Green Energy Act Finance Forum
Thank you ladies and gentlemen for inviting me to speak with you today, and thank you Deb Doncaster [Executive Director, Community Power Fund] for that kind introduction.
Some of you may know that Deb was a founding member of the Windshare Co-operative.
They built the first urban wind turbine in North America, just a few kilometers from here at Exhibition Place.
When that turbine went up in 2002, some critics said it was nothing more than a symbolic gesture.
The critics said there was no future for renewable energy in Ontario, certainly on any kind of large scale.
Well, you and I have happily proved our doubters wrong.
Look what happened thanks to the visionary efforts of some dedicated Ontarians.
When Windshare's turbine went up, it was one of 10 in Ontario.
Today, we have nearly 700, with many more to come.
And none of that would have been possible without the efforts of people in this room.
As the saying goes: "The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now."
So thank you for all that you are doing right now to build a stronger province and for coming together, today, as leaders in finance and green energy to find better ways to work together right now.
Today, I want to speak about our government's vision for green energy and a green economy in Ontario and how we are working to make that plan a reality.
First let's be honest about the challenges, because pretty well every other place in the world is trying to weather this global economic storm and come out ahead.
And leaders abroad are doing what we've done here -- they are in the crow's nest, scanning the horizon for the new economic opportunities, looking to chart a new course for success.
Here in Ontario we know where our opportunity lies, we've already set sail.
There's no turning back.
We are determined, we are resolute and we will succeed.
We will be a North American leader in clean, green, renewable energy.
And we are demonstrating that we are prepared to do whatever it takes to get there.
Other places in the world are taking notice.
When I was in India just recently, leading an environmental technology trade mission, I heard a leading industrialist say that Ontario is on its way to becoming the Silicon Valley of green tech.
I like the sound of that.
But we're going far beyond nice sounds and high hopes.
We are nailing down solid, practical, aggressive government policies to ensure our success in green energy generation, green energy R&D, green energy manufacturing, and, of course, green energy jobs.
This is part of our larger, long-term economic plan to make Ontario stronger and more competitive.
Here are, briefly, four parts of that broader plan:
One: We're cutting personal and corporate taxes and we're moving ahead with a harmonized sales tax.
Not because the latter is easy or popular, if it were easy or popular other governments would have done it.
We're doing it because it's the right thing to do for our economy and for our future.
Economists tell us our tax reforms will create 600,000 new jobs -- so I am in.
Two: We are supporting our economy's recovery and jobs for Ontario by investing over $17.5 billion in public infrastructure this year.
Three: We are building a strong work force.
Among other things we are opening our schools to full-day learning to our four- and five-year-olds knowing, as we all do, that a strong start in elementary schools makes for a strong finish in an apprenticeship, college or university and a good job.
Four: And of greatest interest to you I am certain, we are exploiting the opportunities that we created with our Green Energy Act.
In the words of Al Gore, and I quote, our green energy act is: "widely recognized now as the single best green energy program on the North American continent."
At the centre of our Green Energy Act is our Feed-In Tariff program.
The FIT provides guaranteed rates for renewable energy.
It gives investors what they are looking for: stability, certainty and our commitment that we are in this for the long term.
The response from the green energy community has been very, very positive.
We announced the program less than a year ago, and we've already received over a thousand applications for projects with a potential to generate over 8,000 megawatts of renewable energy.
The Ontario Power Authority is reviewing the applications now and will give priority to shovel-ready projects.
The developers behind these projects are going to be looking for partners like you to help make them a reality.
They will need your financing and your sound advice. And you can take comfort that each of those contracts will be backed by the province of Ontario.
We've also received even more applications for green energy projects of 10 kilowatts or less.
We have people banging on our doors to put up a wind turbine in their backyard or a solar cell on their roof, so they can sell the excess electricity back to the grid.
The current reality is that all these projects would generate more electricity than we have the capacity to transmit.
I am sure you've heard about our agreement with Samsung.
A $7 billion investment, biggest of its kind in the world, creating over 16,000 new jobs.
And just so we are clear, that 2,500 megawatt Samsung deal, only entitles Samsung to 500 megawatts out of the first 4,000 megawatts of transmission capacity we presently have available.
That leaves 3,500 megawatts up for grabs today with more to come tomorrow.
We're investing over $2 billion in new transmission lines to build out the grid across Ontario.
And the impact of the Samsung deal will be to accelerate that build out.
That's good news for everyone.
We're serious about getting into the green power generation business in a big way -- but we want more than that.
We want in on the green energy manufacturing business too.
So, we're looking past our own borders to where the demand of green energy is also going to be.
And I want to be ready to help satisfy that demand.
So, if you're looking for a place to building green manufacturing facilities, I want you to know that Ontario's arms are wide open.
You may have heard of a study put out recently by the U.S. government. It says that the eastern U.S. has the capacity to generate 225,000 megawatts of renewable power.
They say that will take an investment of over $90 billion and a whole lot of wind turbines and solar cells.
Our goal is to have as much of that technology as possible stamped and made in Ontario.
Think of the Samsung investment as a flagship store in a new mall, one that will attract lots of other competitors and complementary businesses, giving us a strong green energy cluster.
And that means more jobs.
I've always thought the single most important question in politics and government is not what, when, where, or how, but why. It's the motivational force.
So why are we moving so aggressively with our Green Energy Act and our feed-in tariff program?
Because, I believe, Ontario families have the right to be hopeful for their future.
Hopeful, knowing that working together, we can find opportunity in the post-recession world.
That we can, for instance, tackle climate change and create jobs at the same time; that we have what it takes to move smartly and quickly; that we can seize the advantage while others ponder.
So, for me, that's what this is all about.
It's about giving our families reason to be hopeful.
And as Premier, there is nothing more important to me.
And I want to thank you -- each of you -- for everything that you do, each in your own way to reach higher, to build more, to take risks, to make investments, to create jobs, to support families.
Because when you help build up Ontario, you're giving our families hope.
And I thank you for that.
Thank you very much.