Canadian Wind Energy Industry Thriving

With an added 534 megawatts (MW) of new wind energy capacity installed to date in 2006 — representing close to $1 billion in investment — the Canadian wind energy industry surpassed the 2005 record of 240 MW. Since April however, no federal funds have been made available to facilitate the deployment of additional wind energy projects in Canada, raising questions about the extent to which the federal government will support wind energy development moving forward.

Federal government power production incentives for the wind energy industry have been a critical and effective catalyst for the rapid growth of Canada’s wind energy industry over the last four years. As a result, the country now has 1,218 MW of total installed wind energy capacity. “Many companies signed contracts to build wind farms following commitments made by the previous government that federal support would be available. These companies now face significant economic consequences if those funds are not forthcoming. The current policy uncertainty also sends a negative signal to recent and potential investors in wind energy projects and manufacturing facilities and represents a threat to future investment in wind energy in Canada,” said Robert Hornung, President of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA). “Federal support has stimulated provincial governments to pursue wind energy development and they are now targeting a combined minimum of 10,000 MW of installed wind energy capacity by 2015 and looking to the federal government to continue its role as a supporting partner,” added Hornung. Wind energy projects have already been commissioned this year in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia; additional facilities in Quebec and Prince Edward Island are also expected to come online before the end of the year. “With several more wind farms under construction and others expected to be commissioned before year end, new industry heights will be achieved in 2006,” said Hornung. “We project that Canada will end the year with more than 700 MW of new wind energy projects installed. This means Canada’s total installed wind energy capacity will have doubled from the end of 2005 to the end of 2006.” However, CanWEA believes that the federal government’s emerging environmental agenda should both end the current policy uncertainty and provide support to Canada’s rapidly developing wind energy industry. According to estimates released this week by CanWEA, the wind energy industry contributed $736 million to Canada’s Gross Domestic Product in 2005. It is also estimated that there were 1,200 full-time equivalent jobs in the wind energy industry in 2005, an increase of 65% over 2004. The country’s wind energy industry revenues in 2005 were $548 million, a 100% increase over 2004 levels, according to CanWEA estimates. Industry members project that wind energy industry revenues will again double in 2006. Expenditures in the industry are estimated at $482 million in 2005, a 22% increase over 2004. Direct employment in the industry is expected to increase to more than 5,000 FTE jobs over the next five years. “It is clear that wind energy has begun to move from the margins to the mainstream of Canadian economic activity,” says Hornung. “With provincial governments seeking a 10-fold increase in installed wind energy capacity in Canada over the next decade, we have only just begun to scratch the surface of wind energy’s potential economic contribution to Canada.”
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