Positioning Ontario as Renewable Energy Leader

wind turbine assembly
Manufacturing, transporting, and assembling wind turbines means more jobs for Ontario.
(cc) Bev Currie

Local and international environmental and renewable energy groups congratulated the Ontario government for four new programs that will make the province a global leader in clean, green, renewable energy.

“We are thrilled that the government has followed through on its pledge to make Ontario a global leader in renewable energy,” said Deb Doncaster, Executive Director of the Community Power Fund. “The new feed-in tariffs and approval process provide an excellent environment for the renewable energy industry, while new resources for the community power sector mean that individuals and communities will directly benefit from the government’s plans.”

“Ontario is quickly emerging as a global leader in renewable energy with policies that rival those of the renewable energy superpowers in Europe and elsewhere,” said Dr. Hermann Scheer, President of EUROSOLAR, General Chairman of the World Council for Renewable Energy and Member of the German Bundestag (Germany’s federal parliament). “The success of feed-in tariff programs in many European countries has shown they are the right choice for regions serious about renewable energy. Ontario has chosen wisely and will surely reap the rewards.”

The most prominent of the announcements, Ontario’s new feed-in tariff program (FIT), guarantees a price paid to producers for energy generated from renewable sources based on the technology used, the size of the project, and ownership for 20 year terms. This approach has been successful in various European countries and has been adopted in countries around the world including regions of China and India. The Ontario Power Authority is responsible for administering the new FIT program.

“Ontario is breaking ground in North America and embarking on an important journey, one that we hope more governments will follow, including state and federal agencies in the United States,” said Denis Hayes, President and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation, Former Director of the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory and founder of Earth Day International.

The revised renewable energy approvals process, developed by the Ministry of the Environment, provides more straightforward rules for planning renewable energy projects. The new rules allow projects to be planned more efficiently while maintaining province-wide standards for health, safety, and the environment.

Community ownership of renewable energy projects is widely recognized as a key part of developing a successful renewable energy industry, and encompasses everything from homeowners installing solar panels on their homes, to community wind co-ops owning wind farms.

To encourage community power, the government announced two funds to help communities develop renewable energy projects and municipalities deal with infrastructure costs associated with accommodating projects in their regions. This is in addition to the two funds announced last week to support the direct participation of Aboriginal communities in Ontario’s emerging green energy sector.

“This program and the feed-in tariffs are great incentives for people in communities throughout Ontario who want to generate clean energy, while the streamlined regulations should remove many of the barriers that have been preventing communities from developing green energy projects. We will be closely monitoring how effective the programs and regulations are and we welcome the opportunity to review them in two years,” said Kristopher Stevens, Executive Director of the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, which represents many communities developing power projects.

The one element of the government’s announcement that was not met with as much optimism was the local content requirement for renewable energy projects, part of the government’s plan to bring new manufacturing jobs to the province. The government announced only a modest local requirement for wind developments, the industry with the highest potential for jobs in manufacturing in Ontario. The 25 per cent is only expected to promote local construction jobs and transmission components, not the turbines themselves as hoped.

“We are disappointed that the domestic content requirement is only 25% until 2012,” said Ken Delaney, United Steelworkers Canada. “If you want wind turbines manufactured in Ontario you need higher domestic content. I am afraid this policy leaves a lot of green jobs on the table.”

“We need to look at all available opportunities to bring these green manufacturing jobs to the region,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. “It would be a shame if Ontario’s renewable energy revolution is not truly made in Ontario and all this great work does not truly benefit every Ontarian.”

The Green Energy Act Alliance’s vision is to make Ontario a global leader in green energy development through the use of renewable energy, distributed energy and conservation, creating thousands of jobs, economic prosperity, energy security, while ensuring climate protection. Member groups include: the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, Community Power Fund, the David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence, United Steelworkers, the First Nations Energy Alliance, the Ivey Foundation, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Pembina Institute.

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