You Say You Want a Revolution
February 8, 2011
A recurring theme at the recently held fourth World Future Energy Summit (WFES) was that the transformation to a clean energy future requires a new way of thinking. That new way of thinking was best described by Lord Nicholas Stern, Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics. “In order that climate change targets can be achieved, we face the need for a new industrial revolution. That industrial revolution needs policy change as a driver to reach the scale of change required. With fundamentally strong policy, we can also increase the pace of that change.”
One such policy shift described at the summit is government fuel subsidies. “Government subsidies of energy fuels leads to inefficiencies and waste through artificially high use,” said Dr. Fatih Birol, Chief Economist of International Energy Agency. “Coupled with the current gas glut this poses a real threat to future investment in renewables.”
Another policy shift is to refocus sustainable infrastructure development from established economies to emerging economies. “Developing countries offer a ‘clean sheet’ for renewable technologies as they often do not have the old technologies and infrastructure that developed economies have”, said Rene Umlauft, CEO Renewable Energy, Siemens, Germany. “This means that they can ‘leapfrog’ the problems that developed countries have in replacing old energy systems, making them a key investment market.”
Closer to Home
But policy shifts that drive green energy and sustainability are more than just ideas voiced at environmental summits. Closer to home, the Ontario government’s policies are the drivers of change.
In 2007, the Ontario Power Authority developed a 20-year energy policy that focused on “creating a sustainable energy supply, targeted to improving current natural gas and renewable assets at a sustainable and realistic cost.” That plan included the very successful Feed-in-Tariff program wherein small energy producers using renewable energy sources were paid for surplus power supplied to the grid.
In 2009, the Ontario government introduced its Green Energy and Green Economy Act and its Long-Term Energy Plan (660KB PDF) as an update of the 2007 plan.
During the 1990s, five coal-fired plants, all operated by Ontario Power Generation (OPG), supplied up to 25 per cent of Ontario’s electricity. With the Long-Term Plan, all coal-fired units will be phased out by December 31, 2014. In doing so, Ontario will become the first jurisdiction in North America to eliminate coal-fired generation.
Closing coal plants actually started in 2005 when OPG decommissioned the Lakeshore generating station in Mississauga, Ontario. In 2010, it shut down two units at Nanticoke and two at Lambton generating station. Two more units at Nanticoke are scheduled to be shut down in 2011. Nanticoke was the largest coal-fired generating station in North America and the largest single emitter of greenhouse gases in Canada.
To make up for lost generating capacity, the single unit at the Atikokan plant in northern Ontario is being converted to burn biomass consisting of wood pellets and agricultural by-products. Two of the three units at Thunder Bay will be converted to natural gas. As well, units at Nanticoke and Lambton may be converted to burn gas or biomass.
Ontario expects that nuclear power will continue to provide up to 50 per cent of its electricity. This may call for refurbishment and modernization of units at the Darlington, Pickering and Bruce nuclear generating stations as well as the addition of two to four new reactors at Darlington.
The province will add capacity through upgrades to, and new construction of, hydropower facilities, wind farms and solar parks. Ontario already leads the country in wind and solar capacity.
Existing Feed-in-Tariff programs, which initially included biomass, biogas, landfill gas, wind, solar and small hydro, will be expanded to include small combined heat and power projects.
While policy is driving change in Ontario, it may not be the only driver. The first Industrial Revolution was driven by innovation and technology that allowed mass production. Similarly, recent advances have contributed to the economic viability of renewable resources such as wind power and solar photovoltaic energy and to the more efficient use of conventional fuels in new technologies such as combined cycle gas turbines. Without these advances, implementing policy change might be prohibitively expensive.
|Held in Abu Dhabi and hosted by Masdar, an Abu Dhabi based renewable energy and sustainable technology organization, the WFES is an annual event that promotes innovation and investment opportunities surrounding renewable energy and the environment. This year’s meeting was attended by more than 26,000 visitors from 137 countries. Delegates included political leaders, international policy makers, industry experts, investors,and academics.|