Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Japan approves renewable energy feed-in-tariff (FIT): Pressure increases on North American jurisdictions and EU countries to follow suit

Japan's upper chamber has just approved a new law implementing a feed-in-tariff policy for renewable energy. The law will take effect July, 2012 and sets a target of 30,000 MW of new renewable development within the next 10 years.

This new FIT in Japan has wide-reaching global implications for the EU and North America. The following countries now have feed-in-tariffs for renewable energy:

- China (2nd largest economy in the world)
- Japan (3rd largest economy in the world)
- Germany (4th largest economy in the world)

A key feature of the new Japanese FIT law is the creation of a special parliamentary committee to determine the details of the program, including specific tariffs. In the past, this function would normally have been assigned to the powerful Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

While specific details have not been released the Japanese FIT program will be tailored to 20-year contracts for wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and small hydro. The tariffs are cost-based and include cost recovery from utility ratepayers with reduction for heavy industrial users. The program will be reviewed every three years.

As in Germany, heavy industry in Japan can apply for a reduction in the surcharge on electricity to support the program. Similarly, those affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake will not have to pay the surcharge for the program through the end of March 2013, according to the Japan Electric Association.

Reuters reports that a ruling party lawmaker said he expects the tariff for solar PV to start at 40 Yen per kilowatt-hour ($0.50 CAD/kWh), and the tariff for wind energy to start at 20 Yen per kilowatt-hour ($0.25 CAD/kWh).

If implemented as suggested, the wind energy tariff would be among the highest in the world.

The widely expected passage of the new law has unleashed a burst of entrepreneurial activity not seen in Japan for some time with domestic developers like Japan Wind Development (JWD) well-positioned to take advantage of the FIT.

Sources (in part): Reuters, Paul Gipe in

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Saskatoon Green Energy Park and Feed-in-tariff part of global trend

A great article by Paul Hanley in The Star Phoenix, the local Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada newspaper was published this morning regarding the proposed Green Energy Park at the Saskatoon Landfill and the need for a feed-in-tariff in the province.


Saskatoon should get behind the city's plan to create a green energy park at the landfill site. The proposed renewable energy project has the potential to power more than 5,000 homes and achieve an annual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of more than 115,000 tonnes. Not only is local green energy production good for the ecosphere, it can be a money maker too.

Europe has had some major successes with municipal energy production of this kind. The German village of Wildpoldsried, for example, produces 320 per cent more energy than it needs, generating $5.7 million in annual revenue from renewable energy sales to the national power grid.

According to an article in Bio-Cycle, the green initiative started in 1997 when the village council decided it should build new industries, keep initiatives local and bring in new revenue, all without creating debt. Fourteen years later, the community of 2,600 can boast a massive list of accomplishments that include nine new community buildings (including the school, gym and community hall) complete with solar panels, four biogas digesters with a fifth underway, seven windmills with two more on the way, 190 private households equipped with solar, a district heating network with 42 connections, three small hydro power plants, ecological flood control and a natural waste water system.

This is quite an accomplishment for a modest farming community with no local industries. Small businesses have now sprung up to sell and install technologies and provide services to the renewable energy installations, from solar panels and district heating to the anaerobic digesters and energy efficiency retrofits.

It's particularly successful, but Wildpoldsried is not unique. After investing $80 million over 10 years, the Danish island of Samsoe now produces enough energy to satisfy local needs and export 40 per cent of its energy to the mainland. Going 100 per cent renewable wasn't easy, but the results have paid off handsomely. Farmers on the island who are powering their facilities with wind turbines are seeing a six-to seven-year payback on those investments.

With 4,000 people, Samsoe has the highest per-capita concentration of nearly every kind of renewable energy on the planet. It has 11 onshore and 10 offshore turbines. Offshore wind alone produces 28,000 MWh of electricity per year, the equivalent of 690,000 gallons of oil. The island also uses its renewable biomass resource for heating, using three straw-fired plants and a 900kw wood chip boiler.

Wildpoldsried's mayor points out that the renewable approach requires strong support from the citizens and the village council. The model cannot be forced from only one side, he says. He spends a lot of time talking to visitors about how to motivate local politicians to start thinking differently. He shows them a best practice model in motion and many see the benefits immediately. Guests understand how well things can operate when you have the enthusiasm and conviction of the people behind it. Saskatoon take note.

It also helps to have national or provincial policies like a feed-in tariff in place to make it economic to promote novel power sources like wind and solar. Germany, which has recently decided to phase out nuclear power and go all out on renewable sources, has such a feed-in tariff. It is now moving to create a smart energy grid to better manage multiple renewable power sources. Saskatchewan take note.

Meanwhile, Japan has positioned itself as the next large growth market for renewable energy. Its upper chamber of parliament recently approved legislation that will create a national feed-in tariff. The new law is expected to bolster solar, wind and geothermal projects by mandating that utilities buy power from renewable sources at above-market rates.

Japan has decided to move from nuclear to the renewable option following the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdowns. Some 85 per cent of the population supports the immediate or gradual phase out of nuclear power, according to a recent poll.

Rather than back more nuclear research or clean coal, Saskatchewan would do well to look at a feed-in tariff and other policies to promote renewable options.

Read more:

Monday, August 29, 2011

WMCZ awarded the 2011 Global Award for the Electricity Regulation Law Firm of the Year in Canada by Corporate INTL Magazine

WMCZ is proud to be recognized as Canada's Electricity Regulation law firm of the year by Corporate INTL magazine. WMCZ's Energy Law group advises energy companies, utilities, developers, landowners, municipalities and First Nations on power procurement, power generation and commercial transactions in Canada.

Corporate INTL is one of the leading titles for business leaders, professional advisers and providers of finance throughout the world.

Friday, August 26, 2011

M&A heats up in Saskatchewan as Cameco announces intention to buy Hathor for $520 million CAD

Saskatoon-based Cameco Corporation, the largest uranium miner in the world, just announced this morning plans to buy its junior peer Hathor Exploration Ltd. for cash consideration of $3.75 per share in a transaction which values the fully diluted share capital of Hathor at approximately $520 million CAD, after talks for a potential board-supported deal failed.

Hathor is a junior uranium company focused on exploration projects in the Athabasca Basin of northern Saskatchewan, Canada. The company's most significant asset is the Roughrider uranium deposit. The Roughrider deposit is estimated to contain indicated and inferred resources of approximately 17.2 and 40.7 million pounds of uranium. The deposit is located approximately 25 kilometres northwest of Cameco's Rabbit Lake mill.

Hitachi and Saskatchewan deepen relationship with $10 million CAD R&D Agreement for nuclear medicine technology

Tokyo-based Hitachi Ltd. and the Government of Saskatchewan announced yesterday that they have signed an MOU regarding joint research and development (R&D) of nuclear medicine technology. Saskatchewan has also signed an MOU with Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, Ltd., GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas LLC (GEH), and Global Nuclear Fuel -- Americas, LLC (GNF-A) to discuss the potential of working together on future nuclear R&D projects of mutual interest including nuclear safety, uranium recovery and design of small modular reactor technologies.

Hitachi and Saskatchewan have an impressive 40-year history of successful collaboration in the power generation field, including work on coal, natural gas and wind generation technologies. In 1988, Hitachi established Hitachi Canadian Industries Ltd. in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan as a manufacturing base for power generation equipment, deepening its relationship with SaskPower and the province. In February 2010, SaskPower and Hitachi agreed to collaborate on the advancement and implementation of technology in the fields of low-carbon energy technologies, including Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS). Hitachi is also providing an innovative, first-of-its-kind turbine and generator for SaskPower's world leading Boundary Dam Integrated CCS project. In May 2010, Saskatchewan and Hitachi reached a landmark agreement with the signing of a joint declaration to work together and share information for developing energy and environmental technologies, including CCS for thermal power plants, renewable energy and smart grid technologies.

With today's announcement, Saskatchewan and Hitachi have deepened the cooperation further by R&D into nuclear medicine technology.

Eighteen CANDU (Canada Deuterium Uranium) reactors are currently in operation in Canada, delivering about 15% of the country's overall generating capacity. Canada is the world's largest producer of uranium. All of Canada's uranium is produced in Saskatchewan largely by Saskatoon-based uranium giant Cameco Corporation.

Saskatchewan, Hitachi-GE, GEH, and GNF-A plan to collaborate on potential nuclear R&D projects of mutual interest including design and feasibility of small modular reactors technologies and reclamation of unused uranium fuel from new fuel rods that have been rejected for use in reactors as a result of quality control programs.

Source (in part): Hitachi Press Release dated August 25, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Not In My Baltic Sea! Finns up in arms as E.ON plans 1000 MW wind farm

Helsingin Sanomat, the Finnish daily national newspaper reported this week that a Swedish subsidiary of the European energy giant, E.ON is planning on developing a 1000 MW offshore windfarm in the Baltic Sea near the Åland Islands (Ahvenanmaa in Finnish).

300 turbines are proposed to be built approximately 100 kilometres South of the tip of the Åland Islands. The generation would be fed into the marine transmission cable which is planned between Sweden and Lithuania.

The Swedish Environmental Protection Authority has recently informed the Finnish environmental authorities that the project's environmental impact assessment has commenced.

Unfortunately, Finland has generally taken "Not In My Back Yard" approach to windfarm development. Helsingin Sanomat reports that the Finnish Ministry of the Environment is expressing concerns that the project poses a significant environmental impact to Finland and will likely request to participate in the environmental impact assessment.

In addition, the Finnish Ministry of Environment is already expressing concerns the project would pose significant risk to the flyways of migratory birds.

Furthermore, in what would seem to me to be an incredible stretch of the current state of scientific knowledge, the Finnish Ministry of Environment is indicating that the proposed project "would affect water quality" in the Baltic Sea.

I can already anticipate challenges with this project as the Åland Islands have an autonomous status and the powers exercised at the provincial level by representatives of the central state administration in the rest of Finland are largely exercised by the Government of Åland in Åland. By act of law, Åland is exclusively Swedish-speaking, with over 90% of the population speaking Swedish as their native language and only 5% speaking Finnish.

The Åland Islands were part of the Kingdom of Sweden from the early 13th century until 1809, when Sweden relinquished Åland and Finland to Russia. The Russians quickly incorporated Åland with Finland. When the Russian empire disintegrated, the League of Nations decided in 1921 that Finland should receive sovereignty over the Åland Islands.

The full article is available in Finnish in the Helsingin Sanomat below:

Chicago Climate Futures Exchange to shut down

Citing ongoing financial losses and the hopelessness of any prospects for a U.S. climate action plan in the foreseeable future, Intercontinental Exchange Inc. announced that it will close the eight-year-old Chicago Climate Futures Exchange (CCFE) by the end of the first quarter of 2012.

The closing of the CCFE puts more pressure on the EU, Western Climate Initiative and the State of California to take the lead on emissions trading. The Canadian province of Saskatchewan is set to introduce their own emissions trading scheme but will likely wait until a larger jurisdiction or group takes the lead.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Saskatchewan Research Council seeks expressions of interest for a 4.7 kW micro combined heat and power system in Saskatoon or Regina

The Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) is looking for a small, commercial host demonstration site in Saskatoon (preferred) or Regina, to trial a Marathon ecopower™ 4.7 kW microCHP unit. The project is funded by SaskEnergy and SaskPower. The proposed, existing facility must already be heated by a boiler system and needs to have a heating load large enough to obtain optimum runtime for the microCHP system. Suggested facilities include buildings heated with inslab floor heating, a warehouse or shop, hotels, laundromats, carwashes, greenhouses or any facility with a heating demand that will maximize the microCHP system’s runtime.

SRC is conducting a demonstration project, which involves site-specific design, purchasing a Marathon ecopower™ 4.7 kW microCHP unit, installing it into the successful applicant’s building’s heating system and ongoing monitoring. The purpose of the project is to demonstrate the use of microCHP technology to determine and identify its overall efficiency, costs, benefits, issues, regulatory concerns and other related matters.

The closing time and date for Expressions of Interest is Thursday, September 15, 2011 at 2:00 p.m.

Additional information is available at

Friday, August 12, 2011

Saskatchewan's Rise as a Renewable Energy Leader

An interesting article written by Sean Burns from is reproduced below which was recently brought to my attention.


It is about time the world sat up and took notice of Saskatchewan. Rarely does a historical polluter quietly turn into an unlikely candidate suddenly embracing the opportunity to lead the world in realizing a renewable energy future.

Countries like China, the US, and Brazil with the same type of resources as Saskatchewan could learn a few things from this quiet yet forward thinking Canadian province.

These lessons while wide-reaching, come down to having a future oriented utility enabled to change the status quo, effective government investment and planning, and policy that supports the establishment of the foundation for renewable generation.


The forward thinking utility leading the charge for Saskatchewan is the provincial supplier of electricity, public utility SaskPower. Serving almost 500,000 customers, SaskPower is one of the province's top employers with almost 2,500 permanent staff. The company manages $4.9 billion in generation, transmission, and distribution assets while operating three coal-fired power stations, seven hydroelectric stations, five natural gas stations, and two wind facilities.

For the first time in history, transitioning to a sustainable electricity system and a new operating model for SaskPower is no longer prohibited by lack of available technology. SaskPower has taken advantage of the opportunity and is standing out while bravely moving away from traditional carbon options by balancing its portfolio with financially viable alternative energy sources.

To push the boundaries of renewables, SaskPower, in partnership with Air Liquide Canada, Hitachi, Marubeni Canada, Babcock & Wilcox Canada, and Stantec, is currently undertaking a massive feasibility study on the design and engineering planning of a near-zero emission clean coal unit. This would be a first of its kind in the world and would be designed to use technology resulting in the capture of around 95% of the carbon dioxide that would typically be emitted. This equates to further possible reuse of existing fuel supplies and a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 1 million tones per year.

Where SaskPower has not had the resources available, it has had the foresight to develop further revenue-building partnerships around a long-term plan to create and maintain a sustainable energy supply that balances economic, environmental and social requirements. This forms part of an ingenious short-, medium-, and long-term action plan involving the people and economy it serves.


Supporting SaskPower's bold initiative is the Government of Saskatchewan. With an investment in over $500 million in sustainable and renewable energy projects, the government is quickly advancing the province's Green Strategy and Energy Climate Change Plan.

The government further backs using renewables to bridge the gap of loss over transmission lines in this expansive province. Government programs promote efficient use of electricity, closer to consumer renewable generation sources, and development of a mixed power portfolio with complimentary energy sources all equating to lower cost transitional measures contributing to a sustainable grid.

The government is also getting serious about further harnessing the power of the wind, a resource rich across Saskatchewan. Earlier this year, endorsed by the government, Algonquin Power & Utilities Corporation started the construction of the 26.4MW Red Lily Wind Project in the southeast of the province. With a capital investment of $67.5M, the project will consist of 16 wind turbine generators. Land rights have been secured for the second phase of the project, which will see an additional 106MW of generation come online. This is a huge step forward into wind power generation.

Existing wind farms in the province include Sunbridge and Cypress Wind Power Facility; both are located at Gull Lake and have a total capacity of roughly 11 MW. There is also the large SaskPower Centennial Wind Power Facility that has a capacity of 150 MW at Swift Current. This all supports the Canadian Wind Energy Association's strategy for nationwide wind power capacity by 2025 meeting 20% of the country's energy needs. Wind alone however will not build the steady base of level power Saskatchewan needs, a solid foundation for other types of renewable is required.

A Solid Foundation

Saskatchewan's Green Power Portfolio is now building a solid renewable foundation for this province. This includes an expansion of wind generation capability with an additional 100 MW by 2012, 50 MW of generation with the delivery of heat recovery projects, 20 MW of generation with the delivery of biomass forestry projects, and a reduction in overall electricity demand by 300 MW by 2017.

While the majority of energy across Canada is largely generated from water and hydrocarbons such as coal, natural gas, and oil, vast amounts of renewable energy resources exist at Saskatchewan's disposal beyond wind and includes solar, biomass, and geothermal options, which are planned to expand in use over the coming years. The province is also reported as having the best solar and wind resources available in the nation for which development plans are currently underway.

As SaskPower builds momentum with renewable energy projects, the government of Saskatchewan is simultaneously creating a growing industry for other players in the renewable market to improve the province's economy.

With companies like SaskPower modernizing and supporting the growth of the renewable industry while working with the government and local economy to realize a new future in energy, the momentum underway in Saskatchewan is beginning to position the province well to leave its heavy pollution history behind and achieving world first breakthroughs in sustainable energy supply that the rest of the world can learn from.


I will be camping in a fairly remote part of the Canadian Shield in Northern Manitoba with no access to technology other than a canoe and fishing rod - so no blog updates next week.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Blackstone private equity to invest 2.5 billion EUR to develop German offshore wind farms

In a surprising move, Blackstone Group LP, one of the largest private equity firms in the world, announced that the firm plans to invest 2.5 billion EUR into the construction of one of Germany’s biggest offshore wind farms. This move is unusual as private equity investors tend to invest in wind farms that have been commissioned or are close to completion rather than wind farms yet to be built. The investment by Blackstone is one of the largest moves into renewable energy by a global buy-out group. This move by Blackstone could open up other private equity financing opportunities for developers with early-stage projects. The 80 turbine 288 MW offshore “Meerwind” project in the North Sea is set to produce enough power to service 400,000 households. Blackstone will also invest in a second offshore project consisting of 64 wind turbines for which it has already acquired a permit. Siemens AG is providing the 80 wind turbines for the Meerwind project. WindMW, the project developer, was established in 2008 as a Blackstone portfolio company to develop German offshore wind farms. The Meerwind concession area is 50 km off the coast of Germany, Northwest of Helgoland. WindMW was advised by Green Giraffe Energy Bankers, KfW-IPEX and Dexia (financing), Gleiss Lutz (legal), NWA (insurance) and Ernst & Young (tax).

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cameco sees slight decrease in uranium demand and reactors after Japan disaster

Saskatoon-based uranium giant Cameco Corporation trimmed its global uranium demand forecast today due to the Fukushima disaster. Over the next 10 years, Cameco sees a global uranium demand of 2.2 billion pounds which is down slightly from its prior forecast of 2.1 billion. Further, Cameco sees 85 net new nuclear reactors online by 2020, compared with its previous estimate of 90. The Financial Post reported today that “the relatively small decline reflects the fact that most countries are maintaining nuclear power as a key part of their energy mix despite Fukushima (though Germany is one exception).”

“We continue to expect annual global consumption to exceed annual global mine production by a significant margin over the next 10 years, a situation that has existed since about 1986,” Cameco said in a statement, adding that it expects about 270 million pounds of new uranium supply will be required to meet demand over the next decade. Its previous estimate was 320 million pounds.

Tim Gitzel, the new Cameco CEO noted that Cameco remains confident about uranium market fundamentals, and that the need for nuclear power as part of the world’s energy mix “remains as compelling as ever.”

Cameco also said the company is on track to reach production at the Cigar Lake mine in Saskatchewan by mid-2013. The Cigar Lake project has faced multiple setbacks due to flooding but is a crucial part of the company’s plan to double uranium production to 40 million pounds a year by 2018.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pteragen/Renovalia wind project moves forward in Alberta

Wind farm generator, Pteragen Canada Inc., a subsidiary of Spanish renewable energy developer, Renovalia Energy Inc. has just applied to the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), to interconnect a 116 MW wind power facility to the transmission system in the Peace Butte area in the Medicine Hat planning Area of Southern Alberta. Pteragen plans to build a collector substation to be called “Tothill 219S” as part of their project. In order to connect Pteragen’s collector substation to the Alberta Interconnected Electric System AltaLink will need to construct approximately 300 m of 138 kV transmission line and connect that newly constructed line to the existing transmission line in the area called “600L”. The AESO intends to apply to the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) for approval of the need identified for transmission development in the Peace Butte area of the Medicine Hat planning area in late August, 2011. Renovalia is targeting Q3 of 2012 for the operation date of the Peace Butte wind farm.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wind opponents suffer another defeat in Ontario

Ontario Review Tribunal Case No. 10-121/10-122, Erickson v. Director, Ministry of the Environment is an appeal of Suncor’s Kent Breeze Wind Farm Project (the “Project”). The case has largely been a test of whether wind turbines in Ontario will cause serious harm to human health and not related to the particular Project. The parties called experts from all over the world to speak to the issue of whether the Project, which was approved according to Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms and Ontario Regulation 359/09 made under the Environmental Protection Act (Ontario), will seriously harm humans living nearby.

In a blow to wind farm opponents, the Environmental Review Tribunal found that the Appellants failed to show that Suncor’s Kent Breeze Project, as approved, will cause serious harm to human health. According to the evidence at the hearing, where an impressive array of leading experts from around the world testified on cutting edge areas of scientific inquiry, the Tribunal could not find that the Kent Breeze Project operated according to the current Ontario standards “will cause serious
harm to human health”. That is the test in the statute, but the evidence presented in the Hearing was insufficient to meet it.

The full 223 page decision is available here: