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Canadian Wind Energy Association pulls out of B.C.

While the announcement does nothing to change the status of the Meikle Wind Energy project near Tumbler Ridge, it does put the future of other projects in doubt, including the $480-million Red Willow Wind project
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is pulling out of B.C. because of a lack of calls for power from BC Hydro tied to the Site C dam.

The country’s largest wind energy organization has announced it is pulling out of British Columbia to chase better opportunities in Alberta and Saskatchewan.  

Jean-Francois Nolet, vice-president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), made the announcement in a letter to members of the association's B.C. caucus Feb. 5, and obtained by the Alaska Highway News.

“In the last few months we have seen significant new commitments to renewable energy in Alberta and Saskatchewan, but much work remains to be done to make those commitments a reality,” Nolet wrote. 

“At the same time, despite the hard work and efforts of CanWEA and other stakeholders over many years in British Columbia, we have not yet secured any significant new opportunities for wind energy in the province and both the B.C. Government and BC Hydro have indicated that they do not expect to proceed with a new call for power within the next decade.”

In response, CanWEA determined it must shift its focus from B.C. to emerging markets in Alberta and Saskatchewan. With the announcment comes the closure of CanWEA's B.C. office. Regional director Ian Baille will be leaving the organization.

George Heyman, the NDP’s critic for the green economy and technology, says the province is trying to have it both ways by saying it will be a clean energy leader, while stifling growth in the sector by putting all its eggs in one basket with the Site C dam. 

“They say they support wind power and renewable energy, but both the premier and (Energy and Mines) Minister Bennett have been clear that with Site C there will be no need for any other power for a minimum 10 years,” Heyman said. 

“This decision by CanWEA to close down its B.C. operations is a clear signal that they don’t see any future here at least for the foreseeable period of time, and that’s a shame.”

While this announcement does nothing to change the Meikle Wind Energy project near Tumbler Ridge, which already has a 25-year power purchasing agreement with BC Hydro and is expected to finish construction at the end of the year, it does put the future of other projects in doubt, including the $480-million Red Willow Wind project, also near Tumbler Ridge, which would have been the province’s largest wind farm once complete. 

“There are a number of projects that either have their environmental assessment (EA) certification and are just waiting for a power call, or others that are quite serious and would be ready to start the EA process, and they’re just not going to happen because all our eggs are being put into the Site C basket," Heyman said.

"We’re not going to be in a position as British Columbians to benefit from the dropping prices in both wind and solar and the rapidly advancing efficiency of the technologies."

Heyman added that as climate change progresses, British Columbia may regret pursuing a massive and controversial $8.8-billion hydroelectric dam that will flood prime agricultural areas.

In an email to the Alaska Highway News, Ministry of Energy and Mines spokesperson David Haslam said CanWEA’s decision to leave B.C. and focus on other jurisdictions was made because Alberta and Saskatchewan have a long way to go to catch up to B.C. in the clean energy sector.

“We have a target of generating 93 per cent of our power from clean sources and last year, more than 97 per cent of our power came from clean sources,” Haslam wrote, adding that independent power projects provide about 25 per cent of British Columbia’s electricity and will “continue to play a vital role in meeting the province’s growing energy needs.”

Haslam also pointed to a memorandum of understanding signed last year between BC Hydro, the provincial government, and the Clean Energy Association of B.C. as proof that the province is committed to renewable energy sources.

“The (agreement) will… strengthen B.C.’s competitive advantage of reliable and affordable clean electricity and support continued investment and growth in the independent power sector,” Haslam wrote. 

He added that the province's plan to meet future growth in demand through a mix of conservation, renewing contracts with current independent producers, and Site C, which he says “provides us with firm, cost-effective energy and capacity over many decades.”

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