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Huge Mistake to Cancel Ambitious Green Energy Act

One of the hottest issues in this week’s Ontario election is the Green Energy Act. Indeed, many are referring to the provincial election as a referendum on renewable energy. The Green Energy Act, modeled after similar legislation in Germany and passed in 2009, was created by the McGuinty government. Hudak has vowed to cancel it if elected. Andrea Horwath has stated that she’ll keep the legislation.Despite initial criticism, the impact that similar legislation has had in Germany has been profoundly positive. In fact, the success of the program has even won over conservative German Chancellor Angela Merkel after reaching targets this year that they had not expected to reach until 2020. She has since almost doubled the target of drawing 35% of Germany’s power from green sources by 2020.

This is something Ontarians may want to consider when they head to the polls this Thursday. A win for Hudak and subsequent cancellation of this program could be the effective death knell for the renewable industry in the province. The setback to pollution control that cancellation of this program would entail should not be underestimated. With the recent finding of a massive hole in the ozone above the Arctic, the reduction of emissions is more important than ever. Initiatives like the Green Energy Act could help Canada achieve what should be broader emission reduction goals. Chris Turner of the Ottawa Citizen calls the Green Energy Act “the best piece of climate and energy policy on the books anywhere in North America”. Indeed, it could take years before a similar ambitious program could be implemented at which time the effects of pollution and climate change would be a much bigger problem.

Ontario’s Green Energy Act, like the green legislation in Germany, introduced feed-in tariffs for green energy, which reward green energy producers by paying them above market rates for the power they produce and feed into the grid. The result in Germany has been the creation of 340,000 green jobs over an 11 year period. Germany has become a leader in clean-tech, with annual revenues of $50 billion and growing. By the end of the decade, the green industry in Germany could be as big as its world renowned auto industry. Germany has emerged not just as a leading manufacturer of green energy technology, but also as a research centre.

Ontario has the potential to become the world’s next great green technology centre, creating much needed jobs to replace the province’s decimated manufacturing sector. Though interest in the program is through the roof, the overwhelming demand has created a bottleneck in processing applications. This has stymied the implementation of many residential rooftop solar installations. Instead, the main beneficiary of the act has been industrial scale wind farms based in rural areas. With a streamlined application process and better cooperation from hydro companies, Ontario could unleash the full potential of the Green Energy Act and become the North American leader in clean technology.

Already, the Green Energy Act has created 20,000 jobs, with another 30,000 expected by next year. To cancel this ambitious legislation before it has had a chance to make a more meaningful impact would be a missed opportunity for the province. The industry is just finding its legs in the region and the cancellation of the program could pull the carpet out from under it before many new companies have a chance to become sustainable and the jobs it has created become permanent.

While other important issues must be considered when voters cast their ballot, the future of the Green Energy Act and what it means to the future of Ontario including a progressive job market should be first and foremost in their minds.

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