Get the goods on growing green energy in Ontario | Notes from the Panther Lounge | David Suzuki Foundation
Photo: Get the goods on growing green energy in Ontario

By Mike Holmes and Dr. David Suzuki

Over the past few weeks, Ontario politicians have engaged in heated debate about the province's much lauded and much criticized Green Energy Act. Some say it is the backbone of the province's promising green technology sector; others want to put a stake through its heart. Regardless of your political stripes, everyone agrees; the stakes are high.

So what is really happening in Ontario? Simply put, a lot. If you want to learn more, please read below. If you would rather spend the next few minutes watching a couple of Canada's "most trusted" people get up on a roof to install a solar panel, check this serious bit of journalism from the Rick Mercer Report.

The Province of Ontario is two years along a brave new path that is expected to bring future prosperity and cleaner energy to Ontario communities. It has done this by encouraging the private sector to invest in local power projects and companies that make the thousands of components that are required to make windmills whir and solar panels purr. At the same time, the province has begun promoting energy conservation and making huge investments in our energy infrastructure — measures that will reduce energy consumption and save taxpayers money in the long run.

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While parties scramble to convince voters that their plans to power the province into the future is the best, we feel we should take a moment to first look at the past to gain some perspective and insight into how to move forward.

More than one hundred years ago, Ontario Premier James Whitney was in hot water over his proposal to tap the power of Niagara Falls by building a hydroelectric generating station. His opponents said it would likely bankrupt the province. Instead, this source of green renewable power has helped fuel Ontario's economic engine ever since. Ontario now gets over 20 per cent of its electricity from renewable hydroelectric generation, thanks in large part to the foresight of Whitney and our great grandparents.

Germany embarked on its green energy strategy more than ten years ago. Since then the country has become a clean technology powerhouse, creating more than 370,000 fulltime jobs and tripling their production of clean energy — now 17% of their total power supply. This is something we can do in Ontario. We can all benefit the same way—or even more so—if we continue down the path we've begun.

Ontario passed its own Green Energy Act in 2009. Modelled on the German laws, this legislation has kick-started Ontario's green energy sector by encouraging investment by hundreds of companies, farmers, community groups and residents throughout the province. In only two years it is has spurred the private sector to invest billions of dollars in dozens of new factories and power projects and has created thousands of direct and indirect jobs, with tens of thousands more expected in the coming years.

These newly created jobs include skilled trades workers manufacturing components for solar panels and turbines, contractors installing them, and the engineers and entrepreneurs that dream them up. Good-paying, full-time positions. We aren't talking temporary or part-time jobs in the service sector.

And for many youth, these are the jobs of the future. This is why more than three-dozen green technology programs have been created at Ontario colleges and universities. They will be retooling students and professionals to meet the demands of this emerging new sector of Ontario's economy—part of the global trillion-dollar clean technology sector that has blossomed worldwide.

While job creation numbers can often seem a bit suspect, especially around election time, the progress on the ground has been remarkable. Ontario is now home to some of the most exciting green energy projects on the planet, including the world's largest solar photovoltaic power plant in the world, in Sarnia. Countless farmers, community groups and entrepreneurial residents have also been getting some of the action with small installations that will provide them a second source of income for the next couple of decades. This will help support a sustainable economic and environmental future.

While this progress is impressive, candidates and parties intent on killing the program are now threatening the entire enterprise. They raise the spectre of rising energy prices without acknowledging that investments in green energy represent less than one per cent of the total price householders pay for energy.

This province has a history of leadership in manufacturing and growth. This is the sort of foresight that has made Ontario great. Treading into new territory undoubtedly will lead to a few potholes on the path. However, we believe Ontario is on the right track towards a green energy future that will wean us from dirty, old fuel sources and bring us closer to a brighter, cleaner, healthier future — and fuel Ontario's economic engine into the 21st century.

David Suzuki and Mike Holmes are two of Canada's most trusted and recognized personalities and were recently seen on a roof installing solar panels. For more information, please visit davidsuzuki.org and makeitright.ca.

October 3, 2011
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/panther-lounge/2011/10/get-the-goods-on-growing-green-energy-in-ontario/

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10 Comments

Jan 21, 2013
12:14 AM

Re: Why I have issues with wireless ‘smart’ meters.

The World Health Organization has declared the type of radiation emitted from wireless “smart” meters, as a possible level 2B carcinogen, the same category as asbestos and lead. There are strict government regulations in place to protect Canadian citizens from exposure to asbestos and lead. Yet somehow BC Hydro’s research has shown that exposure levels to the microwave radio frequency waves emitted by wireless “smart” meters safe. Note: the research was based on the exposure to the emissions from a single “smart” meter.

The microwave radio frequency transmissions that a wireless “smart” meter emits are designed to travel long distances to the collectors/receptors. The radio frequency bursts emitted from wireless “smart” meters penetrate houses/buildings. Once BC Hydro’s wireless “smart” meter grid is up and running that pretty much every British Columbian’s body will be subjected to countless microwaves bursts emitted by the wireless “smart” meters on every house and building, within which we live or work or play or pass by.

How will an entire province worth of smart meters radio frequency (RF) emissions, a possible level 2B carcinogen, impact the incidences of cancer in British Columbians? How will the additional RF pollution impact BC’s sensitive ecosystems? How will this additional exposure to radio frequency (RF) waves impact our health, the healthy brain development and well being of our children, the health of our citizen’s unborn children? How many smart meter bursts will we be exposed to: on our commute to work, during walks around the neighbourhood, on our way to the park with our children, while we tuck our babies in to bed at night, or while we sleep?

Dec 01, 2012
6:11 AM

I am very much interested to make a solar based kitchen room. Where it ll not make problem when ever electricity goes. I get correct idea from this website. I feel very comfortable to use hamilton beach blenders. This blinder cost very low voltage which could very easy to use by the solar electricity.

Jul 20, 2012
11:07 AM

In support of the Green Energy movement, I would love to see more solar out west. Coming from a sunny city like Calgary, Alberta I feel that the ability to relieve some of the strain on our environment could be redeemed by producing more clean energy. I look forward to seeing how this program works in Ontario and maybe our governing body will consider putting out more green energy rebates and options for the whole country. Who says that we can't use solar and wind power to fuel an oil or gas refinery? It isn't about immediate replacement, it is about conserving and using our resources in harmony.

Oct 05, 2011
3:06 PM

I've recently graduated from teachers college. I also stayed on and completed a Masters of Education not realizing how impossible it is for me to get a job in this field. Renewable energy is something i'm extremely interested in and am wondering if anyone can direct me towards some worthwhile companies regarding employment etc

Oct 05, 2011
9:24 AM

@Kathie, please see this article on wind power and health written by David which includes a link to studies on bird and bat migration: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2011/07/when-it-comes-to-health-wind-power-blows-away-the-alternative/. Hopefully it will help answer some of your questions. As for smart meters, the David Suzuki Foundation does not hold an official position, but I would have to agree that a meter outside one's home poses little threat to our health when compared to a cell phone and laptop use—and the jury is still out on those issues as it is.

@Julie, there are several brands of solar knapsacks available for purchase. I recommend searching through products and reviews and see which one best fits your size needs and budget!

Oct 04, 2011
2:57 PM

To Kathie Wagner As you likely know, the David Suzuki Foundation is a strong proponent of renewable energy, which we see as an indispensible way to shift to a more sustainable way of living. Renewable energy has the potential to vastly reduce the impact we have on the environment when we generate electricity.

But renewable energy is only part of the equation. Efficiency and conservation are also necessary, as are a whole range of other measures in non-energy related fields.

Moreover, we do not consider renewable energy to be inherently low-impact. Rather, we recognize that it can be developed in a manner that generates far less overall impact than other electricity generation technologies. The crucial point is that we need a regulation and development regime in place that ensures that impacts are minimized — not necessarily eliminated, but minimized.

We are almost certain to need a lot more renewable electricity generation in future. Much of this new generation will be needed to replace existing high-impact electricity generation, such as Ontario’s extremely polluting coal plants, which are responsible for numerous deaths and thousands of respiratory-related hospital visits each year. Demand for electricity could also increase as the transport industry moves away from dirty and inefficient gasoline and diesel power toward electric vehicles. And additional demand for electricity will be needed to cope with growing populations. Efficiency and conservation must come first, and this can do much to lower our ultimate demand for electricity, but even maximum efforts may not reduce total electricity demand below its current level.

We need to make sure we develop renewable energy properly, minimizing the total impact of new development through proper site selection, building, operating and decommissioning facilities. We also need to keep social as well as environmental and economic impacts in mind when we go about this. And of course, we need to make sure we generate enough power to sustain our society.

I hope the above information clarifies the reasons for our position on renewable energy systems.

Oct 04, 2011
8:07 AM

Wind power… Solar and wind… I thought this was the way to go but just finished reading a book that talks about how wind turbines can affect bird mirgration/travels… What is the answer?

Oct 04, 2011
8:06 AM

Smart Meters… What's the take on these? I don't see how something on the outside of a home can cause such a debate by people using wireless technology inside their homes and cell phones daily… As they are to be used to help us use less electricity in our homes, are you on board for these meters or are their really health concerns?

Oct 03, 2011
1:54 PM

Could you please provide information as to how one can purchase the solar knapsack that Mr. Suzuki is holding in the picture above with rick mercer and mike holmes. thanks julie

Oct 03, 2011
12:40 PM

What this article doesn't address is the potential cost of some of these green energy projects to human and environmental health. While I fully support the growth of green energy in the province I feel we need to slow down and really investigate the pros and cons before we throw them up. The government repeatedly says that there is no proof that turbines cause health problems …. with all the anectodal evidence that people are suffering from negative health effects, they should be working to conclusively PROVE that there is no effect on human health. Solar panels are great, but locally we have a huge solar farm on prime agricultural land… not so green. How are the turbines effecting bird migration patterns? Instead of parroting the liberal platform, I would expect the DS foundation to ask real questions about the efficacy and safety of the three party platforms. I'm really disappointed in this article.

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