New 12 MW Solar Installation by EDF in Ontario

Toronto-based EDF Energies Nouvelles Canada (EDF) announced on January 4 that its 12 MW St. Isidore A solar installation successfully joined Ontario’s alternative energy industry when it began operations in late December. St. Isidore is a community of fewer than 1,000 people located in Prescott and Russell County, east of Ottawa, the nation’s capital. The project created jobs for two hundred builders and career solar workers.

Ontario is home to the Ontario Power Authority’s (OPA’s) feed-in tariff (FIT) program and its companion, the microFIT, which deals with projects smaller than 10 kW. The programs create clean air by paying owners of participating solar, wind, and biofuel projects high rates to feed renewable power into the grid. It also creates alternative energy career opportunities for graduates of solar installation training courses and other “green” educational programs in the province. St. Isidore A will participate in Ontario’s Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program – which the OPA has since replaced with the microFIT – as will its companion project, St. Isidore B, which the company expects to complete by the end of 2011. The projects are EDF’s fourth and fifth to take part in the region’s solar industry.

EDF has operated in Canada since 2007. Its parent company, EDF Energies Nouvelles, is headquartered in France and operates in thirteen European countries and “coast to coast in North America.” The companies offer an integrated approach that ranges from project development through to power generation. EDF Energies Nouvelles’ subsidiary, enXco Service Canada (enXco Canada), will operate and maintain St. Isidore A. EnXco Canada is the new Canadian wing of San Diego-based enXco, a solar, wind, and biogas developer with more than two decades of experience in the renewable energy industry.

“Today marks another notable achievement for EDF EN Canada,” says Tristan Grimbert, President and Chief Executive of EDF and EDF Energies Nouvelles’ other North American affiliates. “We are proud to extend the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy to the St. Isidore community and fulfill our ambition to build high-quality solar projects in Canada.” With its ongoing construction of St. Isidore B, EDF will continue to create clean air and alternative energy careers for graduates of Ontario’s photovoltaic courses.

Ontario FIT Program Draws Unwarranted Criticism

I have seen, with growing frustration, an increasing number of comments on blogs and news sites deriding Ontario’s feed-in tariff (FIT) program and similar government incentives that encourage the use of renewable energy and create green jobs in the province. Comments like this anonymous post continue to stand out in my mind, “…‘greens’ only want one thing – the “green” in our wallet. And, thanks to the average gullible/stupid environmentally-oriented Ontarian, it is happening at an alarming rate.”

Perhaps more subtly, but with equal acrimony, an opinion piece in the Financial Post uses loaded words to indicate to the reader that there is no value in Ontario’s efforts to protect the environment – “Witness the initiatives of recent years: the messianic closing of cost-effective coal plants and implementing of higher-cost wind and solar energy initiatives in the name of the environment….”

It took me only five minutes to find these two examples, but you can easily find more of the same in the comments section following just about any online news article covering green incentives, financial or otherwise. Some of the authors’ concerns are valid. It is true that electricity prices are on the rise, partially as a result of the high prices the FIT pays to producers of solar, wind, and biofuel energy projects. It is also true that photovoltaic and wind technologies generate fewer kilowatts per dollar than traditional coal, oil, and gas. Yes, change is scary. For that very reason, it took a lot of guts for the Ontario Liberals to commit to such a sweeping, costly, and potentially career-damaging program. But this is the face of progress. Someone has to do the job. Someone has to get his hands dirty, and hard work brings rewards.

Solar, Wind Energy Incentives Create Jobs, Training Programs, and Clean Air.  Even a cursory look at the foreseeable future shows that we are getting off lightly if our only worries regarding energy are increasing prices. Prices would go up, with or without the FIT – financial costs as well as other lifestyle costs. It is not uncommon to see global warming denials used as grounds for criticism, but this is a bit of a red herring.

Global warming is not required in order for Ontario’s progressive efforts to be of value. How many oil spills can the ocean sustain before they destroy our fisheries altogether, either directly or by fatally interrupting the balance of sea life? How many airborne toxins can our bodies, and those of our children and unborn future generations, inhale or soak into our skins before we, ourselves, shut down? How many rivers and estuaries can be polluted by oil sands run-off before our declining water supply becomes undrinkable? All of these eventualities carry far greater costs to us and our pocketbooks than the higher prices that emerge with the FIT.

To me and my family, the above-mentioned issues alone justify radical policies such as the Liberals’ FIT. However, the program carries with it its own financial benefits. In Ontario, where a rapid decline in the auto and other manufacturing sectors has left many without work, the program has created solar energy jobs and photovoltaic training programs. And the FIT’s requirements for Ontario-sourced content have inspired the creation of manufacturing plants and other new business ventures in the province.

Change can be tough, but given Canada’s growing and collective commitment to a greener tomorrow, change is inevitable. In the future, we will laugh (or perhaps cry) at the way we used to fuel our lives. In the meantime, those truly concerned about their rising electricity bills would be wise to invest in solar technology or photovoltaic training, as these are quickly becoming the surest ways of putting some “green” in your wallet.