Green energy to take centre stage in Ont. election

Celestica Inc., which has sharply shifted its focus recently toward becoming a green energy firm, hopes the fallout of the upcoming Ontario Provincial Election in October will have little impact on the province’s green energy momentum.

Speaking at a media event at its Toronto-based headquarters, the electronics maker showed off its ramped up solar panel manufacturing business and stressed its work at creating partnerships with component suppliers from across the globe. “The supply chain is more complex than the electronics themselves,” said Mike Andrade, senior vice-president of emerging markets at Celestica.

But before taking media and government officials on a tour of its facilities on Thursday, Celestica’s green energy-focused event took a political turn.

“There’s no local marketplace for technology,” said Andrade. “If we think we can invent our own rules on solar panels, we’re foolish ourselves.”

In addition to working closely with global partners, Andrade said his company increasingly has to work more closely with all levels of government. He stressed that Ontario cannot run away or hide from the fact that solar, wind and other new energy technologies is crucial to the future of the province’s production of clean energy.

Brad Duguid, the Ministry of Energy at the Province of Ontario, was in attendance and invited to speak at the event. For Duguid, Ontario’s goal to replace “dirty coal with clean energy” is under threat by the opposition Progressive Conservative Party’s “dangerous” and “reckless” lack of vision on energy.

“(PC Party leader) Tim Hudak wants to destroy clean energy through his policies,” he said. “For 50,000 (clean energy) workers, their jobs are at risk.”

Andrade said that as Ontario pushes along with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, these energy costs will become cheaper and more easily delivered. He said this could have a huge impact not only on consumers, but also on enterprise IT infrastructure and data centres.

For Matt Price, campaign director at the Green Energy Act Alliance, said that regardless of which party wins in October, the international race toward clean energy will exist.

“The real question will be whether or not Ontario will keep running in that race, and whether the resulting investment and jobs will keep flowing into the province, or will go elsewhere,” he said.

Price added that the next Ontario government will need to set a market signal and stick to it.

“Energy facilities and infrastructure will need to get built regardless, so is Ontario sending the signal to the marketplace that these will be dirty fossil fuels, expensive nukes, or clean energy,” he asked. “Those signals can take the form of incentives for renewables, a price on carbon, or indeed both.”

But while companies like Celestica pledge to work with either government following the election, it is clear that Ontario’s green energy sector is unsettled about a PC Party victory.

The party has pledged to kill off the feed-in tariff program for renewable energy sources, a portion of the Green Energy Act which it says is providing too many subsidies for green energy companies and driving up the price of electricity for consumers and businesses.

“If anybody’s been reckless, it’s been the McGuinty government in offering ridiculous subsidies,” said Renfew-Nippising-Pembroke PC MPP John Yakabuski, who also acts as the party’s energy critic. “This so-called solar boom, (energy companies are) treating this as a gold rush. Companies are reaping in huge amounts of money on the backs of families and seniors.”

Yakabuski said that while the PC Party is “more than open” to renewable energy, skyrocketing hydro and energy bills have emerged as one of the biggest election issues and will be a top priority for its government to solve.

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