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Government amending Atlantic Accords to include offshore wind energy, spur production

OTTAWA — Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says new legislation will let Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador tap into the potential of offshore wind power development.
Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson arrives at a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 30, 2023. Wilkinson says new legislation will enable Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador to tap into the potential of offshore wind development. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says new legislation will let Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador tap into the potential of offshore wind power development.

He has introduced changes to the laws implementing the Atlantic Accords that would expand the mandates of each province's offshore petroleum boards to include renewable energy. 

The proposed federal amendments would enable the development of offshore wind farms by allowing for government regulation. If Wilkinson's bill passes, matching legislation would be introduced by the two provincial governments to ensure the changes are implemented at both levels. 

"Both levels of government have the same goal: our aim is to balance progressive, clean energy exploration and responsible environmental stewardship," said Tim Halman, Nova Scotia's minister of Environment and Climate Change. 

That province plans to launch a call for bids by 2025.

Wilkinson said the global offshore wind market is forecast to attract a trillion dollars in investment by 2040 and there is an enormous potential for growth on Canada's East Coast.

"(Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia) have substantial comparative advantages rooted in the synergies with existing offshore energy supply chains, ocean research expertise, a highly skilled and experienced workforce and, of course, the great quality of the wind resource that exists," he said.

The federal government signed a deal with Germany last summer to create a clean energy corridor, aiming to send hydrogen to Europe beginning in 2025. It outlines a plan to co-operate on energy policy and research as both countries work toward a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Renewable sources of electricity, such as wind, are needed to produce green hydrogen.

Europe is looking to use hydrogen to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels to meet climate change targets. Since Russia began using energy as political leverage during its invasion of Ukraine, European countries have put new emphasis on weaning themselves off Russian oil and gas.

There are two hydrogen projects in the works in Atlantic Canada -- one by EverWind Fuels in Point Tupper, N.S., and one proposed by World Energy GH2 on the west coast of Newfoundland.

GH2 will eventually produce 250,000 tonnes of hydrogen using power from three new wind farms.

In its most recent federal budget, the government announced a slate of new programs aimed spurring investment in clean energy, including a 40 per cent investment tax credit for capital funding of low-emission hydrogen. 

Amendments in Tuesday's legislation will also aim to help Canada reach its ocean conservation targets by applying the federal marine protection area standards in offshore areas covered by the accords. 

The standard prohibits industrial activities, including oil and gas exploration and production, in marine protected areas. The changes would allow the ministers to stop activities in waters covered by the accords. 

However, Wilkinson was not clear about whether this would prohibit offshore wind energy projects in areas that are or will be protected. 

"The marine protected areas are intended to be areas where industrial activity does not take place," he said.

A regional assessment will be done to determine the most interesting areas, Wilkinson said, which will take into account issues such as navigation, fisheries and marine conservation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2023.

Sarah Ritchie, The Canadian Press