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Global Economy

Hope for Canada as an energy partner

It's still a dream of the future – the sound of the wind turbines on Newfoundland. When they soon turn between wooded hills and the coast, then the white giants should generate more than just electricity. The wind farm that the Canadian company "World Energy GH2" is planning on the island is to be used for the "green", CO2-free generation of hydrogen. A facility for this is to be built in the small port town of Stephenville.

The government of Prime Minister Trudeau has also committed itself to green hydrogen in its energy strategy. Canada wants to become a heavyweight in this sector. Even if green hydrogen still plays a negligibly small role: Up to now, 95 percent of the hydrogen has been obtained from the vapor reduction of natural gas – the so-called "blue" hydrogen. In order to change that, plants like the one planned in Newfoundland are to be built. And then also be exported.

Export from Newfoundland to the World

According to the will of Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck, the gas, which can be used in the chemical industry, for example, should also play a major role in the energy transition in Germany. Green hydrogen has just pushed liquefied gas off the agenda on his and Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Canada itinerary.

Because hydrogen is soon to be transported in large quantities from the deep-sea port in Stephenville to Germany. At least that's what the plans for the planned hydrogen agreement between Germany and Canada envisage, explains Les Jacobs, Vice President of the Research and Innovation department at Ontario Tech University: "The great idea of combining the production of wind energy with hydrogen and energy from Exporting Newfoundland is very attractive because Newfoundland is so small that the energy consumption of less than a million people is not large."

Conservationist reservations

The conditions are ideal. On the one hand, there are stable wind currents in the region. On the other hand, the water supply of a former paper factory can be used for high-performance production. In addition, the group promises the island hundreds of jobs through the project. In a first phase, the company wants to set up 164 onshore wind turbines in the region. At some point it will be 500. But there is also opposition from the population – for example from conservationist Paul Wylezol, president of the "International Appalachian Trail Association".

"In principle, we have nothing against wind turbines and wind power," says Wylezol. But the organization has a problem with the location. "This is a spectacular area. And to the north is part of the Unesco World Heritage Site. The area in question is right in the middle. We want to protect it." The conservationists have just applied to Unesco for the status of a "global geopark". It is about the wooded Lewis hills, where according to current plans the first wind turbines are to be located.

Expensive investments required

Newfoundland has 108,000 square kilometers on which such wind turbines can be placed. You don't have to give up the best pieces of land so that others can make a profit, says Wylezol – also addressing the Chancellor: "We understand the situation Germany is in: Germany has to become independent of Russian oil. We want to help. But not at our expense." In addition, Wylezol and his association are calling for a fund from which possible damage to nature can be eliminated.

Other concerns are raised by Bruno Pollet, president of the International Network for Hydrogen Energy and a professor at the University of Quebec. The agreement between Canada and Germany is a good step, but it has to be viewed realistically: "Canada first needs the infrastructure to produce large quantities of green hydrogen – not only for its own use, but also to export it. And then even over such a great distance as to Germany."

Bridgeable problems

Special high-pressure tanks are required for the hydrogen. But there are still no storage terminals for this, let alone an idea of how transport could look like on a large scale. Problems that can be bridged – if not until the day after tomorrow, says Stefan Kaufmann. Until two weeks ago, the CDU politician was the federal hydrogen commissioner and was often on site in Canada: "Of course we then need the ships that transport the hydrogen to the ports in Europe as ammonia or as liquid hydrogen." And these ships already exist, he emphasizes.

That is why he supports the agreement. The main question is: "How is hydrogen produced green on the Canadian side – and then of course near the deep-sea ports," says Stefan Kaufmann.

One hundred percent green electricity in three years

Canada plans to build 30 hydrogen hubs across the country. According to the German-Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the North American oil country already generates around 67 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources. And most of it comes from hydropower. In three years, Trudeau's government wants to supply the country with 100 percent green electricity.

"Canada is of course a very interesting partner country," says hydrogen expert Kaufmann: "There is great potential in Quebec and in the eastern part of the country. But how quickly can it be before the first green hydrogen is delivered to Germany?"

According to the group's plans, the first wind turbines for the plant in Stephenville should be ready next year. But so far not even the study on environmental compatibility has been completed. It may be a few years before the project bears fruit, experts like Pollet from the International Network for Hydrogen Energy say: "At the moment it all seems far-fetched to me. So much still has to happen. The deal is fantastic – but it will cannot be implemented overnight." A lot also depends on how the billion-euro project is financed. Germany must also do its part.

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