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Ontario invests in green future

Oilfield Technology,

This drive has been brought about by the Green Energy Act Feed-in tariff, which was passed as part of the Green Energy Act back in May 2009. The Act made streamlining the approval process for renewable energy projects one of its goals and allowed for the Feed-in-tariff system. This allows for guaranteed prices for renewable energy projects and also focuses on helping companies developing renewable energy projects to navigate the approvals process.

"The Green Energy Act will truly set us on the path to a 21st century green economy for Ontario, one that is sustainable, easy on the environment, and focused on the jobs of the future. We'll be working hard to ensure Ontario gets every benefit possible from renewable energy and from the efficiency and savings that come from developing a culture of conservation," said George Smitherman, Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy & Infrastructure.

So far they have held to this vision and last week approved 184 new contracts for large renewable energy projects (over 500kW). This is in addition to the 510 medium-sized projects (10 - 500kW) already announced. The facilities are expected to generate up to 2.5GW of energy and it is estimated that they could generate up to CAN$ 9 billion in private investment.

The Green Energy Act is part of the Open Ontario Pan which provides a stable price for green energy and encourages investment which should create 50 000 jobs in the province, already 60 projects have been approved in the province and since 2003, some 1.3 GW of renewable energy has come online there. The vast majority of the newly approved projects are ground mounted photovoltaic energy projects (solar), with 47 for onshore wind projects and one for offshore wind. Water projects were the other large group with 46 contracts being awarded to the sector.

However, the Green Energy Act has its opponents. Critics have argued that the drive for renewable energy is driving up energy prices for consumers. Energy Minister Brad Duguid has acknowledged that consumers’ annual household bills will probably rise by CAN$ 60. On top of this relatively minor price rise though, consumers have also been hit by the switch to time-of-use billing, harmonised sales tax, and funding of conservation programmes, which makes the figure more like CAN$ 300.

There is a danger that the industry could become uncompetitive, but environmentalists argue that energy has been priced unrealistically low for years and this is just market equilibrium restoring itself. In fact, when compared with the alternatives, renewable energy represents good value for money for Ontario. The provincial government looked into installing a nuclear power plant, which also has good green credentials, but the price quoted was so high that the project has been shelved for now.

“Virtually all of the new supply options (with the exception of conservation) come in at higher costs than the current electricity price, which is artificially subsidised in a number of different ways, with the result that it may not be the best benchmark against which to measure options for new supply,” said Mark Winfield, professor of environmental studies at York University.

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