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Green energy push in Ontario with $8 billion in contracts for renewable sources

THE CANADIAN PRESS: Romina Maurino - April 8, 2010

TORONTO - A green energy push in Ontario will see $8 billion awarded to dozens of companies in a major shift toward renewable sources that environmental groups said will see the province exceed its own targets.

The 184 projects announced Thursday include 36 community and aboriginal proposals as well as many by major corporations at home and abroad. They will create almost 2,500 megawatts of renewable energy from wind, solar and run-of-river hydro projects.

"These projects are the latest accomplishments of the Green Energy Act which is making Ontario a place of destination for green energy development, manufacturing, and expertise," said Energy Minister Brad Duguid.

"The investments generated by (feed-in-tariff) will not only create green jobs, but will also build a coal-free legacy for future generations."

The latest projects are part of the largest green energy investment of its kind in Canadian history, added Duguid. Their total value eclipses the $7-billion deal the McGuinty government signed in January with a consortium led by South Korean industrial giant Samsung Group.

That deal was to build wind and solar farms that will generate 2,500 megawatts of power, as well as four plants to manufacture components for green energy projects, creating about 16,000 jobs - including 1,440 permanent ones.

Greenpeace energy critic Shawn-Patrick Stensil, like many environmentalists, welcomed Thursday's announcement. He noted the plans - along with the Samsung deal - mean the government will meet its green energy targets years ahead of schedule.

"They're exceeding their expectations on green energy," said Stensil.

"Seeing is believing, and I think they're starting to believe this stuff can actually work."

But because transmission grid space for renewables is limited, he added, it will also max out available space.

If the government wants to keep attracting investment it will need to make more space by backing off their current commitment to nuclear energy, Stensil said.

Dave Butters, president of the Association of Power Producers of Ontario, said the challenge ahead is to "address the capacity constraints in our transmission system in order to realize the full potential for renewable generation in Ontario."

The government said that future transmission system expansion will open up capacity to accommodate more renewable projects, and those that did not receive a first round feed-in-tariff contract offer will be evaluated starting in August.

The projects announced Thursday will generate enough energy to power 600,000 homes, and are part of a larger initiative to shut down the province's coal plants by 2014.

Seventy-six of the approved projects are ground-mounted solar photovoltaic, 47 are onshore wind and 46 are water-power projects.

There are also seven biogas, two biomass, and four landfill gas projects, as well as one roof top solar and one off-shore wind project.

All the projects were approved under the province's new feed-in tariff and are in addition to the 510 contracts totalling 112 megawatts approved last month.