The Renewable Energy Alliance of Ontario (REAO), which includes Local 793 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, is calling on the province to renew its commitment to producing energy via a mix of wind, solar, geothermal and hydro projects.

“Now is the time to invest in renewable energy, not just because of popular support – but because it has never been cheaper,” the Alliance said in a brief presented to the Ministry of Energy on Dec. 14. “Now is the golden opportunity to demonstrate consistent and ongoing support for the renewable energy and clean technology industry.”

The 16-page brief explains in detail why the province must continue to be a world leader when it comes to the investment and development of renewable energy technology.

The Alliance is making five recommendations to the Ministry of Energy. Among the suggestions, it wants the province to commit to a 10-year target of a 50-per-cent renewable energy supply mix that includes wind, solar, geothermal and hydro power.

The brief was submitted to the Ministry of Energy because it is in the process of reviewing the province’s Long Term Energy Plan. A new plan will likely be rolled out in spring.

The brief notes that Ontario needs to support more renewable energy and build on the early progress that has been established.

It also states that renewable energy use continues to increase rapidly around the world and Ontario could be a key player in supplying demand across North America and globally.

The REAO is a broad coalition of employers, labour and industry groups dedicated to working with the Ontario government to ensure renewable energy continues to play a vital role in Ontario’s energy mix. In addition to Local 793, membership includes

  • Laborers’ International Union of North America
  • The Ontario Crane Rental Association
  • The Canadian Wind Energy Association
  • The Canadian Solar Industries Association
  • The Aboriginal Apprenticeship Board of Ontario
  • Rankin Construction
  • Pumpcrete
  • Surespan Wind Energy

The REAO has an online portal set up where members can email letters of support for renewable energy projects to their MPPs. Click here to go to the portal. As of Dec. 14, 194 emails had been sent to 71 different MPPs.

A Facebook page has also been set up by the REAO. Click here to go to the page.

The REAO is concerned about the renewable energy sector because the province announced recently that it plans to scrap $3.8 billion in future wind, solar and biomass projects under the Large Renewable Procurement 2, also known as the LRP2 program.

The brief notes that, with the passage of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act and phase-out of coal-fired electricity generation, Ontarians were pleased to see their government roll out an ambitious effort to develop a renewable energy industry.

By phasing out coal, Ontario undertook the most significant environmental act in North America – the equivalent of taking seven million cars off the road, cutting smog days and creating cleaner air, the brief states.

Nevertheless, the brief states, the future of Ontario’s renewable energy industry is uncertain.

The province is behind schedule on its 2013 Long Term Energy Plan forecast target of a 46-per-cent renewable energy mix by 2025 and has fallen behind other provinces, especially Alberta and Saskatchewan, which both recently announced renewables targets of 30 and 50 per cent, respectively, by 2030, the brief states.

Despite routine public attacks orchestrated by proponents of non-renewable energy sources, the brief states that renewable energy remains popular amongst Ontarians.

According to a recent EKOS Poll, more than 80 per cent of Ontarians say they would like to see their province generating more power from renewable sources.

Wind energy costs 61 per cent less than it did in 2009 while the cost of utility-scale solar projects are down 82 per cent, the brief states.

The brief notes that Ontarians deserve an honest, fact-based conversation about renewable energy and a government that fights back against a constant barrage of myths and half-truths.

One myth, states the brief, is that renewable energy is to blame for high electricity prices while the truth is increased prices are mostly the fault of service charges directly billed to consumers.

A second myth is that Ontario has too much electricity and pays other jurisdictions to take our excess supply. The truth is that as Ontario grows, our demand for energy is growing too.

The Conference Board of Canada estimates that $347 billion in investment in Canada’s electricity system is needed between now and 2030.

The brief states that investments in renewable energy projects have yielded enormous benefits for Ontario, both economic and otherwise.

Nearly $12 billion worth of investments have flowed from both the wind and solar power industries, leading to the creation of at least 180,000 net new jobs from these two industries alone.

As of early 2016, the brief states, about 600 projects with indigenous participation were under way or in development.

For example, the Aamjiwnaang First Nation from the Sarnia area and the Bkejwanong First Nations from Walpole Island are partnering with Northland Power to develop a 100-megawatt wind power project along Lake Huron near Grand Bend.

The brief states that investments have expanded the tax base at a crucial time for governments, with municipalities alone receiving close to $2 billion in revenues in the form of land lease payments, municipal property taxes, and community vibrancy funds.

The investments have also led to the development of a sophis­ticated renewable energy supply chain for the province, the brief states. For example, steel manufactured in Sault Ste. Marie is used to fabricate wind turbine towers in Windsor, solar panels manufactured in Guelph are mounted on steel frames built in Toronto, and wind turbine blades made in Tillsonburg are installed on turbines throughout the province.

The brief states that wind energy is becoming the lowest-cost option for new electricity supply in most Canadian provinces.

Ontario recently procured new wind supply as low as 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour (or $65 per megawatt hour), which compares very favourably against an average electricity supply cost of 11.14 cents per kilowatt-hour as of May 1, 2016.

The supply of renewable energy is infinite, the brief states, because once a wind farm or solar generating station is built, the price of electricity it produces is set and remains at a relatively steady level for the entire life of the project.

The brief states that Ontario cannot ignore the social and economic opportunities that are being unleashed by relevant energy efficiency policies and measures around the world.

“To do so is to be left behind as jurisdictions like China make massive productivity gains and discover new levels of social wellbeing.”

Following are the recommendations of the REAO:

  • Commit to a 10-year target of a 50-per-cent renewable energy supply mix including wind, solar, geothermal and hydro power. This will help sustain local demand for renewable energy and give renewable energy manufacturers and installers assurance they need to keep their operations active in Ontario.
  • Solidify Ontario’s domestic market for renewable energy. Building on prior successes, Ontario must develop a strategy aimed at enabling exports of both renewable energy related manufactured components as well as the electricity generated from renewable energy sources in order to take advantage of the need for non-emitting renewable energy in neighbouring jurisdictions with renewable energy targets they are unable to supply for themselves.
  • Maintain low levels of greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector even in the face of potential risks to supply/demand and increased electrification of other sectors of the economy.
  • Ensure a robust and competitive bid process for non-emitting resources to secure lowest cost of power while managing greenhouse gas emissions. It is unclear how existing and future generations will commercially operate once contracts have expired. The mechanisms that will be used in the future to help ensure Ontario has adequate resource capacity is just as important as pre-defining Ontario’s future supply mix based on policy objectives of affordable, non-emitting and reliable resources.
  • Follow through on the commitment to create a robust solar net metering regulatory framework that encourages cost efficiencies, customer choice and innovative business models to transition away from the FIT Program effectively.