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Attach some strings to wind policy

Ontario, which has developed and implemented some progressive policies for getting more renewable energy on the grid, hasn't found a way to tie these programs into a larger, economic-boosting industrial strategy. None of its request for proposals for new wind power has required any level of local content, nor does the province's standard offer program, which pays a premium for the electricity that comes from small-scale solar, wind, hydro and biogas projects.

When the Quebec government issued a call for bids back in 2005 to develop 2,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity in the province, one requirement was that at least 60 per cent of wind-farm costs be spent locally.

The intent was obvious. By ensuring a significant amount of local content and technologies, Quebec was planting seeds for a regional supply chain that would hopefully sprout into a thriving local wind industry.

It's too early to say whether the approach will be successful, but the province figured that going "green" wasn't just about adding renewable electricity to the grid. It was also about creating a green economy around it.

Last week, the province made it clear it intends to build a local solar industry as well. Renewable Energy Corp. of Norway announced it had picked the small Quebec community of B├ęcancour as the site of a new $1.2 billion solar materials manufacturing plant.

The investment - a coup, really - will lead to 1,000 jobs during the construction phase and about 300 permanent "green collar" positions and the government said it is developing a strategy that will see the province also embrace solar-power production. Again, it plans to be both a manufacturer and user of homegrown... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

When the Quebec government issued a call for bids back in 2005 to develop 2,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity in the province, one requirement was that at least 60 per cent of wind-farm costs be spent locally.

The intent was obvious. By ensuring a significant amount of local content and technologies, Quebec was planting seeds for a regional supply chain that would hopefully sprout into a thriving local wind industry.

It's too early to say whether the approach will be successful, but the province figured that going "green" wasn't just about adding renewable electricity to the grid. It was also about creating a green economy around it.

Last week, the province made it clear it intends to build a local solar industry as well. Renewable Energy Corp. of Norway announced it had picked the small Quebec community of B├ęcancour as the site of a new $1.2 billion solar materials manufacturing plant.

The investment - a coup, really - will lead to 1,000 jobs during the construction phase and about 300 permanent "green collar" positions and the government said it is developing a strategy that will see the province also embrace solar-power production. Again, it plans to be both a manufacturer and user of homegrown renewable technologies.

Ontario, which has developed and implemented some progressive policies for getting more renewable energy on the grid, hasn't found a way to tie these programs into a larger, economic-boosting industrial strategy.

None of its request for proposals for new wind power has required any level of local content, nor does the province's standard offer program, which pays a premium for the electricity that comes from small-scale solar, wind, hydro and biogas projects.

If you measure the standard offer program by the number of contracts approved - not built - then it has been quite a success. It issued contracts for more than 400 megawatts of solar power in its first year, compared to less than 100 megawatts it was expecting over 20 years.

But half of those contracts went to a California company named OptiSolar Inc., which is using its own projects in Ontario to justify the opening of a manufacturing plant in Sacramento.

I have received many emails over the months from readers justifiably wondering why Ontario is paying a hefty premium for solar power - 42 cents per kilowatt-hour - only to subsidize a California company so it can create jobs and other economic spinoffs in its own state.

No offence to OptiSolar, which is a great up-and-coming company that's just following the rules, but one must wonder whether Ontario needs to consider its own content requirements.

It's a tricky, chicken-and-egg situation. You don't want to require local content and then find out there aren't enough technologies, companies and skilled people in the province to follow through.

But, on the flip side, you'll never develop that supply chain and knowledge base if you keep paying out incentives to foreign companies.

Maybe incentives can be tiered. For example, if you meet local-content requirements you get 50 cents per kilowatt-hour for solar, and if you don't you get 42 cents. Maybe requirements can be small to start - like a 10 per cent minimum - then increased over time. Some strings need to be attached.

I'm not saying this will be easy, or that it's even possible in the Ontario context. But it's something that should certainly be considered as we fine-tune the province's rules for attracting clean electricity.

Tyler Hamilton's Clean Break feature appears Mondays.


Source: http://www.thestar.com/arti...

SEP 1 2008
https://www.windaction.org/posts/16862-attach-some-strings-to-wind-policy
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