Climate change is in the air as many of the wind-friendly provinces are finalizing their plans ahead of the forthcoming 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA).
During the opening general session of the association's annual conference and exhibition in Toronto, several of CanWEA's regional directors told attendees that efforts inside some of Canada's leading wind provinces are being made to decarbonize the grid – which, in some cases, could mean big opportunities for renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar.
For example, Quebec is hoping to export electricity to the U.S. to help some northern states comply with the Clean Power Plan, the ambitious greenhouse-gas reduction effort spearheaded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to Jean-Frederick Legendre, CanWEA's regional policy director for Quebec.
‘In Quebec, we have a marketable product called electricity. By bundling wind energy with hydro, we can help our neighbors make their goals,’ noted Legendre, adding that the EPA rules allow states to bring in electricity from neighboring Canada.
And it's not just Quebec: Provinces such as Ontario – which has already rid itself of coal-fired generation – and British Columbia are getting into the act.
Even Alberta – Canada's oil and gas capital – is taking steps to put its best (green) foot forward, said Robert Hornung, CanWEA's president, who delivered status updates for both the Alberta and Saskatchewan wind markets.
‘A new Alberta government may create significant new opportunities for wind energy,’ Hornung said, noting that a push for renewables is a refreshing departure from the status quo in the province.
‘Things are changing in the province,’ declared the CanWEA exec, who explained that the new government appears to be serious in its renewable energy push. For example, he said, both CanWEA and the Canadian Solar Industries Association are working together to educate and inform the government.
‘When the government goes to Paris, they can say, 'These are our plans for renewable energy, and this is our target date,'’ Hornung said.
Although the push for renewables to replace fossil fuels is encouraging in the big picture, he added, several of the details remain a work in progress.
For example, take the issue of policy. Could wind energy benefit from carbon pricing or a cap-and-trade scenario?
‘The impact for renewables is more indirect,’ he admitted. Even though such a mechanism would increase the cost of gas and coal – in essence, making wind even more competitive – more work needs to be done.
‘While carbon pricing is very valuable to have," Hornung said, "we need to work on the policy.’