Green Power in Ontario Inspires British Columbia

Photo: istockphoto.com/Kativ
…and other news from the solar sector

Ontario’s burgeoning green energy market has recently attracted British Columbia’s attention.  The B.C. provincial government is set to introduce regulations similar to the feed-in tariff (FIT) program that has helped propel Ontario’s alternative energy sector forward over the past year.

Ontario’s FIT program encourages businesses, homeowners, and municipal facilities to diversify their energy portfolios with renewable sources.  The program also mandates that a certain portion of all labour and parts come from within the province, indirectly fuelling demand for solar training programs as well.

The Ontario Power Authority, administrator of the FIT program, received over 23,000 project submissions during the first year of the tariff, mostly for small-scale solar and wind power generation.  Controversy exists over the high price paid for solar power by the Ontario government, and the B.C. government has vowed not to support solar and wind projects with higher purchasing rates, focusing instead on "emerging technologies."

Officials in B.C. might not back solar energy projects, but Ontario continues to support this sustainable technology, designing much of its legislation with the ultimate goal of phasing out coal-powered electricity generation by 2014.  In fact, the province recently announced the closure of four such plants.  In terms of pollution reduction, shutting down these coal plants is roughly equivalent to taking two million cars off the road. 

Ontario Opens World’s Largest Solar Plant

Although the majority of FIT applications have focused on smaller-scale production, larger projects still account for the bulk of new solar capacity in the pipeline.  In fact, the world’s largest photovoltaic power plant recently went online in Sarnia.  The 80 megawatt (MW) plant, introduced by Enbridge Inc, is a large-scale example of the conversion to renewable energy currently underway across the province.  When introducing the 60 MW second phase of the plant’s production, Enbridge’s John Maniawski cited Ontario’s FIT program as a leading reason behind the province’s latest solar power addition.

Solar Market Benefits beyond Power

Ontarians have capitalized on the high prices offered for green energy projects, installing rooftop solar panels and educating themselves through solar classes and training seminars.  While some critics believe these high prices are responsible for Ontario's rising energy costs, such accusations do not necessarily factor in the long-term costs of cleaning the pollution generated from fossil fuels and other non-renewable forms of energy.  Comments Jacob Travis, President of Ontario Solar Network, "There's no price tag for sustainability, and there is no way to accurately tally the benefits of removing the equivalent of two million cars off the road."