March 21, 2006
Ontario is offering to subsidize homeowners and businesses that switch to renewable power sources like solar panels or wind turbines.
It’s the first program of its type in the country and Premier Dalton McGuinty says he hopes the plan will see a quarter of a million homes powered by renewable energy within a decade.
While Canada is far behind European countries like Germany in providing renewable energy, McGuinty says the incentives are the most progressive in North America.
“We’re taking a bold new step that will allow hundreds of small, local renewable energy producers to get into the energy market,” he said.
The government will pay an inflated price for the energy for 20 years to help make the project attractive: 42 cents a kilowatt-hour for solar and 11 cents for wind, biomass, or small hydroelectric projects.
McGuinty expects entrepreneurs and many of the province’s farmers will get involved. “You know what we’re doing, we’re creating a market for a new cash crop in Ontario.”
Environmentalist David Suzuki praised the move, but there are skeptics, including Energy Probe‘s Tom Adams.
“I think it’s really about spin and press releases,” he said. “It’s not really about serving consumers with renewable energy at a reasonable price.”
Asparagus farmer Tim Berry, who’s also a small shareholder in a solar energy company in Cambridge, Ont., says he’ been thinking of putting solar panels on his barn for years. The new incentives announced, he says, may make it worth his while.
“It’s changed the game tremendously, so we’re looking at the economics of it. But where we were yesterday and where we are today, it’s put Ontario at the forefront.”
The program is also being pitched to homeowners, but the upfront costs – as much as $30,000 – are substantial. Experts say it could take 20 years before homeowners pay off their initial investment and turn a profit.