Op-ed: Ontario’s renewable energy future

Op-ed: Ontario’s renewable energy future

Reading the newspaper, you would be hard-pressed to find a circumstance where the employer and the union are on the same side. But when it comes to investing in a clean future for our children and grandchildren – a future with good jobs and a thriving economy – we stand together as ironclad supporters of renewable energy.

The International Union of Operating Engineers and the Crane Rental Association of Ontario are proud to join together with employers, industry associations and environmental groups, to form the Renewable Energy Alliance of Ontario. Our goal is simple: organizing the millions of Ontarians who support clean energy.

Why? Clean energy has transformed our province for the better. By phasing out coal, Ontario embraced the most significant act of environmental progress in North America – the equivalent of taking seven million cars off the road, cutting smog days and creating cleaner air. Our economy has benefited too. Environmental Defence argues that clean energy projects such as wind and solar have invested more than $14 billion in Ontario’s economy, creating over 200,000 good-paying jobs.

It is easy to see why Ontarians, then, are so supportive of renewable energy. According to a recent EKOS Poll, more than 80 per cent of Ontarians say they would like to see Ontario generating more power from renewable sources. Now is the time to invest in renewable energy, not just because of popular support – because it has never been cheaper. Wind energy costs 61 per cent less than it did in 2009. Meanwhile, the cost of utility-scale solar projects are down 82 per cent – designs that generate power even when the sun is not shining.

Ontario deserves an honest, fact-based conversation about clean energy. Instead we get a constant barrage of myths and half-truths. One of these is that renewable energy is to blame for high electricity prices. Wrong. Increased prices are mostly the fault of service charges directly billed to consumers. Another myth: Ontario has too much electricity and pays other jurisdictions to take our excess supply. The truth is that as Ontario grows, our demand for energy is growing too. The Conference Board of Canada estimates that $347 billion in investment in Canada’s electricity system is needed between now and 2030. How will we meet this demand? Through energy that creates the jobs of the future, or dirty energy that is a relic of the past?

What we are proposing for Ontario is not unique; we are just skating to where the puck is going. An analysis by Clean Energy Canada found that a record US$367 billion was invested globally in renewable energy in 2015. That is 50 per cent more than was invested in fossil fuels. With China, India, and the US leading the way in renewable energy investment, our economy depends on keeping pace with major trading partners. Meaningful investments in past years have put Ontario at the head of the pack within Canada. Today, we are at risk of falling behind. We cannot let that happen.

Ontario needs and wants renewable energy and the infrastructure that supports it. It is time to put shovels in the ground and start building. Our economic future depends on it.

Mike Gallagher is Business Manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 793. Ken Williams Jr. is President of the Crane Rental Association of Ontario.

Mike Gallagher and Ken Williams Jr.

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