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Green Energy Act weclomed by OFA

An announcement last month by the Ontario government has drawn praise from the president and vice president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, calling it an excellent opportunity to accelerate their entry into the energy production market.


March 3, 2009
By Ontario Federation of Agriculture

March 2, 2009 

Last Monday’s (Feb 23, 2009) announcement by Minister George Smitherman, Energy and Infrastructure, of the Green Energy Act, is viewed by Ontario farmers as an excellent opportunity to accelerate their entry into the energy production market, says Bette Jean Crews, President of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA).

When the Act is fully operational, Crews says it will "create new opportunities for our farmers to participate even more in Ontario’s green energy revolution. Through their (increased) involvement in energy production, Ontario farmers will create new manufacturing opportunities and fuel other economic initiatives," she says. "OFA will work with the government to ensure necessary safeguards accompany green energy developments to preserve farmland and protect the interests of rural residents."

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Premier McGuinty has acknowledged that making the switch from building cars to building wind turbines may not be readily acceptable. "Everyone needs to recognize the modern economy is in a transition phase," Crews observed.

Farmers, by welcoming wind turbines, biodigesters and the production of crops used for the production of energy on their farms without reducing food supplies, have demonstrated their flexibility and desire to be part of a new economy in Ontario, Crews says.

OFA has been calling on the province to provide new and expanded opportunities for agriculture to contribute to the economy, and "this Act moves us in that direction. We're grateful and want to work with the province to provide OFA's advice on proper land use as Ontario farmers continue to provide food, fuel, fiber and now energy sustainably," she said.

Federation vice president Don McCabe added his voice to the chorus, with this column.

Ontario residents, including farmers, were given a breathe of fresh air when the Province of Ontario recently announced the Green Energy Act. Producing green energy is one of many areas where our farmers excel, and we’re anxious to get going.

We believe the concept offers the promise of appealing opportunities, but without knowing what the regulations will say, OFA must act with appropriate reservations.

Our land is one of the greatest resources we have, and Ontario farmers want OFA to continue its work to ensure farmland preservation is a criterion of projects. That’s why OFA intends to work with government officials as they write the regulations needed to make it law.

We intend to be at the table as the legislation takes shape. We want to work with the province to provide OFA's advice on proper land use as Ontario farmers continue to provide food, fuel, fiber and now energy sustainably for the provincial economy.

In the past Ontario farmers have climbed on board the drive to energy sustainability and built bio-digesters and wind turbines on their farms. They have also accepted new crops on their land – crops capable of being converted to food or energy.

OFA and Ontario farmers are responding to the Ontario Power Generation request for biomass by creating a broad-based partnership to develop a supply of non-food biomass to replace coal.

Farmers are great innovators and entrepreneures and will quickly recognize the variety of opportunities that a move to green energy could provide on their farms and in their communities.

We also, as Ontario residents, want to do our part to contribute to the growth and development of a new economy, not just for agriculture, but for all residents. The current economic downturn is having devastating impacts on all sectors of society, and agriculture is anxious to do whatever possible to return this province to more positive times.The government’s announcement of the Green Energy Act made reference to a number of important facts about the economy and the energy sector. It told us there will be about four billion dollars invested in new renewable energy projects; that Ontarians spend more then seven billion dollars a year on electricity to power their homes and small businesses.

If citizens can be convinced to make improvements to the energy efficiency of their homes and small businesses to conserve 10 per cent of that energy, that would free up $700 million from family budgets. Similar savings may be possible for agriculture.

The provincial government is projecting the move to a greener economy in Ontario could result in the creation of 50,000 well-paying green jobs in the next three years. The benefits to the environment as we adopt technologies to combat climate change will result in a healthier future for all citizens.

We’re told the proposed Green Energy Act will lead to regulatory changes and policies that will create a new, attractive, feed-in tariff regime with a pricing system for renewable energy. We interpret that to mean guaranteed rates for renewable energy generation, increased investor confidence, and access to financing.

Establishment of a ‘right to connect’ to the electricity grid for renewable projects would be a valuable benefit from the Green Energy Act. There is mention of establishing a streamlined approvals process including provision of service guarantees to renewable energy projects and a ‘renewable energy facilitator’ – all attractive features of the new Act.

OFA sees the Green Energy Act as an exciting opportunity for Ontario farmers. We welcome the infrastructure investment this will provide.