Quebec wind set-aside ignorance

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The Quebec government's passive attitude to the wind set-aside recommended by the Quebec Energy Board in October (Windpower Monthly, November 1998) appears to be due to a lack of motivation, fuelled by a misunderstanding about cost. "We first need to develop a consensus on how to conduct the set-aside here in the ministry and in the government," says Donald Maltais of the natural resources ministry, adding that no conclusions are expected for several months. The annual set-aside for 50 MW of new wind power capacity over nine years was recommended at a maximum price of C$0.058/kWh. "At the request of the ministry, the Energy Board made its recommendations," he says. "However, the board did not give the government a deadline for implementing the set-aside. We accept the nine year period, but strategic economic decisions must be made by the government." Large hydro generation has received the lion's share of Quebec energy subsidies for decades and utility Hydro Quebec argues that it will not pay more than C$0.03/kWh for electricity. "Surprisingly, this target was used as a reference level by the Energy Board," says Jean-Louis Chaumel of the Canadian Wind Energy Association. "The decision of the Energy Board transfers to the Quebec government and the taxpayers all the burden of the marginal cost of wind energy development," he says. "The Quebec government and Hydro-Quebec must retreat somewhat from their entrenched political positions." The new natural resources minister, Jacques Brassard, will decide when to bring a complete wind power set-aside policy to the cabinet, which is operating under financial constraints. The Quebec public is sensitive to the current cuts in health and education spending, and this may limit the funds available to wind power.

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