Road map to the energy autobahn

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A few words on Ontario’s Green Energy Act. Many have marveled at how quickly Ontario is moving ahead with new environmental legislation in recent months, not least of which is the recently adopted Green Energy Act which aims to drive investment to create a 21st century “smart” energy grid. The incentive behind this is the Ontario government’s commitment to eliminate dirty coal as a power source by the end of 2014.

The question remains though: does Ontario have enough time to meet its 2014 target? Well only if it can find a substitute.

Critics of the Green Energy Act – Greenpeace among them – have worried for some time that the Green Energy Act would unduly empower the government to direct the Ontario Power Authority to build new nuclear reactors without appropriate public consultation. They have their reasons to doubt.

There’s mounting evidence that the McGuinty government plans to build new reactors.

Not to mention that the province’s current plan is to cap the development of new renewable power by saving 50 per cent of the electricity grid for nuclear generation.

Much of the inspiration behind Ontario’s new legislation is Germany’s renewable energy policy which made the European country a global leader in the field (think photovoltaic and wind turbine installations) by setting the parameters of a predictable and transparent environment for green energy investments. And no doubt, the German experiment has indeed encouraged rapid growth of renewable energy industries.

Still, it’s worth noting that Germany’s renewable energy policy was first developed almost 20 years ago. As a result of its admirable efforts to phase out its reliance on nuclear power, it has significantly diversified its energy use, but it took time. And they continue to rely heavily on coal power. Usage has in fact increased to offset the phase-out of nuclear energy, which is why ten new coal-fired power plants are under construction in Germany.

To make up for its shortfall, Ontario could always turn to Quebec for cheap hydro-electricity but there’s no guarantee that it would be all that cheap.

In the end Ontario might have jumped on to the Energy Autobahn. But so far it looks like it’s taking a different exit.