Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston has announced that the province has “set a target to offer leases for five gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030 to support its budding green hydrogen industry.”
However, the new offshore wind energy will not be to support the greening of the Nova Scotia grid.
Rather, as a flyer distributed at today’s announcement at the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE) in Dartmouth said, it is to support the province’s “burgeoning green hydrogen industry.”
As the Halifax Examiner reported just a few hours before Houston’s midday announcement, at this point Nova Scotia’s “burgeoning green hydrogen industry” consists of a single project, the one that EverWind Fuels is proposing for Point Tupper, near Port Hawkesbury in Cape Breton.
Phase one of that project would not start before 2025, and produce 200,000 tonnes of hydrogen using energy from the grid — which will not be “green.”
In Phase two, the plan is to produce a million tonnes of “green hydrogen” that will then be transformed into “green ammonia” for export to Europe.
The two-part series on EverWind’s proposed “green hydrogen and ammonia” project that the Halifax Examiner co-published with The Energy Mix this week — available here and here — looks closely at just how “green” the ammonia will be in phase one, where the company plans to get all the wind energy needed to produce “green” ammonia in Phase two, and questions how producing “green hydrogen and ammonia” for export can help Nova Scotia reach its own carbon emission targets and attain its climate change plans.
However, it looks as if Tim Houston is already a huge and unquestioning fan of “green hydrogen” production in Nova Scotia.
The press release for today’s announcement says Nova Scotia will be releasing a “green hydrogen action plan” in 2023, which “will outline the role green hydrogen can play in the transition to clean energy and the steps the government will take to build this industry, which will help Nova Scotia reach net-zero emissions by 2050.”
It also states that Houston will be attending the “WindEnergy Hamburg and H2 [hydrogen] Expo and Conference in Germany later this month to promote Nova Scotia as a secure source of clean, renewable energy for the world and to support the investment and development of the emerging green hydrogen market.”
‘Open for business’
According to Houston, setting the offshore wind target “sends a clear signal to the world that Nova Scotia is open for business and becoming an international leader in offshore wind and green hydrogen development.”
The flyer issued at today’s announcement states that, “Leases for parcels of seabed will be awarded for offshore wind projects through a competitive bid process. The first call is expected to be issued by 2025 and all leases will be awarded by 2030.”
According to the press release, “After reaching the five-gigawatt target, calls for bids will be based on market opportunities.”
The press release also states that:
The most promising use for offshore wind energy is generating renewable electricity to produce green hydrogen for use in the province and for export. Green hydrogen is a clean alternative to fossil fuels because it does not create greenhouse gas emissions. Offshore wind is also another option to help Nova Scotia and Canada meet future clean electricity needs.
Today’s announcement did not specify how long it would take to get the projects up and running, or where the wind energy would be going, whether it would be fed into the Nova Scotia Power grid, or directly to “green hydrogen” projects such as that proposed by EverWind Fuels.
Spokesperson for Nova Scotia Natural Resources and Renewables, Patricia Jreige, later did provide some clarifications for the Halifax Examiner. In an email, she said it would take about eight years for each wind project to be developed and become operational.
“The amount of offshore wind they produce will depend on the outcome of the competitive bid process,” she added.
Surprise! The offshore wind energy is not for Nova Scotians
And, it turns out, this new offshore wind energy is not initially intended for Nova Scotians looking for clean and affordable energy from renewables on the provincial grid.
According to Jreige, it is primarily intended for “green hydrogen” production:
We expect that the majority of offshore wind energy will be supplied directly to companies that are producing green hydrogen and other related products. Eventually, some offshore wind could be used to meet clean electricity needs, either through the power grid or directly to industrial customers.
So how, one might ask, will the offshore wind “help Nova Scotia and Canada meet future clean energy needs,” as claimed in today’s press release?
Although the flyer distributed at today’s announcement touts Nova Scotia’s capacity to “support multiple large-scale facilities,” presumably for producing green hydrogen and ammonia, with plenty of “available land” at existing industrial parks in the province, as mentioned earlier, so far there is just one “green hydrogen and ammonia” project planned for Nova Scotia, and that is the one that EverWind Fuels has proposed for Point Tupper.
Today’s announcement certainly looks good for EverWind, which is going to need an enormous amount of “green” energy if it is to produce the million tonnes of ammonia it intends to sell to Europe starting in phase two, which should start as early as 2026, according to its CEO and founder, Trent Vichie.
So it is curious that EverWind was not mentioned by name at today’s announcement until Halifax Examiner founder and publisher Tim Bousquet asked about its founder and CEO. Here is how that exchange went:
Bousquet: Have you spoken directly with Trent Vichie?
Houston: Have I spoken with Trent?
Houston: I have spoken to probably eight proponents in this room about what’s possible for greening the grid, and what’s possible for the production of green hydrogen. There is a lot of interest in this jurisdiction in green hydrogen and offshore wind. And I’ll speak to anyone who wants to talk about it.
As the Examiner reported here, Trent Vichie has also met with Mike Kelloway, the Liberal MP for Cape Breton – Canso.
And while EverWind has four lobbyists in Ottawa, including its chief financial officer, and two registered lobbyists in Nova Scotia, Vichie is not one of them.
Still, that doesn’t appear to have stopped New York-based Vichie, whose background involves years of experience in private equity at Stonepeak Infrastructure, the Blackstone Group, and Macquarie Group, from talking up his “green hydrogen and ammonia” project with both federal and provincial politicians.
And if today’s announcement about offshore wind energy to support hydrogen projects like Vichie’s is anything to go on, it looks as if such one-on-one meetings with politicians can be very effective.
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Can we get some clarification on jurisdiction? My impression was that the offshore is the jurisdiction of the federal government. There has been joint management for oil and gas through the Canada NS Offshore Petrolium Board. That board ultimately reports to the Federal Minister of Natural Resources. Since we have not yet developed offshore wind in Canada I would guess a parallel body would have to be developed and many years of baseline environmental studies would need to be done.
In the US where they are trying to make offshore wind happen in the NE it has taken a decade of very expensive baseline studies of marine life etc to even get to the point where they are now which is one offshore 30MW installation in Rhode Island and a pilot project off Virginia. Several more are slated to come online in 2023-2024 if they are on schedule.
Houston making this announcement about something he has no jurisdiction over without also stating how the federal government plays into this in terms of allowing it to happen gives the same hollowness as Doug Fords ‘open for business’ rhetoric.