The provincial government and several towns, including Port aux Basques, sent delegates to Rotterdam for the World Hydrogen Summit and Exhibition. – Courtesy of Gov NL Jaymie White, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

By Jaymie L. White

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The World Hydrogen Summit and Exhibition took place in Rotterdam, Netherlands from May 9-11 and in attendance were numerous representatives from the province, including Premier Andrew Furey and Minister of Industry, Energy and Technology (IET), Andrew Parsons.

Since 2020, this summit has been held to allow for government representatives, hydrogen and energy stakeholders, service providers, and hydrogen end-users to convene and learn about developments in hydrogen and wind energy across the world.

The delegation from Newfoundland and Labrador included representatives from IET, the Department of Environment and Climate Change, and the Intergovernmental Affairs Secretariat. 

Major energy companies also sent senior officials, national and regional governments, and companies that operate throughout hydrogen development like construction companies, energy buyers, regulators, utility companies, and shipping companies.

“We had representatives from the Department. We had the supply and service side. We had law firms go. We had Energy NL go. We had different proponents go, so we had a fairly big stand and set up there. It was really awesome and basically a chance to fly the flag for Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Parsons.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the Government of NL and the Port of Rotterdam to encourage the establishment of hydrogen supply chains to support the province’s export of green hydrogen to the Netherlands and other parts of Europe. Premier Furey thinks the signing of the MOU is a significant move forward.

“Our province is well-positioned to help meet the clean energy needs of key international partners like the Netherlands, thanks to our world-class wind resources, available Crown land and fresh water, highly renewable grid with surplus energy, deep marine ports, and proximity to markets in North America and Europe. I look forward to working together in the coming years to establish a prosperous hydrogen economy and a greener environment that will be beneficial for us all.”

The MOU was also signed by Renévan der Plas, Director International for the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

“The purpose of the trip, the MOU wasn’t an original part of that. The purpose was to attend the World Hydrogen Summit, and we had been planning that for months. Close to a year we were planning our attendance at that. It’s the world’s biggest hydrogen trade show and we attend a number of trade shows throughout the year in any number of fields, this was the big one as it related to hydrogen,” said Parsons.

“We were going to the show anyway, but the MOU with the port was something that came along the way in a matter of discussions and whatnot, and sort of off the cusp of other things like the signing of the MOU with Germany in August. We were in Hamburg in the fall and this one was a new opportunity, and I guess the decision was made that, we were going to be in Rotterdam, why not sign the MOU in Rotterdam.”

The Port of Rotterdam is the largest inland port in Europe, the 11th largest container port in the world and is the energy hub for western Europe with over 3,000 companies and about 13 per cent of total energy demand in Europe entering through Rotterdam. 

“Rotterdam itself, the port, is one of the largest in Europe. It’s a huge player as it relates to energy imports. It’s hard to overstate the importance of that particular marine infrastructure. So this, basically, is a memorandum that indicates the desire for the province and the port to work together on opportunities on hydrogen and anything that comes along with that as well including training, learning opportunities, development opportunities, you name it,” explained Parsons. “It signifies and formalizes the relationship between the port and the province.”

Showcasing the wealth of resources this province has to offer was an important reason for attending.

“During the trip, these trade shows are basically huge conventions filled with a number of players. There’s a lot of people that go. Companies will set up a stand and explain who they are and what they do. It’s a chance to network, a chance to show people what you’re doing, and to learn and possibly find other cool things that are going on,” said Parsons.

“For instance, as a part of our delegation, we had a number of communities like the Port of Corner Brook, Port aux Basques, and Placentia. We had these communities go over and showcase what the area has to offer. We are just a small player globally and we have to go and sell so people can see who we are and what we have to offer. I think, often, they are very pleasantly surprised.”

Not every community across the province will be suitable to support hydrogen development.

“The communities that are going are the communities that probably have the opportunity to play a large role in the hydrogen field. One of the things you do need is an ice-free port, which is why you’d see the Port of Corner Brook, Placentia or Argentia, and Port aux Basques,” explained Parsons.

“Not every community has the infrastructure to handle these opportunities, whereas Port aux Basques has a wonderful opportunity, but it’s a competition. You need to get yourself out there, show what you have to offer, sell yourself. If not, somebody else is going to try to take that opportunity.”

PAB sent Economic Development Officer Shauna Strickland and Town Clerk Nadine Osmond to represent its interests in Rotterdam.

“We’re just a small community in Newfoundland and Labrador, small community, small province, in a global industry. I won’t speak on behalf of Nadine and Shauna, on behalf of the town, but I think they formed a number of connections and did a really great job of showing what we have to offer,” said Parsons.

“This is another way for us to collaborate and ingratiate ourselves as a big player on the European side. As a province, our biggest opportunity as it relates to wind and hydrogen is export right now, so we are going to be creating the energy here, but we need to send it to export markets and the primary export market is Europe. If you want to get to mainland Europe, you have to go in at Rotterdam as the primary entryway, so why not signify the importance of it and our desire to work together.”

Even though he views this as a positive shift for NL, Parsons is aware that there will be criticism.

“To the informed individual, this is a chance for us to take a resource, wind. We’re monetizing wind. We’re a province that has over 80 per cent available crown land. We’re going to find a way to take opportunities and create a return for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians,” said Parsons. “Would they prefer we continue to only deal in oil? If I did that, it would be criticized as well.”

PAB Town Manager Leon MacIsaac said the Town believed it important to attend the summit.

“It was to make a presence there amongst all the other municipalities here in Newfoundland and across Canada who went, to make them aware of the opportunities that exist with our port. Wind energy is a high potential for us and there’s a lot of crown land around, and port side land as well that’s available for them should they have an interest here,” said MacIsaac. “The whole point of it, from the point of Newfoundland, is to make sure that we’re front and center for any possible business opportunities that could come to the area.”

Port aux Basques plans to attend similar events in the future.

“It will be dependent on cost and that as well, but we’re going to try to make a presence at these types of these events. The whole part of it is to be an economic driver for the town, to create jobs and opportunities.”

It can be expensive to attend high profile events like this one.

“There’s a portion from the province that will help offset some costs, not all costs, but some. Municipalities will still have to come up with their own type of funding to cover off any heavy costs for events such as this. This particular event, I think there was 20,000 people registered to attend. Last year it might have been 8,000. So they had a substantial increase between this year and last year and I think that most of that is because of the big influx of wind energy, hydrogen and ammonia projects.”

It’s not necessarily always going to be the same people attending these events to represent the town’s interests either. Who attends will most likely depend on a variety of factors.

“It will depend on availability. Our Economic Development Officer, she can’t possibly go to every event, so it depends on availability and maybe members of council will want to go if they’re available too.”

Port aux Basques has already had interested developers come knocking since their attendance at the summit.

“We did have a company contact us for a follow up. We’ve got a meeting one day this week, from a company that was there,” shared MacIsaac.

“I’m not sure where the company is to. They have an office in Florida, but there is also a main office in Europe. They’re going to follow up with us. The whole point of this was networking, getting contacts. The province had a very large presence, and our Minister, Andrew Parsons, he signed the MOU on behalf of the province and put out the feelers that the province is where to come for wind energy.”

Port aux Basques hopes to see some more interested parties come calling in the near future.

“We’re a very small part of a world energy development area and we are hoping that, because of the opportunities that exist here and the crown land that was recently put up by the province for wind energy development and hydrogen, people will certainly take a strong look at this area as a place to set up business. We are the gateway to Canada. Ninety-odd per cent off all product comes through this town, so we would hope they would realize the benefits of having us as their prime source and prime site for development.”

By Jaymie White, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 22, 2023 at 06:00

This item reprinted with permission from    Wreckhouse Weekly News    Port aux Basques, Newfoundland
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