N.L. energy minister intends to avoid 'screwups' with wind energy

·4 min read
Andrew Parsons is N.L.'s Minister of Industry, Energy and Technology. (Curtis Hicks/CBC - image credit)
Andrew Parsons is N.L.'s Minister of Industry, Energy and Technology. (Curtis Hicks/CBC - image credit)
Curtis Hicks/CBC
Curtis Hicks/CBC

The province's energy minister says government intends to be open and listen to all sides when it comes to wind energy proposals, and Andrew Parsons says government won't bow to any perceived timeline set by others.

World Energy GH2 currently has a proposal before government for a wind farm and a hydrogen-ammonia plant in western Newfoundland, and the company has indicated that time is of the essence if the project is going to proceed. In the first phase of its project, the company wants to build 164 turbines on the Port au Port Peninsula.

But Parsons, Minister of Industry, Energy and Technology, told CBC he won't be swayed one way or the other.

Submitted by Darrell Shelley
Submitted by Darrell Shelley

"The only guiding factor for me is what is in the best interests of Newfoundland and Labrador going into the future," said Parsons. "I'm not guided by any person, any company, any proposal. I'm guided by the people I have to represent and hopefully making proper decisions so that we don't leave screwups behind years down the road."

Letters show interest early on

Parsons was responding, in part, to concerns raised by the Environmental Transparency Committee (ETC), a group opposed to the proposal for wind farms on the Port au Port Peninsula.

The group filed a request under the province's access to information legislation and received copies of correspondence between World Energy GH2 and Parsons' office dating back to January. ETC spokesperson Darrell Shelley said he believes the letters show a lack of transparency.

"It looks to us that this was being talked about for months before they even released the moratorium on wind turbines," said Shelley, who was a candidate for the People's Party of Canada in the Long Range Mountains during the last federal election, is now says he is the leader of a political party he has created called N.L. United.

Submitted by Darrell Shelley
Submitted by Darrell Shelley

But Minister Parsons said interest in wind energy in this province has been expressed for years, and offshore wind projects could have gone ahead even with the moratorium in place. Parsons said interest ramped up after December 2021, when government announced its renewable energy plan that specifically mentioned wind and then lifted its moratorium on onshore wind projects in April.

"We're trying to get ahead of the game," said Parsons. "We don't want to be left behind."

But Parsons indicates there's nothing suspicious or awry about the rollout of wind energy proposals.

"It's very tiring coming up with conspiracy theories," said Parsons. "I can't deal with the fact that people come out and promote what they're going to do before it's even approved, before the process is announced. But I will say that we are listening to all these voices."

CBC
CBC

A question of timing

John Risley, a director with World Energy GH2, co-wrote an opinion piece recently which said that time is not on the company's side, and urging government to not allow the project to be delayed in a multi-year permitting process.

In response to a request from CBC, the company sent an emailed statement that said, in part: "Market conditions insist that the process move quickly, so we are moving quickly."

Some critics have questioned the timing of the proposal from World Energy GH2, coming just weeks after the province lifted a 15-year moratorium on onshore wind energy.

The company has been actively promoting what it wants to do in western Newfoundland and has sought to bring community representatives onboard to support its project.

Maps included in the company's proposal show large areas of land where World Energy GH2 would like to locate wind turbines.

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

But the company told CBC that the focus of its Crown Lands application will be on land at the base of each turbine and the roads needed to access them.

"No more land will be used than necessary," said the recent statement to CBC from World Energy GH2. "All land that is cleared for construction will be revegetated with the appropriate local plants and trees following construction."

Parsons acknowledges that the company is moving ahead on its timeline, but he insists that won't dictate what government will do.

"One of the biggest challenges we've had is that people are looking at maps, assuming that everything is going forward," said Parsons.

"We listen to everybody but, at the end of the day, we make the decisions."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador