs and clean air."

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