March 21st, 2006, a watershed moment in renewable energy development
took place here in Canada. Ontario put in place a new policy that
enables farmers as well as individual land and business owners to sell
the power they generate directly back to the grid, putting money in
their pockets while they are at it.
In New Brunswick, we have
a policy of net metering that credits power producers for the energy
they generate, but, as it stands, this credit can't be carried over;
it gets cleared at the end of March, wiping the slate clean of any
surplus accumulated. As of this year, Ontario is encouraging its
citizens to invest in renewable energy by offering them a twenty-year
contract that guarantees them a fixed price for the power they
This policy is being
called the "Standard Offer Contract," and it is rapidly
becoming one of the most important topics in renewable energy circles
across North America. In Europe, under the name of "Feed-in
Tariffs" or, more recently, "Advanced Renewable
Tariffs," they have almost single-handedly been the driving force
behind the remarkable growth we have seen there over the past fifteen
Feed-in tariffs have been
hailed as the strongest policy available to drive rapid renewable
energy development. With the rising costs of electricity, there are
more and more individuals who are beginning to look at other energy
options for their homes, cottages, and businesses.
With this policy,
individuals are able to sell the excess power they generate back to
the grid, guaranteeing them an extra source of income, and extra
security on their investment. Also, the contracts are available for
more than just wind production - biomass, small hydro, as well as
solar photovoltaic energy are also all eligible.
(photo: Conservation Council of New Brunswick)
Ontario is currently
offering a full $0.42/kWh for solar power, and $0.11/kWh for each of
the others. As you can imagine, hundreds are jumping on board, and
there are likely hundreds more to follow.
The success that this
policy has had around the world is leading many in North America to
wonder why it isn't more widespread here. With the boost that these
contracts provide directly to individuals, the economic benefits they
can provide to small and rural communities, along with the
environmental benefits of generating cleaner and more sustainable
energy, it may well be time for New Brunswickers to speak up.
Council of New Brunswick is currently developing a strategy to promote
this policy in the province, and we need your help. For further
questions or information, contact Toby Couture at the Conservation
Council of New Brunswick: 506-458-8747.