February 24, 2011

Wind power industry says thousands of jobs ‘scorched’ by Ontario policy change

Ontario’s decision not to proceed with proposed offshore wind projects jeopardizes thousands of potential construction jobs and billions in investment dollars says the developer of a multi-billion dollar offshore project.

“This is an incredible situation and it is akin to when the plug was pulled on the Avro Arrow aircraft (in 1959). That set our aviation industry back and never allowed Canada to be a player in aviation again,” said John Kourtoff, Trillium Power president and CEO.

“Offshore wind in Ontario cannot afford to be a political football.

“It is too important an economic driver and long-term job provider. Thousands of jobs across the province, from construction to manufacturing, will be scorched.”

The province recently announced it would not proceed with proposed offshore wind projects while “further scientific research is conducted.”

“No renewable energy approvals for offshore have been issued and no offshore projects will proceed at this time,” noted a provincial statement.

“Applications for offshore wind projects in the Feed-In-Tariff program will no longer be accepted and current applications will be suspended.”

The province explained that offshore wind in freshwater lakes is in early development and that Ontario will monitor a pilot project in Sweden and one proposed for Ohio to see what scientific knowledge is generated.

The province will work with its U.S. neighbours on research “to ensure any future proposed projects protect the environment on both sides of the Great Lakes.”

Trillium had four proposed Ontario projects expected to generate approximately 3,700 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind energy. Development of these four project sites carried $14.8 billion of private investment over a 10- to 12-year period. The centre of Trillium’s first phase is 17 kilometres from the nearest shoreline in Prince Edward County and would have resulted in a $1.6 billion investment.

A recent Conference Board of Canada report estimated that 45 per cent of the jobs created if Ontario’s offshore wind industry was developed to deliver just 2,000 MW of power by 2026 would be in the construction and manufacturing sectors.

“The development and operation of offshore wind energy in Ontario could, between 2013 and 2026, create an average of 3,900 to 4,400 jobs per year during the construction phase and 600 permanent positions,” the report concluded.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) expressed its disappointment with province’s decision and looks forward to understanding the government’s proposed timelines and scope of research of offshore wind energy in the Great Lakes.

“Ontario is proving itself a leader in driving a new clean energy future that delivers emission-free power and new jobs for our skilled trade workers,” said CanWEA president Robert Hornung. “This is an unfortunate decision that surrenders the province’s leadership role in exploring the potential for offshore wind energy in the Great lakes and creates significant uncertainty for investors.”

When Ontario lifted its moratorium on offshore wind projects in 2008 it stated that it had taken steps to ensure decisions on applications for onshore and offshore wind power development were based on the best available information. Among these was a partnership with the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory to evaluate offshore wind potential in the Great Lakes and analysis lakes Erie, Huron and Ontario, including depth, wind speed and other social and ecological values.

Kourtoff believes the province should look at any project 10 km or less from the mainland on a case-by-case basis and any project beyond that should continue with its required studies and development.

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