Ontario won't alter local content in green-energy

Wed Feb 22, 2012 1:36pm EST
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By Nicole Mordant

(Reuters) - The Canadian province of Ontario's review of its pioneering green energy program will not alter controversial rules that require local content for all projects, the province's energy minister said on Wednesday.

In an interview with Reuters, Energy Minister Chris Bentley said the review will be complete by the end of March, and, as has been widely expected, will recommend cuts in generous government subsidies for the production of green energy. Bentley would not say how big the cuts will be, however.

"I am working really hard to get it done in the first quarter... I know people are anxious," he said.

Ontario, Canada's most populous province, launched the green energy program, the most ambitious of its kind in North America, in October 2009, primarily as a means to create jobs to replace those in its declining manufacturing sector, but also to replace electricity from coal-fired power stations. The Liberal provincial government plans to have all coal-powered generators shut by 2014.

The centerpiece of the program is the feed-in tariff (FIT), a plan similar to ones in Germany and Spain that pays above-market rates to producers of renewable energy from sources such as the sun, wind and biomass.

The province says the FIT program, which pays some of the world's richest rates to solar power producers, has attracted investment commitments of C$26 billion ($26 billion) and created more than 20,000 jobs.

But it has also faced a backlash from ratepayers who subsidize the program through monthly electricity bills, which have risen sharply.

Expensive green power was a flashpoint in last October's Ontario election. The Liberals managed to remain in power but lost their majority in the provincial legislature.   Continued...