Four companies inch closer to realizing wind, hydrogen plans in Newfoundland

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Four companies are one step closer to building wind-powered hydrogen and ammonia plants on the blustery island of Newfoundland as the province vies to become a key player in the nascent global hydrogen energy market.

Energy Minister Andrew Parsons announced Wednesday that the province had chosen four proposals from an initial pool of 24, and asked the companies to formally apply for the Crown land needed to realize the projects. Taken together, the projects would occupy roughly 5.1 million square kilometres of Crown land.

"I am pretty confident that this is going to blossom into something that is of huge importance to this province," Parsons told reporters. Unlike the province's offshore oil industry, he said, "We're not subsidizing this industry, we're not providing these companies with money to prop them up. They're coming with private financing in the millions and into the billions."

Newfoundland and Labrador is known for winds strong enough to topple transport trucks, but a government-imposed moratorium on wind-energy projects had been in place for more than a decade. Parsons announced an end to the moratorium last April.

Months later, the government opened a call for bids for Crown land directed at companies looking to develop wind projects. Twenty-four projects submitted by 19 companies went through a two-stage evaluation process. Nine made it past the first stage and, as of Wednesday, four cleared the second stage.

The successful bidders include the Newfoundland and Labrador arm of EverWind Fuels, based in Nova Scotia, and World Energy GH2, a company whose directors include seafood billionaire John Risley and Brendan Paddick, a close friend of Premier Andrew Furey.

Parsons told reporters that those close ties did not translate into preferential treatment.

"If anything, I think that sort of spurred us to ensure that when this is all said and done, we have a process that stands up to any form of scrutiny," Parsons said.

He noted that the team assigned to analyze the proposals included an independent fairness adviser, as well as a third-party financial analyst and representatives from the Department of Indigenous Affairs and Reconciliation.

The Crown land selected by the four successful companies will be held in reserve, and the businesses will have 18 months to begin the application process to develop the land, a government official said in a media briefing before Parsons spoke. That process will include environmental impact assessments. World Energy GH2 has already submitted its environmental assessment reports.

The companies will pay the government 3.5 per cent of the reserved land's market value, beginning Wednesday. That works out to a total of about $22 million a year, the official said.

Overall, the government expects the four chosen projects to contribute about $11.7 billion to provincial coffers over their lifespans of about 40 years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 30, 2023.

The Canadian Press