Renewable energy looks like a potentially booming sector for consulting engineering firms to divert their resources into. At least, it just got a huge boost in Ontario.
After years of advocating privatization and de-regulation as the panacea for the electrical power industry, the Ontario Eves’ government suddenly switched gears, and is advocating a range of initiatives to reduce consumption and encourage the use of green power.
John Baird, the Minister of Energy and Steve Gilchrist, Commissioner of Alternative Energy outlined the Ontario government’s plan of startling new proposals on November 13. Some of the proposals will require legislation before they can go ahead.
First, the government is planning to reduce the electricity it consumes in its own buildings by 10%. It also plans to ensure that 20% of the power it uses will be from renewable resources. All newly constructed government and institutional buildings will use alternative or clean sources of energy.
On the conservation side, the government said it will encourage commercial building retrofits and will give businesses 100% tax write-offs for their investment in energy efficient equipment.
The government is also proposing giving a tax credit to individuals who purchase solar panels. Bill Clinton’s administration in the U.S. had its million solar roofs program. Ernie Eves is proposing to convert 100,000 homes in Ontario to solar power within five years.
On the power generation side the government is encouraging renewable energies by trying to cut down on the red tape that might be inhibiting the building of renewable energy generators. From now on plants of 100 MW will not have to have an environmental assessment. The government is also planning to encourage wind power sources for First Nations and remote communities.
Finally, universities will be asked to place greater emphasis on training in alternative fuels. A Centre of Excellence for Alternative Energy is to be located at Queen’s University and the University of Toronto, with a goal “to make Ontario the leading North American jurisdiction for research and development of clean energy technologies.”
Certainly, Ontario and the rest of Canada have a long way to move on green power. A report by Pollution Probe released around the same time as Ontario’s announcements suggested that Canada could double its renewable source generation by 2010. The comprehensive study of over 200 pages was an examination of policies and initiatives in other countries that have already implemented strategies to promote green power markets and renewable electricity generation.
Among Pollution Probe’s major recommendations were that the federal government should set a national renewable energy portfolio target and that it should broaden financial incentives on capital investment costs to make the renewable power sector more financially viable.
The authors estimate that most renewable power projects would be feasible at 2 cents per kilowatt-hour above the price of electricity from combined cycle natural gas plants. See www.pollutionprobel.org/Reports/greenpower.pdf