As part of its new suite of environment-centred legislation, on January 19, 2007 the federal government announced an initiative entitled the ecoEnergy Renewable Initiative.
January saw a significant number of federal initiatives in the area of the environment in a bid to "green" the Conservative government. Many of the initiatives have some similarity to programs announced by the previous Liberal government, and the ecoEnergy Renewable Initiative (ERI) is no different. The 2005 Federal Budget included a commitment to expand the existing Wind Power Incentive Program (WPPI) to support an additional 3000 MW of new wind energy and to initiate a program for renewable energy sources other than wind called the Renewable Power Production Incentive (RPPI). These budgetary commitments were not implemented before Canadians went to the polls and the new minority Conservative government has not funded these programs to date, despite declared support from all federal political parties.
The new ERI program would consist of $1.5 billion to support the development of 4,000 MW of renewable energy between 2007 and 2010. Similar to the WPPI and proposed RPPI, the ERI would provide a 1 cent /kWh payment for the first 10 years of production from qualifying facilities. With an anticipated start date of April 1, 2007, the ERI is intended to support a range of zero and low green-house gas (GHG) emissions technologies, including wind power, biomass, small hydro and ocean energy. The ERI also includes more than $35 million of incentives and industry support for the expansion of renewable thermal technologies for water and space heating such as solar air and hot water heating.
The recently-appointed Minister of the Environment, John Baird, has stated that the intent behind the ERI is to complement the proposed Clean Air Act by improving air quality in Canadian communities by reducing GHG emissions and other air pollution. The controversial Clean Air Act is currently being discussed by all parties in committee. The Minister of Natural Resources, Gary Lunn, has stated that the Conservative government expects to add enough renewable electricity to power approximately one million homes, and a discussion paper is anticipated to be released in the coming weeks covering the details of the ERI, including how projects will qualify for funding. It is expected that the qualifying criteria and other program details will closely resemble the successful WPPI program and that the 4000 MW of supported energy production will be split between wind and non-wind electricity production technologies.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) has stated its support for the new ERI, "as an important cornerstone in the development of a comprehensive Canadian wind energy strategy". Considerable provincial initiatives in this area, including but not limited to RFPs for electricity supply to provincially-owned power authorities, will be complemented by the new federal incentive program. However, with recent Conservative "election readiness" actions abundant in the first two months of 2007, the renewable power industry can only hope that the ERI is brought into existence and provided funding before Parliament is again dissolved.
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