Ontario Green Energy Act is good for biomass – but where’s the heat?

March 16, 2009
March 24, 2009 – Ontario’s Green Energy Act, tabled earlier this month, has all the right tools to make renewable energy  a much greater contributor to the province’s energy mix, but there’s one thing missing: heat. 

“In a country as cold as Canada, we’ve got great potential for heat from biomass , but too often it’s left out of the equation,” says CANBIO president and executive director Douglas Bradley. 

  “The feed in tariff is a very good thing for electricity from renewable sources,” says Bradley.  European countries, like the Netherlands and Germany, have proven that a feed-in tariff, which essentially sets a fixed price on renewable energy sources for electricity generation, can really shift the energy market from fossil-fuels to sustainable, green renewable sources and CANBIO solidly backs such initiatives in Ontario. 

“But only reserving incentives for electricity, not heat, artificially promotes biomass cogeneration plants to be less efficient because plants are the most efficient when they are able to use all of the heat produced, not just the electricity generated. ,” says Bradley.  “But the Act is still in the big idea phase, and now is the time to push for heat from renewable biomass to be included. For the wind turbine and photovoltaic sectors electricity production is the only focus. But for bioenergy heat production is just as important if not more important than electricity generation.  We’ll be talking with the Ontario government to try to make this happen,” says Bradley. 

CANBIO director Christopher Rees, who promotes bioenergy heating solutions in Ontario, is concerned that the definition of “Appliances,” in the Act only refers to electricity-using appliances.  CANBIO would like to see the definition include the most energy efficient heating appliances such as residential furnaces and industrial/commercial boilers that can use either pellets or chips for single site application or for district heating systems.  CANBIO promotes the concept of capital incentives for the installation of such furnaces and boilers. In business cases that we have examined to date, a 30 percent subsidy rate would be correct level of incentive and should be put in place for a five-year minimum.

The streamlining of the project approval process is another plank in the Act that CANBIO strongly supports.  “In the past, we’ve had complaints from many of our members that thick red tape and legislation not designed for biomass projects, such as steam engineer regulations, have been a major barrier to completing bioenergy projects,” says Bradley.  CANBIO also supports easy and simple access to biomass resources.

CANBIO is encouraged by the provision in the Act to create a Renewable Energy Facilitation Office in the Ministry of the Environment. It should offer a one-stop shop to openly discuss all renewable energy projects and facilitate their implementation.

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