As the rest of the world turns its attention toward renewable energy, so too does Canada. Green initiatives in Ontario have conserved 1,700 megawatts of energy since 2005. That amounts to taking staggering half a million homes off of the power grid. The Green Energy Act of 2009 (GEA) was implemented to improve the health of people, the environment and the economy. From encouraging entrepreneurial clean energy ventures to protecting manufacturing, the GEA covers a lot of ground.
One of the most notable GEA initiatives was reworking feed-in tariffs (FIT). Feed-in tariffs are a financial incentive for renewable energy producers. Under an average 20-year contract, producers are granted a cost-based price for the energy they produce. More expensive means of production, like solar panels, have a higher tariff than cheaper forms, such as wind energy. FITs were first introduced back in 2006, but the GEA modified and expanded the program.
FITs are designed to drive the cost of renewable energy down. To this end, FITS have been seen success in the European Union. Germany’s highly successful Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz program served as a model for the GEA. The theory is that, given financial incentive, more people will invest in producing green energy. As it becomes more commonplace, the cost of production will go down. While the tariffs might cause a temporary jump in energy costs, it will be cheaper in the long-term.
Part of this effort is encouraging the average guy on the street to hop on the clean energy bandwagon. Under the GEA, little energy systems are guaranteed a higher FIT rate and an easier application process. These microFIT systems produce under 10kW of energy on average and are the sort an average homeowner or small business could maintain. The GEA mandates that energy companies are required to accept the energy produced by microFIT systems.
Part of the GEA’s tariff program is a “made in Ontario” mandate. It requires a certain amount of the parts and labor in the system have originated in Ontario. This in turn creates new jobs in the energy sector and gives the economy a healthy boost.
Beyond the FIT program, the GEA has provisions for improving Ontario’s building code and creating more stringent energy efficiency standards for appliances. It also made the regulations on reducing water pollution and waste disposal more strict.
Better Technology, Higher Efficiency
With programs like the GEA making clean energy a competitive market, the push for advancements is getting results. While yesterday’s solar panels clocked a meager 2 to 4% efficiency, today’s panels boast up to 19% efficiency. That number is climbing every year.
The advancements are extraordinary. Japan has invented spherical solar cells that absorb sunlight from all possible angles. New Jersey Institute of Technology has solar cells that can be painted on. A bladeless wind turbine is in the works. Algae as biofuel is becoming a reality. With initiatives like the GEA making renewable energy a priority, a cleaner planet may be on the horizon.
This post was provided by Jen Flanagan, a green-thinker and lover of the environment. She looks up to companies like Ortech Consulting Inc. who provides help to companies who want to be “green”. They also provide services such as helping with odor complaints and natural gas testing.