The new Canadian Energy Regulator will oversee offshore wind

The new Canadian Energy Regulator Act (CER Act) forms part of Bill C-69, which had its first reading in the House of Commons on February 8, 2018. The Act, among other things, provides for the regulation of renewable energy projects and power lines in Canada’s offshore. The Canadian Energy Regulator (CER) will be the regulatory body responsible for offshore wind development. I've highlighted some key elements of the CER Act as it pertains to offshore wind development:

Section 2, Definitions

offshore renewable energy project means any of the following that are carried on in the offshore area:
(a) any research or assessment conducted in relation to the exploitation or potential exploitation of a renewable resource to produce energy;
(b) any exploitation of a renewable resource to produce energy;
(c) any storage of energy produced from a renewable resource; or
(d) any transmission of such energy, other than the transmission of electricity to a province or a place outside Canada.

Section 57, Involvement of Indigenous peoples of Canada

The Regulator may establish committees or programs for the purpose of enhancing the involvement of the Indigenous peoples of Canada and Indigenous organizations in respect of pipelines, power lines and offshore renewable energy projects as well as abandoned pipelines.

Part 5: Offshore Renewable Energy Projects and Offshore Power Lines:

Section 298 (2) Contents of application

An application must include any information that may be required by the Regulator, or prescribed by regulation, with respect to the proposed work or activity and to the offshore renewable energy project or offshore power line, including information with respect to any facility, equipment, system or vessel related to the project or power line.

Section 298 (3) Factors to consider

In determining whether to issue an authorization, the Commission must take into account — in light of, among other things, any traditional knowledge of the Indigenous peoples of Canada that has been provided to the Commission and scientific information and data — all considerations that appear to it to be relevant and directly related to the offshore renewable energy project or offshore power line, including

(a) the environmental effects, including any cumulative environmental effects;
(b) the safety and security of persons and the protection of property and the environment;
(c) the health, social and economic effects, including with respect to the intersection of sex and gender with other identity factors;
(d) the interests and concerns of the Indigenous peoples of Canada, including with respect to their current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes;
(e) the effects on the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Canada recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982;
(f) environmental agreements entered into by the Government of Canada; and
(g) any relevant assessment referred to in section 92, 93 or 95 of the Impact Assessment Act.

A note on impact assessment: New energy projects requiring an impact assessment would undergo a single, integrated process, carried out jointly by the new Impact Assessment Agency of Canada and the new CER. In other words, “One project, one assessment.” See my previous post on some highlights from the new Impact Assessment Act, including timelines, substitution, and Indigenous engagement.

Section 298 (4) Shorter timelines

For projects that are not subject to the new Impact Assessment Act, legislated timelines would be reduced from 450 days to 300 days.

The Government of Canada has compiled The New Canadian Energy Regulator Handbook to assist Canadians in understanding the role of the new regulator. 

Final thought: While the legislation enables offshore wind development, regulations and policies have to be developed (federally and provincially) before we have a complete framework for offshore wind development in Canada. 

The new Impact Assessment Act

The new Impact Assessment Act forms part of Bill C-69, which had its first reading in the House of Commons yesterday (February 8, 2018). While not an extensive review, I've summarized some initial observations.  

Factors to be considered. Note: Indigenous knowledge, sustainability and climate change, Section 22

g) traditional knowledge of the Indigenous peoples of Canada provided with respect to the designated project;
(h) the extent to which the designated project contributes to sustainability;
(i) the extent to which the effects of the designated project hinder or contribute to the Government of Canada’s ability to meet its environmental obligations and its commitments in respect of climate change;
(j) any change to the designated project that may be caused by the environment;
(k) the requirements of the follow-up program in respect of the designated project;
(l) considerations related to Indigenous cultures raised with respect to the designated project;
(m) community knowledge provided with respect to the designated project.

Time limits somewhat shorter, Sections 28 and 37
Agency reviews are 300 days, review panels have 600 days. As before, timelines can be extended at minister’s discretion.  

Substitution, Section 33
Substitution is possible at Minister’s discretion, but must satisfy several conditions including:

d) the process to be substituted will include consultations with any Indigenous group that may be affected by the carrying out of the designated project;
(e) the public will be given an opportunity to participate in the assessment and to provide comments on a draft report;
(f) the public will have access to records in relation to the assessment to enable its meaningful participation;
(g) at the end of the assessment, a report will be submitted to the Minister;
(h) the report will be made available to the public

What constitutes “public interest”, Section 63

(a) the extent to which the designated project contributes to sustainability;
(d) the impact that the designated project may have on any Indigenous group and any adverse impact that the designated project may have on the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Canada recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982; and
(e) the extent to which the effects of the designated project hinder or contribute to the Government of Canada’s ability to meet its environmental obligations and its commitments in respect of climate change.

Regional and strategic assessments remain discretionary, Section 92-103.

Early planning (see: The proposed new system)
Prior to submission of the Impact Statement, there is an "early planning" phase that can take up to 180 days. This is engaging the public and Indigenous communities earlier in the process than was previously required under CEAA 2012. 

Consultation is now underway on the impact assessment regulations. Open until April 15, 2018 at: https://www.impactassessmentregulations.ca/

Erin talks offshore wind with local media

Erin spoke with Kenneth Oliver of The Telegram following a workshop on supply chain and energy markets for offshore wind in Atlantic Canada. Erin hosted the event, which was organized by the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association and Marine Renewables Canada. The workshop also featured her colleague, Alan Duncan, of Scotia Supply Chain in Scotland, who spoke to syngergies between offshore oil and gas and offshore wind. While there are challenges to developing the sector in Newfoundland and Labrador, Erin says "it's encouraging to see Ottawa take a stance and seriously consider and endorse other renewables and not just hydroelectric."  Read the full article here

Federal support for offshore wind

Still reflecting on my experience last week at the Marine Renewables Canada conference in Ottawa. I was pleased to be invited to join the offshore wind panel with Sunny Gupta of Ørsted, Ross Tyler of Business Network for Offshore Wind, John Pires of Northland Power Inc. and Dr. Bryson Robertson of University of Victoria. It was encouraging to hear the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources, Kim Rudd, speak to the federal government's support of marine renewable energy, including offshore wind. The new "emerging renewables" program will provide federal funds to support deployment of renewables, including offshore wind. Interest in the sector is growing and I'm thrilled to be a part of it!

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Stapleton Environmental Consulting in the news

Offshore wind energy in Newfoundland and Labrador has been getting a lot of coverage in the local media these last few weeks. I was pleased to add to the conversation, speaking to NTV News about the supply chain study I completed for the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association.

Our province has the ability to participate in the supply chain, largely due to our expertise in offshore oil and gas, but we need to be strategic. Being proactive is important so that we can be ready if this sector takes off - "first-in" will benefit most. But we also need to spend time filling the "knowledge gap" so that we can make informed decisions. 

I look forward to more discussions with developers, local businesses, governments, and communities as we explore the potential opportunities for our province in offshore wind.  See the segment at 32:00 at http://bit.ly/2vEs3fm.

Erin Stapleton Appointed to City and Provincial Boards

One of my core values is giving back to the community through volunteerism and leadership.

I am pleased to announce that I have been appointed to the City of St. John’s Local Board of Appeal and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council. I look forward to working with my colleagues in serving our city and our province.

About the St. John’s Local Appeal Board
The St. John’s Local Board of Appeal is comprised of five individuals who have been appointed for a three-year term by the St. John’s Municipal Council. The Appeal Board is a body to which appeals can be made regarding decisions made by the City under the St. John’s Development Regulations with respect to: an application to undertake a development; a revocation of an approval or a permit to undertake a development; the issuance of a Stop Work Order pursuant to the Development Regulations; or a decision permitted under the Urban and Rural Planning Act, 2000. 

About the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council
The Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council (WERAC) was created to advise the government on the creation and management of wilderness and ecological reserves. WERAC’s vision is the conservation and preservation of natural landscapes and seascapes in Newfoundland and Labrador for current and future generations through the timely establishment of a functioning network of protected areas throughout the province. Using an open and consultative process, WERAC accepts the following values: transparency, accountability, responsibility, stewardship of our natural heritage, and appreciation of our natural heritage.

Read the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador News Release here.

A new approach to federal EA - have your say

Over the past months, the Government of Canada has been reviewing our federal environmental and regulatory processes. An expert panel was selected to review the environmental assessment process, and standing committees were appointed to review the National Energy Board Act, Navigation Protection Act and the Fisheries Act.

The input of all stakeholders, no matter if we agree or disagree, is important if this new approach is to be balanced and effective.

The Government has now released a discussion paper to outline a new approach to environmental assessments and regulatory reviews, and is asking for our feedback by August 28. The report largely focuses on a new project assessment system, and touches on considerations for modernizing the National Energy Board, restoring lost protections to the Navigation Protection Act, and the enhancing protection for fish and fish habitat under the Fisheries Act.

As I’ve said before, my opinion as an impact assessment practitioner is only one perspective. The input of all stakeholders, no matter if we agree or disagree, is important if this new approach is to be balanced and effective.

I’ve summarized the project assessment section below, and encourage you to review the entire discussion paper and submit your comments online by August 28.

The synergy between offshore oil and gas and offshore wind

The Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association (NOIA) conference is underway. Over 1,000 delegates are in St. John’s to discuss exploration, production and development activities in Canada’s offshore oil and gas industry, and the future of the province.

With such a focus on offshore oil and gas in my city this week, there’s no better time to talk about how companies engaged in this sector can look to offshore wind energy as a diversification opportunity.

Offshore oil and gas companies can leverage their expertise to be successful in offshore wind.

I recently collaborated with the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association (NEIA) on a study of the province’s capacity to support an offshore wind energy sector (full report available here). In preparing the report, I drew upon multiple studies completed in Scotland that qualitatively and quantitatively assess how offshore oil and gas companies can leverage their expertise to be successful in offshore wind.

I encourage you to check out one report in particular, prepared by BVG Associates for Scottish Enterprise (available here), which identifies nine areas that present the greatest opportunities for oil and gas companies to diversify into offshore wind (BVG Associates 2016):

1. Project management - Oil and gas companies have the experience in managing complex projects in the offshore environment.

2. Array cables - Manufacturing array cables for offshore wind requires similar skills and equipment to oil and gas umbilical manufacture.

 3. Substation structures - These are typically one-off designs, similar in scale to oil and gas platforms.

 4. Turbine foundations - The fabrication skills used in oil and gas can be harnessed to produce serially manufactured structures.

5. Secondary steelwork - An accessible market for companies without the capacity for foundation manufacture and entry may not require new coastal facilities.

6. Cable installation - Most contractors in this market have oil and gas experience and have learned to adapt to the significant new challenges that the complexity of offshore wind contracts presents.

7. Installation equipment - A considerable number of companies have diversified from oil and gas into areas like cable handling equipment and trenching and burial tools.

8. Installation support services - Many oil and gas companies have experience of working offshore which can bring real benefits to the offshore wind industry in subsea services (e.g., diving and ROV services) and onshore activities (e.g., marine consultancy).

9. Maintenance and inspection services - Oil and gas experience in offshore logistics can shape evolving strategies in offshore wind.

Closer to home, the US offshore wind energy sector is taking off, and the importance of oil and gas experts in supporting offshore wind energy development is well-recognized. In fact, the theme of the 2017 Offshore Wind Executive Summit in Houston, Texas is “The parallels of wind, oil and gas.” I believe it’s only a matter of time before we see offshore wind in Canada and I know Newfoundland and Labrador, with our world-renowned offshore oil and gas expertise, is well-positioned to be a key player.

I see potential for this province in offshore wind. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss this potential. I also invite you to join me and other like-minded firms in exploring opportunities as part of NEIA’s Offshore Wind Energy Working Group.

First project complete! Offshore wind supply chain study now available.

It's a great feeling that my first project as an independent consultant was completed for a local not-for-profit, highlighted economic opportunities for my home province, and focused on renewable energy. This is why I do what I do.

- Erin Stapleton, Principal, Stapleton Environmental Consulting

Stapleton Environmental Consulting was retained by the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association (NEIA) to identify the supply chain for offshore wind energy development and the capacity of Newfoundland and Labrador to support this new sector. 

The study is now complete, and results were shared by Erin Stapleton during her presentation at the NEIA Speaker Series on June 12, 2017. 

The report is now publicly available through NEIA. Read the press release and find the report here

Upcoming speaking engagements!

I'm excited to be speaking at two Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association (NEIA) events in St. John's in June.

On June 12, as part of the NEIA Speaker Series, I will be discussing supply chain capacity within Newfoundland and Labrador to support an offshore wind energy industry. NEIA and I collaborated on this study and this will be the first public presentation of our findings. For more information and to register, please visit the NEIA event page.

On June 16, at NEIA's Environmental Manager's Roundtable, I will be leading private sector environmental leads and managers in a discussion on recent federal reviews of the Fisheries Act, Navigation Protection Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. I have my own views, but I am interested in hearing what other practitioners have to say about the recommendations. For more information and to register, please visit the NEIA event page