Renewables and Canada's pop star prime minister

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Ilaria Valtimora
August 28, 2017
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Renewables and Canada's pop star prime minister

Justin Trudeau is Canada’s pop star prime minister. Journalists have spent two years fawning over him since he was elected in November 2015. Last month, he was even on the cover of US music magazine Rolling Stone.

But now it’s time to judge him on his results and, when it comes to renewables, this pop star's performance so far has been off-key.

Canada is the world’s second largest nation but, with most of the country unsuitable for habitation, it averages only four people per square kilometre. The low population density and abundance of resources have put it in the top 25 of the world's greenest nations: 59% of Canadian electricity comes from hydro, 5% from other renewables, and 16% from nuclear.

Canada ended 2016 with 12GW of installed wind farms, adding just 702MW in the year. This continued the slowdown from the 2GW of wind farms installed in 2014 and 1.5GW in 2015.

New investments in renewables were not impressive either. Investments in Canadian clean energy tumbled by 46% for a second consecutive year in 2016 to $2.4bn. This is the lowest level since 2005 – which includes the period from 2006 to 2015 when its prime minister was Stephen Harper, a climate change denier.

So what has Trudeau done? His election was welcomed by green bodies for his renewables-focused power strategy and his aim to mitigate climate change. The Canadian Wind Energy Association said at the time that he would help make Canada a leader in the global shift to a clean energy economy.

After two years, this early enthusiasm is cooling.

For one thing, Trudeau last December approved the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain oil pipeline, linking the oil sands in Alberta to a tanker port in British Columbia. His decision was condemned by environmental groups, but he said that it was a sensible move to boost the economy, which didn’t go against his pledge to encourage renewables.

The government has taken a few steps to fight climate change in the last couple of years. These include the commitment that every province will start pricing carbon emissions in 2018, with the aim to phase out coal power by 2030; as well as the target of generating 90% of Canada’s electricity from “non-emitting sources” by 2030.

That latter figure currently stands at around 80% if you class nuclear as “non-emitting”, and 64% if you don’t. Either way, perhaps there is complacence from government that it would be easy to hit its 2030 target, and so has not pushed support for wind.

The performance of the economy is also a factor. GDP growth of 0.9% and 1.5% in 2015 and 2016 have contributed to a progressive fall in electricity demand, which has made projects look less attractive in the last year. Canada’s Department of Natural Resources only expects electricity demand in Canada to grow at an annual rate of 1% until 2040.

The mix of unambitious commitments and low energy demand have forced Canadian wind developers and investors to seek opportunities outside their national borders.

For example, Canadian renewables group Boralex, in partnership with Gaz Metro, plans to build a 300MW project, called SBx, in Canada's Quebec province, to supply power to the US state of Massachusetts. And Canada's Emera has recently proposed the construction of a 1GW subsea transmission line to link Canada’s Atlantic coast to Massachusetts, so developers of seven wind farms in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia can sell power to the US.

Canadian investors have turned their attention elsewhere too. Pension fund manager PSP Investments last month bought a 10% stake in clean energy firm Pattern Energy, committing to invest a further $500m in projects the company will acquire from its development arm. And earlier this year, Canadian giant Brookfield Asset Management agreed to buy SunEdsion’s yieldcos TerraForm Power and TerraForm Global, in a deal worth $2.5bn.

Until it is more attractive to build in Canada, more of the country’s wind firms will need to look overseas. Trudeau may have star power, but that's not the same as power.

Justin Trudeau is Canada’s pop star prime minister. Journalists have spent two years fawning over him since he was elected in November 2015. Last month, he was even on the cover of US music magazine Rolling Stone.

But now it’s time to judge him on his results and, when it comes to renewables, this pop star's performance so far has been off-key.

Canada is the world’s second largest nation but, with most of the country unsuitable for habitation, it averages only four people per square kilometre. The low population density and abundance of resources have put it in the top 25 of the world's greenest nations: 59% of Canadian electricity comes from hydro, 5% from other renewables, and 16% from nuclear.

Canada ended 2016 with 12GW of installed wind farms, adding just 702MW in the year. This continued the slowdown from the 2GW of wind farms installed in 2014 and 1.5GW in 2015.

New investments in renewables were not impressive either. Investments in Canadian clean energy tumbled by 46% for a second consecutive year in 2016 to $2.4bn. This is the lowest level since 2005 – which includes the period from 2006 to 2015 when its prime minister was Stephen Harper, a climate change denier.

So what has Trudeau done? His election was welcomed by green bodies for his renewables-focused power strategy and his aim to mitigate climate change. The Canadian Wind Energy Association said at the time that he would help make Canada a leader in the global shift to a clean energy economy.

After two years, this early enthusiasm is cooling.

For one thing, Trudeau last December approved the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain oil pipeline, linking the oil sands in Alberta to a tanker port in British Columbia. His decision was condemned by environmental groups, but he said that it was a sensible move to boost the economy, which didn’t go against his pledge to encourage renewables.

The government has taken a few steps to fight climate change in the last couple of years. These include the commitment that every province will start pricing carbon emissions in 2018, with the aim to phase out coal power by 2030; as well as the target of generating 90% of Canada’s electricity from “non-emitting sources” by 2030.

That latter figure currently stands at around 80% if you class nuclear as “non-emitting”, and 64% if you don’t. Either way, perhaps there is complacence from government that it would be easy to hit its 2030 target, and so has not pushed support for wind.

The performance of the economy is also a factor. GDP growth of 0.9% and 1.5% in 2015 and 2016 have contributed to a progressive fall in electricity demand, which has made projects look less attractive in the last year. Canada’s Department of Natural Resources only expects electricity demand in Canada to grow at an annual rate of 1% until 2040.

The mix of unambitious commitments and low energy demand have forced Canadian wind developers and investors to seek opportunities outside their national borders.

For example, Canadian renewables group Boralex, in partnership with Gaz Metro, plans to build a 300MW project, called SBx, in Canada's Quebec province, to supply power to the US state of Massachusetts. And Canada's Emera has recently proposed the construction of a 1GW subsea transmission line to link Canada’s Atlantic coast to Massachusetts, so developers of seven wind farms in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia can sell power to the US.

Canadian investors have turned their attention elsewhere too. Pension fund manager PSP Investments last month bought a 10% stake in clean energy firm Pattern Energy, committing to invest a further $500m in projects the company will acquire from its development arm. And earlier this year, Canadian giant Brookfield Asset Management agreed to buy SunEdsion’s yieldcos TerraForm Power and TerraForm Global, in a deal worth $2.5bn.

Until it is more attractive to build in Canada, more of the country’s wind firms will need to look overseas. Trudeau may have star power, but that's not the same as power.

Justin Trudeau is Canada’s pop star prime minister. Journalists have spent two years fawning over him since he was elected in November 2015. Last month, he was even on the cover of US music magazine Rolling Stone.

But now it’s time to judge him on his results and, when it comes to renewables, this pop star's performance so far has been off-key.

Canada is the world’s second largest nation but, with most of the country unsuitable for habitation, it averages only four people per square kilometre. The low population density and abundance of resources have put it in the top 25 of the world's greenest nations: 59% of Canadian electricity comes from hydro, 5% from other renewables, and 16% from nuclear.

Canada ended 2016 with 12GW of installed wind farms, adding just 702MW in the year. This continued the slowdown from the 2GW of wind farms installed in 2014 and 1.5GW in 2015.

New investments in renewables were not impressive either. Investments in Canadian clean energy tumbled by 46% for a second consecutive year in 2016 to $2.4bn. This is the lowest level since 2005 – which includes the period from 2006 to 2015 when its prime minister was Stephen Harper, a climate change denier.

So what has Trudeau done? His election was welcomed by green bodies for his renewables-focused power strategy and his aim to mitigate climate change. The Canadian Wind Energy Association said at the time that he would help make Canada a leader in the global shift to a clean energy economy.

After two years, this early enthusiasm is cooling.

For one thing, Trudeau last December approved the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain oil pipeline, linking the oil sands in Alberta to a tanker port in British Columbia. His decision was condemned by environmental groups, but he said that it was a sensible move to boost the economy, which didn’t go against his pledge to encourage renewables.

The government has taken a few steps to fight climate change in the last couple of years. These include the commitment that every province will start pricing carbon emissions in 2018, with the aim to phase out coal power by 2030; as well as the target of generating 90% of Canada’s electricity from “non-emitting sources” by 2030.

That latter figure currently stands at around 80% if you class nuclear as “non-emitting”, and 64% if you don’t. Either way, perhaps there is complacence from government that it would be easy to hit its 2030 target, and so has not pushed support for wind.

The performance of the economy is also a factor. GDP growth of 0.9% and 1.5% in 2015 and 2016 have contributed to a progressive fall in electricity demand, which has made projects look less attractive in the last year. Canada’s Department of Natural Resources only expects electricity demand in Canada to grow at an annual rate of 1% until 2040.

The mix of unambitious commitments and low energy demand have forced Canadian wind developers and investors to seek opportunities outside their national borders.

For example, Canadian renewables group Boralex, in partnership with Gaz Metro, plans to build a 300MW project, called SBx, in Canada's Quebec province, to supply power to the US state of Massachusetts. And Canada's Emera has recently proposed the construction of a 1GW subsea transmission line to link Canada’s Atlantic coast to Massachusetts, so developers of seven wind farms in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia can sell power to the US.

Canadian investors have turned their attention elsewhere too. Pension fund manager PSP Investments last month bought a 10% stake in clean energy firm Pattern Energy, committing to invest a further $500m in projects the company will acquire from its development arm. And earlier this year, Canadian giant Brookfield Asset Management agreed to buy SunEdsion’s yieldcos TerraForm Power and TerraForm Global, in a deal worth $2.5bn.

Until it is more attractive to build in Canada, more of the country’s wind firms will need to look overseas. Trudeau may have star power, but that's not the same as power.

Justin Trudeau is Canada’s pop star prime minister. Journalists have spent two years fawning over him since he was elected in November 2015. Last month, he was even on the cover of US music magazine Rolling Stone.

But now it’s time to judge him on his results and, when it comes to renewables, this pop star's performance so far has been off-key.

Canada is the world’s second largest nation but, with most of the country unsuitable for habitation, it averages only four people per square kilometre. The low population density and abundance of resources have put it in the top 25 of the world's greenest nations: 59% of Canadian electricity comes from hydro, 5% from other renewables, and 16% from nuclear.

Canada ended 2016 with 12GW of installed wind farms, adding just 702MW in the year. This continued the slowdown from the 2GW of wind farms installed in 2014 and 1.5GW in 2015.

New investments in renewables were not impressive either. Investments in Canadian clean energy tumbled by 46% for a second consecutive year in 2016 to $2.4bn. This is the lowest level since 2005 – which includes the period from 2006 to 2015 when its prime minister was Stephen Harper, a climate change denier.

So what has Trudeau done? His election was welcomed by green bodies for his renewables-focused power strategy and his aim to mitigate climate change. The Canadian Wind Energy Association said at the time that he would help make Canada a leader in the global shift to a clean energy economy.

After two years, this early enthusiasm is cooling.

For one thing, Trudeau last December approved the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain oil pipeline, linking the oil sands in Alberta to a tanker port in British Columbia. His decision was condemned by environmental groups, but he said that it was a sensible move to boost the economy, which didn’t go against his pledge to encourage renewables.

The government has taken a few steps to fight climate change in the last couple of years. These include the commitment that every province will start pricing carbon emissions in 2018, with the aim to phase out coal power by 2030; as well as the target of generating 90% of Canada’s electricity from “non-emitting sources” by 2030.

That latter figure currently stands at around 80% if you class nuclear as “non-emitting”, and 64% if you don’t. Either way, perhaps there is complacence from government that it would be easy to hit its 2030 target, and so has not pushed support for wind.

The performance of the economy is also a factor. GDP growth of 0.9% and 1.5% in 2015 and 2016 have contributed to a progressive fall in electricity demand, which has made projects look less attractive in the last year. Canada’s Department of Natural Resources only expects electricity demand in Canada to grow at an annual rate of 1% until 2040.

The mix of unambitious commitments and low energy demand have forced Canadian wind developers and investors to seek opportunities outside their national borders.

For example, Canadian renewables group Boralex, in partnership with Gaz Metro, plans to build a 300MW project, called SBx, in Canada's Quebec province, to supply power to the US state of Massachusetts. And Canada's Emera has recently proposed the construction of a 1GW subsea transmission line to link Canada’s Atlantic coast to Massachusetts, so developers of seven wind farms in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia can sell power to the US.

Canadian investors have turned their attention elsewhere too. Pension fund manager PSP Investments last month bought a 10% stake in clean energy firm Pattern Energy, committing to invest a further $500m in projects the company will acquire from its development arm. And earlier this year, Canadian giant Brookfield Asset Management agreed to buy SunEdsion’s yieldcos TerraForm Power and TerraForm Global, in a deal worth $2.5bn.

Until it is more attractive to build in Canada, more of the country’s wind firms will need to look overseas. Trudeau may have star power, but that's not the same as power.

Justin Trudeau is Canada’s pop star prime minister. Journalists have spent two years fawning over him since he was elected in November 2015. Last month, he was even on the cover of US music magazine Rolling Stone.

But now it’s time to judge him on his results and, when it comes to renewables, this pop star's performance so far has been off-key.

Canada is the world’s second largest nation but, with most of the country unsuitable for habitation, it averages only four people per square kilometre. The low population density and abundance of resources have put it in the top 25 of the world's greenest nations: 59% of Canadian electricity comes from hydro, 5% from other renewables, and 16% from nuclear.

Canada ended 2016 with 12GW of installed wind farms, adding just 702MW in the year. This continued the slowdown from the 2GW of wind farms installed in 2014 and 1.5GW in 2015.

New investments in renewables were not impressive either. Investments in Canadian clean energy tumbled by 46% for a second consecutive year in 2016 to $2.4bn. This is the lowest level since 2005 – which includes the period from 2006 to 2015 when its prime minister was Stephen Harper, a climate change denier.

So what has Trudeau done? His election was welcomed by green bodies for his renewables-focused power strategy and his aim to mitigate climate change. The Canadian Wind Energy Association said at the time that he would help make Canada a leader in the global shift to a clean energy economy.

After two years, this early enthusiasm is cooling.

For one thing, Trudeau last December approved the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain oil pipeline, linking the oil sands in Alberta to a tanker port in British Columbia. His decision was condemned by environmental groups, but he said that it was a sensible move to boost the economy, which didn’t go against his pledge to encourage renewables.

The government has taken a few steps to fight climate change in the last couple of years. These include the commitment that every province will start pricing carbon emissions in 2018, with the aim to phase out coal power by 2030; as well as the target of generating 90% of Canada’s electricity from “non-emitting sources” by 2030.

That latter figure currently stands at around 80% if you class nuclear as “non-emitting”, and 64% if you don’t. Either way, perhaps there is complacence from government that it would be easy to hit its 2030 target, and so has not pushed support for wind.

The performance of the economy is also a factor. GDP growth of 0.9% and 1.5% in 2015 and 2016 have contributed to a progressive fall in electricity demand, which has made projects look less attractive in the last year. Canada’s Department of Natural Resources only expects electricity demand in Canada to grow at an annual rate of 1% until 2040.

The mix of unambitious commitments and low energy demand have forced Canadian wind developers and investors to seek opportunities outside their national borders.

For example, Canadian renewables group Boralex, in partnership with Gaz Metro, plans to build a 300MW project, called SBx, in Canada's Quebec province, to supply power to the US state of Massachusetts. And Canada's Emera has recently proposed the construction of a 1GW subsea transmission line to link Canada’s Atlantic coast to Massachusetts, so developers of seven wind farms in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia can sell power to the US.

Canadian investors have turned their attention elsewhere too. Pension fund manager PSP Investments last month bought a 10% stake in clean energy firm Pattern Energy, committing to invest a further $500m in projects the company will acquire from its development arm. And earlier this year, Canadian giant Brookfield Asset Management agreed to buy SunEdsion’s yieldcos TerraForm Power and TerraForm Global, in a deal worth $2.5bn.

Until it is more attractive to build in Canada, more of the country’s wind firms will need to look overseas. Trudeau may have star power, but that's not the same as power.

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Not a member yet?

Become a member of the 6,500-strong A Word About Wind community today, and gain access to our premium content, exclusive lead generation and investment opportunities.