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Renewable energy panel calls for consistent government policies

What was the common lament heard during presentations on renewable energy at the CMX-CIPHEX trade show and learning forum on March 22 in Toronto? That not only do governments need to provide subsidies and rebates for renewable energy, but also...


What was the common lament heard during presentations on renewable energy at the CMX-CIPHEX trade show and learning forum on March 22 in Toronto? That not only do governments need to provide subsidies and rebates for renewable energy, but also and more importantly, that those financial incentives need to be consistent and provided for a long term.

Run by the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI) and the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH), the CMX-CIPHEX trade show is Canada’s national HVAC&R event, and is held every two years.

At a morning panel chaired by David Miller, former mayor of the city of Toronto, panelists insisted that the renewable energy industry needs governments to provide certainty in their policies if the industry is going to grow. As one panelist said: “policy dictate what technologies will be used in the future.”

One reason the Ontario Feed-in-Tariff program has been so successful is that the contracts are guaranteed for 20 years, agreed the panel.

With that, the next speaker, Marion Fraser, a lawyer who has been deeply involved in the renewable energy sector in Ontario, explained that the Ontario government was about to announce its new rates and arrangements for the FIT program that very morning. Within an hour, the news had spread that the province had announced that it will be reducing its prices for solar projects under any new contracts under the FIT program by 20% and wind projects by 15%.

The renewable energy panelists pointed out that other industries receive subsidies, but in more indirect ways. For example, the federal government is pouring half a billion dollars into carbon capture in Alberta, he said, “to help them pull oil out of the ground — which is interesting since it is an industry that shouldn’t need incentives.”

Then he pointed out that the natural gas industry needs roads and infrastructure, which also indirectly require government subsidies and involvement.

Another panelist said that fluctuating government on-off support for different technologies makes for a difficult situation for companies, which hire staff then have to fire them when government rebates are withdrawn.

To  those who argue against government interference, such as introducing mandatory green buildings programs, another panelist pointed out that the city of Toronto’s requirement for green roofs — a requirement introduced during David Miller’s term of office — had evidently not deterred development in the city given the current building boom.

The province’s release on renewable energy programs that morning also said they would be streamlining the regulatory approvals process, and giving priority to projects with significant participation from Aboriginal and local communities.

To see the Ontario’ government’s press release of March 22 on its clean energy program, click here.