Community wind - New Brunswick plan slammed for low rate

CANADA: Doubts have been raised that a programme in New Brunswick designed to stimulate community wind development by offering projects guaranteed prices for their power is generous enough to be effective.

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The province has unveiled a policy designed to spark the installation of 50MW of small-scale community-owned and 25MW of renewable energy projects from the aboriginal First Nations, although critics have branded the plan a recipe for failure.

The province will follow the lead of Ontario and offer developers a guaranteed price tariff for their power, rather than have them go through a competitive procurement process. The rate will start at C$0.10/kWh and escalate with inflation after five years.

David Coon, executive director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, says the rate is too low to enable communities to develop projects. "They just won't be able to afford it," he says.

Coon points to Ontario, where the community wind feed-in tariff of C$0.145/kWh is designed to cover the cost of production plus a rate of return of 7-10%.

The government held a series of workshops last month to educate potential investors and plans to issue a request for expressions of interest at the end of May to identify potential projects and proponents.

To qualify, facilities must be no larger than 15MW and be at least 51% owned by First Nations groups, municipalities, co-operatives, associations or not-for-profit organisations. Acceptable renewable technologies include wind, biomass, solar, small hydro and tidal power.

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