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What does the renewable energy sector want from the federal government? Part II
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Perry Hoffman

January 25, 2011

In Part II of Canadian Green Tech’s review of renewable energy sector demands from the federal government, we look at hydrogen fuel cells, the electricity sector, and what the Pembina Institute is calling for.

Stimulating growth and sales of hydrogen fuel cell equipment, creating an energy storage pilot program and renewing the ecoENERGY Retrofit program were also key policy planks advocated by the renewable energy sector. The hydrogen fuel cell association, the Canadian Electricity Association and the Pembina Institute highlighted the impacts that support for their policies could accomplish.

For the fuel cell industry, the national association suggests the federal government institute a tax credit program on equipment purchases as the United States has done. This will help drive up volumes and improve the economics of scale to drive down costs.

“The US has that tax credit now and it's having that exact same effect. That will ramp up volume and help drive down costs to the point where you won't need that initial incentive to stimulate the market,” explained John Tak, president and CEO of the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association.

The Canadian Electricity Association argued for changes to the capital cost allowances so as to encourage upgrades or new builds of electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure, enabling a smoother integration of renewables onto the grid. The CEA also urges regulatory reform at the federal level to reduce the complexity of multiple laws and regulations improved on utilities. The association insisted it doesn’t want to see a “watering down” of existing legislation, but seeks “regulatory predictability, consistency of application, and, in every instance, positive environmental outcomes.”

Lastly, the CEA wants the federal government to create an energy storage grant program “to fund electric utility energy storage pilot programs to assist in bringing these technologies into the mainstream.” Not only will these technologies enable the use of excess power generated in low-demand periods in peak-use times, “energy storage technology can provide a cost-effective solution to the widespread integration of the intermittent renewable energy technologies…such as wind, solar and tidal.”

The Pembina Institute called the renewal of the ecoENERY Retrofit program.

“There's a real concern that if there isn't reinvestment in this upcoming budget, a lot of that momentum, a lot of the industry that's been developed around those programs, could be lost. Not only is there an environmental danger, but there are jobs that could be lost, jobs that have basically grown up around some of those programs,” said Tim Weiss, director of renewable energy and efficiency policy at the Pembina Institute.

He likened the program to a long-term tax cut and permanent tax cut. “If it's money you're not spending on energy every month, if it's money your business isn't spending on energy every month, it's money you have in your pocket to be reinvesting in Canada, to be reinvesting in the country,” Weiss argued.

Besides, there is still tremendous benefit to be realized from a program of this sort, he added. Only 8% of homes took advantage of the program and now the government should turn its attend to determining “how we can that to 100%. Most homes in Canada could easily be using 30% to 50% less energy that they’re currently using.”

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