Ontario has placed a big bet on clean energy. The Green Energy and Economy Act is the most progressive piece of climate legislation in North America. It’s also an important piece of Ontario’s economic puzzle. Billions of dollars are flowing to the wind and solar projects that form the back-bone of our clean(er) energy grid. Much of that equipment will be manufactured here because of the local content rules.
A central challenge remains: how do we ensure that Ontario moves from a protected local market to a globally competitive, export-oriented, Cleantech economy? How do we compete with China, India, the US on clean energy infrastructure? This, to me, is the opportunity (and challenge) the Green Energy Act puts before us.
A key to this puzzle involves the relationship between innovation and infrastructure. These two things are normally like oil and water: they just don’t mix. Ontario will never compete with China on mass manufacturing – but what we can do is innovate. Ontario’s next step is to ensure that our grid becomes the global centre of SmartGrid technology.
As renewables grow, our grid will get strained. Problems will arise. Those problems are an opportunity: if we can figure out how to solve problems – like variability of renewables, how to make storage work, dynamically allocate power, build smart sensors, control systems etc – then we’ll export that expertise and that technology. To get there we need utilities, innovators, strategic corporates, regulators to work together.
We have an opportunity to build smarts on the grid, just as we once did in telecom. I look forward to helping Ontario work toward that goal.
I’ll finish with this: in a market economy, if you solve a big problem then you get a big reward. Figuring out how to green the global grid is the mother of all problems. Let’s face that problem here at home, develop solutions, and build globally recognized expertise and technology. The GEA is just the starting gun. Now the race begins.