Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) kicked off the association’s Spring Forum in Ottawa on Tuesday, highlighting the successes of the industry over the past six months. But he also noted that the industry can no longer focus on short-term growth opportunities, it must engage more broadly and be active participants in reforming the electricity system.
Below is his speech. (Please take note there are parts that are in French.)
The world of wind energy has seen some important changes since CanWEA’s Annual Conference was held in Toronto 6 months ago.
Canada surpassed 11,000 MW of installed wind energy capacity to remain the world’s 7th largest wind energy producer and now produces enough wind energy to power more than 3 million homes annually.
Alberta made a commitment to phase out coal-fired electricity generation by 2030 and to replace two thirds of that energy with renewable energy where wind energy will be the primary source of new supply.
Saskatchewan made a commitment to meet new electricity demand through the procurement of another 1,600 MW of wind energy such that wind energy will represent 30% of generating capacity, and 20% of energy, by 2030.
Ontario awarded contracts for 300 MW of wind energy where the average price was 8.59 cents/kWh, once again demonstrating wind energy’s cost-competitiveness.
These are all important milestones for our industry, but I would argue the most important change for the world of wind energy in the last six months has been the renewed public, media, and political attention focused on the greatest challenge facing our generation – climate change.
The successful outcome of COP 21 in Paris, the meeting of the Prime Minister and Premiers in Vancouver last month, the recent Federal Budget, and ongoing announcements and activity at the provincial level all signal a growing acceptance of the need for Canada to transition to a low carbon economy and a growing willingness to take the steps required to get there.
As someone who worked on the climate change issue for almost 15 years before joining CanWEA, I can honestly say it’s taken a long time for us to get to this point. We can’t squander this opportunity. Now is the time to translate good intentions on climate change into concrete action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is an incredibly important time, and a critical moment, for the wind energy industry.
Why? Because wind energy has a central role to play in any credible climate change strategy for Canada. But also because climate change policy is the key to unlocking new opportunities for wind energy development in Canada at a time when electricity demand is shrinking, flat or growing very slowly.
Climate change science makes it clear that greenhouse gas emissions in Canada need to be reduced by 80% from today’s levels by 2050 if we are to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change. This require a fundamental transformation in the way energy is produced, distributed and used in Canada and Canada will not be able to do this without a huge increase in the use of renewable energy. As the most cost-competitive new source of renewable electricity across Canada, wind energy will be required to:
- Reduce, and ultimately minimize, fossil fuel fired electricity generation across the country;
- Build a carbon-friendly electricity grid that can then be used to both: (a) replace fossil fuel use in transportation, the heating and cooling of buildings and industrial processes, and (b) replace the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation in the United States through clean electricity exports.
This is a huge opportunity for our industry. But unfortunately the imperatives of climate change science and the good intentions of decision makers provide no guarantee that this opportunity will emerge. Canada has developed multiple climate change strategies over the last 20 years that have looked much more substantive on paper than implemented in reality. We will have to work, and work hard, to make this opportunity real.
The wind energy industry will need to join the societal debate. We need to reach out to, and collaborate with, other stakeholders advocating for climate change policies and a transition to a low carbon economy.
We will need to work more closely with other renewable energy industries. On its own, wind energy is not a comprehensive climate change solution. Renewable energy is. We can focus on competing with each other for the limited opportunities currently available to build new generation or we can work together to unlock the much larger opportunities we can all benefit from if action is taken on climate change.
Nous devons travailler en plus étroite collaboration avec l’hydroélectricité et les autres filières d’énergie renouvelable. Au lieu de compétitionner entre nous pour l’obtention de quelques nouveaux projets, nous devons travailler ensemble à débloquer de nouvelles opportunités bien plus grandes, liées à la lutte aux changements climatiques. Cela nous profitera à tous.
We will need to think systemically. Our focus needs to shift from “Where can we build 100 new MW of wind energy?” to “How do electricity systems and market rules need to evolve to recognize the value of, and create greater opportunities for, wind energy while maintaining system affordability and reliability?”
We need to be responsible citizens and continue to innovate and improve. It is critical that we focus on ensuring our operating fleets continue to strive to generate the best possible returns while maintaining solid relations within the local communities in which we are active.
Wind energy has moved from the margins to the mainstream. We are a mainstream player in the energy sector and we need to act like one. While we must continue to advocate for more wind energy to be built, we must also put our advocacy within a broader context, one that understands and considers the impacts of more wind energy on other energy sources, the electricity grid, and society as a whole.
The beauty of wind energy, and the reason I am so proud to have been part of this industry for more than a decade, is that it is one of the few technologies that can meet the multiple objectives that any future energy system will need to meet: affordability, reliability, and sustainability.
Le futur de l’énergie éolienne est toujours prometteur au Canada. Nous avons beaucoup de travail devant nous mais je suis confiant qu’avec votre soutien, nous y arriverons.
The future for wind energy in Canada is bright. We have a lot of work to do to make it a reality. But we can and we will.