By James Sbrolla & Connie Vitello
General Market Commentary
The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate has been unchanged at five per cent since July 2023. While many economists are expecting a downturn in early 2024, this is expected to be followed by a rebound later in the year if the Bank starts to cut interest rates.
Meanwhile, the cleantech market in Canada and abroad continues to indicate an uptick in investment. On January 11, Export Development Canada (EDC) announced that it has provided a record of more than $12 billion in support of cleantech business in 2023, achieving its target two years ahead of schedule.
As one of Canada’s largest financiers of cleantech, EDC provides support for businesses across all subsectors, including renewable power generation, biofuels, energy efficiency and green buildings. EDC has helped Canadian cleantech companies of all sizes achieve success on the global stage.
“The ingenuity and innovation we see among Canada’s cleantech companies play a critical role in supporting the global transition to a low-carbon economy” said Mairead Lavery, president and CEO of EDC, which has 16 offices across Canada and is represented in 23 international locations. “With the early achievement of this target, we are proud to be supporting the accelerated international growth and recognition of Canadian cleantech, while progressing on our commitment to reach net zero by 2050.”
In fact, EDC has supported our select corporation for this month’s column.
Hot Sector News
This month we’re putting the spotlight on Northland Power Inc. (TSX: NPI), a global power producer dedicated to helping the clean energy transition by producing electricity from clean renewable resources.
Founded in 1987, Northland has a proven history of developing, building, owning, and operating clean and green power infrastructure assets and is a global leader in offshore wind. In addition, the company owns and manages a diversified generation mix including onshore renewables, efficient natural gas energy, as well as supplying energy through a regulated utility.
Headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, with global offices in eight countries, Northland owns or has an economic interest in approximately 3.4 GW (net 2.9 GW) of operating capacity. The company also has a significant inventory of projects in construction and in various stages of development encompassing approximately 15 GW of potential capacity.
Mike Crawley, president and chief executive officer since 2018, is responsible for leading Northland’s executive team and the company’s global operating, growth and investor relations planning and strategy.
Mike Crawley, President and CEO, Northland Power Inc.
He originally joined Northland in 2015 as executive vice president of development. For more than two decades, he has played a prominent role in the development of the Canadian independent renewable power sector. He serves on the Instar Asset Management’s Advisory Board and the Ontario Energy Association’s Board of Directors.
What are Crawley’s views on the evolution of the clean energy market in Canada and the industry’s ability to meet net zero targets?
“In Canada, at a macro level, we’re starting to think more critically and more long term about what the future of clean energy looks like across the country. We’re seeing some of the largest clean energy procurements in Canada’s history, most recently in storage, and several provinces are planning to advance procurements of new renewable generating sources like wind and solar.”
Crawley points to how certain provincial governments have been active in setting aggressive renewable targets, for example with both Ontario and Quebec looking at doubling generating capacity by 2050. He also refers to newly added incentives and funding mechanisms like Investment Tax Credits and Carbon Tax Credits.
“Canada has the potential to be at the forefront of the clean transition if we seize the opportunities in front of us. We can look at the targets set and how much we need to procure, but we also need to take action by proactively building the infrastructure to support energy delivery. Other countries across the globe are ahead of us in achieving these renewable targets and for Canada to attract the investment to meet our targets, we need to demonstrate we have the policies, grid infrastructure and supply chain access to get projects built on time and on budget.”
So how exactly is Northland capitalizing on these new incentives, policies and regulations that support renewable energy development?
“I think we’ve done a good job of anticipating changing market dynamics and adapting. Our long history as early-movers in global markets mean we’ve been able to get in early to shape opportunities to ensure that they work for investors like Northland,” explains Crawley.
He says that the company’s focus when determining whether or not to participate in any market, is to ensure the market has the fundamentals for success, some of the major ones being a favourable regulatory environment and clear and collaborative government policies that even out the playing field for developers. He seeks stability and long-term opportunities for success.
“In Canada, where we rank among some of the earliest independent power producers, we can draw upon our understanding of our rich history, applying our more recent experiences around the world and help to bring new ideas and approaches to the complex issues that governments and regulators are facing as they put plans into action,” he says.
What are Crawley’s expectations for Northland’s key Canadian projects, including the Oneida energy storage project?
“We have some really exciting opportunities and see a bright future with lots of potential in our home market of Canada. Probably the most talked about project in our Canadian portfolio is the 250 MW Ontario-based Oneida Energy Storage Project. This is Northland’s first investment in a battery energy storage project and positions us at the forefront of the country‘s emerging storage sector,” says Crawley.
The joint venture Oneida Battery Energy Storage Project is currently under construction in Haldimand County, Ontario. Power capacity is estimated at 250MW/1,000 MWh. (Credit: Northland Power.)
According to Crawley, Oneida is a milestone project – as Canada’s first utility-scale battery energy storage project to reach financial close and enter construction – and it serves as a blueprint for other projects of its kind. “The financing of this project alone was incredibly unique and innovative, with public-private sector collaboration and a pivotal role from the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) in providing us with a flexible funding solution. The partnership aspect is another element that makes Oneida incredibly special, with Indigenous partners Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation (SNGRDC) holding equity partnership alongside other project partners including NRStor Inc. and the project’s lead construction contractor, Aecon. The energy sector has a real opportunity to facilitate reconciliation and mutually-beneficial opportunities with First Nations; this project is doing just that.”
There are other exciting projects on the horizon. Last year, Northland entered the Alberta market with a sizeable solar portfolio of up to 1.6 GW of capacity. “We see an incredible potential for growth in Alberta, as the government continues to support and map out new growth to ensure the long-term stability of renewables business. We can leverage our Canadian and global experience to act as trusted partners and advisors to the Alberta government.”
What’s in store for 2024?
“In 2024, our core focus is on the successful execution of our projects in the construction phase. We have three projects under construction — Hai Long (1.0 GW) in Taiwan, Baltic Power (1.1 GW) in Poland, and Oneida (250 MW/1,000MWh) in Canada — and are focussed on ensuring we deliver these projects on time, on budget and without incident. Focusing on exceptional delivery of these large complex projects is of critical importance this year and part of Northland’s long track record of success.”
As a developer and growth company, Northland intends to pursue new growth projects in key markets where it already has a presence or where strong partnerships already exist. With two major offshore wind projects already in construction and with their capital structures locked in, Crawley says they aren’t in a position where the company needs to invest or outlay major amounts of capital for the next few years. “We can remain disciplined and don’t need to be investing in every project and in every market to hit our growth targets and that’s a good position to be in because it allows us the opportunity to be more selective about the projects we pursue.”
Additionally for 2024, “we are always looking for ways to optimize for efficiencies, across our projects and our portfolio, with our people, and across the business as a whole.”
Finally, what is the bottom line value proposition for NPI investors and prospective investors?
“Northland’s value proposition is in our history, experience, and in our diverse portfolio. We’ve been developing, owning, and operating complex, large-scale renewable energy infrastructure both in Canada and globally for 36 years and have significant depth of management experience across project development and financing, corporate finance, construction, and international operations,” emphasizes Crawley, who points to a balance sheet that is stable, and a record of maintaining a strong investment credit rating.
Crawley points to a well-diversified portfolio of high-quality power infrastructure (3.4 GW of operation capacity and 2.4 GW under construction) that come with contracted and high-quality cash flows with the majority of revenues under long-term contracts with reliable creditworthy government or corporate counterparties. The Hai Long, Baltic Power and Oneida projects under construction provides a visible growth trajectory for our business which is forecast to grow our Adjusted EBITDA by approximately $600 million by 2027. The company currently generates approximately $1.2 billion of Adjusted EBITDA.
Crawley also cites strong optionality in the projects and markets the company chooses to invest in through the team’s extensive and diverse development pipeline of approximately 13 GW (including projects in construction) across multiple markets and technologies. “This diversification helps de-risk our portfolio and means we aren’t as susceptible to impacts in one market or across one technology. It also translates into material cash flow for our business.”
At the end of the day, the world needs renewable energy to hit net zero targets and decarbonize the global economy. “Yes, the renewables sector has faced headwinds over the past year, but these are short term, and the exciting opportunities in front of us are long term. Concepts such as artificial intelligence, data centres, facility retirements, industrial electrification, EVs and net-zero targets are accelerating the demand for renewable power capacity.” And there is ample evidence to suggest that Northland Power is poised to meet that demand.
Today the stock price of NPI is $24.83.
Stocks to Watch
Here is a list of Canadian cleantech stocks that we are monitoring for this column. This list of public companies is by no means complete, and we are open to suggestions from our advisors and readers.
|Price in $CDN
|Price in $CDN
|Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp.
|Ballard Power Systems Inc.
|*CHAR Technologies Limited
|Engine No 1 Carbon Streaming ETF
|EverGen Infrastructure Corp.
|Greenlane Renewables Inc.
|Li-Cycle Holdings Corp
|Northland Power Inc.
|*Thermal Energy International Inc.
|TransAlta Renewables Inc.
|UGE International Ltd.
|Westport Fuel Systems Inc.
|Zinc8 Energy Solutions Inc.
*The authors of this column own equity. It is not meant to be an endorsement, but simply a statement of this fact.
James Sbrolla is a veteran of the financial and environmental industries. Connie Vitello is editor of Environment Journal. To pitch an idea for an upcoming Market Watch column, or to suggest a stock, please contact email@example.com.