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The Green Economy

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The Green Economy

The McGuinty government has crafted a plan to ensure Ontario is ready to become North America's leading green economy.  Read Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy and Infrastructure George Smitherman's speech to the Toronto Board of Trade.

Check against Delivery

Thank you Paul ... Good morning everyone. Since 2003, the government of Ontario, with the re-affirmed support of Ontarians, has been moving forward with the most ambitious climate change initiative in North America - the elimination of coal. Our progress to date - a renaissance of our energy system, reflected by billions in new investments - has been so successful that today, Ontario is prepared to raise the bar on our collective ambitions.

Ontario's Green Energy Act will be introduced this coming Monday. If passed, it will propel Ontario forward to be the North American green energy leader. Inspired by a dedication to achieve air fit to breathe ... Motivated by the desire to grow jobs in the green economy... The Green Energy Act, which in turn will amend no less than 15 existing statutes, operates on two equally important thrusts.

First off, making it easier to bring renewable energy projects to life. And secondly, creating a culture of conservation, one where we go about our daily lives using less energy, whether it's in our homes, businesses, schools, or industrial operations. These two thrusts combined will support a new green economy for this province ... and will create sustainable green employment for Ontarians. Mimicking the impressive employment growth in various European jurisdictions, economic modeling projects that the GEA will create more than 50,000 jobs in the next three years.

Employment to be created in:

Domestic manufacturing and assembly ...
For builders ...
In servicing and installation ...
Engineering and trucking ...
Financiers, electricians, inspectors.
Computer software and hardware.

New jobs on the renewables side will be augmented by employment growth as we transition Ontarians to lower per-capita energy use, through retrofits and the introduction of new technology that builds on our smart metering initiative. We see vast opportunities for everyone from architects who can design more efficient buildings and retrofit existing ones to contractors and labourers who can upgrade insulation, windows and furnaces. To the engineers who implement technologies that bring an end to lights that illuminate vacant spaces, escalators that climb for phantom pedestrians and fans that evacuate noxious fumes that do not exist.
And that's just a quick glance. Allow me to tell you more about how the GEA will, if passed, turbo-charge the creation of renewable energy in this province ... and set the standard for green energy policy across this continent. It will make this province the destination of choice for green power developers, and incent proponents large and small to develop projects by offering an attractive price for renewable energy AND the certainty that creates an attractive investment climate.

Certainty that we will purchase the power at a fair price.

Certainty that we will get the power connected to the grid.

Certainty that government will issue permits in a timely way.

The GEA will ensure that new green power doesn't get tripped up in all kinds of red tape ... but instead we will get new renewable generation built and flowing into the system ... FASTER ... complete with service time guarantees.

Here's how the GEA would work. The GEA, complemented by wide-reaching policy initiatives, will create a best-in-class renewable energy feed-in tariff. A FIT that does not place artificial barriers on our ambitions. While the tariff is European-inspired, it's engineered for Ontario. In layman's terms, it means Ontario will offer an attractive price for renewable power, including wind - on shore and off shore-- as well as solar, hydro biomass and biogas ... and we'll guarantee that price for decades. With this single bold move, we join global green power leaders like Denmark, Germany and Spain. And like those places we will adopt a very different approach to the development of the grid infrastructure necessary to take the energy to market. These past several years studies like Helimax, applications under RESOP and Expressions of Interest through various RFPs have told us volumes about where our best renewable opportunities lie.

Working proactively with our energy agencies we will initiate investments in the development of new transmission capacity, and the GEA will replace the snail's pace with a sense of urgency. Our Directives will be as clear as our intentions. Nowhere will our intentions be clearer than when it comes to streamlining the cumbersome processes that have created a patchwork of municipal guidelines. Like the Smoke Free Ontario Act that came before it, the GEA will build on municipal leadership, uploading responsibilities to Queen's Park.The current model, where different municipalities have imposed varying setbacks on wind projects will be replaced by universal minimum setbacks from adjacent homes and environmentally sensitive areas.

And my ministry will emerge with new capabilities and new leadership to support the facilitation of renewable energy projects. The Ministries of Environment and Natural Resources will develop a one-window, one-permit approach in an effort to streamline processes. And so long as all necessary documentation is successfully completed permits will be issued within a six-month service window.

Now, for many, the symbol of large wind farms dominates the perception of what renewable energy is and where it can be harnessed.
The GEA contemplates the emergence of thousands of smaller projects too, especially in our urban areas. The reliability of our electricity system will be substantially enhanced with distributed generation projects that, for example, transform roofs that currently reflect the sun to rooftops that put it to use. On Laurier Avenue in Cabbagetown homeowners have banded together and propose to capture the energy in the earth's core that lies beneath their street.  Some call it geothermal, others ground source heat pumps, but I call it just plain smart. Our GEA will enable those homeowners to access direct grants and low interest rate loans so their green vision can become reality. In fact, Denmark inspired me to encourage models where local investors -- often by the hundreds - create energy cooperatives to bring exciting projects to life. And my involvement with Ontario's First Nations, where leaders abound and excitement is palpable, further encourages our desire to support a much broader array of community proponents.
And speaking of communities, we understand that some people can become concerned whenever there is talk of new energy infrastructure. And there are those in some quarters who are worried that human health and safety will be put at risk ...

Of course, we will ensure that all renewable energy projects meet high safety and environmental standards, building on the experiences here in Ontario and from around the world. That's why, for the first time, there will be a standardized province-wide setback requirement for green energy projects like wind farms. Let me assure you that on the green energy front, there has been careful consideration of all the meaningful, peer-reviewed studies currently available on this issue. And the Ministry of the Environment will monitor and consider ongoing research to make sure health and safety standards reflect the most up-to-date information. To date, no significant peer-reviewed studies have definitively shown any significant health or safety issues associated with living near wind farms, which are amongst the most common new green generation projects.

Over the course of the coming weeks, the detailed provisions of the GEA will be subject to a legislative debate and to review by a committee of the legislature. I predict that the bill will be strengthened and improved through that process. And while our proposed legislation sets the stage, it is just one part of a bold new direction for green energy, a direction which will be reflected in numerous policy undertakings and in the IPSP, Ontario's long-term energy plan. I am very proud of the progress we have made to date, but I believe we can ... we must ... do more. Because make no mistake; the McGuinty government is committed to the GEA and its promise of a green future ... A future in which we can look back ... and recognize the true significance of the decisions we are making today.

A future in which all Ontarians will be proud to say:

We did not sit on the sidelines.
We chose to raise our game.
Working together, we won.
Clean energy. Jobs for our people.
And a big break for Mother Nature.

Thank you.