At a quick glance, Federal and Provincial energy policy might seem extraneous to the mandate of Better Edmonton. But as we contemplate the future of our city, energy policies created at other levels of government will have serious implications . Though the Oilsands developments in Northern Alberta draw most of the negative attention from health, environmental and conservation groups with regard to Alberta’s environmental policy, often forgotten is that one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide in our province actually comes from the method by which we generate our electrical power.
“Most of the carbon is emitted by coal-fired electricity generating plants.” – Premier Stelmach
In order to feed our cities’ ever-growing demand for energy, we need to look to the opportunities presented by renewable energy. Ontario recently passed North America’s most ambitious piece of economic and environmental legislation, which will dramatically increase the use of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and kickstart the green energy economy. The main tools in this legislative toolbelt are a feed-in tariff; energy efficiency changes to the building code; and significant investment in the green energy economy, an added bonus that is expected to produce 50 000 jobs in ontario in three years.
Recently the Pembina Institute published a report, Understanding Canada’s Federal Support for Renewable Electricity
, which noted that renewable energy investments worldwide had a record year in 2008 with over US $120 billion invested. Based on recent budgets, however, the United States will outspend Canada on renewable energy by a factor of almost 14:1. The document further compares incentives for renewable power in the US and Canada, notable as both countries are direct competitors for investment in renewable energy projects.
With peak oil and a climate crisis on our horizon, we have an opportunity to protect ourselves, our children, our economy and our planet by revisiting the way we use and produce energy. Micro-generation offers an alternative that could produce lucrative dividends for our economy, while reducing our cities carbon footprint and reducing the environmental damage done by (un)clean coal.
Albertans are responsible for almost four times as much global warming pollution as the average Canadian. And close to 25 per cent of Alberta’s GHG pollution comes from its electricity sector. Given the urgent need to tackle global warming, it is clear that coal-fired power is becoming a liability.
Alberta’s renewable energy resource is vast. A new study by the Pembina Institute has found that Alberta could go from producing 70 per cent of its electricity from coal to 70 per cent from clean energy sources in just 20 years.
Using existing renewable energy technologies combined with industrial co-generation and energy efficiency, Alberta could satisfy growing demand for power. It would not need to build a single new coal-fired power plant and could start to phase out the ones already polluting the air.
Greater Use of Renewables
The bill proposes enacting a feed-in tariff (FIT) with pricing that will hopefully generate more investment in renewable energy by offering investors greater confidence in the profitability of projects and increasing their access to funding. The FIT will be modeled after Germany’s successful policy.
In addition to the FIT, the bill streamlines the approvals process for renewable energy projects and provides service guarantees for them. It also establishes a “right to connect” to the electricity grid for renewable energy projects.
To support local communities, the bill offers measures to assist developers of smaller community-owned generation facilities and also implements a smart grid in Ontario, with the aim of making it easier for renewables to connect to the system.
Finally homeowners would have access to incentives to develop small-scale renewables such as low- or no-interest loans to finance the capital cost of renewable energy generating facilities like solar panels.
According to Dave Butters, president of the Association of Power Producers of Ontario, member companies of which have installed much of Ontario’s renewable energy facilities so far, the bill will ensure that Ontario makes maximum use of renewable energy.
“A ‘best-in class renewable energy feed-in tariff’ combined with streamlined approvals processes and service guarantees has the potential to help Ontario to leap forward in terms of renewable energy capacity,” he said.
Energy Efficiency Measures
Currently, Ontarians spend just over CAN $7 billion [US $5.6 billion] each year on electricity to power their homes. A 10% efficiency savings would mean CAN $700 million more in the pockets of homeowners across the province. To that end, if the GEA passes, it would help individual consumers, businesses and public institutions take steps to increase energy efficiency in their facilities.
The bill makes energy efficiency a prominent aspect of Ontario’s Building Code by requiring, every 5 years, a review of the efficiency of any given building to identify areas that might be improved through better energy efficiency technology. Further, it establishes an advisory council to provide energy efficiency advice to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
If passd, the bill would create the opportunity for consumers, public institutions and industry to better manage their energy use through various conservation initiatives, one of which may be the establishment of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver as the standard for new government-owned buildings. It also would require the broader public sector, including municipalities, universities, colleges, schools and hospitals, to develop energy conservation plans.
In terms of household appliances and water use, the bill would require the use of Energy Star appliances as standard and require that households make efficient use of water. Homes would be required to have an energy audit prior to their sale, which some authorities say would put a “second price tag” on all homes sold in the province.
Local distribution companies would have mandatory conservation targets as well as incentives to help them achieve the targets. Ontarians living in low-income housing would also benefit from conservation measures targeted at that sector.
The proposed bill is estimated to create 50,000 jobs in Ontario in three years with its benefits sweeping across all communities. Employment will be in every sector,according to some analysts, from steel workers to lawyers, manufacturers and contractors.
Toronto-based Trillium Power Wind Corp., an offshore wind developer currently at work on a 710-MW facility in Lake Ontario, sees the plan as a step in the right direction.
“The Ontario government clearly recognizes that you need to make a long-term commitment to renewable energy in order to reap the economic benefits of a green economy,” said John Kourtoff, President and CEO of Trillium. “They are way ahead of the game on this, and Ontarians are going to significantly benefit from this transformational legislation.”
“Ontario’s Green Energy Act could propel the province past California as the most innovative North American leader in the renewable energy field,” saidRenewableEnergyWorld.com contributor Denis Hayes, former director of NREL and founder of Earth Day.
“This is the sort of healthy, friendly competition between Canada and the U.S. that will leave us both better off.”