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Canadians Looking South For Renewable Energy Collaboration

Officials from several Canadian provinces were in Portland Wednesday to push for greater collaboration with the American Northwest, when it comes to researching and developing renewable energy.

As Rob Manning reports, governments and businesses on both sides of the northern border are working on some of the same problems — with another green goal in mind: making money.

Whether you’re living in Vancouver in British Columbia, or Vancouver, Washington, your government has energy targets in place, and goals to be met.

In addressing a group of researchers, policy makers and business leaders in Portland, British Columbia energy minister Greg Reimer lauded his province’s new green energy standards. Reimer called the new greenhouse gas emission goal as the toughest in North America.

Greg Reimer: “It reaffirms the target that the government had reduced earlier this year of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 33 percent from 2007 levels, by 2020. In addition, it sets interim targets for 2012 and 2016.”

Meeting standards like those, though, relies on building more wind turbines – and making technological advances, like cleaning up coal power and improving on biofuels. Making those advances mean spending money, and one of the reasons that Canadian officials held a conference in Portland, was to find investors. Mary Jane Parks is senior vice president with Finavera Renewables, based in British Columbia.

Mary Jane Parks: “So, we’re looking to develop wind projects that can come on line in the next year or two, bring in revenue to supplement our pre-commerical and final commercialization of ocean energy technology.”

Parks says ideally, the visit to Oregon will  boost to her company’s bottom line.

Mary Jane Parks: “Since we’re listed on the Toronto stock exchange, yes, we’d like people to be aware that they can buy stock in our company and invest in ocean and wave technologies this way.”

That’s not Finavera’s only interest in Oregon. It's currently pursuing permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to develop a wave energy pilot project in Coos Bay.

At the same time, Oregon is pursuing its own wave technology effort, through a project just north of Finavera’s, in Reedsport. Justin Klure is the executive director of the Oregon  Wave Energy Trust.

Justin Klure: “I think the play here in Oregon is to develop these technologies in Oregon  so that we have the opportunity to benefit economically from the increased market and job creation. I think that’s really critical. Oregon, in general, has a tremendous wave climate.”

But for all the enthusiasm around wave energy, commercial-scale technology is still years away. That's true of all ocean energy technology.

Nova Scotia uses twenty year-old turbines, but officials from that province say they’re starting over, because the environmental damage in the Bay of Fundy has been more than what they bargained for.  The big hurdles for ocean energy are: environmental surveys, testing the technology itself, and bureaucratic red tape.

Mary Jane Parks with Finavera says those are problems better solved in partnership, rather than by competition.

Mary Jane Parks: “I think right now, because it is an emerging market there is more of a collaboration approach. The Pacific Northwest states and the western provinces of Canada have an economic region established already for their governments. So they look for collaborative efforts to promote different industries, and ocean energy has been part of that for the last four years. So we don’t really see it as a competition.”

The collaborative approach could turn competitive in years to come, though. As the technology matures, communities will likely lobby for, or against, the introduction  power plants on their shores. And that's when millions of dollars in energy investments could roll in.

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