Historic energy law: Ontario Green Energy Act passes by significant margin

Well, just three months after being tabled Ontario’s Liberal government has succeeded in getting its Green Energy and Economy Act passed into law. The bill passed by a vote of 59 in favour and 13 against, and will be effective immediately after it gets Royal Assent (a rubber stamp).

This, with no exaggeration, is an historic event in North America. The new law creates a framework for giving renewable energy and conservation priority access and consideration in the design and expansion of Ontario’s electricity system. It will speed up development by streamlining regulations and approvals and will draw more players, such as municipalities, local utilities, community co-ops, and native groups, into clean-energy projects. Programs to flow from the Green Energy Act, such as a new European-style advanced feed-in tariff aimed at stimulating renewable-energy projects, will make Ontario a major attraction for investors and will set an example for other provinces and states to follow.

“The Green Energy Act will truly set us on the path to a 21st century green economy for Ontario, one that is sustainable, easy on the environment, and focused on the jobs of the future,” said Energy and Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman.

The act has received much praise domestically and abroad. Robert Pollin, co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, called the legislation “excellent.” Similar kudos have come from British economist Sir Nicholas Stern and German legislator Hermann Scheer.

Stefan Gsanger, secretary general of the World Wind Energy Association, said the law represents “an historic international milestone as the act promises to be the most advanced piece of renewable energy legislation in North America.”

It’s not perfect. It has its critics. A lot is left to be proven. But at least the path has been laid and the work can get started. Time to roll up the sleeves, Ontario.

(Note: Thanks to the University of Guelph student newspaper for the above image)

11 thoughts on “Historic energy law: Ontario Green Energy Act passes by significant margin”

  1. This is excellent news! I’m very pleased that Ontario is becoming a leader in renewable energy development. There’s so much potential here, especially wind!

    It’s a sad day for NIMBY’ism though :)

  2. This is great news, it’s a step in the right direction, but don’t be fooled, we have a long long way to go.

  3. One of the most significant drawbacks from this bill is that it concentrates a tremendous amount of power into the hands of the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure. I think industry actors need to be cautious here – the Ministry has given itself the ability to direct the OPA and the OEB to behave effectively as it sees fit with regards to renewables. Having independent agencies looking over the electricity sector is not a bad thing – it prevents politics (4 year cycle) from infiltrating too much planning and decision making for the electricity sector (20+ years investment cycle).

    Remember that Ontario operates without a set of formal renewable power targets and that there are no built-in mechanisms in the law to deal with over-/under-investment. Such provisions are critical because feed-in tariffs – unlike auctions – have no way to account for differences in individual market participants’ average total cost curves. The Ontario approach stands in stark contrast to the German law where industry actors have full visibility on the growth levels sought by the government.

    Is this an historic piece of legislation? Certainly. Are we headed toward “RESOP Abrupt Cancellation Because Our Initial Planning Was All-over The Place: Part II”? That certainly cannot be excluded as there are no checks-and-balances to prevent the government from suddenly pulling the plug on the program if that proves politically convenient.

  4. The news about bill 150 was announced today to start up the day at the Climate Project Summit in Nashville with Al Gore and David Suzuki. The 80 Canadians participants out of the 500 total from 18 countries were quite proud of this real progress in the fight against climate change. We are seeing provincial leadership – now is the time for federal leadership.

  5. I read the ‘Bill 150 Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009’ on the Ont Gov website, the wording about the “energy audits” or whatever, is pretty vague. No mention that I can see about the “$300 fee”, or who exactly would do this audit (who is qualified?).

    “3. (1) A person making an offer to purchase an interest in real property has the right to receive from the person offering to sell the property such information, reports or ratings as are prescribed,

    (a) relating to energy consumption and efficiency with respect to a prescribed residence on the property or a class of prescribed residences on the property…

    …do not apply where the person making the offer waives, in writing, the provision and receipt of the information, reports or ratings”

    The buyer of a property “may waive” this, but not the seller. Which means what, exactly?

    So maybe a home seller can just hand over the old Hydro and gas bills, and call it done.???

    Anyone can provide some clarity here about what this means?

  6. The way I read the audit statement is that the power lies in the hands of the buyer as it should. Therefore the buyer has the right to the information and would be giving away those rights by signing the waiver. The energy audit provides the buyer with the information needed to properly evaluate this large purchase that they will be making. The cost of the audit represents less than 0.5% of the purchase price and therefore is money well spend.

  7. Agree with Charles’ point and also skeptical given the statement: ‘The legislation itself is expected to lead to many important changes, including a process of regulatory and policy changes”. I don’t believe it given the nuclear sector plays with a different set of rules and the up and coming renewable players are governed ad-hoc.

  8. Would you like to comment on the small access limits communities have to the grid, maximum of 500kWe. Larger projects, such as community scale CHP projects similar to those found in Northern Europe using biomass, are blocked as the capacity has been reserved in a colonial style 1st come 1st served basis by mainly European investors without input from the communities served. In other words communities, who have paid for the grid and still do (see the debt retirement portion of every bill), are barred from developing efficient regional scale energy systems. Thus effectively, our sun, wind and biomass resources have been preempted by foreign investors who will be laughing all the way to the bank.

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