Canadian slowdown pushes Boralex overseas


January 25, 2018

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“Quebec used to have a high demand of megawatts; Ontario used to have a feed-in tariff programme; and British Columbia used to have what we call a Clean Power Call. All of these have vanished.”

Boralex chief executive Patrick Lemaire is talking about how the prospects for wind in Canada are looking less positive now than they were a couple of years ago – or, indeed, for most of the last decade. We interviewed Lemaire for the cover article in our latest Finance Quarterly report, which we published this month.

There are a couple of reasons why prospects for wind developers are looking tough: policies have become less favourable at state level, and electricity demand has been falling too.

In addition, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has delivered little in the way of support for renewables, and it feels ironic that wind is feeling less positive under Trudeau than his climate-change-denying forerunner Stephen Harper. This article from August gave our concerns about Canada’s ‘pop star prime minister’.

Lemaire says one bright spot is Alberta, where the state awarded support in December for 600MW of wind projects. Boralex did not pick up any of that capacity, though. The winning bids came from Canadian firm Capital Power for a 201MW wind project; EDP Renewables for a 248MW scheme; and Enel Green Power for projects of 155MW and 31MW.

But there will be future tenders, including one due in the first half of 2018, and we expect Boralex to be back in the running. It is bidding in a joint venture with the Alberta Wind Energy Corporation and, in total, the Alberta Electric System Operator is looking to back the development of 5GW of renewable energy schemes by 2030.

Sluggish activity in Canada is also forcing Boralex to look outside of its home market. While most of its 1.2GW wind portfolio is in Canada (738MW), Boralex is also a leader in the French market with 583MW of installed capacity and a 600MW-700MW pipeline after its purchase of Enel Green Power France for €280m in 2014.

“France has 12GW-13GW [of installed wind capacity] now, and their objective is to be, in 2023, in the range of 25GW. That’s over 1GW a year,” says Lemaire.

Boralex is also expanding in the UK, specifically Scotland, after setting up a 50:50 joint venture with British developer Infinergy for wind projects totalling 325MW.

Finally, it is looking to expand its presence in the US, where it currently owns just 82MW. Lemaire says that Boralex is looking for a US partner and, in the meantime, is seeking to use cross-border deals to support its developments in Canada. Boralex is bidding with Gaz Metro to supply electricity from its 300MW SBx project in Canada to US state Massachusetts, and is due to learn in February if it has won. This project is in the 364MW Seigneurie de Beaupre wind complex, one of the largest in Canada.

In these plans, Boralex is likely to receive backing from Canadian pension fund giant La Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec, which owns 19.9% of Boralex shares and could also partner on individual firms. Lemaire says securing funding for projects will not be an issue: “We see many banks and other insurance and pension funds who are ready to finance us when we realise projects, so we don’t see this being problematic,” he says.

To read the original article, check out Finance Quarterly now.

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