| Mar 19, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - March 19, 2009 Green Energy Act has supporters and detractorsBy Jeff Green

Reading government legislation is not exactly the kind of thing most of us like to do on a Sunday afternoon, and reading the press releases, backgrounders and executive reports that come along with new legislation is like reading a detailed advertisement. There is information there, but the information is packaged in order to sell something.

So, it is not easy to evaluate the new Ontario Green Energy Act based on all the information being presented.

What is clear is that Bill 150, the Green Energy Act, will effect a lot more than provincial energy policy. It will re-write a lot of the previous legislation that has ruled the province for years, affecting the powers of municipalities, changing the building code, changing environmental regulations, and more.

It will have broad impacts for homeowners, businesses, and governments for years' to come.

While the 75 page legislation allocates new authorities to different ministries, and gives the government more power to influence individuals and collective behaviour in the name of reducing carbon emissions, exactly how this will be done has not yet been worked out.

This makes some hopeful and some fearful.

For business owners in the renewable energy field, such as Ron and Anne Kortekaas of EcoAlternative energy in Sharbot Lake, there are potential opportunities.

EcoAlternative Energy sells solar and wind powered systems for off grid and grid tie in applications, and the possibilities for grid tie – in will be enhanced by measures in the Green Energy Act. This might considerably shorten the pay back period for the systems that EcoAlternative Energy and others sell.

Grid tie-in systems are generally solar panels that are used by homeowners and businesses to tie in to the hydro grid. The power generated turns the hydro meter backwards, sending power back through the hydro lines for use by other customers.

Among the issues that are being considered by the Ontario Power Authority in its response to the Green Energy Act is how to implement a `Feed-in tariff` pricing schedule, which will apply to all forms of renewable energy, from large-scale wind and solar farms, to micro-generation by individual homeowner.

Key to this is the price that will be paid for small scale power generation in a variety of categories. Among the price ranges are 53.9 cents to 80.2 cents per kilowatt of energy derived from “rooftop solar” generation.

“53.9 cents is a higher price than the 42 cents they pay now,” said Ron Kortekass, “but in public hearings we are encouraging people to ask for the 80.2 cent price.”

Kortekass also said that if interest free lands were available to purchase solar panels and other equipment for a home grid-tie system, then the market would really take off.

Currently, the payback for grid-tie systems, which in most cases translates into smaller hydro bills for most people, is rather long. The initial investment of $10,000 to $20,000 can take decades to recoup.

“If the price paid for the generated power goes up and there are interest free loans for individuals and business, that pay back time can come down to ten years or less, after which time there will be profits every year for those who get into it,” said Kortekaas.

Public meetings in Eastern Ontario, sponsored by Ontario Power Generation, will be announced in the coming weeks.

The stated goal of the Province is the establishment of 100,000 roof top micro power generators in the province, which would provide about 1% of Ontario`s power needs.

“The proposed feed in tariff program would help spark new investment in renewable energy generation and create a new generation of green jobs,” said George Smitherman, Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy and Infrastructure in a press release. “It would give communities and homeowners the power and tools they need to participate in the energy business in the new green economy.”

Going into public forums, OPG has announced that the following prices that they are considering for micro-generation; 80.2 cents for 10 kilowats or less, 71.3 cents for 10-100 kilowatts, 63.5 cents for 100-500 kilowatts and 53.9 cents for over 500 kilowatts produced.

Kortekass said people are being encouraged to express their opinion on all aspects of the Green Energy Act to the local MPP.

However, Randy Hillier, the Conservative MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, is no fan of the Green Energy Act.

Hillier has attacked the Act in Question Period and in an article published on the Canada Free Press website, calling it “Mcguinty’s mean and green energy machine, and rural Ontario’s nightmare.”

In an interview with the News from his office at Queen`s Park, he outlined his objections to the Act,

“We live in a democracy, and people in our riding have a strong affinity to democracy. They have certain expectations that are known and that are intuitive, and to sacrifice local democracy for provincial legislation means people who live in the community will no longer able to decide what goes on in our communities,” he said.

“The Green Energy Act overrides municipal authority, planning, and by-law powers” according to Hillier, by taking the approval process for wind farms away from local municipalities.

Hillier is also opposed to what he describes as “mandatory and costly home energy auditors and management plans, and the fact that the Act contains no targets.”

More ominously, Hillier said the new Act will create “green police, who will have powers of entry to inspect appliances, and force people to buy new ones, or subject them to huge fines, up to $25,000.”

When the News phoned the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure Renewal to ask whether inspectors will be entering homes to inspect appliances, George Nutter of the communications department, said Hilliers’ “suggestion about home inspections of peoples personal appliances is not anywhere on the legislation.

“The inspections that are included in the legislation relate to two areas and two areas only. One relates to the home audit program, and applies to property developers. The second is related to manufacturers; it allows a ministry inspector to have access to the records they need to ensure that energy standards are met by appliances at the point of sale.

“The spectre of the green police going into peoples homes to inspect their appliances is groundless.”

On the other hand, there are incentive programs already in place, funded by both levels of government, to encourage the purchase of energy efficient appliances.

Energy audits will be mandatory when houses are beings sold, Nutter said, “but the nature of those audits will be worked out if and when bill 150 passes.”

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