Comment: Ontario proposes new feed-in tariffs

16 March 2009

The proposed FITs will "help level the playing field between renewable and fossil fuel-based power," writes The Climate Group's Jane Gray

With its recent announcement on proposed feed-in tariffs (FITs), Ontario is showing that provinces, states and regions continue to bring in the policies needed to create pathways to the new low carbon economy, this time for renewable energy.

The feed-in tariff is part of Ontario's new Green Energy Act tabled in February. Once passed, it will provide fixed pricing for wind, hydro-electric, solar, biogas and biomass energy flowing into the grid to help level the playing field between renewable and fossil fuel based power.

The move is right in line with what leading renewable energy companies say is needed. At the Climate Leaders Summit in Poznan, Poland this past December, Dr. Zhengrong Shi, CE0 of Suntech, said that his company grew over 100% every year for the last seven years (making them the largest solar manufacturer in the world) thanks to visionary government policy. He cited feed-in tariffs as a particularly important policy tool in growing the solar industry and estimated that, with enough of these kinds of policies in place, the price/kwh of energy from Solar PV technology could be on par with conventional grid power by 2012.

With its proposed FITs, Ontario is following the lead of European countries such as Germany where a feed-in tariff has spurred the growth of 40 solar system companies and employment for 20,000 people in the solar industry, an industry that now turns over ?1.7 billion per year. The FIT is said to be the policy behind the 214,000 jobs in Germany's renewables sector - more than the nuclear and brown coal industries combined.

Clearly the economic benefit is behind the Ontario government's FIT policy and new Green Energy Act, which also includes a range of measures to increase energy efficiency. "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. Indeed, fixed pricing for solar power has already prompted a deal with California based Opti-Solar to build four 10 MW plants in Sarnia, Ontario.

The government estimates that 50,000 new jobs will be created over the next three years as a result of passage of the Green Energy Act. In this time of economic downturn, congratulations to the Ontario government for shining a light on solar and forging a pathway forward to green jobs and a new low carbon economy.

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