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Obstacles identified on the road to renewables
cp2011 opening panel

In a panel session on the future of the Ontario feed-in tariff program, Marion Fraser, a former advisor to the government, pointed out that the Green Energy Act was about more than just the FIT program. It also included strong provisions for conservation. She noted that the Green Energy Act Alliance, of which she was a member, asked for much more than what was actually included in the legislation. That included provisions for geo-thermal heat, electricity storage and price digression, the last of which would have avoided the sudden reduction in price for ground mounted solar systems. "The review process has to include going back and looking at what we originally asked for, " she said.

The biggest barrier, she identified, was the distribution system operated by Hydro One. She described the current transmission system as " a bunch of extension cords strung across the province."  This needs revamping, she said. She also warned about listening to those naysayers who claim there are technical problem with bringing on renewable energy. She pointed again to Hydro One criticizing the agency for seeking an exemption to the requirements that it connect micro-FIT projects in a timely fashion. People have invested their lifesavings in renewable energy systems, only to be told they can't be connected. "When one government agency stifles millions of dollars in investment from the private sector, that's crazy," she said.

Renewable energy generation is not the only sector of electricity production that First Nations should be involved in, said Byron Le Clair, of Pic River First Nation. He wants incentives to attract First Nations to own transmission systems as well. He noted that many new transmission lines will be laid across First Nation territory.

Workers to lay those lines will also be needed, pointed out Joe Mulhall, President of Canadian Union of Skilled Workers. Most workers in the energy sector are getting older and there isn't the skilled workforce to bring on all the renewable, he maintained. This must also be addressed, he stressed.

While much of the focus of this discussion focused on developers, John Spears, energy reporter for the Toronto Star raised the issue of costs to ratepayers, which he felt could not be ignored. At the same time, he pointed out several surveys, which show overwhelming support by the public for renewable energy. However, he said, people want to know why they are paying higher prices for clean energy to large commercial developers.  This will be an interesting question for the legislature, he predicted. His advice to the packed audience was to raise their profile and explain better who is actually benefitting from renewables.

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