TOntario is one of the leading producers of wind energy in Canada, and big and small businesses are involved in electricity generation. Government incentives are also available to promote the use of renewable sources and the development of cost-effective technologies.
A number of wind power generators operate in Ontario, among which NextEra Energy, BlueEarth Renewables, Pattern Energy, Brookfield Renewable Partners. BlueEarth Renewables operates the Bow Lake Wind Project, Lucky Star Wind Project, and other sites. The company specializes in the acquisition, expansion, and operation of commercial-scale developments in North America. Brookfield Renewable Partners is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario and owns and operates hundreds of power generation facilities, including 550 solar power facilities, 100 wind farms, and 200 hydroelectric facilities. It has interest in different companies and developments around the world, including the Colombian Isagen and developments in Brazil, the U.S., Canada, and Europe. In 2017, Brookfield Renewable Partners had total current assets of $1,666,000, net receivables of $614,000, short-term investments of $72,000, and cash equivalents of $980,000.
Kruger Energy operates the Chatham Wind Farm in Chatham, Ontario. This is an onshore farm with a nominal power of 92,000 kW and 40 turbines. Kruger has consumer and industrial operations and specializes in the production of lumber, tissue and paper, specialty papers, biomaterials, renewable energy, packaging, and spirits and wines. The company has a revenue of about $10 million and 250 employees.
The government of Canada offers funding under the Wind Power Production Incentive Contribution Program as of April, 2002. Participants are offered 1 cent per kW-hour for electricity produced from wind power up to a limit of 1,000 MW. A total of 22 projects received funding under the program, and 924 MW were added.
The Canadian government runs different incentive and grant programs such as the Program of Energy Research and Development (PERD) and the Energy Innovation Program. The goal is to encourage research and development in the field of renewable sources. PERD offers contributions and grants to entities that work in cooperation with government bodies. Different government agencies and departments receive funding under the program, including Natural Resources Canada, Industry Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada. They offer funding and cooperate with universities, associations, individuals, companies, institutes, and other entities. A number of projects received funding under the Energy Innovation Program which aims to promote research and development. Projects focus on reduction of methane emissions, energy efficient buildings, carbon capture, and renewables.
Statistics show that electricity rates have gradually increased over time. Rates increased between 60 and 90 percent between 2010 and 2015 and by close to 9 percent between October, 2015 and November, 2015. Between November, 2015 and January, 2016, rates jumped by 10 percent. According to a report by the Ontario Auditor General, the reason is that contracts for solar and wind energy production were offered at above market prices.
Proponents highlight the fact that wind power has become an inexpensive alternative to non-renewable sources. It also helps create jobs across industries, including construction and manufacturing, and is a source of revenue for indigenous communities, municipalities, and individual landowners. At the same time, opponents claim that wind energy is expensive and is the main reason for high electricity bills. Above market generation costs are to blame for this. Critics also argue that energy is expensive due to wind intermittency. Over a period of three days, output can increase from 0 to 90 percent. What is more, residential electricity demand is highest in summer and winter when output is the lowest. Fall and spring see a high wind output but this is also the time when demand is low.
Proponents disagree that wind power is expensive and point to the fact that it costs about $11 per month, which is just 6 percent of the bill of households. Other components are 7 percent for hydroelectricity, 8 percent for natural gas, 12 percent for harmonized sales tax, 24 percent for nuclear power, and 31 percent for delivery. The fact that the cost of other energy sources is constantly going up makes wind power a cost-competitive source.
Wind energy offers many benefits compared to fossil fuels, and the main is that it is a clean and renewable source that helps minimize environmental pollution. It is used across Canada to generate electricity and at present, wind power accounts for about 6 percent of the electricity produced in the country.
Energy from fossil fuels is cheaper but renewable technologies have become more affordable. In fact, wind power is the least expensive option for electricity generation in Alberta - $37 MWh. It is also cleaner compared to fossil fuels that generate carbon emissions and contribute to air pollution. It also helps generate green jobs and provides economic benefits to people living in remote and rural communities, including indigenous communities. The demand for professionals in the field of renewable energy is growing, including jobs such as wind analyst, turbine technician, electrical engineer, corrosion engineer.
Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta top the list of energy production in Canada, followed by British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. While Ontario produces over 3.7 MW of wind energy Yukon produces just 0.9 MW. One of the main problems to further expansion is the fact that Canada’s coastline is mostly found in remote locations. The coastline is a good place to install turbines because there are many areas with frequent winds. At the same time, they are located far away from the grid which makes access more expensive and difficult. Good inland locations for power generation are the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the southern Prairies. The largest number of big wind farms is found in Ontario, in places such as the Frontenac Islands, Chatham-Kent, Melancthon, Port Burwell, and Kincardine.
A total of 21 wind farms were commissioned in 2016 in Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario, and 16 of them will be partly or fully owned and operated by local governments and local and indigenous communities. And while this is a promising development, studies show that the current model of wind power generation, which is based on different rates, may not be sustainable in the long run. In 2017, for example, the rates paid to wind electricity generators were significantly higher than hydro and nuclear power generators despite the fact that renewable sources account for about 33 percent of electricity generation. Data by the Fraser Institute shows that household electricity bills skyrocketed by 71 percent in 2016 alone. In an attempt to reduce electricity prices in Ontario, the new provincial government cancelled more than 750 contracts. Critics points to the fact that while this move may help reduce bills, it would also result in job losses. They also argue that the cancellations will only affect small investors such as indigenous communities, local municipalities, schools, and farmers.
A more competitive market-based model may be a better alternative to contract cancellations in Ontario, which result in significant waste and job losses. One idea is to follow the example of countries such as Spain, France, and Germany and reduce guaranteed rates. The guaranteed rate for solar power generators was reduced by 20 percent in France in 2013. Competitive rates will contribute to improved efficiency and lower prices for businesses and households.