Renewable energy

When it comes to renewable energy, Canada is certainly trying, but there is lots left to do. It helps that Canada is putting in policies and incentives in place to encourage investment in renewable energy. But from my perspective the main focus must be an attitude change in the general population. I am not convinced that all policy attempts will foster such a change, particularly, if they are so costly that people get “turned off” by them to think green in a general sense. A classic example for this would be Ontario’s FIT Program which has put a significant strain on Ontario’s finances.

The Ontario Power Authority created a FIT (Feed-in Tariff) program, which rewards property owners with revenue when they create projects that harness wind, water and the sun to generate electricity. The Feed-In program relies on citizens adding solar panels or wind turbines for example to their land, with the energy created fed into the province’s power grid.

The FIT program sounds like an ideal way to boost Ontario’s power production by natural means while generating additional income for residents. But the costs are staggering and given the province’s deficit, are simply not sustainable (yes, there is that word again) for a large scale energy supply under Canadian climate conditions.

It’s not just happening in Ontario. There are a number of policies designed to boost electricity production from renewable energy sources across Canada. And it doesn’t stop there, it appears to be a global trend – and is being embraced by some unlikely countries. For example, while the Middle East and North Africa boast copious oil reserves, they also benefit from plenty of sunshine and windy conditions. However, I believe the main leader in this philosophy was Germany. It must be noted that this country has now started to realize the enormous technical and financial consequences that come with programs like this and is scaling back its support significantly. But my observation is that programs like this certainly helped raising public awareness of the issue.

A number of renewable energy projects are currently being planned or are being developed in countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Iraq.

The website even makes mention of plans to develop the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai, which will become “the largest solar power park eclipsing all other combined solar projects in the United Arab Emirates.” The site explains the project will require an investment of U.S. $3.5 billion, with opportunity for private investment. Well, at least the sun shines there in abundance. That is reason for hope that the efficiencies will actually make financial sense. I have my doubts in countries with significantly less sunshine.

In Canada, we would be helped already if everybody simply paid for the energy they consume. That would reduce consumption significantly, as studies have shown. Every residential unit should be sub metered at least for hydro consumption. How about a subsidy for that?

As the world’s oil reserves deplete, renewable energy sources are a logical way to move forward. But Canada and other countries should not fool themselves. A mix is needed. Both renewable energy sources and oils and developments will be required for a safe energy supply.