A coalition of union, employer and Aboriginal representatives has been formed to convince the Ontario government that renewable energy ventures such as wind, solar and biomass projects should continue to be part of the province’s long-term energy plan.

The Renewable Energy Alliance of Ontario (REAO) maintains the government must stick to its target of 50 per cent renewables by 2025 if it is to maintain its place as a world leader in renewable energy in the face of stiff international competition from China and India.

The coalition was formed in October after Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher arranged a meeting at the union’s head office in Oakville to find out how other unions, industry employers and representatives of Aboriginal groups wanted to respond to the provincial government’s sudden decision to axe $3.8 billion in future wind, solar and biomass projects across Ontario under the Large Renewable Procurement 2, or LRP2 program.

The cancellations will result in the loss of contracts for up to 1,000 megawatts of power from solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.

“Renewables such as wind and solar are the safest, most economical, environmentally friendly and healthiest way for us to generate energy for our province,” Gallagher said in a statement.

“Investment in renewables also creates many jobs for Operating Engineers and other building trades in Ontario. Renewable energy should remain a vital part of Ontario’s long-term energy plan.”

More than two dozen representatives of employers and unions attended the initial meeting, along with Sara Monture, a representative of the Aboriginal Apprenticeship Board of Ontario.

The coalition members decided to hire consultant Hill+Knowlton Strategies to develop key messages and materials, set up meetings with decision-makers and conduct a media and digital campaign. The consultant is also preparing a brief that will be presented to government.

A logo has been developed and the coalition has set up a website at www.renewourfuture.ca to galvanize the millions of Ontarians who support renewable energy projects.

The website dispels some of the myths surrounding renewable energy and explains the charges on hydro bills. Members can also send a message of support on renewables to their MPP.

Meanwhile, representatives of the coalition have been attending meetings around the province on the future of Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan. The consultations have been arranged by the provincial Ministry of Energy to get input from the public and stakeholders.

Coalition members have been making the following points:

  1. Renewable energy helps to stabilize long-term energy costs.
  2. Ontarians support renewable energy by wide margins, and are in favour of increased investment in renewable energy technologies.
  3. Investment in renewable energy technology has resulted in the creation of good paying jobs.
  4. As Ontario moves toward the implementation of the Climate Change Action Plan, there is a projected increase in demand for energy and Ontario will need to meet this increase in a cost effective and carbon neutral way.
  5. Ontario must stick to the target of 50 per cent renewables by 2025 if it is to maintain its place as a world leader in renewable energy.
  6. Renewable energy is now as cost effective as other sources of energy. It is not the reason Ontarians have been facing higher hydro rates.

Meetings have been held in St. Catharines and Guelph and a meeting is scheduled for Nov. 22 in Pembroke.

Following is a schedule of the remaining meetings:

  • Nov. 23 – Nepean Sportsplex, 1701 Woodroffe Ave, Nepean – 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Nov. 24 – Holiday Inn, 2 Princess Street, Kingston – 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Nov. 28 – Holiday Inn, 1855 Huron Church Rd., Windsor – 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Nov. 28 – Holiday Inn, 30 Fairway Rd. S., Kitchener – 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Nov. 29 – Best Western Plus Stoneridge Inn and Conference Centre, 6675 Burtwistle Lane, London – 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Nov. 30 – Mississauga Living Arts Centre, 4141 Living Arts Dr., Mississauga – 6 to 8 p.m.