Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ontario to Outmuscle Arnold via Green Energy Act

Move over Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Ontario is poised to be North America’s leader in green energy and the new green economy.

The reason? Ontario may soon have the Green Energy and Green Economy Act. The Bill is currently in third reading. If you are one of those folks who love to read bills and parliamentary debates, visit Bill 150, Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009. Enjoy!

For those of you who just want the quick facts
Ontario is trying to catch up with Germany, which is on the forefront of renewable energy development. In fact, many of the policies implemented by the Germans are proposed in Bill 150. The goal is to get Ontario on the renewable energy bandwagon as quickly as possible, which means giving businesses and citizens great incentives to invest in solar panels and the like. Bill 150 proposes the following:
  • Developing a Feed-In Tariff to provide guaranteed pricing structures that help boost investor confidence and increase access to financing. It basically sets premium rates for renewable energy, based on technology, to encourage the rapid development of these technologies and sectors. To date, 280,000 jobs in conservation and renewable have been created in Germany.

  • Providing ‘As of Right’ grid connections to ensure that renewable energy projects which meet technical, economic and other regulatory requirements, have access to the power grid.

  • Creating ‘service guarantees’ to make wait times for approvals more transparent and ensure information is publicly accessible.

  • Streamlining the approvals process for renewable energy projects, eliminating duplication and barriers while ensuring that health, safety and environmental concerns are adequately addressed.

  • Establishing a Renewable Energy Facilitator to assist community proponents in navigating the project approvals process, ensuring compliance with necessary requirements.

  • Investing in a ‘Smart Grid’ to facilitate and maximize the development of new renewable energy projects, making it easier to connect to the system and setting the stage for new technologies like the plug in electric car.

What’s the Snag?
Many are calling for the inclusion of Take-or-Pay. This means all green electricity that's generated must be purchased whether it's needed or not. This provides additional guarantees to those investing in renewable energy. Currently, the nuclear industry enjoys this perk.

The other sticky wicket is that Ontario still plans to invest heavily in nuclear with the expectation that it will comprise 60 percent of the province's energy needs. However, if this Act is passed, renewable electricity has the potential to fill half of grid in the next few years. According to the article in the April 22 issue of the Toronto Star, there are 150 energy developers with 381 projects in various stages of development.

Environmentalists love it!
I attended the event, Why Green Energy last Thursday with David Suzuki. Hermann Scheer, German parliamentarian and Green Energy guru was on the bill but unfortunately could not attend. Filling in was Preben Maegaard, Vice-President of Eurosolar and Executive Director of the Danish Folkecenter for Renewable Energy. Also speaking was Dennis Hayes, the founder of Earth Day and Director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory under the Carter Administration. All three environmentalists lauded the Bill.

In fact, experts from Europe and the US were in Toronto last week to lend support and advice. The stakes are high. If Ontario gets it right, it could serve as a model for other North American jurisdictions.

At the Thursday event, environmentalists decried the nuclear industry’s hold on Ontario. Dennis Hayes was quick to advise not to toss out the baby with the bath water. Once in force, the Green Energy Act will make it much easier for the renewable energy sector to take hold, likely (hopefully) trumping nuclear, which is too costly, cumbersome and dangerous to support. Let’s hope Mr. Hayes is right.

If you live in Ontario, please support the Green Energy and Green Jobs Act by signing the petition. To do so click here.

In the News

Environmentalists in battle to be heard in pesticide case
Will Dow Chemical get its way thanks to NAFTA? It’s the people vs. the big corporation.

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