Province releases ambitious strategy

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The Canadian east coast province of Prince Edward Island (PEI) has embarked on an ambitious renewable energy development plan that contemplates meeting all its electricity needs with wind power. A newly released renewable energy strategy to be tabled this fall requires that 15% of PEI's electricity supply comes from renewable sources by 2010. That target, says energy minister Jamie Ballem, will be met by 40 MW of wind. The province's wind capacity is currently 13.56 MW.

The legislation, says Ballem, will contain incentives that include a "net metering" policy to allow sales of excess generation from small privately owned wind turbines of less than 100 kW and a tariff structure guaranteeing community co-ops a selling price up to 85% of the retail rate. These are identical to the policies that drove the successful wind market in Denmark in the 1990s. The province will also look at establishing investment vehicles, such as bond issues or government run green income trusts, to give individual islanders a chance to invest in wind projects.

"Advancing the development of renewable energy in the province, specifically wind energy, requires community acceptance. Providing the ability for small local investors to contribute to wind development would enable islanders to take an economic stake in these projects," it says.

The government says it plans to "evaluate opportunities" to meet all of the province's electrical needs -- more than 200 MW -- with renewables by 2015. Again, the focus is on wind and it has ordered mapping of the entire island's wind resource. Natural gas generation or power from other provinces in the region could provide a back-stop for wind's variable supply, says the strategy. Over the longer term, PEI wants to carve out a place as a centre for research into the production and storage of hydrogen from wind energy. It is looking for federal government funding to help establish a "hydrogen village" at North Cape, where the use of wind generated hydrogen in homes, businesses and vehicles could be demonstrated.

PEI's interest in exploiting its wind resource is not surprising. The tiny province, the smallest in Canada with an area of 5660 square kilometres and a population of about 135,000, has no known indigenous conventional energy sources and imports nearly all of its electricity from its neighbours. Local generation could obtain it "a measure of self-sufficiency and price stability" and bring jobs. The government is also eyeing the potential of tapping into the kind of income stream enjoyed by hydrocarbon-rich provinces that collect royalties on the production of oil and gas. "In essence, wind may prove to be PEI's oil," the strategy document says.

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