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opinion

Mike Crawley is president and chief executive officer of Northland Power Inc.

It is virtually certain that the world is going to need greener power and zero-carbon fuels, like green hydrogen and ammonia, to decarbonize our economy.

With a largely untapped world-class renewable energy resource in our own backyard, Canada must lead the race to be at the forefront of that global energy opportunity.

Our East and West coasts have among the best wind resources in the world for both onshore and offshore wind projects, though they have not yet been developed because sparsely populated regions of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and British Colombia haven’t needed the power. However, when wind energy is harnessed to generate green hydrogen, which can be condensed into a liquid – ammonia – and exported to Asia and Europe, project development becomes viable.

(“Green” hydrogen, produced from renewable power and water, yields no carbon emission. For ease of transport, it can be converted to ammonia, which itself has many applications as a green fuel.)

These are multibillion-dollar projects that would generate economic growth – but only if we move fast enough to compete on a global basis.

Countries and global industry players are racing forward with renewables projects that will generate green hydrogen and ammonia. If we don’t act quickly, it will be too late. Global competitors that have strong renewable power potential – Australia, Saudi Arabia and North African countries such as Morocco – will have secured market positions. They’re looking for ways to use renewable power to produce green hydrogen and ammonia that can be easily exported, and they’re doing it fast.

It’s time for Canada to get in the game.

If key players here can embrace entrepreneurial risk-taking and work in partnership, they can catalyze the emergence of an industry that will lay the foundation for a sustainable future.

Collaboration is key to making Canada competitive. Governments must build out a supportive and transparent regulatory and fiscal regime. Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson took significant steps in this direction this spring when he and his provincial counterparts in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador gave new broader energy mandates to offshore regulatory boards that were previously focused on oil and gas.

Those boards must now move quickly to set licensing conditions that will allow the private sector to invest in projects. Years of data from oil and gas exist and can be relied upon to fast-track regional assessment.

Direct funding by the Canada Infrastructure Bank for elements such as transmission lines would accelerate development, and clean energy tax credits could also facilitate support for future projects.

Group of Seven leaders have underscored the need for secure and sustainable sources of energy to displace Russian oil and gas following the invasion of Ukraine. In Berlin in May, G7 energy ministers highlighted two complementary goals: Accelerate compliance with Paris climate goals and enhance energy security through greater reliance on low-carbon sources.

Ramping up the use of renewable hydrogen and ammonia is “a key enabling step” toward decarbonization of our economies and enhancing energy security, the G7 ministers said in their communiqué on May 27.

There is no better place to do this than Canada’s East and West coasts. The regions offer perfect conditions for the development of large-scale onshore and offshore wind projects that can be coupled with hydrogen and ammonia production.

High and steady winds could provide virtually uninterrupted power. Shallow water and a favourable seabed are conducive to offshore construction. Both Nova Scotia and Newfoundland have an existing energy services sector that can be deployed to support offshore renewable projects.

Offshore wind offers scale that will help drive down costs of hydrogen production overall. Canada-based Northland Power is a global leader in offshore wind development and operations with investments in Europe, the Americas and Asia. With this potential at home, and our international expertise both in onshore and offshore wind, we believe the time is now to produce the hydrogen and ammonia products that will be in high demand.

A generation ago, the federal government provided critical support and incentives for the emerging oil sands sector in Alberta. The future now belongs to those who can bring that same kind of vision and commitment to a low-carbon energy sector.

Canada’s federal and provincial governments must be bold and determined. There are vast opportunities in front of us as we look to speed the clean energy transition. It’s up to us to act now if we want to see Canada’s renewable resources play an influential role in building a sustainable future for generations to come.

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