Ontario's coming carbonomics controversy

Hamilton%2C%20Tyler45X64.jpgPosted by Tyler Hamilton
I had a feature this weekend in the Toronto Star about the cap-and-trade system coming to Ontario and the likelihood an offsets market will be created a year or more before the 2012 launch of the program. The government here is working hard to align our own provincial system with the Western Climate Initiative, in which it is a member, as well as the Waxman-Markey bill under consideration in the United States (which will likely set the North American standard). The idea of allowing a carbon offsets market to emerge in advance of the cap-and-trade launch is a smart one, as it gives industry a way to prepare and it stimulates offset project development before the final cap-and-trade rules go into effect.
But here’s the problem: A good portion of offset projects are also electricity generation projects, such as wind, solar, biogas and hydroelectric. But in Ontario, if you want to sell your electricity to the power authority you sign a 20-year deal under a new feed-in tariff program. The tariffs are generous, but most developers are also hoping to keep the carbon credits they would qualify for so they can be sold as offsets.
Unfortunately for them, the Ontario Power Authority’s contract for power purchases stipulates that it — and by “it” I mean the Ontario government, which is ultimately the Ontario ratepayer — gets to keep all environmental attributes. This raises a number of issues:
First, by keeping the credits will this discourage green-energy development, which would be ironic given that the government’s new Green Energy and Economy Act was created — and highly touted, I should add — for the sole purpose of stimulating such development and the jobs that come with? It’s certainly possible, since it’s tough these days for developers — particularly smaller local developers — to raise capital for projects.
Second, what does the government plan to do with these credits? Will it sell them on carbon markets and throw the cash in the general treasury? Will it sell them and dedicate the revenues to a special clean energy fund aimed at stimulating further green power development? Or, will it simply retired the credits?
Personally, I think it has no choice but to retire the credits. Click here to read more of Tyler's post.

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