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Waste Not, Want Not
On Thursday, 4th August, Mr. Peter Tabuns, Energy Critic, New Democratic Party of Ontario, gave a simple and strong statement on the Green Energy Act and renewable energy. Interviewed by Kristopher Stevens, Executive Director Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, Mr. Tabuns laid out the following key points:
Mr Tabuns highlighted the consistency of the NDP, pushing for efficiency and conservation. Other parties have blamed green energy for high prices. They were wrong. The cost of nuclear, and the revenue taken by energy traders and producers gaming the system, have a much bigger impact. The Liberals have used green energy as a defence of high prices which damaged green energy in many people's eyes. The Conservatives don't like green energy. The NDP want to minimize usage through less waste and greater efficiency. Then supply much of what is needed via renewables.
However changing the system will not be easy. Energy decisions are highly political. Current suppliers have a strong interest in protecting their revenues, profits and jobs. They will push back strongly against any changes. Consumers are accustomed to the current approach. It is very hard to imagine a different approach - and to trust it. Just as in the 1970's when people first talked about "a computer on every desk" - but it happened! Any company that did not adopt the new technology got left behind.
There are challenges. Our 20th century system is highly centralized: big nuclear plants, coal plants, hydro plants - and networks that move power outwards. The 21st century system is more dispersed. We need the distribution system to match if we want to keep up with the leaders. Ontario has rested on investments made in the 20th century such as at Niagara. Now we need to invest for this century but new/renovated generation capacity is high cost compared to investing in efficiency and conservation. We need to do both together to deliver affordable power which will create the political support needed to make this change. Efficiency and conservation minimize the peak demands which cause the highest cost generation. If we fall behind it is difficult to catch up and the energy system is a major determinant of income and productivity in Ontario
Peter Tabuns laid out the NDP energy platform for the upcoming election. It was announced yesterday with two main thrusts.
On the the Green Energy Act and Feed-In Tariffs (FIT), Mr Tabuns said they would stay but with emphasis on efficiency and conservation. The NDP originally proposed community and locally based green energy. It was not accepted at that time. An NDP government will rectify that omission and raise the profile of solar thermal as a source of energy. However, the NDP sees all large scale projects being publicly owned. Challenged on this, he stated that projects up to around 40 megawatts should be locally or community owned. Above that projects should be driven by the Province although existing contracts would be honoured. The private sector would manufacture and build with an RFP process enabling companies to propose projects. The current review of FIT must include thermal energy. The outcome must be a rate that is high enough to ensure investment and capture the benefits of improving technology.
A key issue is rebuilding lost investor confidence which has impacted job creation. The NDP is clear that the green energy industry has a bright future in Ontario and will be making a large contribution to the supply of energy. We need to build knowledge and skills, but they must be balanced. We need to fund R&D to ensure that manufacturing is competitive. But R&D goes where there is large scale manufacturing so we must also ensure that manufacturing skills are available. This two way connection between R&D and manufacturing is shown by IBM investing $40 million in an energy R&D centre in China attracted by the scale of the manufacturing base. Ontario needs both.
The discussion moved to municipalities and communities. Mr Tabuns stated that improving the current process was not enough. He supports growing municipal and local capability including financial. The local pressures go away if people are sharing not just tax revenues but profits as well. Enabling community ownership can work both ways. It is a benefit to potential developers since communities and municipalities can provide funding at significantly lower interest rates. Their involvement reduces delays, ensuring quicker time to revenue.
Green energy can support the farming sector with long term micro-FIT contracts providing stability to farmers. Bio-gas can provide multiple benefits: revenue from electricity, an excellent fertilizer and reducing the release of pollutants. Kris described a recent visit to a small community in Denmark where they are now generating 1 MW per family. It has created income and jobs so their young people are not longer forced to emigrate to the cities to have a future. Ontario needs farming for both food and energy security.
Related to communities and municipalities is the better use of heat through combined heat and power generation and use as district heating. Peter Tabuns' position is that this works best when the projects are sized to the heat needed and then electricity is generated as a by-product. This gives the best economics. On the role of solar thermal, he saw it as part of larger efficiency and conservation projects where it can reduce the release of greenhouse gases and the consumption of fossil fuels. Kris raised the question of offshore wind and the recent moratorium pending further research. "The moratorium is election driven..."
Finally Mr Tabuns was asked what he would say to the industry and to Ontarians.
To the industry: "The work you are doing is vital. We must have renewable energy, manufactured here in Ontario, to help us transition from fossil fuels. We guarantee that you will have a large market. You need our voice in the legislature, driving efficiency and conservation as well as green energy overall."
To Ontarians: "Ontario made a big bet on nuclear. It cost a fortune. It is still costing a fortune. In addition, we are giving $100 million to energy traders and people who game the system while renewable energy has little impact on costs. We need affordable energy now through efficiency and conservation - and no more games. We need jobs and affordable power tomorrow which means investing in renewable energy today."
Last Updated: Monday, August 15, 2011 at 2:05:29 PM