The Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009 (GEA) helped spark significant growth in the production of clean and renewable energy in Ontario. It has created more than 20,000 clean energy jobs to date and is on track to creating more than 50,000.
The GEA authorized the creation of Ontario’s ground-breaking Feed-in Tariff Program—the most comprehensive program of its kind in North America. The program encourages investment through price certainty for different types of renewable energy sources, regulatory consistency and standard rates of return. The renewable energy sources include: Biogas; Biomass; Landfill gas; Solar photovoltaic (PV); Waterpower; and Wind.
The FIT Program was designed to:
- Create new clean energy industries and jobs;
- Boost economic activity and the development of renewable energy technologies; and
- Improve air quality by phasing out coal-fired electricity generation by 2014—the largest climate change initiative in North America.
The FIT Program has:
- Created thousands of direct and indirect clean energy jobs;
- Contracted 4,600 megawatts (MW) in addition to 2,500 MW through the Green Energy Investment Agreement (GEIA)—expected to produce enough electricity each year to power 1.8 million homes;
- Attracted over $20 billion, along with $7 billion from the GEIA, in private-sector investment to Ontario during challenging economic times;
- Increased the amount of clean energy in Ontario’s supply mix; and
- Supported Ontario’s plan to replace coal-fired generation, contributing to lower greenhouse gas emissions and better health for Ontarians.
Last year in Ontario, wind and solar alone produced more electricity than coal.
New Clean Energy: Powering daily life in Ontario
Ontarians have demonstrated their support for renewable energy through enthusiastic participation in the FIT and microFIT Programs. Today families, farmers, community groups, Aboriginal communities and small businesses are active contributors to Ontario’s supply mix—a role previously dominated by larger corporate players.
Ontario has come a long way in a short time. In 2003, the province had only 15 MW of wind power generated by 10 turbines. Through the FIT Program and its predecessors, Ontario now has more than 1,950 MW of wind power online, generated by more than 1,000 wind turbines, which are expected to produce enough electricity each year to power a city the size of London, Ontario.
Today , Ontario is home to the 10 largest solar farms in the country and is the leading solar energy producer in Canada.
Since the launch of the FIT Program, the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) has signed about 2,000 small and large FIT contracts with clean energy producers. These contracts total approximately 4,600 MW and are expected to produce enough electricity each year to power 1.2 million homes. In addition, almost12,000 families, farmers, community groups and small businesses are participating in the microFIT Program.
In less than a decade , Onta io has br oug ht more than 9,000 MW of new and refurbished clea n energy online which is expected to produce enough electricity each year to power both Ottawa and Toronto.
Job Creation: Encouraging new clean energy jobs
In 2010, the renewable energy industry employed 3.5 million people around the world. In Ontario, the FIT Program has spurred significant job creation in the renewable energy industry across a variety of sectors, including manufacturing, supply chain providers and construction.
Ontario’s clean energy policies have already created more than 20,000 jobs and are well on the way to creating 50,000 jobs through investments in renewable energy and conservation, as well as smart grid technology, transmission and distribution upgrades.
Direct and Indirect Jobs
The FIT Program has contributed to Ontario’s manufacturing base. Since 2009, it is estimated that the program has created almost 2,000 direct manufacturing jobs. The manufacturing process encourages the creation of jobs in sectors that supply materials, such as steel.
More than 30 companies are currently operating, or plan to build, solar and wind manufacturing facilities in Ontario. This has led to an increase in employment for supply chain providers with jobs in areas such as hardware and metal fabrication.
North Key Construction, based in Napanee,was the contractor of choice for the development of the “First Light 1″ project, one of North America’s largest solar photovoltaic energy parks. This 9 MW solar park, located in the Township of Stone Mills, Lennox and Addington County, will power more than 2,000 homes annually. Though a relatively small company, North Key has built upon its First Light success, developed extensive clean energy sector expertise and become a go-to contractor for numerous Ontario solar energy projects.
Other jobs related to the FIT Program are construction-based, providing an economic benefit for many Ontario communities. For every 10,000 construction jobs created by the clean energy sector, almost $500 million in economic activity flows back into Ontario communities.
Training and Education
In support of new job creation, Ontario’s public colleges and universities have introduced a number new programs related to the clean energy economy, including:
- Wind turbine technician training
- Green business management
- Renewable energies technician training
- Sustainable energy and building technology
- Clean and renewable energy engineering technology
Sault College has established a program in renewable energy and green construction techniques. The program helps students develop knowledge and practical skills related to renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and bio-energy, as well as energy conservation, green construction and renovation.
Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Energy (CUE) is an academic-industry partnership that is exploring and developing solutions to urban energy issues, such as the advancement of clean energy technologies, energy conservation and demand management, energy storage, and smart infrastructure.
Economic Development: Launching a new industry
The renewable energy industry has significant economic, environmental and health benefits for many countries around the world. Installed renewable energy capacity worldwide is expected to double in the coming decades.
Global Clean-Energy Projected Growth – 2010-2030 ($CDN Billions)
Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance
Renewable Energy Capacity
- 2010: $196
- 2020: $395
- 2030: $460
In 2010, Scarborough-based auto parts maker Samco Machinery Ltd. updated its machinery and invested in new equipment. Today, the company manufactures metal components and assemblies for a number of international racking players and is serving the demand for solar installations at the utility, commercial and residential levels.
Introduced during a period of global economic uncertainty, the Province’s FIT Program created jobs in the Ontario-based manufacturing and construction industries. It attracted significant foreign investment into the province at a time when international investors were scaling back their investments in almost every industry. Ontario’s FIT Program set the province apart from other jurisdictions by providing market certainty and a secure environment to make capital investments.
The FIT contracts, announced to date, and the GEIA, represent more than $27 billion in private sector investment in Ontario.
Emissions and Health: Phasing out coal for future generations
By the end of 2014, Ontario will be the first jurisdiction in North America to replace coal-fired generation with cleaner sources of power. This is the equivalent of taking seven million cars off the road, and is already having a significant impact on the quality of Ontario’s air.
Ontario has shut down 10 of 19 coal units and reduced the use of coal by nearly 90 per cent since 2003, with corresponding reductions in nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2). NOx and SOx are major contributors to poor air quality, and CO2 is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
In addition to cleaner air and fewer harmful emissions, the elimination of coal will also have significant health benefits for Ontarians. A 2005 independent study, “Cost Benefit Analysis: Replacing Ontario’s Coal-Fired Electricity Generation”, found that coal-fired generation costs $4.4 billion annually when health and environmental costs are taken into consideration.
The Ontario government is committed to building a clean, modern and reliable electricity system. With investments in infrastructure renewal and clean energy generation, the government is helping transform the province today and laying the groundwork for the Ontario of tomorrow.
In 2007, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives acknowledged that Canada’s natural resources in renewable energy (our wind, tidal, biomass, geothermal and solar resources) help ensure that Ontario is well-positioned to be a clean energy leader.
In the last decade, Ontario has:
- Facilitated the replacement of billions of dollars’ worth of outdated infrastructure;
- Dramatically upgraded the grid with more advanced equipment and technology; and
- Invested in cleaner sources of energy.
Ontario’s energy infrastructure upgrades have made the electricity system more efficient and reliable. Investments in smart meters and distributed generation, through programs like FIT, have positioned Ontario at the forefront of an emerging clean energy economy focused on:
- Smart grid technology (grid automation, data management, smart meters);
- Energy storage;
- Electric vehicles; and
- Other emerging technologies, such as concentrated solar photovoltaic (CPV).
A modern electricity system should be able to accommodate new energy supply from a variety of sources and deliver it reliably to consumers. It must take advantage of smart grid technologies to enable the efficient and cost-effective delivery of electricity, integrate more renewable technology and help customers better manage their electricity use.
ONTARIO’S SMART GRID OPPORTUNITY
A smart grid is a modern electricity system. It uses sensors, monitoring, communications, automation and computers to improve the flexibility, security, reliability, efficiency and safety of the electricity system. It increases consumer choice by allowing consumers to better control their electricity use in response to prices or other parameters. A smart grid includes diverse and distributed energy resources and accommodates electric vehicle charging. In short, it brings all elements of the electricity system—production, delivery and consumption—closer together to improve overall system operation for the benefit of consumers and the environment.
Ontario has seized the opportunity in smart grid as part of its efforts to become a clean energy leader. A smart grid will help Ontario achieve its clean energy goals, including the integration of renewable generation on the distribution grid and ambitious conservation targets.
Other jurisdictions, including the United States, China and Japan, are moving toward a smarter grid, but Ontario is leading the way in a number of areas. Ontario’s implementation of smart meters represents an essential first step in realizing the benefits of a smarter distribution system for consumers. Ontario’s efforts to integrate renewable energy and maximize conservation opportunities have created an ideal situation in which companies and utilities can test, develop and market smart grid technologies that have applications in global markets.
Powerstream, a local distribution utility operating north of Toronto, is developing smart grid utility capabilities, including digital fault detection, isolation and restoration, as well as an outage management system to improve service for its customers and avoid blackouts
The annual global market potential for smart grid equipment manufacturers and solution providers is expected to range from $15 billion to $31 billion annually by 2014, according to a 2010 report by McKinsey & Company. This is the ideal time to capitalize on Ontario’s leadership in smart grid technology by continuing to press for its development to benefit consumers, and expanding efforts to take Ontario technologies abroad, creating jobs and investment opportunities in the province.
Last year, GE Canada, in partnership with the Ontario government, chose to establish the GE Grid IQ Innovation Centre in Markham, with a commitment to creating 146 jobs in the area. This new global centre of excellence develops and manufactures smart grid products and services for Ontario and the world. Over the next four years, GE expects to spend $18.5 million to develop and manufacture grid modernization technologies. The centre will include a global testing and simulation laboratory.
There is also considerable promise in the development of electricity storage. Energy storage systems, including batteries, can provide short- or long-term storage. Short-term storage could improve grid reliability. Longer-term storage means that homes and businesses could store power for later use. Once the technology to store electricity is cost-competitive and market-tested, Ontario’s electricity system will benefit, as the province will be able to leverage its unique supply mix.
Ontario continues to encourage innovative opportunities and models for small- and micro-sized generation, especially those that can increase both economic and technical efficiency. One potential avenue for investigation is the self-consumption model in which power is generated where it can be used. This model can improve the flow of power on the grid and reduce or eliminate many of the losses associated with the delivery of power.