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N.B. report outlines wind energy model

New Brunswick’s provincial government plans to review and consider a new report providing a model for community-level investment in wind power for the province.

The preliminary report, released Thursday, outlines recommendations from Yves Gagnon, the K.C. Irving chair of sustainable development at the Universite de Moncton, for a community wind energy program, including the parameters for financing, governance and support of such projects.

Gagnon’s recommendations follow 10 community forums held in the province this spring and research on other jurisdictions’ programs for community renewable energy projects.

The report recommends a community wind energy program allocate 100 MW in its pilot phase, to be increased in later phases depending on the pilot’s success.

The report recommends individual wind farms developed through the program have a maximum capacity of 15 MW and be eligible for power purchase agreements through standard offer contracts on a first-come, first-served basis.

The report calls for an initial price of nine cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for electricity marketed through the program, indexed at two per cent per year, with an average price paid of 11.5 cents/kWh over a 25-year term.

Eligible majority owners of, and participants in, community wind energy projects should include New Brunswick municipalities and co-operatives, not-for-profit organizations and institutions, the report said. Other potential participants, as minority partners, in such community projects could include New Brunswick-based private corporations and private investors, along with NB Power.

NB Power would also own the “environmental attributes” of the community wind energy projects and would be the “market participant” for the individual community wind farms, the report recommends.

The report also suggests several avenues that the province should consider for government investment in community wind farm projects, including:

  • supports worth up to 50 per cent of project development costs;
  • establishment of a renewable energy investment fund (REIF), with investment benefits similar to existing investment tax credits;
  • loan guarantees, in partnership with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency;
  • a Renewable Energy Revolving Fund or Renewable Energy Foundation; and
  • debt financing through the New Brunswick Investment Management Corp.

The province said Thursday that its energy department, NB Power, the New Brunswick System Operator and other departments are reviewing all of the recommendations. That review is expected to be completed this fall, with “elements” of the program to be presented to the provincial cabinet this winter.

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