As Ontario hands out contracts, prospects for IPPs dim in B.C.

By Jonny Wakefield

March 17, 2015

When it comes to independent power production in Canada, it’s hard to find a starker contrast than the one between B.C. and Ontario.

Last week, Ontario’s provincial government handed out more than 450 megawatts worth of clean power contracts, more than half of which will come from wind.

In B.C., meanwhile, the industry is pulling up stakes.

Last month, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) announced it was closing its B.C. office as prospects for the energy source on the West Coast dim, in part due to the massive Site C dam.

The Ontario bonanza is more evidence that for the foreseeable future, the wind energy industry will be looking east.

Clean Energy Canada policy director Dan Woynillowicz told the Globe and Mail that the large renewable procurement program, the replacement for Ontario’s controversial feed-in tariff program, will be more competitive and demonstrates clean energy “is big business.”

“This isn’t alternative or something that is happening at the margins.”

In B.C., that’s where the wind industry increasingly found itself.

“We are focusing our efforts on markets in Canada where there are opportunities for new wind energy development in the short term,” CanWEA vice-president of policy and communications Jean-François Nolet told reNEWS when the industry group announced its departure.

In 2014, CanWEA called for a “clear signal” from the B.C. government on future calls for power. It wanted to know when BC Hydro would be looking to enter into purchasing agreements with independent power producers.

The key bone of contention has been the Site C dam—the controversial infrastructure project on the Peace River that will generate 1,100 megawatts of power if completed. At the current rate of electricity consumption, the B.C. grid will be oversupplied when Site C comes online.

Meanwhile, Ontario has grown more attractive for independent power investment as the government looks to phase out fossil fuels, which currently make up 28 per cent of its energy mix  (B.C., on the other hand, already gets 93 per cent of its power from renewables). At the same time, Alberta is seeking to phase out coal power, while Saskatchewan is aiming for 20 per cent clean power by 2030.

The latest round of contracts in Ontario also includes solar and small hydroelectric projects.

In B.C., a 180-megawatt wind project under construction near Tumbler Ridge may be the last wind project built in the province for the foreseeable future.




Photo Credit: Grouse Mountain