Renewable energy boosts Ontario’s economy, fights climate change

Renewable energy is a crucial link to our energy future. As jurisdictions and individuals reduce their reliance on fossil fuels; seek cleaner, greener alternatives; and as governments and industry invest in research while innovators develop leading-edge energy technologies, the sector is surging forward with unlimited potential.

The energy sources rely on wind, the sun, falling water and biomass (e.g., wood chips and crop residues), as opposed to non-renewable fossil fuels – coal, oil or gas. Renewable energy technologies too are clean (non-polluting), and can help to drastically reduce pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

The alternative energy sector also benefits the economy, creating business growth and new jobs. The global market for clean energy is vast. Ontario alone, for example, plans to replace all its coal-fired generation with clean alternatives, making a long-term $18-billion investment in renewable energy. Ontario Economic Development Minister Michael Byrant says: “Industry, researchers and government are all innovating and collaborating to ensure Ontario and its talented workforce can take full advantage of all the economic opportunities available in alternative energy and a cleaner, greener environment.”

This can be seen in Wind power, where in 2003, fewer than 15 megawatts of Ontario’s electricity came from wind power, compared with today where 500 megawatts are on line, with about 790 megawatts of new projects in progress. Prince Wind Energy Farm in Sault Ste. Marie, completed in 2006, for instance, is the largest wind farm in Canada with 126 turbines generating up to 189 megawatts ─ enough to power nearly 40,000 homes. Ontario is increasingly attracting manufacturers of wind turbines and related components, service providers and project developers.

Ontario’s solar energy industry is also a power house growing on average about 45 per cent per year for the past nine years. Businesses like Ottawa-based Menova Energy Inc. that developed an innovative solar technology that reduces typical energy bills by up to 60 per cent and has zero gas emissions continue to propel the sector. The Ontario government recently invested $3 million in Menova through its Innovation Demonstration Fund.

Research and development is a priority in this highly-competitive sector. Twelve research centres across Ontario are dedicated to alternative energy R&D, including McMaster Institute for Energy Studies and the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy. The Ontario Centre of Excellence for Energy was established in 2005 specifically to help move laboratory discoveries quickly into the marketplace by facilitating collaboration on energy projects between academic researchers and private sector companies.

The government also supports the sector’s growth through such programs as Ontario’s $1.15 billion Next Generation of Jobs Fund which helps businesses advance ‘new-economy’, environmentally-friendly projects.