Hot Air Big wind energy plan touted for Quebec


The winds of change may soon be energizing Quebec.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association, or CanWEA, is urging the province to go to wind in a big way. Already looking to put 4,000 megawatts of wind energy on the grid by 2015, CanWEA wants 12,000 megawatts—some 20 per cent of Quebec’s total energy portfolio—by 2025.

It’s a bold step, but Jean-François Nolet, CanWEA’s Quebec and Atlantic policy manager, says it’s a natural step for the province he bills as Canada’s leader in wind energy.

“Quebec has made the choice to develop a wind energy supply chain,” Nolet said. “Quebec is clearly leading the way in Canada in terms of industries working in the wind sector, creating jobs and building and manufacturing wind components. We have this industry that is emerging in Quebec that will be even further developed over the next couple of years, and then the question—the big question mark—is, well, what happens with those jobs after 2015 if there is no domestic market? What will happen to those companies, to those people working in the industry? And even more than that, what happens with this untapped resource that we have?”

Those are some of the questions CanWEA posed in early November at the Palais des congrès de Montréal, with some in attendance crucial to Quebec’s energy strategy, including Nathalie Normandeau, deputy premier and minster of natural resources and wildlife, who spoke at the beginning of the conference. Right now the province doesn’t have anything in place after its 4,000 megawatts of wind go online by 2015. Enter CanWEA’s ambitious plan.

The costs and the potential payoffs aren’t small. Grabbing that big a piece of the wind pie will cost $25 billion over 10 years, $15 billion of which will be spent in Quebec, according to CanWEA’s figures. Building wind farms could generate 91,000 jobs from 2016 to 2025, and manning them will require over 4,500 permanent direct and indirect jobs, also according to the association’s heady forecasts.

A paper by Université du Québec engineering professor Gaëtan Lafrance says Quebec’s grid can handle the extra wattage from wind. Nolet says Quebec needs more power, and it can’t afford to let someone else take the wind advantage, as well as the jobs and industrial muscle that come with being a regional leader.
Officially there’s no word from Quebec’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife, who are also responsible for the province’s energy, on the CanWEA proposal, but Normandeau’s ministry is clearly excited by wind’s place in Quebec’s future.

“With wind development in Quebec, one should consider not only the price of electricity, but also the economic consequences for the region,” ministry spokesman Jancimon Reid wrote in an email, saying the province has found wind to be a solid investment so far.  “In fact, [the province’s] calls for tender led the development of a wind energy network for both the economy of Quebec, and several regions notably the Gaspé Peninsula and Matane Regional County Municipality, where four factories [that produce] components used in wind mills were established. In the long term, the addition of 4,000 megawatts will generate investments of $10 billion and the creation of more than 30,000 jobs.”

It’s not just politicians getting swept up, as Quebecers too seem eager for more wind.

According to a Leger poll conducted on behalf of CanWEA, three quarters of Quebecers would like to see more of the province’s energy come from wind.
The government is proud of its green strategy, with Reid boasting that taken as its own jurisdiction, Quebec trails only Norway and Iceland in renewables as a percentage of energy production. But there’s been no firm word on wind yet, which keeps Nolet and those like him antsy. “The wind industry is certainly looking for a long-term signal from the Quebec government for wind [energy] after 2015,” he said.

What works for Quebec doesn’t always work for the rest of Canada, but there’s still reason for other provinces to take note. Only 60 per cent of the $25 billion required to get another 8,000 megawatts will be spent in Quebec by CanWEA’s estimates, Nolet said, leaving billions of dollars of contracts for companies across Canada. And even if across Canada it doesn’t gain the kind of acceptance it saw in Quebec, CanWEA’s Quebec plan is just one part of its national Wind
Vision 2025 blueprint.

It’s unlikely Quebec will suddenly shift its plans away from green power, with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife putting the renewable share of the province’s energy at just under 98 per cent. The minister has the report on her desk and is certainly considering it at the least, and all the speeches going on make Quebec and wind energy seem like a perfect partnership for years to come.

“But of course,” Nolet said, “the real job begins now. Once it’s public, then we have to meet and talk with many people, many stakeholders to try to make sure that this will become a reality and make sure we have something for wind after 2015 in Quebec.”