Trillium Wind Power’s chief executive officer, John Kourtoff, is a man full of anecdotes. He always has a quote or an expression ready to reinforce his conviction that wind power, and particularly offshore wind power, will play a huge part in satisfying the world's growing need for energy.
He says: “At the end of the day, people need to turn the switch on. As the themes play out, people will recognise that we need wind energy to meet our consumption.”
While Mr Kourtoff is quick to tout the progress and potential of Ontario as a hub for offshore wind development (Trillium is based in Toronto), he nonetheless has plenty of views on the global wind-energy markets and has noticed several trends. For one, he says that the funding and financing game for this sector is changing and becoming more global. Having just wrapped up a deal with a Canadian asset manager whose name he could not reveal, he says that there has been a flurry of activity from financiers around the world. In recent weeks he has had meetings with interested firms from Asia and Europe, in addition to some in North America.
The same broadening of horizons goes for the wind companies themselves, which are looking for new markets further from home. This appears to be especially true in Asia, where for years companies had only focused on their domestic markets. Recent data from greenfield investment monitor fDi Markets has shown a number of Chinese companies investing heavily in US wind-energy projects.
Mr Kourtoff says: “The interest in offshore wind is global. I’ve just had two large Chinese companies come here and view our site and they were interested. It is not just European and American interest. Chinese and [other] Asian companies have been out in force. They’re basically doing what Iberdrola [the world's largest renewable energy operator, based in Spain] is doing, which is starting with their home base or country to establish themselves and then expanding globally.”
Perhaps it is logical then that there have also been a number of memoranda of understanding (MOUs) among wind-energy companies in the past few months. Trillium signed a pact with Danish wind-energy giant Vestas last year, a deal that Mr Kourtoff claims sparked interest in both offshore wind energy and in MOUs with firms that provide it. He says he is having discussions with another company about an additional MOU, and adds that there are a number of announcements he would like to make, but he is holding out until his new financing deal is finalised.
As the renewable energy industry becomes more globalised and companies look for more activity abroad, it is likely that there will be quarrels over tariffs and trade policies. Only recently, Ontario was chastised by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) about its domestic-content requirements, which ensure that 50% of materials for green energy projects come from the domestic market. Mr Kourtoff slammed the WTO’s comments as “complete hypocrisy” and said that the EU has had similar requirements for years but nobody complained about them. He jokes that he wishes he was Taiwanese, as he says the government there is buying turbines in Taiwan and handing them out to offshore wind firms.
There seems to be little hope of an international agreement on green-energy trade policies, but what is certain is that the industry looks to be growing globally. As that happens, there will be more corporate interdependency and sharing of expertise.
Mr Kourtoff says: “Some companies will be cautious with the timing of their investments, but their timelines are catching up rapidly as government policies make it easier to invest in the sector. But there is a lot of interest out there and [the companies] are looking for long-term relationships.”