By Nicole Mordant Reuters
Ontario’s opposition Progressive Conservative Party would overhaul the province’s feed-in tariff program for producers of renewable energy if it wins the October provincial election because it is too expensive, a party leader said on Wednesday.
The Conservatives, who have a double-digit lead over the governing Liberal Party in opinion polls, would also comb through existing contracts handed out under the incentive plan to see if changes can be made, said John Yakabuski, who is in line to take over as energy minister if his party takes power.
“Going forward, absolutely, we would not be signing these contracts,” Yakabuski said.
“We are not going tear up contracts, but I can tell you we are going to look at each and every one of those contracts to see what options we have,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, has attracted billions of dollars in investment from foreign and domestic producers of renewable energy since it launched North America’s richest and comprehensive feed-in tariff program late in 2009.
The program, which is aimed at creating jobs and eliminating coal-fired power plants to cut greenhouse gases, pays above-market rates under 20 year contracts to solar, wind, water and biomass power producers who meet certain criteria.
Ratepayers, who bear the costs of the program, have started to complain as their monthly power bills have risen.
“The problem is that the consumer pays and that is the tremendous, terrible wrong of their program,” Yakabuski said.
He said the Conservatives were in favor of closing down coal-fired power stations and encouraging the development of renewable energy, but contracts for new power had to be awarded through a competitive bidding process.
The Conservatives have not yet issued their official energy policy but will do so well before the Oct. 6 election, he said.
The biggest investor in the Ontario green energy program to date is a consortium led by South Korea‘s Samsung C&T (000830.KS), which was awarded a C$7 billion ($7.01 billion) contract a year ago to build wind and solar projects and set up manufacturing plants.
“I think the posture of the Conservatives is slowing some investment,” said Michael Carten, chief executive of Sustainable Energy Technologies Ltd (STG.V), which has partnered with Bosch to build solar modules and inverters.
“I am sure that some of the big players are saying ‘I have to see some continuity on this, let’s see what will happen after the fall’,” he said.