Canada: wind farm construction booming

The following news story is from Reuters. Compare Canadian government policy to Australia – despite the impressive expansion of the wind industry there, uncertainty has been introduced by the Conservatives election promises.  A situation that renewable energy supporters in Australia would be all too familiar with, especially here in Victoria.

(Reuters) – Even though Canada will likely set a record for new wind energy capacity this year, the rapid growth could dry up without stable policies to encourage its expansion, an industry association said Monday.

About 1,338 MW of new installed wind energy capacity is projected to come online this year, up from 690 MW in 2010, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

That would top 2009’s record of 950 MW, and bring total capacity to more than 5300 MW, enough to power more than 1.5 million homes, the association said.

“We’ve gone through a significant economic downturn, but nonetheless this is an industry that continues to grow at an accelerating pace,” Robert Hornung, the association’s president, said in an interview.

The association said Ontario will set its own record in 2011, with more than 500 MW in capacity installed. Hornung attributes that growth partly to the provincial government’s ambitious renewable energy policies.

Those policies are a key issue in the upcoming provincial election, with the opposition Progressive Conservative party promising to reverse them, and the incumbent Liberals touting green energy’s economic benefits.

Ontario provides above-market rates for renewable energy produced using locally made equipment and fed into the province’s power grid.

Along with the feed-in tariff, a promise to build new transmission lines and streamlined regulation have driven growth, Hornung said. Such a comprehensive package of policies is unique in North America, he said.

Hornung also attributed the growth in Ontario and the rest of Canada to a need for new energy infrastructure. He expects to see new capacity topping 1,000 MW a year “regularly” over the next five years.

But the Ontario election is creating uncertainty for investors, he said.

“Continuation of the growth we’ve seen does rely on policy stability, and the reason it does is because there’s a tremendous amount of competition for this investment these days,” he said, with many companies considering projects in Canada, the United States and beyond.

“Those jurisdictions that can provide stable, positive and sustainable long-term policies are going to be more successful competing.”

(Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Frank McGurty)

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