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Ontario passes Green Energy Act

Ontario passed its Green Energy Act yesterday, hailed by some as one of the most progressive in the country because it establishes a feed-in tariff for new renewable electricity generation.

A feed-in tariff provides different prices for different types of power generation, and experts say it's a policy that could be used in British Columbia to promote smaller, diversified and community-based generation.

BC Hydro has a standing offer program, which is aimed at small power projects (under 10 MW) but the price does not vary depending on the type of technology. So far the only project delivering energy under the program is a small run-of-river project on Vancouver Island.

In a Tyee article on feed-in tariffs published last year, energy analyst Paul Gipe, who helped develop Ontario's version of the standing offer program, said the price for renewable energy would have to be higher in order to reflect the cost of the technology.

Nicholas Heap of the David Suzuki Foundation said the same: "If the to build a renewable energy sector in B.C., that needs to be achieved with different prices to make different technologies available."

Ontario's Green Energy Act isn't without its critics. The Progressive Conservation opposition argued the bill will amount to extra costs for consumers. Some environmentalists also wonder how effective the act will be, given Ontario's current energy plan. It calls for half the province's supply to come from nuclear generation.

Next month, Energy Minister George Smitherman will decide whether or not to replace or refurbish the Pickering nuclear station, which is scheduled to come offline in 2013. That decision will steer the direction of Ontario's energy plan.

"We've got a great Green Energy Act but it needs available grid space in order to grow," said Cherise Burda, the Pembina Institute's Ontario policy director.

"We're recommending that the minister makes a decision to shut down the station and replace the equivalent capacity with green energy. It's absolutely feasible to put that much green energy on the grid. There is 2,000 MW coming from Pickering...and the OPA [Ontario Power Authority] found that there was 15,000 MW of green energy in various stages of development right now."

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Hook.

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