March 2011

North of 49°
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Ontario Energy Plan Means New Jobs, Investment

Ontario is on the cusp of a new energy revolution, thanks to Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty's proposed energy plan, which aims to modernize the province's electrical system and make it North America's leading center for alternative energy technology.

The $87 billion, 20-year plan will build off of last year's Green Energy Act by making serious investments in wind, solar and hydropower development, while encouraging energy efficiency programs and transmission line construction, including a new 4,000-megawatt transmission line in Southern Ontario.

McGuinty has also called for the construction of two new nuclear facilities.

The goal is to have Ontario generate nearly 20,000 new megawatts from renewable resources by 2018. Last year's bill, which invested $5 billion in solar, wind and smart grid technology, while offering incentives for renewable companies to set up shop in the province, has already given the green industry a big head start.

All this means new jobs for electricians trained in renewable technology, along with new manufacturing and utility positions to support the burgeoning industry—potentially creating thousands of new IBEW jobs.

"We have a ready-made work force with experience in renewable energy, along with the training facilities needed to turn out more workers," says Alex Loula, director of government and public relations for the IBEW's Construction Council of Ontario.

The IBEW currently does most of the wind energy work in the province, while making inroads into the burgeoning solar power market. Last year, members of Sarnia Local 530 completed work on the largest solar farm in North America.

"Solar has definitely picked up because of the green bill," says Local 530 Business Manager Michael Cataford, who is gearing up for two new photovoltaic projects that are projected to put more than 200 IBEW members to work.

The construction council recently unveiled a green training curriculum training program for locals, including a train-the-trainer component so every IBEW electrician in Ontario will have the opportunity to get up to speed in photovoltaics and wind turbine installation.

"The Green Energy Act spurred a gold rush of investment," Loula says. The planned nuclear plants will also mean lots of work for IBEW journeymen.

Key to the Green Energy Act's success has been its "feed in tariff" program, which guarantees a stable rate of return for renewable energy providers, along with domestic content regulations that require that a majority of green energy components be produced in Ontario.

Siemens Canada recently announced that it was building the province's first-ever wind blade manufacturing plant, while Samsung has committed to making a $7 billion investment toward a new wind tower plant in Windsor.

The government's energy policies are likely to be a key issue in next fall's elections, with the opposition Progressive Conservatives attacking the plan as unsustainable.

First District Vice President Phil Flemming said, "A modernization of Ontario's electrical system is long overdue. We can't just keep kicking the problem down the road."