Milestone in Renewable Energy Applauded: Sunbridge Wind Farm

June 28, 2002
Media Release
Pembina Institute

Gull Lake, Saskatchewan — Canada's installed wind energy capacity increased by 11 megawatts (MW) today with the official opening of the Sunbridge Wind Power complex at Gull Lake, Saskatchewan, located 55 kilometres west of Swift Current along the Trans Canada highway. Sunbridge is a partnership of Suncor Energy Inc. and Enbridge Inc., both of Calgary.

David Pollock, Executive Director of the Pembina Institute, calls the 17-turbine wind farm a significant milestone in the growth of renewable energy in Canada. "For us, this really marks the beginning of serious participation by conventional fossil fuel energy companies in providing Canadians with clean, affordable, reliable and renewable electricity," notes Pollock.

"Wind energy is generally considered by experts as the most practical near-term large scale alternative to coal- and gas-fired electrical energy across the Prairies and many parts of coastal and northern Canada," says Rob Macintosh, Senior Advisor to the Pembina Institute. "Every megawatt-hour of wind-generated electricity that displaces coal power avoids nearly 1 tonne of carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas that is contributing to global climate change."

Analysts at the Pembina Institute note that, while 11 MW is a relatively small project, representing about 6% growth in Canada's total wind energy capacity, substantial expansion of the Sunbridge Wind Project could be realized quickly over the next year or two.

The Government of Canada, in cooperation with SaskPower and the Saskatchewan Government created a firm demand for wind power through a $12 million dollar premium over 10 years that has allowed the current project to proceed. The $260 million dollar federal wind energy production incentive announced in the federal budget in December 2001 also helps to send a clear signal to producers and consumers that renewable energy can become a viable, cost-effective energy option in the future. Where economics are more attractive, companies such as Suncor and Enbridge are better positioned to move seriously into large-scale wind generation of 100 MW and up.

However, incentives in Canada still do not approach those provided in Europe, or even Texas where more than 2,000 MW of new wind capacity will be installed by the end of 2002.

"If federal and provincial governments are serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fostering the growth of a major renewable energy industry in Western Canada, they will level the playing field in terms of capital investment tax treatment across all sectors. They will also expand their own green procurement programs and production incentives to match other jurisdictions," observes Macintosh.

The Pembina Institute believes that the Canadian wind energy industry's goal of 10,000 MW of new wind energy capacity over the next decade is realistic and achievable if provincial governments act with some combination of provincial incentives or green premiums to match federal support, and if renewable portfolio standards require the electricity industry to include a minimum renewables component in its generation mix. The economics get even better if coal-fired power plants are required to meet the higher air pollution standards common in the United States, and if they account for their greenhouse gas emissions.

Macintosh notes, "The provinces that are the first to create a positive investment climate for wind energy are going to trigger the launch of some very significant projects. Projects of 100 MW and larger will bring significant economic benefits, along with important reductions in air pollution and greenhouse gases."

Along with the long-term nature of most wind power purchase agreements, this can really stabilize electricity prices — important in the current climate of price uncertainty in a province such as Alberta. Renewable energy supplies also create more jobs than gas or coal for the same capacity, and wind farms distribute revenues widely back to farmers and rural landowners, as well as to local industry.

The Pembina Institute applauds Suncor Energy and Enbridge Inc. on the successful launch and official opening of the first phase of the Sunbridge wind project. "We now urge SaskPower and federal and provincial governments to move quickly to create the conditions that will allow much bigger wind energy investments. If they do, we are confident that Suncor and Enbridge, as well as a number of other players waiting in the wings, will step up to the plate and help put wind energy on the scoreboard," said Macintosh.

"The single most important step to create heightened willingness on the part of federal and provincial governments to provide added incentives for low-impact renewable energy would be for the federal government to ratify the Kyoto Protocol as soon as possible," concludes Executive Director David Pollock.

For more information contact:

David Pollock, Executive Director, 780-542-6272
Rob Macintosh, Senior Advisor, 780- 542-6021

For more information on the Sunbridge wind project in Saskatchewan contact:

Leah Purdy

Jenniffer Berger-Gee

Larry Christie
306-655-3167 (Regina)
888-536-0000 (toll-free)

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