Thursday, November 3, 2011

Green Energy Ontario 2.0: Community Power

With the announcement that the Ontario Power Authority's Feed-in-Tariff Program is currently under review by the Province of Ontario, long-time blog contributor Neil Fairhead explores the value of ensuring that Community Power issues are represented in the discussions.

Now that the most recent Ontario provincial election has passed, it’s probably a good time to reflect on the government’s renewable energy policy and how we ensure it is implemented most usefully for the benefit of all citizens. Given the current economic climate, my main focus is on sustaining local communities. Our current energy system is a relic of the middle of the last century when mass production ruled - large centralized plants delivered large quantities of very similar products. Examples include the big steel mills that dominated Hamilton’s skyline and the Big 3 car plants in places like Oshawa. Even computing was subject to this model as the initial dominant form was the large centralized mainframe. Electricity has predominantly been generated in large centralized plants whether it was hydro, nuclear or coal power.

In many other industries this approach has evolved, most visibly in computing where computing devices are now ubiquitous and linked together by the Internet. Electricity is, to some extent, still battling against the prevailing winds of a more distributed model of supply and generation. We still produce it centrally and distribute it into communities from many miles away. This means that at least 75 cents of each energy dollar leaves the local economy. Less money remains to support local businesses and provide jobs for local people. In addition, the scale of centralized power plants means that only very large corporate- or government-owned entities can build and operate them. The scale drives transmission over distances which increases transmission loss. In the United States, transmission losses are estimated to be between 6 - 7% of all the power put into the grid.

Generating power close to its use reduces the cost of distribution and particularly long-range distribution power losses. It also reduces the risk due to transmission failure. Remember, the Internet was deliberately designed as a network with no single point of failure by providing many alternate routes and having no central control point. Our electricity distribution network is not. Hence, in August 2003, the failure of one generator in the FirstEnergy plant at Eastlake Ohio triggered cascading failures which eventually totaled over 500 generating units at over 250 plants. It reduced the available power by 80% over an area that ran from Sault Ste Marie to James Bay to Newark, New Jersey.

However, just distributing power generation is not enough. All energy generation incurs costs as well as benefits. If the local generator is not locally owned then the community will not get enough of the benefit to put up with its attendant costs. All wind energy projects constitute an economic development opportunity for the communities that surround the project. However, local communities may only see a small portion of the benefits from such investments. It is not uncommon for less than 15% of project-related construction expenditures to remain local. Studies undertaken in Iowa suggest that locally owned wind generation creates up to 10 times more economic activity in the local community than does wind generation owned by out-of-state companies. When the owners are local, they are more likely to purchase local construction materials and hire local residents ensuring profits stay in the community too.

Community Power is a class of sustainable energy projects that are owned, developed and controlled in full or in part (50 per cent or more) by residents of the community in which the project is located. Community Power has spurred the development of renewable energy in Europe. For instance, in the Netherlands 60% of wind turbines are owned by farmers and 5% by communities; in Germany 10& are owned by farmers, while 40% are owned by communities; and finally, in Denmark, 64% are owned by farmers, while 24% are owned by communities.

WindShare Turbine, Exhibition Place, Toronto, Ontario
Ontario initiated its experience with Community Power in 1999, when the first community-owned and North America’s first urban sited wind turbine was envisioned by Windshare (see photo). To date, there have been over 293 applications for Community Power projects under the Ontario Power Authority’s FIT Program, representing over 1,500MW of clean, renewable energy.

However, Community Power does not exist in a vacuum and is clearly in its infancy. On October 31, Energy Minister Chris Bentley confirmed a long-expected review of the FIT Program. Deputy minister Fareed Amin in conjunction with OPA CEO Colin Andersen, will lead the review. Obviously this introduces some uncertainty into the atmosphere and makes it important that supporters of sustainable energy ensure their voices are heard.

One way to learn more about the review, to discuss how to respond and to include your say in a strong and consistent voice is to join the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association for its third annual Community Power Conference. Hear about and discuss the FIT review, Green Energy Ontario 2.0, and receive practical training on how to drive community-led and community-commercial project partnerships.

~ Neil Fairhead

Ontario Sustainable Energy Association
Community Power Conference

November 14th and 15th, 2011
Metro Toronto Convention Centre South, Level 800, Hall G & Room 803
222 Bremner Blvd., Toronto, ON
http://cpconference.ca/

Monday, October 17, 2011

Canadian Chefs Rally Opposition to Proposed Quarry

What's a successful protest festival without a little rain, wind and mud? Foodstock served up ample portions of all three but managed to keep thousands of attendees warm with hot apple cider, samplings of local fare and a line-up of sizzling live performances. The event was a rally of opposition to the proposed construction of a mega-quarry in this picturesque nook of southern Ontario.


On October 16th, 2011 I joined thousands of other concerned Ontarians on a wooded lot 120 kilometers north of Toronto in Melancthon Township where over 70 members of the Canadian Chefs' Congress had gathered to inspire us with scrumptious recipes designed to celebrate the use of local ingredients. My sampling menu included perch, pulled pork, wild turkey, plenty of beets, crispy apples and parts of the cow that had never touched my lips before. It would be virtually impossible to choose a favourite as all of these offerings were worth waiting for in the lines snaking throughout the woods.

The pay-what-you-can event was in response to a proposal by The Highland Companies, an American-backed entity intent on transforming up to 2,300 acres of prime farmland into one of the largest limestone quarries on the continent. The developer submitted its excavation application to the Government of Ontario in March of this year and has posted this statement on its website.

The limestone is called Amabel dolostone and is particularly valuable as high-quality aggregate, which is used to build highways and other infrastructure. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources published a report last year that stated the province consumes 164 million tonnes of aggregate per year. It is a number that could climb to 186 million tonnes over the next twenty years.

The proposed limestone quarry sits at the headwaters of five rivers. It has been estimated that once active it would require up to 600 million litres of water to be pumped out each day because of the high water table. Moreover, the current remediation proposal calls for the recovered land to be restored to potato farming subject to effective pumping operations lasting in perpetuity. These elements of the proposal have raised serious concerns about the impact of the quarry on Ontario's watershed and nearby farmland. Any negative impact could imperil this land from continuing to grow half of all the potatoes used in the GTA.

In response to the concerns being raised, the Ministry of Natural Resources has taken the unusual step of ordering a full environmental assessment of the project before construction can begin. It is apparently the first of its kind in the history of the Ontario Aggregate Resources Act and could take years to complete. A local MPP has also started questioning the project. In an interview with the Guelph Mercury, Guelph MPP Liz Sandals stated, "I think it’s the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen."

Unfortunately, for the quarry opposition, the Ministry's report has called on industry to seek new sources within 75 km of the GTA. The challenge is that much of the land ringing the city is protected by the Greenbelt Act, 2005 or the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act, 1973. In Melancthon, the land may be valuable from an agricultural perspective but is unprotected by statutes.

Perhaps seeing thousands of people driving hundreds of kilometres for the privilege of stomping through ankle-deep mud will give the developer food for thought. Or perhaps Foodstock will become a recurring celebration of local fare that will allow for urban dwellers to better understand the value this land holds for our nutrition.

Some live video action courtesy of the Toronto Star:


~Rob

Friday, September 30, 2011

Guest Post: Koenig & Consultants Gaze At Future Solar PV Prices

Koenig & Consultants is a boutique management consulting company based in Toronto and Hamburg with special expertise in the area of Renewable Energy. Their work includes traditional consulting around strategy, marketing and communication for renewable energy companies. Each month they provide a "Chart of the Month" for interested clients, colleagues and friends. This is their September 2011 version. You can reach them at info@koenigconsultants.ca.

CHART OF THE MONTH - SEPTEMBER 2011

Price Development of Solar PV, Feed-in Tariffs and Elections

In our last Chart of the Month we claimed that the costs of renewable energy had one direction only: “down, down, down”. This month we’re looking at the consumer end of things. Our chart shows the development of prices for fully installed solar PV systems in Germany and Canada over the last few years. There are two graphs for each country: smaller residential systems (<10kW) aka microFITs and larger systems (> 10kW).



Here are some observations and conclusions:

The general price trend: There is only one trend indeed – down. Germany has been leading that trend which is most likely induced by an incremental and continued reduction of feed-in tariffs. We strongly believe that this trend will continue in the foreseeable future as the technology will advance and the overall efficiency of the technology and the entire industry will increase.

The market and supply effect on price: Solar of course isn’t exempt from global market conditions. In 2007, for example, prices went up due to high global demand for silicon wafers and other components caused by a booming (overheating) world economy.

The prices solar PV owners pay: In 2009 consumers had to pay a premium for smaller systems in Canada. That year the Green Energy and Green Economy Act was launched in Ontario introducing a microFIT rate of 80.2 cents/kWh for small and mostly residential systems up to 10 kW. The providers of systems in the early phases were able to bank in on those tariffs. As more and more competitors enter the field the prices per installed kilowatt capacity are prone to drop significantly in the next few years. Also most residential customers are better informed now and question prices and fees for hardware, service and consulting.

The prices we pay for electricity: Albeit being higher compared with similar feed-in tariff programs around the world for this small system segment, high feed-in tariffs in Ontario were and still are instrumental in attracting Ontarians to a new industry that was previously non–existent. The higher tariffs are, nevertheless, still justifiable due to the local content rules and a lower sun radiation than in most other jurisdictions with similar feed-in tariffs (e.g. Spain or Italy). Currently, the amount of electrical power fed into the grid from microFIT systems has no significant contribution to rising electricity prices for consumers in Ontario. This is a myth and scenario eagerly painted by those presently cashing in on “old energy”.

Crystal Ball I – the future of solar PV in Germany: Prices in Germany have been in free fall over the last years. The phase-out of nuclear power in Germany can have opposite and thus maybe neutralizing effects on prices: Up – as demand for panels, inverters and qualified installers will increase. Down – as the German market will become once again very attractive and increasing efficiencies may be unleashed with increasing government support for solar R&D.

Crystal Ball II – the future of solar PV in Ontario: With renewable energy being a hot topic in the upcoming provincial election in Ontario, one outcome may be easily predicted. The feed-in tariffs for solar PV projects will come down. The question that remains is by how much? The chart presented here proposes that a 10-13% decrease is possible considering that the local market still needs some support. Should the Conservatives axe the feed-in tariff program entirely or reduce the rates beyond that they will significantly damage if not nip this evolving industry in the bud.

Our Conclusion: It requires a healthy combination of market forces at work and a strong political will translated into transparent and reliable policies to keep the prices for all at balance, the consumers happy and the industry growing.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sun Sets on 2nd Annual Solar & Conservation Fair

As mentioned in an earlier post, Wakulat|Law Principal Rob Wakulat teamed up with local Business Improvement Areas in the Etobicoke Lakeshore community and volunteers from the Environmental Planning Committee of the LAMP Community Health Centre to put on a one-day Solar & Conservation Fair dedicated to showcasing sustainability initiatives. A key theme was empowering local communities to explore taking on their own sustainability projects and, in particular, the opportunity presented by community power.

On Saturday September 10, 2011, the Assembly Hall played host to over 20 exhibitors, 13 speakers and over 200 attendees. Event highlights included:

IMG_0245
Chocosol Solar Roaster
  • Welcome speech by local MPP Laurel Broten who travelled the province as Minister of the Environment (2005-2007) in support of the legislative and committee process that introduced the Green Energy and Green Economy Act to Ontario;
  • A prototype solar roaster built by Lorin Symington and the Chocosol team used to roast cacao beans for onsite sampling;
  • The University of Waterloo's Midnight Sun Solar Race Team with last year's solar car used for competing in international solar car competitions;
  • Local business owner Jim McNeil explaining why he decided to make Canclone Services the first solar-powered printer in Toronto; 
  • Information from speaker Matthew Zipchen about the recently launched SolarShare initiative which allows any Ontarian to invest in $1,000 community solar bonds, with a 5-year term and 5% annual return;
  • Samples of generously donated organic and locally-sourced refreshments from Front Door Organics, The Village Butcher, Fresh City Farms and Social Coffee & Tea Company
  • Book signing by author, columnist and Cleanbreak blogger Tyler Hamilton for his new book Mad Like Tesla; and
  • IMG_0251
     University of Waterloo Midnight Sun Solar Race Team
  • Environmental author and speaker Jim Harris delivering the end-of-day keynote speech that explained how going green is good for business.
The Fair encouraged people who not only care about reducing their environmental footprint to gather and discuss ideas, but also those people interested in learning about how to benefit financially from taking on green initiatives. Attendees were able to check out seminars on topics such as rooftop solar technology, community power, green careers and energy conservation through landscaping. Exhibitors provided insight into their sustainable food options, solar technology, and community capacity building.

IMG_0235
The donated delectables.

Even though Ontario has implemented the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, not all communities have easy access to the knowledge and tools required to participate in this emerging sustainable economy. The event was designed to bring useful information to businesses, residents and community groups who are normally quite busy and don’t necessarily have the time to research how they can participate in the province’s emerging green economy.

The Fair was an example of community spirit, created and planned with the participation of local business associations, dedicated volunteers and non-profit community groups who share a passion for a cleaner, healthier and prosperous future.

Key support for the event was provided from the local BIAs, TABIA, Bullfrog Power and Toronto Hydro.
IMG_0260
Event sponsor Toronto Hydro with materials promoting energy efficiency.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Funding Sustainability Efforts for Small Businesses

Wakulat|Law Principal Robert Wakulat has recently been working with the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, though its greenTbiz program, to engage in sustainability outreach to Toronto's 27,000 small business members of the city's 71 BIAs. As greenTbiz looks to the best practice models of other green outreach programs, it has continually set its gaze upon the groundbreaking work being done in the Pearson Eco-Business Zone by Partners in Project Green.

Last Thursday (September 22, 2011), PPG held an Eco-Business Breakfast entitled Funding your Sustainability Efforts.  It brought together speakers from RBC Dominion Securities, Royal Bank of Canada, Ameresco Canada and Reliance Comfort to learn about how best to fund various environmental initiatives.

From funding eco-projects through becoming more financially efficient, as Robert Lumia of RBC Dominion Securities spoke about, to commercial financing as Ged Seguin of RBC discussed, the Energy Savings Performance Contract model outlined by Jim Fonger of Ameresco and the renting approach demonstrated by Yolanda vdWeerd of Reliance Commercial, a variety of methods were reviewed.

Presentations can be downloaded here.

Wakulat|Law Supports Friends of Wind's Public Outreach

Introduction
Ever since the Province of Ontario introduced its landmark Green Energy and Green Economy Act, two major tracks of criticism have bedevilled the wind sector. First, developers are more likely to find local communities opposing proposed wind farms that have taken advantage of the streamlined approval process implemented by the Act. This lack of required consultation has created a sense of helplessness as rural residents feel large numbers of turbines are erected without regard to their visual or health concerns. This has stirred an emotionally divisive debate across the province's countryside that has proven grist for the government's political opponents in an election year.

The Impact on Health
While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it should be an easier task to address health concerns with facts and research.  Earlier this year, Toronto-based environmental lawyer Dianne Saxe reported on a full-day webcast - Wind Power & Human Health Scientific Forum - dedicated to discussing wind power effects on human health.  The conclusion was essentially that "infrasound from wind turbines is not a health problem." This accords with an earlier report from Dr. Arlene King, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, who concluded that there is "no direct causal link between wind turbines and adverse health effects." Naturally, health professionals and wind proponents should take any concerns raised by residents seriously, but reasoned debate should be expected from all sides and include an understanding of the established facts to date.

Friends of Wind
Earlier this month Wakulat|Law had the privilege of participating in a public forum organized by a nascent grassroots group: "Friends of Wind". The group's research has indicated that "public opinion polls have consistently shown the majority of Canadians support wind energy for its environmental, economic and social benefits". They became concerned that this point-of-view was being lost to the more vocal groups bringing wind development into disrepute. Led by a full-time farmer and mother of four, Jutta Splettstoesser, Friends of Wind decided to put on four public events where industry experts could share the facts with interested residents, citizens and policymakers.

Jutta has been supported in her efforts by like-minded individuals and wind energy industry leaders keen to ensure all citizens can “join the conversation” about Ontario's energy future. Their fourth and final event was held on September 8, 2011 in London, Ontario. Wakulat|Law Principal Robert Wakulat moderated a panel that included the following expert speakers:
  • Gideon Forman, Executive Director, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
  • Paul Seccaspina, CEO of Oraclepoll Research Limited
  • Horia Hangan, Director of University of Western Ontario Wind Tunnel & Project Lead WindEEE
  • Vinay Sharma, CEO, London Hydro
Forman, as he has done in the past, tackled the health issue and asked attendees to consider the health impacts of alternative generation options such as nuclear and coal. Seccaspina provided detailed insights into the minds of Ontarians with a focus on their attitudes towards renewable power and the upcoming provincial election:

Friends of Wind_Sept7

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ontario Votes 2011: The Future Of Energy Policy

Introduction
Energy has become a hot topic during the Province of Ontario’s 40th election campaign. Hydro bills, the smart grid (read: time-of-use pricing) and the energy fuel mix are all issues that have animated the policy positions of the four main parties as voters prepare to head to the polls on October 6, 2011. The debate surrounding the province’s renewable energy sector has created uncertainty about the future of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (Ontario) and the Feed-in-Tariff programs. Proponents have hailed these regulatory features as world-class achievements, while others have criticized them as unfair and expensive subsidies.

In the two years of the FIT programs, Ontario has made significant progress. The province has over 90 projects operational with a nameplate capacity of over 24MW. By comparison, it takes on average of 60 months to construct a nuclear plant, from pouring the first concrete to putting power on the grid. This does not include the time needed to plan; complete environmental assessments and public consultations; obtain permits and licenses; or design, manufacture and finance it. These activities all add to the time before a nuclear plant will turn on a single light bulb.

The Parties Speak
One of the more recent high profile attempts to understand the panoply of policy choices facing Ontario’s voters was a gathering of the key energy representatives of each major political party on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin. On September 7, 2011, Paikin’s episode The Debate: Energy and the Ontario Election featured Ontario Energy Minister Brad Duguid, PC Energy Critic John Yakabuski, NDP Energy Critic Peter Tabuns, Ontario Green Party Candidate Steve Dyck, and energy analyst Steve Aplin.

Just as helpfully, the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association took the month of August to put together a similar roster of party representatives (only switching out Dyck with GPO Leader Mike Schreiner) to address issues such as renewable energy, conservation and community power more specifically. In a series of one-on-one web interviews, OSEA Executive Director Kris Stevens asked each party about their positions on the preceding issues.

Blackout – The Conservatives Remain Mum
Unfortunately, after interviewing Duguid, Tabuns and Schreiner, Stevens was forced into sending out a public letter to the OSEA community announcing that Conservative energy critic John Yakubuski had withdrawn from participating in the interviews. Stevens explained that Yakabuski’s office had indicated several months ago that Yakabuski would participate in a session. However, after weeks of delays, further promises of participation, offers on Steven’s behalf to travel to the riding of Renfrew-Nipissing to interview Yakabuski and a variety of other efforts, the Conservative candidate cancelled his participation. As Stevens' put it:
Silence sometimes speaks louder than words. We are left to assume that the Conservative party has no plan for conservation, community-based renewables, the private sector or manufacturing beyond killing what has been heralded as the most progressive energy policy in North America.
It is with deep gratitude that this blog can post the work of OSEA volunteer (and occasional Wakulat|Law guest blogger) Neil Fairhead who put together and shared the following summary of the three parties who participated in the OSEA interview process. The party positions appear in alphabetic order: Green Party, Liberal Party, and NDP. 

Green Party - Conservation, Efficiency and Community
Mike Schreiner, Party Leader, laid out an approach to energy for Ontario that places an emphasis on efficiency, conservation and the involvement of local communities.

Schreiner stated “no more investment in nuclear” since the average overrun on nuclear projects has been five times the original budget. This money would be better spent on conservation where half the cost would save the same amount of power and create nine times the jobs - retrofitting current housing, insulation and providing solar thermal heating of domestic water.

He also emphasized the need to get much closer community involvement. In particular, the benefits of renewable power must be shared locally. In Germany, over 200,000 people have equity stakes in local projects. This local involvement is essential to balancing the interest of local communities with the broader needs of the whole province. To achieve this, the Green Party will ensure community access to capital and priority access to the grid. They will also focus on energy education, for both consumers and workers.

The Green Party's priorities are:
  1. A programme on energy efficiency and conservation - “Reduced bills, same lifestyle”.
  2. Revise the FIT process, focusing on communities so they invest more and they benefit more - financially with revenue and economically with jobs.
  3. A new long-term energy plan with a broader supply mix including more combined heat-and-power, renewables and hydro - from Quebec and Manitoba as well as Ontario. The plan would include a budget so that businesses can invest in Ontario knowing they will have reliable, affordable energy.
Liberal Party - Green Energy Is Good for Ontario and for Ontarians
Minister Duguid, outlined a vision of Ontario based on four pillars:
  1. A healthier environment for children as coal burning power stations are phased out;
  2. A healthier electricity system that has not suffered brownouts nor blackouts nor needed large imports of high priced power this year - despite the record heat wave;
  3. A healthy job market that has already bounced back from the recession, thanks in large part to 20,000 new jobs in clean energy - the rest of the economy remains fragile;
  4. A healthier climate for investment - $20 billion have already been invested in the new green economy in Ontario.
The Liberal Party believes that it must balance the need to invest in the Province's ageing transmission and generation infrastructure, with the need to help households by minimizing rates such as the current 10% green energy rebate. Investing in conservation also helps households since the cheapest watt is the one we do not use. The Liberal Government has doubled the expenditure of its predecessor and believes this must continue as there are key improvements required to ensure a reliable, efficient and non-polluting supply of energy. These investments include more storage, a more flexible grid and meters that encourage ratepayers to use electricity when there is spare capacity and to reduce their usage at times of high demand.

The Liberals recognize that some changes are required and Duguid specifically highlighted the role of municipalities: “Municipal engagement is mandatory and, while the government is working to streamline the process, it will remain mandatory.” He also highlighted the value of using the same energy for both power generation and for heating through the use of combined heat-and-power plants. Finally he stated that the price paid for electricity from renewable sources will have to come down and that they are looking at price reduction milestones. However, he noted that the costs of production, such as solar panels, are already coming down which will enable the price reductions while still rewarding investment. The research going on in Ontario will help to drive the costs down further.

In short, the Liberal Party believes that their commitment to green energy has been good for Ontario and we should persist with it - to provide a cleaner, more healthy environment for our children and a more prosperous, clean energy based, economy. 

NDP - Waste Not Want Not
Energy Critic Tabuns started with three key points:
  1. The province's current approach places too little emphasis on efficiency and conservation;
  2. Nuclear power consistently goes over budget creating large cost overruns to be paid by the taxpayer or the customer. The current assumption that nuclear remains the source of half of our power needs to change.
  3. The partial privatization of our electricity system has resulted in “hundreds of millions of dollars being paid to energy traders and producers who game the system.”

The NDP put much greater emphasis on efficiency and conservation. They stand for minimizing usage through less waste and greater efficiency; and then supplying much of what is needed via renewables. There are challenges in doing this. Our 20th century system is highly centralized: big nuclear plants, coal plants, hydro plants - and networks that move power outwards. The 21st century system is more dispersed. We need a distribution system to match if we want to keep up with the leaders. Ontario has rested on investments made in the 20th century such as at Niagara Falls. Now we need to invest for this century but new/renovated generation capacity is high cost compared to increasing efficiency and conservation. We need to do both together to deliver the affordable reliable power, which will create the political support needed to make this change. The energy system is a major determinant of income and productivity in Ontario. If we fall behind it will be difficult to catch up.

The NDP energy platform for the upcoming election has two main thrusts:
  1. Conservation: avoid waste with increased efficiency to make the best use of the power consumed. This includes focusing on energy retrofits of buildings where much energy is wasted and on the Energy Star programme, improving the efficiency of appliances, etc.
  2. A balanced approach to energy supply: the environment must benefit and so must the economy with all sources rigorously assessed for costs and benefits. Given the disaster at Fukushima, nuclear costs will increase as more safety factors are addressed. The NDP will not rebuild the Darlington nuclear plant, using the funds saved elsewhere including retrofitting housing. Green energy will grow in significance but only where the costs and benefits justify it.
Conclusion
The future of Ontario’s energy policy is at stake in this election. In the last few years, the province has become home to some of the most exciting clean energy projects in the world, like the world's largest solar photovoltaic farm in Sarnia and Canada's largest rooftop solar installation in Windsor. Ten wind turbines in 2003 have sprouted to more than 900 turbines and counting. And people who used to work at automotive plants are now building these solar panels and turbines.

While the PC Party is not making its energy policies as accessible to voters as the other parties, it is reasonable to conclude its approach would diverge significantly from support of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act. Their approach could kill some of these new energy jobs, stall innovation and increase dependence on dirty energy sources that contribute to asthma, lung disease and premature deaths.

Building an innovative economy for the 21st century requires risk-taking and comprehensive planning. Doing so effectively will enable Ontario to be a major international player in the trillion-dollar clean energy industry blowing around the world.

Doors Open: Green Energy Edition

The launch of Doors Open Toronto twelve years ago has conditioned Torontonians to enjoy one weekend a year of serendipitous cultural discovery as over 150 buildings of architectural, historic, cultural and social significance open themselves for free to public perusal. Developed as a millennium project in 2000, Doors Open Toronto has witnessed over 1.7 million people take advantage of the opportunity to learn about the city's history and celebrate its heritage.

The proponents of clean energy in the province of Ontario are taking a page out of the successful Doors Open playbook and flinging open fields to many of the province's clean energy projects for public view.  While Doors Open put its emphasis on history, the Green Energy Field Day is firmly fixated on the future looking at new forms of energy generation and some of the interesting architecture that is accompanying these projects.

On Saturday September 24th, all across the province, Ontarians are being given the opportunity to celebrate the early successes of the emerging clean energy economy. It's part of 350.org's Moving Planet, a global day of action with thousands of events around the world, highlighting the need for government action to move beyond fossil fuels and address the climate crisis.

The ZooShare Biogas Co-operative is one project that Wakulat|Law is proud to be a small part of. The project will be a community-owned biogas plant at the Toronto Zoo with immense 'poo-tential'. While not yet under construction, visitors can learn more about the project from its planners and dreamers from 10:00 to 16:30 at the National Forest Week display at 361A Old Finch Avenue.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wakulat|Law Organizes 2nd Annual Solar & Conservation Fair on the Lakeshore

Following on the heels of last year's first go-round with the Solar & Conservation Fair on the Lakeshore, Wakulat|Law has become involved in organizing a second iteration of the event.  On Saturday September 10, 2011, the 2nd Annual Solar and Conservation Fair will be hosted by the local Lakeshore Business Improvement Areas. It will take place at the Assembly Hall in South Etobicoke from 11 am to 4 pm. This one-day community event will feature exhibitors, vendors and speakers on topics related to renewable energy, conservation and environmental sustainability. The event is open to residents and businesses. Admission is free.

The Fair is an opportunity for people who not only care about reducing their environmental footprint, but also want to learn how to benefit financially from taking on green initiatives. Last year, the emphasis of the Fair was on solar education. This year it is expanding in scope to meet the broader interests and needs of the community. Attendees can go to seminars on topics such as residential rooftop solar technology and community power, speak to exhibitors who are providing sustainable food options and solar technology, find out about green career opportunities, sample locally-sourced refreshments and learn how to build a community power project.

Not all communities have easy access to the knowledge and tools required to participate in this emerging sustainable economy. Small business owners and residents are busy and don’t necessarily have the time to research how they can participate in the province’s emerging green economy. This type of event is designed to bring them that information and make it more accessible to businesses, residents and community groups.

The Fair itself is an example of community spirit, created and planned with the participation of local business associations, dedicated volunteers from the LAMP Community Health Centre and non-profit community groups who share a passion for a cleaner, healthier and prosperous future. It offers members of the community the opportunity not only to learn about alternative energy from industry leaders, but also from each other. The Fair will also help the local economy by featuring several local business, giving residents the opportunity to directly support their neighbourhood business owners.

This project has received funding support from the Ontario Power Authority through the Community Energy Partnerships Program. Such support does not indicate endorsement by the OPA or the Province of Ontario of the contents of this material. The views expressed in the material are the views of the Recipient and do not necessarily reflect those of the OPA or the Province of Ontario.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Incorporating Social Ventures: A Rose by Any Other Name?

After moving the Wakulat|Law HQ to the Centre for Social Innovation - Annex this Spring, I have had the pleasure of meeting a very passionate and creative community of Canadian social entrepreneurs. I have also discovered there is a common question amongst a few early-stage ventures: what type of legal structure should I create?  I don't pretend to have a silver bullet to answer this question.  Moreover, even though greater thought is arguably being put towards this issue, it may even be more difficult to arrive at an easy answer as other jurisdictions are experimenting with an expanded menu of legal structures intended to allow entrepreneurs to meet financial, social, and environmental bottom lines.

What are my options?

In Ontario, your social venture has a variety of legal structures to choose from including for-profit, not-for-profit, registered charities, co-operative corporations or perhaps even a hybrid model. One emerging challenge facing social entrepreneurs is how to marry a straight for-profit business with a not-for-profit venture that is funded by its for-profit sibling. Unfortunately, there is not yet an easy path forward for these types of enterprises.

Perhaps the best advice that can be given is to focus on designing the business side of your venture. Ultimately, a business venture's legal structure will and should follow its business model. The legal structure should simply be a tool for accomplishing your goals. Deciding too early may lock you onto a path that won’t get you where you want to go.

Where can I get some more guidance?

Social entrepreneurs seeking some assistance in arriving at a legal structure could do worse than start their adventure by reading the following articles:
  • Legally Incorporating Your Social Venture: The MaRS Discovery District provides resources to drive innovation and assists you in asking some key questions about the activities of your venture.
  • For Love or Lucre: An article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review by a veteran social entrepreneur that provides a guide to the various options available in the U.S. Nevertheless, the issues raised can be extrapolated into a Canadian context.
  • Social Enterprise Legal Structure - Options and Prospects for a "Made in Canada" Solution: A survey of social entrepreneurs and social economy "experts" by the SFU Centre for Sustainable Community Development with the BC Centre for Social Enterprise.  It examined the prospects and potential drawbacks associated with pursuing a separate legal structure for social enterprise in Canada. 

Ready to Rock?
    Once you are in a position to move forward with establishing a legal structure for your social enterprise, it's time to have a discussion with a qualified lawyer to assist with the process. Wakulat|Law is at the heart of a legal ecosystem that can meet all your business law needs including incorporation, corporate governance, intellectual property, employment and tax law. We would be happy to have a brief introductory chat about how you are about to create positive change in your community.

    Sunday, July 24, 2011

    Guest Post: What is the Net Value of Renewable Energy?

    Neil Fairhead returns with a post examining the issues surrounding the value of renewable energy.

    This blog is triggered by a number of articles I read recently that angered me. They consistently talked down to their readers by presenting a small part of the renewable energy story - and then implying that part was the most important item - rather than presenting the whole picture and letting us make up our own minds.

    To me, with one caveat, the key question is: “Does the value of renewable energy exceed the cost of renewable energy?” That is simply the net value, i.e. value minus cost. (The caveat is that we include all the costs, i.e. the whole picture.) Let's take some of the issues that articles raised and you can decide what you think.

    The first issue raised is that much renewable energy (e.g. solar and wind) is intermittent and its utilization is much less than traditional centralized generation. If low utilization is a key criterion for sound investment, then we are enormously wasteful. A few minutes calculation, which I will not impose on you here but would be happy to share, resulted in the following table:

    Item
    Usage
    Utilization
    (% of 365*24 hours p.a.)
    Office buildings
    10 hours per day, 5 days per week, 50 weeks pa
    28.5%
    GO trains
    373 minutes per day, 5 days per week
    17.7%
    My car (when I was commuting)
    4.5 hours per week day plus a couple at weekends
    17.3%
    High Schools
    7 hours per day, 5 days per week, 36 weeks per year
    14.0%
    Our household bathroom (2 people)
    80 minutes every day
    5.5%
    Our lawnmower
    1 hour per week
    0.6%

    I have never heard people say that we should not have any offices or schools, etc., just because they are only used part time. So why does it matter for renewable energy? After all, according to the US Department of Energy the estimated utilization (called “capacity factor”) of a wind turbine is 34.4%, which is better than all of the above examples.

    Another issue raised was the land used by renewable energy. An article in the Toronto Star stated that, to provide the power generated by Ontario nuclear plants in 2010: “The turbines would cover 14,200 square kilometres of territory — that’s a square with sides of almost 120 kilometres.” It made no mention of the fact that you can farm happily underneath, both arable and livestock . It also made no mention that in Ontario we have 1,076,395 square kilometres of land. The dual use land represents less than 1.5% of our province. In addition we are comparing apples and oranges. In one case we are adding an extra use to our land increasing the value it produces. In the other case the land can only be used for one purpose. Have you ever tried to walk your dog in a nuclear power station? Again the land utilization represents only part of the picture.

    Net value gives a more complete picture. The cost of the land for turbines is minimal because its original function remains. The cost of land for solar can be nil. I spoke recently to a farming family who have installed solar panels on the roof of an existing building. The only land impact was a small hut that held the inverters and the meters to measure the power being generated.

    A third issue raised is the need for back-up generation for the occasions when there is neither sunshine nor enough wind. I am going to combine this with another issue that I saw recently, namely the environmental impact of the steel used in wind turbines, because they both highlight the costs of fossil fuels. The argument regarding backup generation often goes “since we have to invest in the back-up systems, e.g. gas burning, we should run them all the time and avoid the investment in renewable energy systems.” However this ignores the biggest cost in fossil fuelled generation is not the capital investment but the fuel being burnt every second the plant is in operation. For solar and wind the fuel cost is close to zero. The net value equation is different. As currently accounted for electricity generation,
    Value = value of electricity generated
    Costs = capital costs+land costs+O&M
    O&M stands for operations and maintenance costs, typically divided into fixed and variable. The latter includes fuel costs.

    For wind or solar, if the generator is not the owner of the land, i.e. a worst case, there is a land rental cost. For a farmer who already owns the land the incremental land costs are zero. Similarly, for fossil fuel generation the land costs are unlikely to be significant.

    The difference in fixed and variable O&M is significant between fossil fuel and renewable energy, with the variable O&M predominating. The table below compares wind with the lowest overall cost gas-fired plants given in $/megawatt-hour AC delivered to grid (source: see footnote 1).


    Gas
    Wind
    Fixed O&M
    1.9
    9.6
    Variable O&M (includes fuel cost)
    42.1
    0.0
    O&M Total
    44.0
    9.6

    However, in neither case have we included all the costs. We are missing the environmental impact, which causes real costs to real people. Obviously in the energy field the most significant impact is the release of greenhouse gases particularly carbon dioxide, CO2. Wind turbines cause the release of about 13,000 pounds of CO2 per MWh while gas generation releases 465,000 lbs. So what does it cost? Or perhaps “So what. Does it cost?”

    Earlier this year, three Canadian scientists together with a Scottish colleague published a paper showing “that human-induced increases in greenhouse gases have contributed to the observed intensification of heavy precipitation events found over approximately two-thirds of data-covered parts of Northern Hemisphere land areas.” Since it was published there have been floods across North America. In Canada, we are suffering a reduction in planted crops and reduced activity in oil and gas exploration, plus property damage and flood protection costs.
    • “Unrelenting rain across large areas of Western Canada will severely impact grain production.....In total, between six and eight million acres of farmland will go unseeded across the Prairies, according to the Canadian Wheat Board”
    • “When you have these one-in-500-year weather events that we are experiencing in our province in terms of flooding,....Rig Locator records show only eight drilling rigs are active this week in southeastern Saskatchewan compared to 37 drilling and four moving in for the same week last year. In Manitoba only one rig is at work this week compared to five drilling and four moving in a year earlier.”
    The fact that we have not yet succeeded in getting agreement - on how big the costs are, on how to measure them and on how to allocate them to the processes that caused them - does not stop the costs being real, hurting real people and damaging real businesses.

    Our decisions on renewable energy are better made when we consider the net value it adds, having included all the costs to the best of our ability. Presenting partial pictures does us all a disservice. 

    Postscript: I recognize that there is another level of detail needed to reflect the net value better. Simply, the value we put on electricity depends on how badly we need it and this varies over time, both time of day and season. In Southern Canada, as in much of the US, peak demand coincides with the sunny conditions (air conditioning), or windy ones (heating). A balance of renewables can match this pattern .

    After studying Chemical Engineering, Neil enjoyed a variety of experiences, working in 4 countries on 3 continents including computing, marketing and environmental activities for both private and public organizations. A lover of history, Neil remains convinced of the truth of Winston Churchill's comment "the further back you look the further forward you can see". To learn more about Neil, you can visit his LinkedIn profile:  http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/neil-fairhead/1/a36/9b2

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    Guest Post: McMillan LLP Clarifies Ontario PC Party's Plans for FIT Program

    The following is cross-posted from McMillan LLP's website. You can view the original post here. It is posted with the kind permission of McMillan partner and entry author Mike Richmond. Mike is a lawyer in the Energy Law Group with a focus on electricity, renewables and utilities.


    Further to the Energy Law bulletin we circulated in May regarding the Ontario PC Party's pledge to cancel Ontario's Feed-In Tariff Program if elected on October 6, 2011, the Party released its formal policy platform, entitled Changebook, earlier this month.

    The document states the following with respect to energy policy:
    We will stop the expensive energy experiments that are driving up hydro bills.
    A Tim Hudak government will end the Liberal government's schemes that have families subsidize hydro prices. We will end the feed-in tariff program that, in some cases, pays up to 15 times the usual cost of the hydro. Hardworking farmers and other Ontarians who signed contracts to host energy production on their property will have their contracts honoured. But there will be no more of these deals.
    We will end the king of all secret, sweetheart deals – the $7 billion Samsung deal – that happened without a competitive process or a guarantee of job creation targets. Building our green energy sector cannot be achieved by writing a cheque to one single foreign-owned multinational corporation that was handed every advantage.
    We will give families a voice in how hydro rates are set.
    Families understand that their hydro bill goes up if they leave the lights on. But why does it skyrocket for no apparent reason? The Ontario Energy Board sets rates, but this body has lost its independence. We will restore that independence by ending the day-to-day political interference of the last eight years. And we will establish a powerful Consumer Advocate at the OEB. The Consumer Advocate will represent only consumers. Not the bureaucrats. Not the energy sector. Not the special interests.
    We asked Party officials and the authors of the document to clarify the ambiguity regarding the phrase, "Hardworking farmers and other Ontarians who signed contracts to host energy production on their property will have their contracts honoured."

    It seemed clear that FIT Program participants who have accepted a FIT Contract and received Notice to Proceed will be permitted to complete construction and operate under the contract for the 20 year term, in accordance with the terms of the Contract. However, with respect to those who have accepted a FIT Contract but have not yet received Notice to Proceed, would they be able to obtain NTP and complete their projects under a PC Government? Or would a PC Government honour their contracts by refusing NTP and paying the cancellation fees contemplated in the FIT Contract?

    The clear answer we received was the latter. For any FIT Contract holders who do not yet have NTP at the time of a change in government, a PC Government would exercise its rights under Sections 2.4(a), (e) and (f) of the FIT Contract to terminate the FIT Contract, return the Completion and Performance Security, and pay the Supplier its reasonable Pre-Construction Development Costs (upon delivery of written documentation thereof). Pre-Construction Development Costs exclude the cost of Generating Equipment, the $500 Application Fee, non-arm's length payments above fair market value, and profits, and are capped at the following limits:
    • Biogas, Biomass and Landfill Gas  $400,000 + $2.00/kW
    • Solar PV                                          $250,000 + $10.00/kW
    • Waterpower                                     $500,000 + $20.00/kW
    • On-shore Wind                                $400,000 + $2.00/kW
    • Off-shore Wind                               $500,000 + $2.00/kW
    There may, however, be ways to protect your project in advance of an election. You should contact a legal professional to discuss your options.

    Disclaimer
    The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.  

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Press Release: ZooShare Biogas Co-operative Receives Unanimous Support from Toronto Zoo Board of Management

    Toronto, June 17, 2011

    In its June session, the Board of Management of the Toronto Zoo voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with ZooShare Biogas Co-operative Inc. to develop and operate a 500 kW scalable biogas plant. The project will be the first co-operatively owned biogas plant in Canada and the first zoo-based biogas plant of its kind in North America.

    Under the proposed terms of the agreement ZooShare will be responsible for fully funding, designing, developing, constructing and operating the plant on lands leased from the Zoo. Food waste from a major grocery retailer and all of the Zoo’s manure, which is currently composted, will go to the proposed plant where it will be processed into electricity, heat and fertilizer. The result of the biogas production process will be a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 10,000 tonnes CO2, equal to taking over 1,800 cars off the road each year. The project represents an investment of $5.4 million, the majority of which will be raised from the community through the issuance of Community Bonds.

    About ZooShare:
    ZooShare Biogas Co-operative Inc. is a non-profit, non-share capital renewable energy co-operative with a mission to drive the growth of community-owned biogas around Ontario. ZooShare was founded by a group of individuals and companies (Angus Power, Koenig & Consultants Inc., ReGenerate Biogas Inc., Riepma Consultants Inc.) that share experience in the renewable energy industry, a belief in the power of community and the success of Public-Private partnerships.
    More information about ZooShare, the biogas project at the Toronto Zoo and its progress are available at www.zooshare.ca.

    For questions and inquiries please contact:
    Christine Koenig
    Phone: 416 640 0773
    Email: christine@zooshare.ca

    About the Toronto Zoo:
    The Toronto Zoo is a member of CAZA (Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums). The AZA works to ensure a professional level of zoo operations with high standards of excellence. The AZA outlines the primary objectives for zoos and aquariums including conservation, research and education. Current Zoo Hours: 9:00am to 7:30pm. Last admission is one hour before closing. General Admission 13-64 incl. is $23.00. Children 3 and under are free, Children 4-12 are $13.00 and Seniors 65+ are $17.00. Parking fees apply. Prices include applicable taxes and are subject to change without notice. Events are subject to change without notice. The Zoo is located at Meadowvale Road and Hwy. 401, Exit 389 east and west bound. For general information, call (416) 392-5929. The Toronto Zoo is open year round (except December 25th). http://www.torontozoo.com/

    For questions and inquiries please contact:
    Cynthia Shipley
    Phone: 416-392-5938
    Email: cshipley@torontozoo.ca
    There was an error in this gadget