Ontario’s $7-billion green energy investment upsets enviros

Dalton McGuinty’s deal with Samsung has Green Party fuming

Last week, when Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced a new $7 billion investment in the province’s green energy sector—perhaps the largest such investment in the world—he earned himself an unlikely adversary: the Green Party of Ontario. “We’d like to see the provincial government scrap this deal,” said Mike Schreiner, the Green leader, in an interview with Maclean’s.

The province signed its deal with a South Korean consortium, which includes Samsung. And at first glance, it seems like an environmentalist’s dream come true. The consortium is committed to developing 2,500 megawatts of wind and solar power across the province (about enough to light 580,000 Canadian homes). In the process, it will create an estimated 16,000 jobs, 4,000 of which will be permanent. The goal is to make Ontario “the place to be for green energy manufacturing in North America,” McGuinty explained.

That’s all well and good, says Schreiner, whose party celebrated the passing of the Green Energy Act last year. But “this deal essentially throws [Ontario companies] under the bus.” Ontario-based projects are shovel ready, he insists. “So why are we offering special deals to multinational corporations?” The Association of Power Producers of Ontario is equally upset. David Butters, the group’s president, says it’s not Samsung’s presence that bothers him so much as the preferential treatment that the South Korean behemouth is getting. Ontario has guaranteed Samsung a higher-than-market value for its energy and  priority access to the power grid. “Now we have two kinds of developers in Ontario,” laments Butters. “Samsung and everybody else.”

Consumers, at least, can take solace in the fact that the power they’re getting will be clean and green. But at a cost, say various critics. The province will shell out $437 million to the consortium, who in turn are investing the $7 billion. At the household level, that amounts to $1.60 a year, for the next 20 years.

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