With three windy coastlines, vast plains and mountains, Canada has more wind energy than it can ever possibly use. The country has only scratched the surface of its massive wind energy potential which currently powers over 1 million Canadian homes. The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is helping to dig deeper.
Robert Hornung, president of CanWEA, says, “We have the world’s longest coastline, second largest land mass and we only get a little less than two per cent of our electricity from wind energy. Now we are on a path that will take us to five per cent by 2015 but that still leaves us far behind where a number of countries already are.”
This path, WindVision 2025: Powering Canada’s Future, is a vision that CanWEA has set out to satisfy 20 per cent of Canada’s electricity demand by 2025. Main points in the strategy include: generating $79 billion of investment; creating at least 52,000 full-time jobs; producing $165 million in new annual revenues for municipalities; adding 55,000 megawatts of clean generating capacity that will strengthen electrical grids and head off potential power shortages; stabilizing electricity prices; and cutting Canada’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by 17 megatonnes.
To make WindVision 2025 a reality, CanWEA is calling on the federal and provincial governments to establish policies and programs to address five priorities: providing fair value for the environmental attributes of wind energy; enhancing wind energy procurement processes; providing incentives to manufacturers of wind power equipment; planning and building wind-friendly transmission infrastructure; and streamlining permitting and approval processes for wind energy projects.
“As an industry we have set ourselves a goal for the future, where 20 per cent of Canada’s electricity would come from wind energy by 2025,” says Hornung.
“We pursue that objective through a number of tools including advocacy with federal and provincial governments, communications and public outreach with respect to wind energy, and education and network opportunities for those who wish to connect to the industry.”
CanWEA is a non-profit trade association that promotes the appropriate development and application of all aspects of wind energy in Canada. Established in 1984, it represents the wind energy community—organizations and individuals that are directly involved in wind energy technology, products and services.
Its members are the leaders of Canada’s wind energy industry. CanWEA reaches out to these members by hosting the largest renewable energy conference, which brings together more than 3,000 delegates and about 260 exhibitors each year.
“We do a tremendous amount of work, a factsheet, sponsoring of studies, and we seek to try to tell the positive stories of wind,” says Hornung. “Increasingly we are looking to provide a platform for individuals and municipalities to tell their stories about how wind energy has changed their lives and helped them. We feel those stories make the most compelling cases, really, about the benefits of wind energy coming to Canada.”
There is no contesting the fact that wind energy offers a variety of benefits. The investment will create jobs in the development, construction and operation of wind farms. Particularly in rural communities, where taxes to rural municipalities and amenities agreements between wind development and manufacturing can serve to significantly increase a municipality revenue base.
“And there is an industrial manufacturing opportunity,” adds Hornung. “Building these wind farms, you need turbines and to build turbines you need a supply chain. In a turbine there are 8,000 parts and there is certainly an opportunity for more Canadian firms to enter that sector. The level of interest we have seen is enormous.”
But the government’s Eco-Energy through Renewable Energy Power Program came to an end in March. “The Conservatives have signaled quite clearly that they do not want to continue that program,” says Hornung. “They have now downloaded the responsibility of creating policies to support the program to the provinces. Some provinces have really stepped up to that challenge, provinces like Ontario and Nova Scotia, which have developed very aggressive and progressive policy frameworks to support wind energy development. Other provinces have not been as quick.
“But there is no doubt that the government’s decision to withdraw from the wind energy sector does hinder Canada’s ability to compete for investment. If we just look south of the border, the U.S. federal government is investing sign resources to provide incentive for wind energy project development, the establishment of wind energy manufacturing capability and it is that competition which we are up against.”
Wind as an industry is growing by 25 per cent a year globally offering opportunities to companies and investors. “CanWEA is one player among many who has helped Canada move up the rankings,” continues Hornung. “At the end of the day though it is our members, the companies putting in place the wind farms, investing, creating the jobs, creating the clean energy associated with wind energy development. We are pleased to see amongst our membership that we have the turbine manufacturing, component suppliers, project developers and service suppliers that provide a sense about the comprehensive set of economic impacts associated with wind energy.”