The Ontario Government is expected to introduce a Green Energy Act to the provincial legislature on February 23rd. The David Suzuki Foundation is one of many organizations that have called on the government to pass a Green Energy Act that would make Ontario a leader in developing renewable energy technologies, reducing greenhouse gases emissions and other pollutants, and enabling a shift away from dangerous and environmentally destructive energy sources such as coal and nuclear energy.
Why does Ontario need a Green Energy Act?
- Ontario's outdated and polluting electricity system is due for an overhaul, and the government is preparing to invest more than $60 billion in a new generation, transmission, and distribution infrastructure. This is an opportunity to modernize our electrical system and incorporate the latest and most efficient green technology solutions, while creating jobs in Ontario.
- Ontario has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2014 and to 15% below 1990 levels by 2020, and to phase out coal use by 2014. The province's aging and unreliable nuclear plants must also be replaced soon with new sources. Costs for renewable energy are falling and, in many cases, are now competitive with their polluting coal and nuclear predecessors.
- Jurisdictions that position themselves early to attract investments in green energy technologies will have an advantage over late-comers. Manufacturers of green energy technologies are attracted to regions with a policy framework that supports a strong, long-term commitment to clean energy. A strong Green Energy Act holds the promise of expanding investments in renewable energy, creating tens of thousands of jobs, and enabling the province to shift away from environmentally destructive energy sources like coal and nuclear power.
- President Obama has announced the investment of $150 billion over 10 years for the United States, and his recent stimulus package supports this goal. This creates an important economic opportunity for Ontario to supply manufactured goods like wind turbines to the emerging U.S. market. But the province also risks being left behind if it does not act quickly.
What should the Green Energy Act do?
Germany's "Renewable Sources Act" made it a global leader in renewable energy by creating a predictable and transparent environment for green energy investments. Ontario's Green Energy Act can:
- Draw on the German model and other initiatives around the world to create a favorable policy environment that encourages the rapid growth of renewable energy industries.
- Guarantee a predictable and fair price for purchasing energy from renewable sources and savings through efficiency measures, and ensure priority access for renewable energy to the electrical distribution and transmission grid.
- Ensure the grid is able to incorporate large amounts of electricity from distributed renewable sources and efficiency measures by mandating investments in smart grid technologies. The province must also commit to meeting future demand through energy efficiency and renewable energy.
- Create a transparent and predictable regulatory and approvals process for renewable energy, that prevents projects with significant environmental and health impacts from proceeding.
What are the next steps after passing the Green Energy Act:
- The Green Energy Act will likely only establish a legislative framework and principles, leaving many of the details to be worked out during the regulation and implementation phase. To be effective in making Ontario a global green energy leader, the following will be necessary:
- Appropriate prices or tariffs to be paid for different sources of renewable and clean distributed energy and that ensure project viability and a fair return to project developers, and drive a rapid expansion of these energy sources.
- Grid capacity to absorb dramatically expanded renewable and distributed green energy, and a significant increase in current targets for renewable energy and efficiency in the OPA's Integrated Power System Plan.
- A commitment to making renewable and distributed energy a priority for Ontario while phasing out coal and avoiding new investments in nuclear facilities, to avoid "capping" renewables and efficiency gains due to oversupply from non-renewable sources.
- Complementary policies must also be put in place, such as carbon pricing, technology research and development, incentives to expand innovation and job creation, as well as investments in green energy sectors.