Small province with big green plans

CanWest News Service
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There was amusement and anger on Prince Edward Island in early April when the provincial government, seized with environmental fervour, declared it was rebranding the island "Canada's Green Province."

Vehicle licence plates, once sporting images of the Confederation Bridge or Anne of Green Gables, will now be issued with the "Green Province" slogan, alongside a photo of a wind-energy turbine.

There was amusement and anger on Prince Edward Island in early April when the provincial government, seized with environmental fervour, declared it was rebranding the island "Canada's Green Province."

Vehicle licence plates, once sporting images of the Confederation Bridge or Anne of Green Gables, will now be issued with the "Green Province" slogan, alongside a photo of a wind-energy turbine.

"How will the Green plate look on a big SUV with smoke blowing out the back?" mused one resident, in an online comment to the Charlottetown Guardian newspaper.

"Since when has a wind farm become P.E.I.'s identity?" said another. "Green Province makes me think more of a place where people come to get marijuana, than a beautiful tourist paradise."

Whatever the jokes, P.E.I.'s environment and energy minister, Jamie Ballem, insists that Canada's smallest province is also its environmental leader, the country's most advanced jurisdiction in combating climate change.

"P.E.I. is the green innovator in Canada today," says Ballem, adding that his province hasn't done enough until recently to toot its accomplishments to the rest of the country.

He points to a recent national newspaper article stating that Alberta, with four per cent of its power coming from wind farms, was the national leader in green energy production.

In fact, P.E.I. generates 13 per cent of its electricity from wind farms. And while it can't match the actual volume of wind energy produced in Alberta and other provinces, P.E.I. has the most ambitious wind-energy program in the country.

A provincial statute written three years ago legally commits P.E.I. to acquiring 15 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010.

That goal will be reached this year thanks to two provincially owned wind farms now feeding clean power to an island that once purchased all its electricity via an undersea power cable from coal, oil and nuclear plants in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

"P.E.I. has Canada's most aggressive wind-energy targets," says Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

The province has said it aims to generate 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources - and become a net exporter of wind power - by 2015.

And it has committed to acquiring 30 per cent of its total energy needs, including heating and transportation fuels, from renewable sources by 2016.

What's the impetus behind such big ambitions? One is economic. P.E.I. has no energy sources of its own aside from the wind that blows, most of the time, across the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The province hopes to keep on the island the $440 million that traditionally leaves P.E.I. each year to import fossil fuels for power and fuel.

Organizations: Canadian Wind Energy Association

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, P.E.I., Canada Green Gables Alberta Nova Scotia New Brunswick

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