December 1, 2010 / 8:18 PM / 7 years ago

Ontario fights green energy criticism with jobs

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The government of Ontario, fighting back against criticism of its green power drive, will announce clean energy investments this week that will create almost 2,000 jobs in Canada’s most populous province.

On Thursday, officials will announce that a unit of Germany’s Siemens AG will open a wind turbine blade manufacturing plant in southern Ontario, a provincial government source said.

The facility will employ 300 full-time workers and create 600 construction and other jobs.

That follows news on Wednesday that South Korea’s Samsung C&T Corp and its partners will set up a plant to make steel towers for wind turbines in the province, creating 300 new full-time jobs and up to 400 construction and indirect service jobs.

The facility will be located in the city of Windsor, in southern Ontario, traditionally the province’s manufacturing heartland but an area hard-hit by the economic recession and the financial woes of U.S. automakers.

On Tuesday, Ontario’s energy minister attended an event at a nearby wind project, which is creating 126 new jobs.

Added together, the three announcements total more than 1,700 jobs.

“The McGuinty government’s energy plan is working,” Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said on Wednesday, referring to the ruling Liberal Party and Premier Dalton McGuinty.

“Today’s announcement of 300 new full-time jobs is a real boost to our community and demonstrates that Windsor can be the engine of Ontario’s growing clean energy economy.”

Ontario unveiled a green energy plan last year, with lucrative incentives for producers of energy from the sun, win, water and biomass. The province plans to shut down all its coal-fired power stations by 2014 and aims to create 50,000 jobs.

But the energy plan has angered ratepayers who have watched their monthly power bills soar, and it has drawn strong criticism from opposition political parties ahead of an election scheduled for next year.

The government said last month that residential electricity prices are expected to rise by 46 percent over the next five years.

Wednesday’s Samsung announcement is part of a C$7 billion ($6.9 billion) investment in Ontario announced by the South Korean conglomerate in January.

Under that agreement, Samsung will build four wind and solar power clusters in the province in exchange for C$437 million in incentives. Samsung and its partners have also committed to building four green energy manufacturing plants in Ontario between 2013 and 2015.

It has not yet been decided if the Samsung plant will occupy an existing vacant facility in Windsor or if a new factory will be built. The city, across the border from Detroit, is littered with empty auto shops, victims of the North American auto-industry slowdown.

The Canadian Auto Workers union reacted angrily on Wednesday to reports the proposed Siemens wind turbine factory would be built in the town of Tillsonburg, instead of at the company’s existing Hamilton gas turbine plant, which is due to close next July.

“There was every indication that the Hamilton plant could be retooled for this work to be done there, saving hundreds of jobs,” CAW president Ken Lewenza said.

Editing by Rob Wilson

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