The Green Report
Ontario Rising Up to Green Challenges
The beautiful province of Ontario, Canada has been attracting tourists for years with its breathtaking mountainous landscapes and natural beauty. But changes are afoot and Ontario is now slowly attracting visitors of a different kind – investors interested in green technology
Spurred on by international pressure and the global crisis, Ontario is turning to renewable energy to jolt its tardy economy out of its recessionary stupor with green-energy policies and green-collar jobs. The Canadian province is fervently promoting its Green Energy Act (GEA), which was introduced at the beginning of 2009. One of the initiative’s ambitious goals is the elimination of coal-fired power by 2014. Apart from creating at least 50,000 jobs, the GEA will be aimed at stimulating green investment within the next three years. Currently, investments in new renewable energy projects already in place or under construction in Ontario total about $4 billion. Paul Massara, Chair of the Toronto Board of Trade recently commented, “With the introduction of the Green Energy Act, Ontario will be at the forefront of progress, a dynamic force for change.”
Solar power is one of the resources gaining prominence, with two projects in the pipeline and Canada’s largest solar farm opening in Ontario, the biggest project so far. Since October 2003, Ontario has added more than 1,200 megawatts of new, renewable generation, including more than 150 solar projects of varying sizes.
However, Ontario is pinning its hopes more on wind energy. In fact, Ontario is Canada’s leading source for wind power, producing enough electricity to power more than 300,000 homes. Two of the largest wind farms in Canada are located in Ontario and in the past year, the province has contracted approximately 500 MW of wind power. Currently, wind supplies a mere 1% of Canada’s electricity demand, compared to Europe’s 4% to 5%. But the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is expecting 2009 to be a record year for wind power in Canada. According to the CanWEA, by the end of this year, Canada will have 3,159 MW of installed capacity, with wind projects operating in every province for the first time ever. With this, the wind energy industry’s goal will be in closer sight- to account for 20% of the country’s electricity needs by 2025.
Ontario’s greening efforts are helping to retool Canada’s image as a whole. Canada has the dubious distinction of being one of the world’s worst polluters, emitting greenhouse gases amounting to around 23 tons per capita. A report by the United Nations pointed out that Canada is also spending less than its G20 counterparts on green projects – only 8% of Canada’s economic stimulus money has been set aside for environmental projects compared to 12% in the U.S. and 80% in South Korea, the current renewable energy leader. On the renewable energy ladder, Canada ranks 12th in the world for installed wind capacity despite having the second-largest wind energy potential after Russia.
The Canadian government has begun taking steps towards the promotion of clean energy and the reduction of 20% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. This is hoped to be achieved through technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), a method in which harmful carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is sequestered deep in a geological reservoir. The government also introduced the Economic Action Plan in January 2009 in which $1 billion has been relegated for clean energy research, including $650 million for large-scale CCS projects.
And Ontario is a crucial cog in the wheel of Canada’s clean energy plans. George Smitherman, Ontario’s Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, was the recipient of the 2009 World Wind Energy Award and was hailed as North America’s wind energy leader recently at the Eighth World Wind Energy Conference (WWEC) 2009 in South Korea. Following Ontario’s lead, many are hopeful that it won’t be too long before Canada is a green force to reckon with as well.
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