by SUSAN MANN
Renewable energy leaders have given Ontario’s clean energy policies the thumbs up but say it’s now time for agricultural communities and farmers to take advantage of opportunities to produce electricity.
The province’s clean energy policies have gotten Ontario off to a promising start in the rapidly growing clean energy economy, it says in a press release accompanying the release of a report from organizations supporting clean energy initiatives. The report outlines rural Germany’s success in leading the development of clean energy and how Ontario has positioned itself to become a clean energy leader in North America. It was released Monday by email to various news organizations and posted on the website of Climate Action Network Canada.
Ontario government policies make it possible for farmers and community groups to participate in the electricity market as owners. But the agricultural community needs to seize current opportunities so it can be at the forefront of industries poised to define Canada’s energy future
The report, Harvesting Clean Energy on Ontario Farms, a Transatlantic Comparison, was produced by four organizations: the Heinrich Boell Foundation, a German organization working to promote cleaner energy; the Pembina Institute, a Canadian think tank on energy policy; the United Church of Canada; and Climate Action Network Canada.
Cherise Burda of the Pembina Institute, says Ontario is now at same point Germany was 20 years ago after officials there introduced a green energy act. Since Ontario introduced its Clean Energy Act two years ago, there has been incredible uptake of green energy production in Ontario. “One of the next opportunities where we really need to move forward is in agricultural communities with farmers.”
She says there are opportunities in all types of renewable energy production for farmers to consider, not just wind and solar power generation.
In conjunction with the report’s launch, the climate action network and other collaborators began a speaking tour featuring German farmer Hans-Detlef Feddersen, who is a leading expert on renewable energy and an adviser to the German government on clean energy matters. The speaking tour started Monday and ends Thursday. It goes to Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto and Guelph.
Hannah McKinnon, climate action network communications coordinator says Feddersen will be speaking at both public events and private briefings for different groups.
The locations and times of the talks are on the climate action network’s web site.
Feddersen, who grows mainly wheat on a 220-acre farm in northern Germany, says clean energy is the new norm in Germany with farmers driving the shift and benefitting from the growing economic returns. In his community, about 160 people joined a corporation to build a wind farm that provides enough electricity to power a city of 150,000 people.
Being part of a citizen-owned wind farm provides farmers with a second source of income, he says.
Germans have embraced green energy technologies. One of the report’s authors, Arne Jungjohann, of the foundation, says taking a train from Frankfurt to Hamburg, people see many windmills and they “actually like that.” Germans prefer living near windmills, solar electricity installations or have biogas production to living next to coal fired or nuclear-powered plants. They also see renewable energy production as something that strengthens their economy.
Among the report’s highlights are:
• Ontario is the only province in Canada where farmers have an opportunity to build clean energy projects ranging from biogas to solar to wind that bring 10 per cent rates of return;
• Ontario has specific incentives for community-owned energy projects aimed at engaging rural and farm communities;
• Germany’s success has been driven by long-term, stable support for clean energy across the political spectrum.
More than 5,800 megawatts of wind and solar generating capacity will be contracted, under construction or in operation by the end of 2012 as part of Ontario’s Feed In Tariff (FIT) program, it says in the report. The projection for the end of 2018 is for 10,700 megawatts of generating capacity. Applications to the FIT program have already exceeded the projection for 2018. For the microFIT program, more than 25,000 Ontarians have signed up. If this rate of uptake is sustained into the future, renewable energy could account for more than 60 per cent of the electricity generated in Ontario by 2030. BF