Thursday, 23 May 2013

Developing Canada's Clean Techs Sectors: WTO Decision on Local Content

Recently the World Trade Organization ruled against Ontario in an Appeal decision regarding complaints from Japan and the European Union concerning the Ontario content eligibility requirements under Ontario's Green Energy Act.  The content exigencies in question link approvals of clean energy projects to the development of Ontario's clean energy technology manufacturing sectors.

This ruling stands in contrast with the "US model" for which the $70B invested the US green economy under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and covering the years 2009 to 2011, was subject to a Buy American Provision.  Thanks to these investments coupled with the US content rules, 1) there are now 500 wind tech manufacturing plants in the US; 2) the largest new source of electrical power generation in the US in 2012 was wind energy; 3) 20% of US venture capital activity in 2011 and 2012 was invested in the US clean tech sectors; and 4) there were 119,000 employed in the US solar sector in 2012.

The US cash grants, 30% Investment Tax Credit for solar projects and  2.2 cents/kWh Production Tax Credit for wind projects have survived the post ARRA years, post 2011, but are no longer as well-financed as the 2 good years.

Regarding the implications of the WTO ruling for Ontario, under the Ontario Green Energy Act, Ontario has Feed-in-Tariff rates - the price above market rates which are offered to winning bidders for Ontario renewable energy production sites.  These FIT rates, at 13.5 cents/kWh for wind and 34.7 cents/kWh for large solar projects, are content conditional to the effect that solar and wind projects must have 60% and 50% Ontario content respectively.

The content stipulations have given rise to an emerging Ontario clean tech industry base in the province that includes a Siemens blade plant in Tillsonburg; a CS Wind turbine tower plant in Windsor; a GE turbine hub plant in Peterborough; TSP's turbine tower facility in Thorold; the Enercon wind turbine electric components and tower facilities in the Niagara region; and the solar manufacturing plants, Siliken in Windsor and Centennial Global in Kingston.  Other manufacturing facilities are in the planning stages such as the REpower turbine blade plant.

For somewhat similar reasons, Quebec nascent wind technology industrial base is the result of provincial content requirements. The first 1000 MW Request for Proposals (RFP) had a 60% Gaspésian content requirement and the second RFP for 2000 MW had 60% Quebec and 30% Gaspesian content requirements.  Wind tech manufacturers that have set up shop in Quebec include LM blades in Gaspé; Marmen towers in Trois-Rivières and Matane; VCI nacelles in Matane; Enercon towers and switch gears in Matane; REpower/Woodward convertors in New Richmond; and Fabrication Delta towers in St-Siméon.

In response to the WTO decision, a federal government committed to developing Canada's clean tech sectors would intervene to assist these provinces and perhaps establish a national program in this regard. -- Of course we cannot count on the Conservatives for such action.

One option to go around the WTO ruling is to focus new projects on community-led initiatives.  Under this community-led option, the national government might set up a green infrastructure program that includes manufacturing facilities and the construction of renewable energy production sites.

 Will Dubitsky


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