A must-read weekly review of the policy news, issues and events that are driving change in Atlantic Canada

PPF: Atlantic Momentum Newsletter

PPF’s Atlantic Canada Momentum Index offers proof that the region is on the upswing, outpacing the rest of the country in several key economic indicators. Each week, this newsletter looks at factors either driving or impeding that momentum. Here’s everything you need to know:

Hydrogen highlights

Last week’s Energy NL conference in St. John’s began with Premier Andrew Furey declaring green hydrogen would make Newfoundland and Labrador the future “energy capital of North America.” It continued with hopeful announcements from almost everyone in attendance.

Pattern Energy, the producer with the smallest project on tap, said it filed its environmental assessment application last month and hoped to break ground next year on its $1.5-billion Port of Argentia project. More promising was its announcement that it has signed a letter of intent to sell all its production to German energy firm Mabanaft. The deal is one of the first to be signed, said Pattern Energy assistant vice-president Frank Davis, and is “blazing the trail for a new industry.”

Ravi Sood, co-founder of Exploits Valley Renewable Energy Corp. (EVREC), told allNovaScotia his company has also reached a so-called “offtake agreement” for 20 percent of the production from its planned $9-billion green hydrogen project near Botwood, though he declined to name the buyer. Sood said the company was in talks with a potential strategic partner and hoped to make the final investment decision in 2026, with production starting in 2030.

The province’s biggest hydrogen play, World Energy GH2’s Project Nujio’qonik, announced it was partnering with the Qalipu First Nations and a Dutch company to set up a renewable energy training centre called the Neweg Institute. CEO Sean Leet had no offtake agreement to announce and explained that World Energy is looking for buyers willing to sign 10-year deals. “There’s concern around the tenure of those contracts and we need that tenure at a minimum to stand up the industry,” he said, meaning a big enough commitment that investors know a market will emerge for green hydrogen and ammonia. Producers are also waiting for the federal government to offer up details of promised Investment Tax Credits and possible Contracts for Difference — subsidies that would allow producers to offer prices closer to those of fossil fuels.   To learn more about the potential of green hydrogen, listen to World Energy GH2 chairperson John Risley on WONK.

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New customers

Though most would-be green hydrogen producers have been looking for customers in Europe, and specifically Germany, with whom Canada has signed an industry development pact, World Energy’s CEO said there could be customers right next door. Given the availability of high-purity iron ore in Labrador, a “green steel” industry could be possible. It would use hydrogen instead of metallurgical coal to produce heat for smelting, dramatically reducing the carbon footprint. Newfoundland and Labrador’s Industry Minister Andrew Parsons was in Japan in March to chat up steel producers there about such development in the province.

Another enticing possibility for green hydrogen may emerge in Nova Scotia. Three of the province’s biggest manufacturers — Michelin, The Shaw Group and Port Hawkesbury Paper — have formed a working group to study the use of hydrogen for industrial heat. The Shaw Group is interested in using it to heat a kiln at its brick-making facility, whereas Port Hawkesbury Paper and Michelin’s tire plant in Bridgewater would look to use it to power their boilers should that prove feasible.

Two green hydrogen projects in Nova Scotia have received provincial approval to proceed and Everwind Fuels recently submitted the environmental assessment application for the biggest of the three wind farms it is planning. Port Hawkesbury Paper is also building a $320 million wind farm to help power its operations.

But wait, there’s more

Lest you think fossil fuels are finished, the Newfoundland and Labrador premier was anxious to dispel that notion. The transition to clean energy will take time, Andrew Furey told delegates to the Energy NL conference last week, and “we will be all in on oil and gas for decades and decades to come because the world needs us to be.”

ExxonMobil Canada president Kerry Moreland announced her company would be spending $1.5 billion this year on upgrades to the Hibernia and Hebron offshore oil developments, and on exploration of the Persephone well in the Orphan Basin. The company is drilling and conducting seismic surveys at the two established projects, hoping to expand production and extend their life. The company also began drilling last month at Persephone, a much-anticipated project in the offshore industry that sits more than 500 kilometres off the coast of Newfoundland, 3,000 metres under the sea. “We are just excited and energized about the opportunity,” Moreland said. “It is true frontier exploration.”

So too is the massive deep-water Bay du Nord offshore project, also about 500 kilometres off the coast. It may be inching toward resuscitation. Last year, the megaproject’s majority owner, Norway’s Equinor ASA put a three-year pause on the project due to high costs and uncertain market conditions. Last week, country manager Tore Loseth said he’s grown more optimistic, and the company is considering a phased-in approach for the project, which could ultimately produce over a billion barrels of oil. It has hired a company to do a subsea concept study for the project and will also be doing exploratory drilling around Bay du Nord this year to get a sense of its potential.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, meanwhile, announced new spending of its own — some of it on traditional fossil-fuel generation. CEO Jennifer Williams said the Crown corporation would spend $1 billion on new capacity, primarily to install an eighth generating unit at the Bay d’Espoir hydroelectric station and to build a new 150-megawatt (MW) combustion turbine, likely at the Holyrood oil-fired power station. The latter unit is likely to run on diesel, though with the possibility of using renewables at some point in the future. It’s needed to meet peak demand and provide back-up capacity.

Williams said the energy sector is changing faster than it has in more than 50 years, with the move to electric vehicles and home heating sending demand soaring. “There’s a lot of electrification that has started,” she said. “It’s not stopping. So we have to take action.”

Conversion rate

Converting office space to apartments is not easy, even if it does seem a simple solution to the housing crunch. It’s costly, requires extensive plumbing and electrical refits and takes time, especially if a building is not quite empty and requires “de-tenanting” — finding somewhere for existing commercial tenants to go or waiting until their leases expire. Still, there’s growing momentum behind the trend, particularly in Halifax.

Re/Max Canada’s 2024 Commercial Real Estate Report identified the city as one of the most active in Canada when it comes to “adaptive reuse,” with five such projects underway. That’s well behind Calgary’s 17, but ahead of Edmonton, Vancouver and even Toronto, where the first conversions are just now being planned. Purpose-built apartment construction is hitting record highs in Halifax, the report says, but it’s not enough for a city needing 20,000 new rental units.

The best-known conversion in Halifax is the 1970s-era Centennial Building on Hollis Street. It was gutted last fall and is expected to be complete next summer, but the report says “many of the older buildings near the waterfront are ideal for retrofit, with more landlords investigating repurposing.”

The little things

St. John’s Councillor-at-Large Maggie Burton says the thing she likes best about serving on city council is helping sort out basic services, like snow clearing or improving the curb cuts on sidewalks, the “seemingly small things that have a huge impact on people’s lives.”

Seemingly small things — household chores, trips to the bingo, gardening with her beloved Nan — are the subject too of her remarkable poetry. Burton just won the Canadian First Book Prize for Chores, her debut collection. The $10,000 award is part of the Griffin Poetry Prize, the world’s biggest international poetry award. The judges called Chores “charming and profound, traditional and inventive. Its combination of qualities seems effortless but is not only the innate fruit of a vision but the result of skillful poetic design.”

Burton is a classically trained violinist and professional musician as well as a writer and city councillor. She’s also raising four young children. Her poetry is semi-autobiographical, and draws in part from her childhood in Brigus, N.L. She grew up “really close to all my nans and great grandparents and a big extended family of women,” she says. “I feel like most of their stories are sort of untold.” Chores tells those stories with warmth and humour, creating a vivid portrait of “the conditions in which women did, and continue to do, the work of sustaining life,” as her publisher’s description puts it.

Work like…

Emptying the vacuum  

The fullness of the bag surprised me/contents spilling out like a day/on the beach, time wasted. 

I did it. I disturbed rows of dust/bunnies lying on the character-print/ beach towels, eating chips/left out from last night’s party, gone soggy from damp sand. 

I scattered clods of incidental/ tobacco, gifts once given to a carpet/while secret lovers passed notes/under picnic tables. 

I toppled towers of ash, grieving/for their shapes, their falls from grace,/from great height silent,/as they change back to carbon. 

How could I have emptied it,/knowing what I know. 

On the horizon


  • June 7, Employment report (May)

  • June 11, Building permits (April)

  • June 17, Housing starts; MLS home sales (May)

  • June 25, CPI (May)

  • June 28, GDP (April)


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This newsletter is sponsored by the Frank McKenna Fund. It is produced by journalists at PPF Media and maintains complete editorial independence.