Commentary by Michelle Robichaud, President, Atlantica Centre for Energy
It feels like Atlantic Canada is in a global race to be part of the net zero by 2050 transition. New sources of energy generation, storage and/or transmission seems to be a priority for each and every province and state. For the first time in history, a transition of epic proportions will require trillions of dollars of private sector investment along with proactive collaborative partnerships between the private sector and stakeholder communities.
Which provinces or states will benefit the most – will be largely decided by a race to attract private investment.
EverWind Fuel’s potential green hydrogen project in Point Tupper, Nova Scotia, is now a serious contender.
Atlantic Canada has exceptional onshore and offshore wind resources, nuclear expertise and experience processing fuels for today and for the future. The region is also home to rigorous processes to ensure safety for the public and the environment.
However, the past has demonstrated other jurisdictions often move faster or with more certainty in developing projects. We must acknowledge that private capital will flow to where investors can get a combination of a fast, predictable and worthwhile return on their investments. Even though Atlantic Canada has attractive natural resources like wind, this alone cannot be the only way to ensure prosperity in the region.
The conditional approval of EverWind’s green hydrogen project is monumental for Nova Scotia; the province has announced to the world it is open and ready for investment in clean fuels. EverWind’s CEO, Trent Vichie, recently stated on social media thanking the provincial government for their hard work and engagement to move this project forward safely and swiftly.
It is clear environmental safeguards will remain in place, despite the speed of approval as there are 14 stipulations the project must still satisfy before final approval. But, despite these conditions, the approval sends a clear message to industry about what is needed to make investments in the region to lower investment risk and speed up timelines given the clear direction.
How can Atlantic Canada prepare to attract the investments needed to reach net zero and grow the regional economy?
As has been the case in Nova Scotia, permitting approvals must be fast and defined for all potential development projects. These are two conditions that the four Atlantic provinces can control to compete in the race to build a green economy.
Governments must enable a regulatory structure that provides an expedient review process. They should add staff if necessary to prevent backlogs. Governments should also be more transparent with businesses and the general public to ensure there are no unnecessary roadblocks or revisions needed.
Businesses must also be transparent and consultative with their plans. They should engage with government, the local community and indigenous stakeholders proactively to ensure applications have broad awareness and support before proceeding with any application. This approach is becoming the norm, and projects like EverWind’s development, Natural Forces’ wind farms, and advanced Small Modular Reactors being developed in New Brunswick demonstrate the benefits for all involved parties.
Last, but not least, Atlantic Canadians must support these expedited development projects.
The race to a green economy can benefit all Atlantic Canadians by reducing emissions while attracting thousands of new jobs and billions of private sector investment to the region. From green hydrogen to nuclear, Atlantic Canada is poised to be leaders in clean energy technologies for the region and beyond.
Let’s all work quickly to win this race.