Why Renewable Energy

Ontario’s Electricity System Needs Major Upgrades

Ontario’s electricity is generated from traditional sources like nuclear, coal, gas and hydro, and newer sources like solar and wind. Heavy transmission lines are used to bring this power to our towns and cities because most of our electricity comes from large remote generating plants. With technology advances that make solar and wind more affordable, electricity can be generated closer to where we use it, not just remote areas.

Billions of dollars will be needed to upgrade half of Ontario’s generating plants and half of Ontario’s 50 year old transmission lines within the next 10 years. This is regardless of whether we pay for Ontario’s nuclear plants, more gas power plants or shift to solar and wind energy.

Renewables Are The Key to the Solution

Ontario’s plan to phase-out coal-fired plants by 2014 is recognized as being one of largest emission reductions in all of North America.

Yet, building traditional electricity plants takes time. Ontario needs to ramp up its clean electricity supply to ensure the lights stay on and pollution is reduced. Solar and wind energy can quickly fill that need. A nuclear plant, however, would take at least 10 years to build.

Wind energy is now cost competitive with traditional sources. But on hot summer days, when Ontario’s system is strained and power is most expensive, solar power is best at meeting those peak demands. Solar power reduces the need for large and costly peak generating systems.

Ontario’s Leadership in Renewable Energy

After years of neglect, strong action has been initiated to meet our immediate and long-term energy needs. Ontario has passed the Green Energy and Economy Act (GEA) to boost investment in renewable energy projects, increase conservation, create green jobs and generate economic growth in Ontario. This Act establishes a forward-looking Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) program modeled after the most successful programs that have been working in Europe for over a decade. A FIT is simply a predictable price that is paid for renewable power.

As the world races toward renewable energy, Ontario has secured a leadership position in investment and amount of renewable energy produced with the FIT program. Thanks to Ontario’s leadership and the Green Energy and Economy act, these milestones have been achieved:

  • Canada now ranks fourth in the world in investment of renewable energy compared to its GDP. Ontario is largely responsible for this ranking, accounting for 84% of renewable energy in the country.
  • Ontario’s FIT is internationally recognized as North America’s most successful energy and industrial policy.
  • The world’s third largest solar plant in Sarnia, Ontario is producing 80 MW.
  • Nova Scotia has followed Ontario’s lead.
  • Campaigns are underway in 45 US states for FIT programs in their jurisdictions as a result of Ontario’s initiative.

Investment and Jobs

By 2018, it is projected that the solar industry will generate $21 billion in investment and create 74,000 solar jobs in Ontario. These projections are based on the creation of a stable market provided by Ontario’s FIT program. (Clear Sky Report July 2011.)

Now is the time to ensure the future of Ontario’s renewable energy industry. Solar and Wind energy are in much greater demand globally than nuclear and coal power. If we don’t act now other markets will compete for these industries. The successful FIT program has established Ontario as a North American leader, attracting major investments and creating thousands of jobs. An excellent example of what a FIT program can achieve can be found in Germany. They have less sun than Ontario and yet their FIT program has helped create 370,000 jobs, making their renewable energy industry second only to its auto industry.

Why FIT?

Ernst & Young cites FITs as the most common and successful policy for developing renewable energy at the lowest cost. Fit programs leave the taxpayer free of development costs for major power plant and cost overruns.

FIT programs allow citizens, communities and small businesses to own their energy projects and produce their own electricity.

26,000 farmers and homeowners, are participating in MicroFIT

Over 1000 aboriginal and community-based FIT projects are under development

17,000 MW of power are in development

Your Electricity Bill and The Truth About FIT Rates

FIT rates paid for renewables have drawn some criticism and are widely misunderstood.

  • The 80.2¢ /kWH for solar is paid only for power from small rooftop projects under 10 kW. These are typically paid to homeowners for the generation of 3 to 5 kW. Farmers and small businesses also benefit from this introductory rate. This MicroFIT program represents a fraction of 1¢ on your monthly hydro bill.
  • FIT rates paid for larger scale commercial projects are much lower, at 13.5¢ /kWh for wind and 44.3.¢ /kWh for ground mount solar. And these are going down.
  • Combining MicroFIT and FIT generation costs adds less than $1.50 to the average monthly household electricity bill.

Under the current program, FIT rates are scheduled for periodic and aggressive reductions.

That’s because, electricity generated by abundant renewable sources will only go down as the cost of the technology to capture these rapidly drops.

The True Cost of Traditional Energy Sources

Traditional electricity generation is not as competitive as we are led to believe when all cost are factored in:

  • The government of Ontario estimates that shutting down coal plants will reduce health care costs by $3 billion annually. According to the Ministry of Energy the true cost of generating electricity with coal translates to 12.7¢ per kWh.
  • Prior to the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, the California Energy Commission put true nuclear generation costs at 30¢/kWh uninsured and up to 40¢/kWh insured.

The cost for traditional electricity generation will continue to go up as resources deplete.

It’s up to us to decide

Ontario has a choice. Do we keep our renewable energy initiatives and maintain our leadership position in the renewables business? Or do we stay with traditional generation systems and forego the economic and environmental benefits related to this growing global industry?

The choice is clear. Renewables provide an unlimited supply of power at an increasingly lower cost. Solar and wind emit no air pollution and present no health risks. Renewables provide jobs, generate investment and ensure energy stability for a very long time to come.

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