John Hawkes invited to speak at Clean Energy Conference

It is an honour to be asked to speak to any group of industry specialists… particularly so when the rest of the speakers are all respected senior members of the community. The fact that someone will listen to what you have to offer on a techno/economic issue is always flattering.  BUT, what the heck to say?  The panel is to speak on the effects of the review of the Ontario Feed In Tariff (FIT) program. At this time there is much speculation on the rates and on changes to the program. Is the capacity filled? Will the rates be such that the investors, who are already kind of spooked, will pull their funds and find firmer ground? (And good luck with that – the TSX, BRIC markets, Treasuries?? None leap out as strong, healthy alternates).

The technologies have all assembled their cases as to why their particular renewable should receive favourable treatment. It’s sort of like the US primaries, but with not quite so much money behind it. But energy is a “horses for courses” game. Each mode has pros and cons depending on whether your power requirement is intermittent, standby, thermal, electrical, distributed, centralized or whatever. For sure we should be solidifying the energy plan for the next 50 years for Canada, not for the next four: there is now solid recognition that oil reserves are depleting and that the cost of finding what’s left will be significantly greater than the super fields of the early 50s and 60s.  This year at the DETROIT AUTO SHOW, 7 of the top 10 cars were either powered by hybrid or were available with hybrid power!

The availability of shale gas is, for now, giving gas a real boost as a fuel, but the surprising rejection of the Keystone pipeline application, due to risk of ground water pollution, is a siren call for the fracking industry.  Nuclear is still a viable solution for large baseload requirements, but 2011’s seismic events at Japan’s Fukushima plant has slowed the growth of this technology substantially in some jurisdictions.

So, wind, solar and bio do have their place in the sun.  A likely change in the rates of the FIT tariffs will have the effect of killing some marginal projects, but recognizing the reduction in capital cost and the improvement in the learning curve, it is likely that most developments are still viable. What we will all have to contend with is the cooling of the ardour of some owners during the lengthy wait since we excitedly filed our FIT applications almost a year and half ago. We also have to rekindle the resources, both technical and financial, to execute the projects.  So I’ll check in again just before the Clean Energy Conference. By then I might have a bit more insight into the new landscape and I may know what I am going to say there!!

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