Ontario pushes big 'green' agenda

The Canadian province of Ontario believes it can create 50,000 jobs by encouraging renewable energy projects, enhancing energy efficiency programs and launching a "smart grid."

The provincial government released legislation Monday that would, among other things, create a feed-in tariff to promote small-scale energy projects like solar arrays on homes, standardize rules for renewable energy programs to remove local roadblocks and streamline provincial approval for clean power projects.

The "Green Energy Act," which relies on rule changes and incentives, would also offer low-interest loans to homeowners who invest in on-site energy generation, like small turbines.

"Our ambition is to increase the standard of living and quality of life for all Ontario's families," George Smitherman, minister of energy and infrastructure, said in a press release. "That is best achieved by creating the conditions for green economic growth."

Ontario is an active player on energy and climate policy. The province plans to ban coal-fired power plants by the end of 2014. It introduced North America's first feed-in tariff in 2006, and met its goal of 1,000 megawatts of small-scale renewable energy, a 10-year target, in about 12 months. And Canada's two largest wind farms are located in Ontario, which expects to have 1,200 megawatts of turbine-powered electricity by year's end.


New nuclear power plants are part of the mix

But the province also stirs controversy. It plans to build nuclear power plants and refurbish aging ones to retain its current nuclear capacity of 14,000 megawatts, which amounts to almost half of its total electricity.

The legislation introduced this week also:

  • requires government agencies to consider energy conservation and energy efficiency when acquiring goods and services and when making capital investments.
  • requires reporting on energy use and greenhouse gas emissions to ensure that public agencies are using renewable energy and meeting efficiency goals.
  • restricts the sale of appliances that don't meet efficiency standards, empowers inspectors to conduct searches, and creates fines of $10,000 for a person or $25,000 for a corporation proven to break the rule.

The measure also encourages a "smart grid" to take advantage of new energy sources, including home-based generation that could be sent to a digitized transmission system able to handle the ebb and flow of wind and solar sources. The plan strengthens homeowners' ability to distribute their homemade power.

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