Ontario needs to re-think its energy strategy so that its economy can be competitive with other manufacturing jurisdictions in the world.

As a mechanical engineer specializing in alternative energy technologies, I am very passionate about the environment and renewable energy.  As much as I think the Green Energy Act is a great feel-good concept, its implementation needs much improvement.  The following points are my concerns with the Green Energy Act:

  • Wind/Solar Generation's impact on Global Adjustment
  • Poor wind resources require unnecessary subsidies
  • Wind Turbine location needs community involvement through Community Enterprise
  • Renewable energy needs to have energy storage to match generation to load in order to make sense
  • Recognize Anhydrous Ammonia as a Renewable Fuel

Although it is a good idea to create new manufacturing sector (Green Energy), the FIT (Feed-In Tariff) Program pays exorbitant subsidies to developers.  Without these subsidies, very few green energy projects would be able to compete with conventional means of power generation.  The FIT Program causes hydroelectric plants to be spill water rather than generate power and since all power generated by the FIT Program must be purchased, we often have situations where there is a surplus of power that must be exported at a negative rate (ie, pay a neighbouring jurisdiction to take it), which ends up costing Ontario taxpayers in the form of the Global Adjustment .  While the Global Adjustment can be either negative or positive, the Green Energy Act ensures that it is negative.

Part of the reason that FIT program subsidies are so costly is because Ontario has very poor wind and solar resources.  In addition, the Province does not care whether a wind energy project is located in a areas with good wind power resources.  It does not matter that a project is in a windless location because the the high rates paid for this power ensure that the developer still makes a profit.

The problem with renewable energy is that its generation very often does not match the demand by the grid.  Conventional Hydroelectric plants match generation to demand with stored water behind dams in their head ponds and sometimes with pumped storage (as is done at Sir Adam Beck in Niagara Falls).  Ideally, there should be a way of storing surplus green power so that it could be used when electrical demand is high, which is the equivalent of putting electricity in a bottle.  However, the Green Energy Act does not include this crucial aspect of green power generation in its plan.

With enough plug-in hybrid-electric cars, it would be possible to store surplus green energy with a smart grid that would anticipate surplus generation and recharge these vehicles accordingly.  However, there is nowhere near enough vehicles to do this and it would be extremely expensive to implement because the sale of plug-in hybrids relies on substantial purchase subsidies.

It is possible to put surplus green electricity in a bottle by manufacturing anhydrous ammonia (NH3), which is an energy currency that is more practical than hydrogen.  NH3 is ideal for the chemical storage of electricity because it handles much like propane (a Liquefied Petroleum Gas) unlike cryogenic liquefied hydrogen that is complex and energy-intensive to handle.  NH3 can be manufactured from electricity with a solid state synthesis process and be can be easily transformed back to electricity with Canadian-developed fuel cells. As a valuable commodity, surplus NH3 could then be sold at market prices rather at a loss as is currently done with surplus green electricity.

In addition to using anhydrous ammonia to balance power generation in the grid, NH3 can be used an carbon-free fuel in internal combustion engines and Hydrofuel Inc (based in Ontario) has already developed NH3 fuel systems (see CBC News Story).  Hydrofuel Inc. has also worked with UOIT's Alternative Fuels Research Department on a Transport Canada Clean Rail Study about using ammonia in diesel locomotives and is working to commercialize UOIT's ammonia motor fuel technology.

Ontario needs to formally recognize ammonia as a fuel, energy currency, and carbon sequestration technology as the Government of Canada has, and to level the playing field because of unfair subsidies and tax advantages to other technologies, both green and brown.

I will also fight for community ownership as well as a more direct say in the development of local resources.