New age for energy ideas

Smitherman addresses power needs of Northern Ontario


Imagine vehicles being plugged in at parking spots so that while employees work, their cars will help contribute energy to make their office buildings function.

The idea seems far-fetched but Energy and Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman says this idea is just one example of how people are starting to think.

The former Ontario health minister made his first prolonged trip to Northern Ontario in his new role as energy minister.

On Wednesday, he came to Timmins to meet with Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One representatives at Cedar Meadows to discuss the current progress of both companies and address some of the energy issues specific to Northern Ontario.

"As Ontario works to get rid of coal, we have great opportunities to take advantage of things that are better for the environment and can provide economic benefits for Northerners," he said.

Using wind turbines and hydro electric power are two options the province is looking into for future sources of power. For areas north of Timmins, the focus has been more on hydro-electric but there are also possibilities to examine wind power as an option on the James Bay Coast, Smitherman explained.

"Some places have natural advantages (such as) along the Mattagami," he said. "We have an exciting opportunity to enhance our hydro electric. There are opportunities to look at biofuel like wood pellets."

One of the barriers for Northern Ontario is a lock in how power can be transmitted due to our geographic region. Smitherman says the province is trying to find solutions and make improvements to these problems of transmission capabilities.

"In some parts of Northern Ontario there is so much activity going on, it's hard to find the construction workers and skilled trades (people) to bring these projects to life and to take advantage of the renewable energy sources in Northern Ontario," he said. "We have a much smaller carbon footprint and offer economic benefits as partners."

Looking at De Beers as an example, Smitherman said that in order to reap the benefits of renewable energy for all, there must be full dialogue with First Nations communities.

"We've been working more closely than ever to work with First Nations communities to share the benefits of renewable every and very very often some of the best renewable energy are in the territories of our First Nations communities," he said.

"Strong partnerships are absolutely essential."

As to when residents can see any of the ideas by the province be put into action, Smitherman cautions that implementing renewable energy takes time and each project has different timelines.

Renewable energy, he explained, works best when various energy sources are implemented together.

"Wind projects move forward (faster) than hydro-electric, which have strong environmental assessment work and are more complex," he said. "They all have different timelines to bring projects through."

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