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February 11, 2009

Ontario To Turn on Green Energy, Conservation



The province of Ontario, Canada’s largest, plans to go green and clean on electric power generation and conservation.

The provincial government will introduce a new Green Energy Act in the legislature later this month aimed at improving energy conservation, supplying more renewable and reliable electric power, and removing obstacles that have blocked such projects. The moves will also decrease Ontario’s use of coal for electricity generation, which will cut harmful emissions and resulting and costly damage to public health as well as to the environment.
 
The Green Energy Act, an initiative of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government, is also aimed at boosting the economy. The province estimates that such initiatives will create 50,000+ direct and indirect jobs over the next three years. These will range from those who will carry out energy use audits, retrofit buildings, and install new insulation, solar or geothermal equipment to others who build and maintain biofuels plants and wind energy turbines. The employment figures do not include those jobs from the construction, including equipment, and operation of planned electrically-powered subways and light rail lines for Toronto and Ottawa.

Ontario’s moves will help offset massive employment losses in the automotive industry. Nearly all of Canada’s production is in Ontario and is shared with the U.S. through free trade agreements that date back to 1965.

The Green Energy Act will on the conservation side create an Expert Advisory Council to the government on any future energy efficiency changes to Ontario’s building code.  It follows earlier legislation that requires smart meters to be installed in all homes and businesses by 2010.

The new bill would also modernize the province’s electrical transmission system by employing ‘smart grid’ technology—two way communications, advanced sensors, and distributed computing--that enable power distributors to anticipate and address problems before they lead to outages. These operators can automatically reconfigure the grid to reduce the impact of faults that do occur. With a smart grid, your local distribution company will instantly know if the power is out in your home, says the province, even if you are not there to report it.

Smart grids enable a more efficient use of electricity and promote overall reductions in energy use. The province points to the Electric Power Research Institute, which says that smart grid technologies have the potential to reduce electricity consumption in 2025 by 10 to 15 per cent in the United States. Smart grids also better facilitate the integration of distributed generation and new energy resources such as solar, wind and pumped storage.
Ontario has good reason for investing in smart grids. It had been pummeled by the infamous blackout of August 14, 2003 that left most of its residents without electricity. That is despite having large hydro, nuclear, and thermal generating plants.

The legislation would make it easier to get new wind turbines, solar panels and biofuels plants online and on to the grid while protecting the environment by addressing local bylaws and regulations that are used to delay or stop proposed renewable energy projects. Ontario has brought almost 1,000 megawatts of new renewable energy on-line since 2003. In 2008, 25 per cent of Ontario’s electricity came from renewable sources. Canada’s two largest wind farms are located in Ontario, and in 2009, more than 1,200 megawatts will be online.

The province is also relying on green energy to carry out an election promise to end coal-fired electricity production by 2014 without shutting off the lights. The Toronto Star newspaper reported Jan.20 that Ontario Power Generation (OPG), the province’s largest electricity generating firm, is looking at converting the province’s four such plants to biofuels. OPG, which is publicly owned, has tested fuels such as dried distillers’ grain, a by-product of ethanol production, and wood pellets.

“Because of our Green Energy Act, our province would be greener, stronger, and in a better position to compete and win against the rest of the world, “says Premier McGuinty. “We’re going to seize this opportunity to build a better Ontario — better for jobs, better for our children, better for our planet”.

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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