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Enbridge to invest $1.7 billion in wind farm as pipeline business gathers steam

Last Updated Feb 17, 2017 at 11:40 am MST

CALGARY – Energy giant Enbridge Inc. is making big inroads into renewables even as changes in government policies are paving the way for the rapid expansion of its traditional oil and gas pipeline business.

The company said Friday it was investing $1.7 billion for 50 per cent of the Hohe See wind energy project off the coast of Germany, which follows last year’s $282-million buy of a 50 per cent stake in a group of French offshore wind projects.

“It’s clear that we’re going to need all sources of supply to meet growing global energy demand, and that includes renewable supplies,” said Enbridge CEO Al Monaco in an earnings conference call.

A day earlier, the Federal Trade Commission approved Enbridge’s (TSX:ENB) proposed $37-billion takeover of Spectra Energy Corp., which will greatly expand the Calgary-based company’s footprint in the United States just as the new administration there brings in more oil-and-gas-friendly policies.

“The political landscape in North America has shifted to, let’s call it a more balanced tone for energy and infrastructure and development,” said Monaco.

“We’ve seen strong conviction from the federal and provincial governments in Canada to advance infrastructure, and we see that happening as well in the United States on economic growth and a positive stance on energy.”

The election of U.S. President Donald Trump has, among other thing, helped clear the way for the Dakota Access Pipeline to move forward despite extensive protests by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others.

Following news that regulatory and court hurdles had been cleared on the project, Enbridge announced Wednesday it had closed its US$1.5-billion purchase of a 27.6 per cent stake in the Bakken Pipeline System, which includes Dakota Access.

Monaco said Enbridge looked into the work the developer of the project had done on stakeholder consultations and is pleased with the investment.

“There’s obviously different points of view on that project,” said Monaco. “We did a lot of work beforehand to assess the work that Energy Transfer had done in this area, and we were quite satisfied they had done a pretty good job.”

The closure of the deal was criticized by Grand Chief Derek Nepinak on behalf of the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, who called it a “historic wrong” being committed against indigenous peoples and vowed to push against other Enbridge projects.

“As Enbridge seeks to pass its Line 3 tar sands pipeline through the Prairies and down into Minnesota, Indigenous People will remember that Enbridge sought to profit off this great injustice at Standing Rock,” said Nepinak in a statement.

The changing policy landscape in North America is clearing the way for several other pipelines designed to move Alberta oil to markets, including Keystone XL, Trans Mountain expansion and Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement.

Looking at the expanding options, Monaco said that with its own increased capacity including the 370,000 barrels a day on Line 3 and boosted capacity on other lines, it expects that only one other pipeline will be needed to cover production until the latter half of the next decade.

For the company’s new German wind project, it expects to spend $600 million this year and invest the remaining $1.1 billion through 2019, when the project is expected to be in service.

Power generated by the 497-megawatt wind farm will be sold at fixed prices over a 20-year period under a German government incentive program, with the option to expand a further 112 megawatts of capacity.

The company has yet to give the final go-ahead on the 1,428 megawatts of potential French offshore projects, while the 400-megawatt offshore Rampion project in the United Kingdom, which it owns a 25 per cent stake, should come online in 2018.

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