Clarity and new goal missing -- New Quebec strategy

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Quebec's newly released energy strategy does not provide the kind of new long term wind power purchase commitments the industry had been hoping for, but the plan does open the door to continued wind additions as the province's hydro base expands and more is known about integrating wind into the existing power system.

The long awaited strategy, released May 4, outlines the province's energy plans over the next ten years. It says Quebec will install 4000 MW of wind power by 2015, a goal based on the results of a study commissioned by the government last year that found this was the limit of wind capacity that could be connected to Hydro-Quebec's power grid while retaining supply stability without placing any constraints on the system. But it is also a goal that has largely been met by contracts signed and procurement processes now in progress.

Quebec currently has just over 212 MW of installed wind capacity and has signed power purchase agreements for another 1244 MW to be built by 2012. Last October it released a call for another 2000 MW of wind to be delivered by 2013, with bids due next April. "They have already pretty much committed to 3500 MW," says Sean Whittaker, a policy director for the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA).

Small scale too

The province will issue a request for proposals (RFP) for 500 MW of smaller-scale, locally based projects up to 25 MW in size, with half to be developed by communities and half by First Nations groups. The strategy does not say when the small-scale RFP will be released, specifying only that deliveries will start after 2010 and continue to 2015.

Municipalities in Quebec have become increasingly vocal in demanding a greater financial stake in wind energy development in their jurisdictions. Jean Perrault, president of the Union of Municipalities of Quebec (UMQ), says his group is satisfied with the allotment, and with other provisions in the strategy that place small hydro development in local hands. "The UMQ sees an interesting opportunity for municipalities to play an even more important part in local and regional socioeconomic development," he says. "Henceforth, the municipalities will be regarded as partners in energy development."

CanWEA, says Whittaker, supports the government's decision to encourage community-based wind development. But it also wants to know how it might impact bidders in the 2000 MW RFP, which encourages equity participation in projects by municipalities or First Nations groups by making it part of the bid evaluation criteria.

"We would like the government to clarify as soon as possible the details of that allocation so it does not cause any confusion or uncertainty with respect to municipal and First Nations participation in the current RFP process," he says.

During public consultations leading up to the release of the new strategy, CanWEA recommended that wind power supply a minimum of 10% of Quebec's electricity demand by 2015. The 4000 MW target is equivalent to about 4-5%. "This is a solid foundation, but we know it is possible to do more based on experience in other jurisdictions," says Whittaker. "Yes, Quebec will continue to be a leader in Canada. But if it wants to be a leader in the world then it has got a ways to go."

What the industry is also looking for, he says, is a plan for what happens once the current procurement processes are complete. "The way we see it is that after the 2000 MW RFP bid process closes in April 2007, there is uncertainty with respect to future development. And if we really want to build a viable long term industry in Quebec, it is important to have long term certainty."

The strategy does say the government intends to issue more RFPs for wind "when conditions are more favourable." One factor, it says, will be the pace of growth of Quebec's hydro base. The core of the new energy strategy is a massive C$25 billion large hydroelectric construction program that will add 4500 MW to Quebec's power grid. By adopting a portfolio approach that will launch several projects at the same time, the province hopes to have all the needed environmental permits in place by 2010, with engineering and construction expected to take another five years. For every 1000 MW of new hydro that comes online, the strategy says, another 100 MW of wind will be added to the grid, allowing Hydro-Quebec to maintain a wind penetration of about 10% of total installed capacity.

New additions

Future wind additions will also depend on "new technological developments" that will allow the province to cost-effectively integrate larger amounts of wind capacity. "To this effect, Hydro-Quebec has been mandated to improve conditions for connecting wind power to the grid," the strategy says. Research, it adds, will focus on development of tools to optimise how wind output is managed on the province's system and on short term forecasting of both wind and water flows.

The strategy also calls for the construction of pilot wind-diesel projects in two off-grid communities. The first, on the Îles-de-la-Madeleine in the Gulf of St Lawrence, will be in operation by summer 2007. The second, in the northern region of Nunavik, will be implemented in consultation with the native Inuit. "Based on these pilot projects, Hydro-Québec could generalise this approach in the off-grid supply networks," the strategy says.

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