Ontario Sitting on Energy “Goldmine”

Ontario can add at least CAD $9 billion (US $7.35 billion) to its economy and create 25,000 new jobs by 2010 if the province uses renewable energy to power its electricity system, says a new report from the David Suzuki Foundation.

The report shows how Ontario can immediately develop its abundant renewable sources of energy while creating a new focus on conservation and energy efficiency. In return, the province will get a more reliable, cost-effective electricity system, cleaner air, tens of thousands of new jobs, and the development of a vibrant industry. “Many countries around the world are already reaping the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy,” said scientist and broadcaster David Suzuki. “Ontario seems to be unaware it is sitting on a goldmine that will solve its electricity and air pollution problems.” The report, authored by leading experts in the field, summarizes the potential of five sources of renewable energy: wind, hydropower, biomass, geothermal and solar. It analyzes the economic benefits for each source and makes specific policy recommendations on how to rebuild Ontario’s power system with renewable energy. For example, the report explains how Ontario could install 8,000 MW of wind power by 2012, generating about nine percent of current electricity demand. Doing so will produce nearly $14 billion in economic benefits and create 5,000 wind industry jobs. “Wind energy offers a new cash crop for Ontario farmers, potentially pumping billions into the rural economy,” said Paul Gipe, author of the report’s wind chapter. “Wind turbines require only a very small land area, in some cases allowing farmers to plow to the base of the towers. Farmers, by either leasing their land to wind developers or by installing the wind turbines themselves, can earn tens of thousands of dollars per year in revenue while continuing to produce their traditional crops.” The release of the Suzuki Foundation’s report coincides with the second reading of Ontario’s new electricity legislation, which sets a modest target to have 2,700 MW of renewable energy by 2010. “Our report shows how the Ontario government can go a lot further,” said Dr. Suzuki. “Ontario has the opportunity to position itself as a North American leader in renewable energy.” The need for renewable energy is starting to intensify in Ontario. Concerns about air pollution resulted in a promise by the Ontario government to close down its five coal-fired electricity power plants by 2007. That shutdown will give Ontario cleaner air but it will also leave a supply-demand imbalance of about 7,500 MW. The Suzuki Foundation’s report shows that imbalance can be entirely filled with renewable energy, which is much cheaper and more reliable than nuclear power and large-scale natural gas. Renewable energy will also fuel the development of a vibrant new industry in Ontario. For example, Canada’s first full-scale solar manufacturing plant opened in June 2004 in Cambridge, Ontario. Spheral Solar will create 200 jobs and add $100 million to the Canadian economy by the end of 2005. However, the primary markets for the Cambridge company are international. Changes in public policy could create significant opportunities here at home for this and other companies. “It’s time for Ontario’s priorities to change,” Suzuki said.


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