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Ontario Green Plan Announcement June 2016

This past week, the province of Ontario announced its Climate Change Action Plan, commonly referred to as the "Green Plan", strategy for reducing the emission of greenhouse gases and "decarbonizing" our energy consumption. see link:

Unfortunately, as is the case with big political announcements like this, the document is full of big concepts and completely empty of specifics and programs. This leaves it completely flexible as what will actually take place and how it will be enacted whenever it rolls out. Eight "Action Areas" are defined that include a major emphasis on reducing CO2 emissions from transportation - think support for electric cars and mass transit.

Another action area calls for reducing the emissions from fossil fuel use in buildings. Here there could be an opportunity to support solar thermal (heating) - but expect the existing solar electric industry in Ontario to try and co-opt this to their benefit - CanSIA has already issued a press release claiming that an average residential solar electric (PV) system displaces 3 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year. This is a bald-faced lie. Perhaps this might be the case in Alberta, where their electricity is generated from coal, but here in Ontario, where most of our electrical generation is non-emitting, a (large) residential PV system of 10 Kilowatts will displace less than .6 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Compare this to an average residential solar swimming pool system (that is displacing a gas heater) that will displace 3 to 4 tonnes of CO2 a year - and cost 1/6 as much as the 10 Kilowatt PV system. Even a residential solar water pre-heating system (for a natural gas water heater) can displace almost twice as much CO2 as the 10 KW PV system and it will cost only 1/3 as much.

The truth is that in Ontario and several other provinces, solar electricity displaces very little CO2. (BTW, solar electricity also had NOTHING to do with the closing of the coal generating plants in Ontario - despite the claims by the PV industry.) Further support of the solar electric industry in Ontario cannot be justified as being "good for the environment". It just supports the consumption of electricity not the conservation of electricity.

The Ontario government has released this plan and will now go on Summer break. Various lobby groups will be busy all Summer working up ways to bend and shape their pitches to enhance the benefit to their industry come the new sitting of the legislator in the Fall. Automotive companies will call for more support, fossil fuel companies will call for compensation, builders will call for delays in changes to the building code and the average citizen will pay more for everything while the big corporations get subsidies…

As with the FIT (Feed In Tariff) plan that the government put in place to support/create the wind and solar electric industry, where literally 99% of the funding went to large corporations, and only 1% went to the Micro-Fit program for small residential systems, expect most of the benefits to go to big businesses.

What will come of the Green Plan? I suspect it will be close to year before any programs are in place. Meanwhile as a side effect to the announcement, existing solar and other companies that might benefit from the coming programs will be starved for business and many (more) will go out of business. People are going to wait for the program and put off buying these energy saving or green energy systems – because they might save some money if the technology they are interested in is blessed with a subsidy/grant/rebate – sometime in the future.

With every government program there are going to be winners and losers. Do I trust the government to know & choose which technologies to support or help – no. Lobby groups will see to it that their industries shape the programs and that they benefit. They don’t care if the general public benefits – that would simply be a fortuitous side-effect. The whole Green Plan is likely to have a very short lifespan. There is a provincial election in 2018. I strongly suspect that the opposition parties will win that election and if so, will very probably kill the Green Plan day one of their mandate. It almost happened in the provincial election of October 2011 with the FIT program. If the Conservatives had won just one or two more seats, and taken the election, they would have terminated the FIT program the next day.

Only time will tell what actaully happens – but I’ve got a pretty good idea how the Green Plan will play out.