Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
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Atlantic Energy Gateway - Research, Development and Demonstration: Challenges and Opportunities

Executive Summary

Introduction and Purpose

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) is conducting the Atlantic Energy Gateway (AEG) study to facilitate the development of Atlantic Canada’s clean energy resources. As part of this initiative, ACOA engaged SLR Consulting (Canada) Ltd., in partnership with Maxis Energy Solutions, to examine the current state of clean and renewable energy research, development and demonstration (RD&D) in Atlantic Canada, and provide observations that will assist the AEG initiative in its policy considerations with respect to facilitating further development in this sector.

This report presents summaries of the current state of clean and renewable energy used in each of the four Atlantic provinces, and an extensive survey and summary of research and development capacity across the region. Following those sections of the report, a detailed review of four major projects is provided that leads to a discussion of the qualities of an effective RD&D project.  Potential areas of regional co-operation are then presented, along with a series of policy considerations respecting clean and renewable energy development in Atlantic Canada.

Main Findings

While each province has goals for their sustainable initiatives, most funding for clean energy in the region is focused on wind, enabling technologies often related to wind, and biomass/biofuels.  During the course of this study, four projects were cited as being excellent examples of regional co-operation, as well as government/private sector and academic partnering.

The Wind-Hydrogen-Diesel Energy Project (WHD Project), led by Nalcor, makes the community of Ramea, on Northwest Island off the southwest coast of the Island of Newfoundland, home to one of the world’s few wind-hydrogen-diesel energy projects. The $12-million RD&D project, mainly funded by Nalcor/Government of NL, ACOA and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), has been under development since 2007. A key private sector partner is Frontier Power Systems of Prince Edward Island.

PowerShift Atlantic is a collaborative research project led in partnership by NRCan through the Clean Energy Fund, New Brunswick Power, Saint John Energy, Maritime Electric, Nova Scotia Power, the New Brunswick System Operator, the University of New Brunswick, with the governments of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. The four-year, $32 million project, which started in 2010, focuses on finding more effective ways of integrating wind energy to our electricity system in the Maritimes.

Nova Scotia has a world-class tidal energy resource in the Bay of Fundy In 2009, the Province enabled the formation of the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE). FORCE is a non-profit organization that is funded by the Province, the Government of Canada (primarily through the Clean Energy Fund), Encana Corporation, and member developers. FORCE has established a demonstration site in the Minas Passage, an observation facility near Parrsboro, and will complete the installation of subsea transmission cables with grid connection in the next year.

The Wind Energy Institute of Canada (WEICan) located at North Cape has developed a Wind Energy R&D Park with a utility-scale energy storage system. The priority will be to demonstrate the integration of a storage system with wind generation/distribution systems. The project is co-funded by the Government of Canada through the Clean Energy Fund and the Province of Prince Edward Island. WEICan also has research agreements with the University of New Brunswick, and the towers have been supplied by DSTN of Nova Scotia.

Through examination of these individual projects, and dozens of other projects throughout the region, the study found that efforts in RD&D have the best results and outcomes when:

  • the region has a significant resource base (has local relevance);
  • there is a realistic chance of usability and innovation;
  • the project meets a market need (international relevance, export potential);
  • industry needs are front and centre; industry is engaged as an active participant;
  • government needs/objectives and policies are aligned;
  • local/regional industrial and academic capacity exists to provide solutions (facilities, highly qualified personnel);
  • adequate funding is maximized by leveraging (industry, government and academia; programs without matching or repayable conditions are often ineffective);
  • global links and international alliances are struck when relevant; and
  • plans and structures allow open communication and information sharing.

Policy Considerations

As is evident from the specific projects noted above, and consistent with the study inventory, considerable potential exists for regional partnering between governments, the private sector, and academia. In this respect, the parameters that define an effective RD&D project should be considered: local relevance; chance of usability and innovation; established priorities shared by government and industry; industry engagement and willingness to leverage financing; market need; and global linkages, when beneficial.

Partners should work with industry to continue to assist in funding projects in the middle of the innovation chain at the RD&D stage. Decision makers might consider a rating scheme for projects in which a progressively increasing percentage of government contribution is triggered when key criteria/requirements are met in keeping with the overall mandate of maximizing regional co-operation and common understanding.
Additional favourable project attributes include the level of regional co-operation between provinces and academia, as well as the level of co-operation between individual researchers/highly qualified personnel working together within, and across, regional institutions. In terms of international potential or export, recognize that the export of electricity is one aspect, but equally important is the export of technology or solutions with international reach, such as off-grid applications. 

View related Atlantic Energy Gateway studies.