Originally published on the ECOreport.
Keith Brooks, Clean Economy Program Director at Environmental Defence, acknowledges that Ontario made mistakes carrying out its Green Energy and Green Economy Act, but he describes the opponents as a vocal minority. A new Ekos Research poll substantiates this view. Only 17% of the respondents oppose further expansion of wind and solar energy, and 81% of Ontarians endorse renewables.
The responses of 1,250 randomly selected Ontario residents, who Ekos contacted between March 24th and April 3rd 2016, are below. They were asked, “To what degree would you say you support or oppose Ontario generating more power from renewable sources, like solar and wind?”
74% said that the province was carrying out the “right strategy” by developing renewable energy.
Ekos’ poll, commissioned by Environmental Defence, is part of the report, Getting FIT: How Ontario Became a Green Energy Leader and Why it Needs to Stay the Course.
“One of the mistakes that we made in Ontario was not including communities as much as they should be. Initially, some people felt like they didn’t have a say. Mind you, every single wind turbine and every single solar panel was put on somebody’s land, roof, or property, and that person signed off on that taking place. Not only did they agree to do that, they got paid for it. The challenge was that there were neighbors who had to look at the project but were not receiving any benefit,” said Brooks.
“The new rules around green energy are better in terms of getting more buy-in from municipalities and local communities and ensuring that those communities get more benefit.”
He added that there have also been a lot of “really good projects” and success stories.
Successes Cited In This Report
Some of the successes cited in “Getting Fit” are impressive. As a result of the global recession and rising oil prices, Ontario lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs by 2009. A report from the Association of Power Producers of Ontario states the Green Revolution brought them back. As of 2014, $6 billion has been invested into the wind industry, which now directly or indirectly employs an estimated 89,000 people. Another $5.8 billion went to solar, where there may currently be 91,000 jobs.
Over 23,000 microFIT projects, mostly rooftop solar, have been completed and thousands of applications are waiting.
More than 30 renewable energy co-operatives, in local communities, are investing in projects such as large solar arrays.
“The SolarShare Co-operative is one of North America’s largest renewable energy co-operatives. It allows people to get involved in the green energy revolution by owning a piece of its 34 solar energy projects, which are located on industrial rooftops in the GTA, farm fields in Central Ontario, and on the rooftop of a mushroom farming business in Moose Creek, Ontario. Local investors have bought $15 million worth of solar bonds to finance SolarShare projects and are earning a stable return of 5-6 per cent annually. Meanwhile, the many businesses that host SolarShare projects earn roof lease payments. SolarShare, like other community-owned co-ops across Ontario, allows people interested in solar, but who do not have the right conditions on their own home, to help spark climate action in the province. And with the returns from its projects going back into the pockets of local community members …”
The First Nation and Métis communities are participating in more than 240 renewable power projects across Ontario.
Ontario-based Canadian Solar is now one of the three largest solar companies in the world, employing 8,500 people worldwide. “Its solar panels can be found on the face of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto and alongside the runway at the Thunder Bay airport in Northern Ontario as well as on projects in the United States, Denmark, Spain and Germany.”
CS Wind has manufactured 1,000 turbine towers for projects in Ontario and the United States
Companies like Electrovaya, NRStor, and Hydrator are among the leaders in the global development of energy storage solutions.
Ontario’s Surplus Baseload Problem
Ontario’s real energy problem is what people working in grid management call a “surplus baseload problem,” a result of lower demand than anticipated. This mostly occurs overnight, or during the winter months (when there is no need for air conditioning). Once you turn a nuclear plant on, for example, it generates power regardless of the demand.
“The solar power that we have in Ontario actually fits quite well with the demand profile. We have peak solar electricity generation at the same time as peak demand, when people are at work using power,” said Brooks. “There are sometimes issues with wind power being generated at night … but we can turn the blades so they do not generate electricity.”
As Ontario has not experienced a power shortage for a decade, Brooks finds the government’s decision to double the usage of gas fired plants and rebuild up to 10 nuclear reactors “strange, especially when you have a surplus baseload issue.”
“Nuclear plants are expensive, they do break down and they have actually shown to be somewhat unreliable. Those refurbishments are going to cost billions of dollars. The prices that have been negotiated for those contracts are okay, but the new wind terminal that we just did in Ontario would compete with those prices … and every nuclear project that has been built in Ontario has been on average 250 times over budget,” he said.
Give Preference To Renewables
In the press release, which Environmental Defence sent out, it suggests that Ontario give preference to renewable over nuclear and gas power generation.
“While its implementation had challenges, the Green Energy and Green Economy Act must be viewed as a success. It gave Ontario cleaner air, seeded robust renewable energy and clean technology industries, created thousands of green jobs and provided businesses and individuals the opportunity to participate in a green energy revolution,” says Brooks.
“… The Green Energy and Green Economy Act is a great example of how tackling climate change can create economic opportunities. It’s the reason Ontario is Canada’s clean technology leader. Now’s not the time to walk away from that sector. It’s time to double down,” Brooks says.
Intended to feed into the review of Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan, the report recommends that Ontario:
- Commit to procuring more renewable energy past 2021
- Develop an export strategy to ensure Ontario captures a larger share of the global demand for clean power
- Commit to phasing out natural gas-fired electricity generation to ensure emissions from electricity continue their decade-long decline
- Disclose the fine print on the agreements to refurbish Ontario’s nuclear fleet so Ontarians have the information needed to ensure good decision-making and cost effectiveness
“Ontario must continue building wind and solar power to ensure emissions from the electricity sector continue to decline while supporting the tens of thousands of people that now work in clean energy in this province,” Brooks adds. “Ontario’s green energy policies have delivered multiple benefits to the province. And they’re popular with the public. Ontario needs to stay the course.”
All illustrations: Courtesy Getting FIT: How Ontario Became a Green Energy Leader and Why it Needs to Stay the Course
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