Analysis: Ontario green energy plan feels the heat

Thu Jul 21, 2011 3:57pm EDT
 
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By Nicole Mordant

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - An ambitious plan to feed renewable energy into the power grid of Canada's economic heartland is under fire and could flame out altogether in the autumn, just two years after its launch.

Ontario's opposition Progressive Conservative party, who are leading in the polls ahead of an October 6 election, has vowed to scrap a provincial program that pays above-market rates to producers of energy from sources such as the sun and wind.

The goal is to generate 13 percent of Ontario's energy from renewable sources by 2018 and zero from coal by late 2014. The government says the clean energy sector has created more than 13,000 jobs and is on track to reach 50,000 by end-2012.

Critics say the ratepayer-funded program is an expensive experiment that is increasing costs for consumers.

Even if the so-called feed-in tariff, or FIT, program dodges the political ax, it remains riddled with problems. Its roll-out has sputtered under the weight of bureaucracy, too few staffers to manage the crush of applications and legal challenges, industry players say.

"It is like opening up a great restaurant and just having one waiter and then blaming it on the people wanting to come and eat there," said Paco Caudet, general manager of Siliken Canada, a unit of Spanish solar panel manufacturer Siliken.

"We did expect some hiccups and uncertainties. But it is just way beyond what we expected. ... It is a great lack of planning," Caudet told Reuters.

Siliken opened an Ontario factory in May, two years after the provincial government led by the Liberal Party unveiled the Green Energy Act, intended to create thousands of clean energy jobs while the province shuts down coal-fired power stations.   Continued...

 
<p>Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty speaks at a news conference in Toronto January 21, 2010. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>