Canadian Wind Energy Association Disbands BC Caucus

Quality Wind ProjectTrent Ernst, Editor

CanWEA is pulling some of its resources out of BC.

In a recent letter to members of its BC Caucus, the Canadian Wind Energy Association says it will be disbanding the Caucus.

“CanWEA will maintain a ‘watching brief’ in BC and we will be reaching out to and working with our partners and allies in BC,” writes Jean-François Nolet, Vice-President of  Policy and Communications for CanWEA in an undated letter that was made public last week. “[as well as] the BC Caucus Steering Committee to ensure CanWEA maintains a limited presence in the province and preserves key connections and relationships. We will regularly report to the CanWEA Board on the situation in BC and it is expected that the CanWEA Board will review CanWEA’s role in BC as circumstances warrant.”

However, writes Nolet, right now, those circumstances are not looking very good. “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. 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 BC 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, says Nolet, they have decided to shift resources away from British Columbia. Instead they are focusing on the emerging Alberta and Saskatchewan markets. “One aspect of these changes is that CanWEA will no longer have a BC Regional Director.”

Current Regional Director Ian Baillie will be leaving CanWEA, says Nolet, and while the organization will maintain a “watching brief” in BC, and maintaining a limited presence to preserve key connections and relationships, “at this time, however, CanWEA’s BC Caucus will be disbanded.”

Nolet says that this is the biggest on-the-ground change that people will see. “It won’t change anything,” he says, when asked about the letter.

“Our members, the companies in BC will continue to do the same things they’ve been doing. It changes nothing on that front. The note reflected the markets and how it’s moving in different province.”

It’s not, says Nolet, a comment on poor wind energy futures in BC, but on what’s happening right now in Alberta and Saskatchewan. “BC has a world class wind resource, and we believe the market will emerge. We will keep monitoring what’s happening in BC. But this is tied to the changes we’ve seen in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Those are two very substantial announcements. It’s a very large county, and CanWEA has limited resources, so we need to adapt and adjust and support our members. The announcement to phase out coal in Alberta represents a potential market of 7000 MW by 2030. In Saskatchewan, we could see up to 2000 MW by 2030. Those are the main game changers. We still believe in the BC markets, but we need to adjust for those markets. IF tomorrow there was a big announcement in BC, we’d adapt.”

Mayor Don McPherson says the announcement is disappointing but not unexpected in the face of all the economic bad news happening. “Oil and gas is suffering,” says McPherson. “And they don’t know if LNG is going ahead. That was what needed the power. That was why they were going to have a call for power. But there have been big changes in the last few weeks that are making everyone pull back.”

McPherson says CanWEA leaving can’t be a good thing for wind energy in the province. “It’s a bad sign they’re leaving, but we haven’t really dealt with them before and we’re happy to continue our relationship with Clean Energy BC.”

Recently, the District won a clean energy award from Clean Energy BC for their work in promoting Wind Energy in the region. McPherson says he’s not sure how CanWEA’s departure will affect the mood of some of the projects that are in the works. “These wind projects are shovel ready,” says McPherson. “They’re ready if they’re ever needed. Last time we talked to [the wind companies], they were still expecting a power call. We need to get back in touch with them.”

McPherson says it’s tough to talk Wind Power in the face of Site C. “We’ve got two wind farms. Hopefully down the road there’s more. But it’s hard to get excited about it at this point.”

The District has talked to some wind power companies about partnership, but McPherson doesn’t see that happening. “We’ve been offered that chance, but it’s not considered a backup power source. If it was, it’d be worth getting serious about it. But it doesn’t work like that. It’s too intermittent.”

Nolet says that he’s optimistic for the future of wind energy across the country. “The announcements in Saskatchewan and Alberta are very promising, and we hope wind energy will be better positioned across the country. Quebec is releasing their energy plan next week, and Ontario will be releasing theirs soon. We’ll see how those announcements affect the market for wind energy.”

British Columbia has a world class wind resource and wind energy, says Nolet. “It is the lowest cost option for new renewable electricity generation in B.C. We are confident that BC will tap that potential at some point because of wind energy’s attributes – cost-competitive, environmental and economic benefits. In the absence of short-term opportunities, however, we are refocusing our efforts to jurisdictions that are moving in the short-term to deploy wind energy. There are still a good numbers of wind energy companies developing projects in BC and CanWEA will continue to support their work. CanWEA will continue to monitor developments in BC and will reengage more significantly in the province if circumstances change.

“CanWEA remains committed to working with our members, the government and BC Hydro to identify opportunities for the wind sector in B.C. Things can move quite rapidly, with wind. Wind can ramp up quite quickly. It’s a very incremental and relatively low cost. Discussions around wind energy happens in a very fast paced environment. For now, we still have members on the ground and they continue to work on getting their projects done.”