Wind energy in Canada had a very solid year in 2011, with gains seen in total production and investment, advancing the potential of Canadian wind energy. With 2012 under way, how will Canada’s wind energy players do in a challenging business and economic environment, given that fossil fuels continued to be favoured over renewable energy? Let’s take a look at last year in a little more detail and gander through the crystal ball at what 2012 will possibly hold for Canadian wind.
Canadian Wind 2011
“Wind energy is proving itself a key partner as Ontario builds a stronger, cleaner and affordable electricity system. Increased growth of wind energy in Ontario means cleaner air, new jobs and local investments for the communities that host wind energy projects,” said Robert Hornung , President of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) said.
Total wind energy production saw some very good gains in 2011. Production in Ontario alone, at the end of last year, was at 3.9 Terawatt hours (Twh), CanWEA said in a press release. That is up by 1.1 Twh from 2010’s level of 2.8 Twh. Ontario’s wind production, in November, was 0.56, showing some firmness ahead of the end of 2011, CanWEA said.
2011 also saw increased investments, totalling more than C$3 billion, while adding 17,000 man-hours in employment. That’s quite impressive for an industry that is still fairly young.
However, despite the gains in output, wind energy still only represents a small part of the total electricity output in Ontario, representing 2.6% of the 149 Twh produced, CanWEA said.
While Canadian wind energy had success in output, total new installations for 2011 were estimated to be around 1,338 megawatts (MW), with significant investments made. Can 2012 be as successful as its predecessor? Will Canadian wind face strong gusts in front of it from the fossil fuel industry continually blocking its way? Here are some things to watch for:
Canadian Wind 2012
Canadian Federal Budget: Nothing New is Nothing Good at All. Expect the Conservative government of Canada to release its budget sometime in late February or in March with no new exciting incentives at all for the renewable energy sector. Canadian Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is expected to tighten the fiscal purse strings, namely Environment Canada’s budget. This government seems more supportive of oil sands projects, and its ministers seem to think environmentalists are extremists. Don’t expect much in new policy that would be supportive of the wind industry in the Great White North.
Feeding the Wind: While the Canadian federal government won’t step up to the table, most of the investments by government in Canada will have to come, yet again, from provincial governments. Ontario, with its feed-in tariff (FiT), which has been successful in spring-boarding much of Ontario’s green energy sectors, will once again lead the way with this innovative policy. Other provinces, including Quebec and BC, with carbon taxes now in place, are good provinces with policies supporting renewable energy as well.
My Wish for Canada’s Wind Sector: As wind continues to be a serious player in the energy mix in Canada, it will be important for a cohesive policy that will spur innovation towards Canada’s wind energy sector, and that will get Canada off fossil fuels. That means putting a price on carbon at a national level. Whether its cap and trade or, preferably, a carbon tax, that would force companies to innovate their way out of fossil fuel use, avoiding the punishment for polluting or regulation.
I would also seriously like to see our current federal government put a stronger emphasis on private research and development towards renewable energy. While Canada does rank ninth in wind energy installed, the country has fallen behind in the renewable energy race. Other countries, including China, Europe, and the US, have steamed ahead of us. The US spends close to 18 times the amount Canada does on clean tech.
If Canada wants to get to its goals of wind being 20% of Canada’s electricity by 2025, much has to be done. Here’s hoping 2012 will continue the good growth seen, but push barriers further down to where it is moving full steam ahead.
Photo Credit: Climate Change Connection