Ontario launches green fund with initial $298 million investment

The Green Ontario Fund, or GreenON, will provide rebates and other incentives to help businesses and residential energy consumers slash their energy costs. It is expected to launch several solar-focused initiatives this autumn, the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA) said in an emailed statement.

Ontario accounts for the bulk of Canada’s installed PV capacity, with cumulative installations in the 2 GW range by the end of March 2017, according to the province’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO). By contrast, nationwide cumulative installed PV capacity hit 2.7 GW at the end of 2016, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

CanSIA said that the GreenON fund will give homeowners, building operators and industrial energy consumers more control in making the shift to renewable energy and energy efficiency. It hailed the initiative as a “monumental step forward.”

“CanSIA has been able to play an instrumental role working with the Ontario government to develop the Green Ontario Fund and the programs that will follow,” said Wesley Johnston, vice president of CanSIA. “Once all the programs are launched, CanSIA expects that the future of pivotal clean technologies like solar electricity, heating and cooling, will be brighter than ever.”

The Green Ontario Fund will be administered under Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan, backed by proceeds from the province’s new cap-and-trade program, which places limits on the amount of pollutants that companies can emit. The province held its second cap-and-trade auction in June. It raised C$504 million ($398.9 million), with total revenues from the program expected to reach C$1.8 billion this year.

The provincial government will initially invest C$377 million in GreenOn, which is classified as a not-for-profit provincial agency. Total investment is expected to reach C$2.4 billion by end of the decade, according to an online statement.

Initially, the Green Ontario Fund will bankroll the installation of smart thermostats in private homes throughout the province at no cost to homeowners, in addition to providing free energy-efficiency assessments. The fund plans to announce more programs for homeowners, businesses and industrial energy consumers in the months to come, according to a statement by the provincial authorities. Eventually, the program will be expanded to include incentives for electric vehicles and related infrastructure, as well as initiatives such as programs to help Indigenous communities cope with the effects of climate change.

The Liberal provincial government in Ontario has come under fire in recent years over its controversial energy policies. Over the past three to four years, the authorities have closed down all of the province’s coal-fired generating capacity, while ramping up spending on programs related to renewables and energy efficiency. However, homeowners throughout the province continue to complain about high electricity costs.