My story in today’s Toronto Star is about a new industrial efficiency program that will soon be unveiled by the Ontario Power Authority. Under the plan, the province will agree to pay up to 70 per cent of the cost of an industrial energy retrofit, making it possible for the industrial energy user to achieve up to 30 per cent energy savings and a one- to two-year payback on investment. The aim is to get 300 MW of savings initially. The province’s contribution to each project is capped at $10 million. While giving away millions to help industry use less energy would seem misguided, it’s in fact a very smart and effective strategy. The money being paid out will be much less than what it would cost to built a 300 megawatt power plant. Meanwhile, helping key industrial players become more efficient makes the Ontario economy more competitive and insulates these industrial operations — and the jobs they create — from economic downturns.
Roughly 50 to 60 big industrial players that connect directly to the province’s transmission system can participate in the program, which was spearheaded by international mining companies XStrata and Vale Inco, as well a steel giant ArcelorMittal Dofasco. The three companies, which formed a working committee that reported to the power authority, estimated that efficiency gains could “realistically” achieve 1,000 megawatts over five years.
Industrial efficiency might not be as sexy as solar and wind — actually, it’s definitely not as sexy — but the simple fact is that the greenest and cheapest megawatt is the one that isn’t used. This is a smart program. Oh yeah, and we shouldn’t forget the stimulus effect. These projects will create much-needed jobs over the next few years.