Quebec wind advocates were relieved when the government finally released a request for proposals (RFP) calling for 450 MW of installed capacity. The RFP calls for 300 MW of wind power to be deployed in the Bas-Saint-Laurent and Gaspesie-Iles-de-la-Madeleine regions, as well as 150 MW of capacity across Quebec.
Responses to the RFP are due on Nov. 5, and this latest wind block is expected to serve as a bridge to Quebec's energy future. For years, wind energy grew at a steady – if unspectacular – rate.
With 2.8 GW expected to be installed by the end of the year, Quebec trails only Ontario as the Canadian province with the most installed wind capacity. Quebec is also cited as a model for how stable government policy can help boost manufacturing, particularly in the most remote sections of the province. In fact, with more than 150 active wind companies, Quebec can lay claim to featuring Canada's largest wind energy supply chain.
However, it is also a time of great uncertainty.
Quebec's wind industry is encountering strong headwinds, said Jean Francois Nolet, vice president of policy and government affairs at the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), during the association's recently concluded annual conference and exhibition.
For example, he noted, Hydro-Quebec is forecasting an oversupply of electricity through 2027. Furthermore, the government-owned utility has linked rising prices in the province to wind energy.
In its 2015-2016 rate application request, Hydro-Quebec noted that "the cost of new electricity supplies, mainly wind power" was primarily responsible for its 3.9% requested rate increase.
What's more, a recent energy task force assembled by the provincial government could further implicate wind energy as too costly for Quebec. The task force's recommendations, due in December, could go a long way in determining the wind industry's future.
Although wind energy proliferated under the province's previous 2006-2015 energy plan – to the tune of 4 GW of wind installed – it is unlikely that wind will approach such levels in the next energy plan, which is expected by the end of 2015.
Just the same, Jean-Frederick Legendre, CanWEA's regional director for Quebec, tells NAW wind power can still have an impact in the province.
According to a study by wind energy consultancy TechnoCentre eolien, Quebec's wind industry could survive, even at scaled-down numbers. If 350 MW of wind capacity was installed annually, for example, Quebec's supply chain could retain 80% of labor with factories running at 50% capacity.
And with Quebec's wind industry in question, many Quebec suppliers are already seeking export markets for their turbine components, Lengendre says.
For example, LM Windpower, based in Gaspe, is shipping blades to Maine. And Foundation Delta, based in New Richmond, and Marmen, located in Trois Rivieres, are exporting wind towers to the U.S.
For its part, CanWEA maintains that the time is right to petition the Quebec government to ensure that wind energy is represented in the province's energy future.
According to Nolet, "We have to fight the perception that wind energy is expensive."