Minister touts new energy act in London

Provisions appeal to young people, Smitherman says

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

He calls himself the daddy of the Ontario government’s recently proposed Green Energy Act.

George Smitherman, Ontario’s Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, was in London yesterday talking about the provincial government’s new bill, which aims to transform Ontario’s energy focus regarding consumption, pricing and business.

“It really is a bill that has two equally strong thrusts: more renewable energy on the one hand and the efforts to make us a culture of conservation,” the minister said from inside the Hilton hotel.

Smitherman says the GEA agrees with the sensibilities of most young people, including innovation in the technology sector and concern for the environment.

“I think that there is something very emotional in this for a lot of young people,” he said, adding the post-secondary sector is also recognizing the shift to jobs in a green economy.

The GEA estimates 50,000 new jobs will be created over its first three years, coming from the cultural shift in energy consumption, according to Smitherman. This will include renovating buildings and changing energy costs.

Pointing to the Hilton’s lobby escalators, Smitherman called them an old and wasteful use of energy.

“As if the technology doesn’t exist to have a beam that gets tripped and starts them up.”

The act proposes a “time-of-use” pricing model, which raises the cost of energy during high-demand periods and reduces it when demand is low.

“It’s going to help create the mindset where people are running their dishwashers and doing their laundry as much as possible " and sometimes by technology, by systems " after [10 p.m.],” he explained.

Despite potentially higher energy bills for consumers who do not adjust, Smitherman defends the move as a necessary motivator.

“It’s about helping to make clear that supply and demand is an influencer on the price of electricity.”

Smart metres used to monitor energy use will also be mandatory in all homes by 2010 and are paid for on a monthly basis.

The Act also attempts to attract new business by using a feed-in tariff, which allows companies to pay reduced energy fees when using renewable energy.

“The feed-in tariff is really just a fancy way of saying ‘guaranteed price’ over a fixed period of time,” Smitherman clarified.

“I can’t pretend to be operating in a world where everybody will be pleased, but it’s my obligation to listen carefully to the criticisms and do the best that I’m able to address them and assuage them.”

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