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Environment Commissioner Underscores Association's Call for Green Heat

Ontario's Environmental Commissioner criticizes the lack of support for green heat options from renewable energy; calls subsidy for solar PV "perverse" because it excludes solar thermal.

Ottawa, Canada, June 13, 2013 --( The microFIT subsidy for green power facilities in Ontario has created “a perverse incentive that represents a key barrier to reducing GHGs from buildings” because it provides financial incentives for solar photovoltaic electricity generation “to the exclusion of solar thermal systems” for heating water, says Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller in his annual report to the Legislative Assembly.

The provincial government should amend its solar PV tariff so it does not compete with the "financial and GHG reduction benefits" that would accrue from solar thermal installations, he adds, since the overwhelming majority of buildings in Ontario use natural gas to heat water and the opportunity to reduce these emissions is being lost.

Buildings emit 31.7 Mt of GHG and represent the third largest source after transportation and industry, and well ahead of the 14.8 Mt of emissions from electricity generation, Miller notes in his report, 'Failing our Future: 2013 Review of the Ontario Government's Climate Change Action Plan.'

“Over the past several years, there has been a lack of bold leadership on climate change mitigation policy in Ontario” and, while growth in emissions is easing, they are still projected to increase to 190 Mt by 2030 due in part to an increased reliance on natural gas-fired generation in the electricity sector, he adds. Miller calls for the province to assess how pricing signals, demand response, energy storage, and combined heat and power (cogeneration) systems could shift electricity usage away from carbon-intensive peaking generation.

The province’s predicted growth in GHG emissions “is hard to reconcile with the government’s goal to reduce emissions to 150 Mt by 2020 and to 35 Mt by 2050" and “much more needs to be done to close this gap,” he adds. Ontario’s electricity sector has been significantly decarbonized, “representing an excellent source of low-carbon electricity to reduce emissions in other sectors such as transportation.”

More than ten years ago, the canadian association for renewable energies (we c.a.r.e.) formed the Green Heat Partnership to promote the use of renewable energy technologies for space conditioning. These green technologies could reduce more GHG emissions than all coal-fired generation in the country, and their potential contribution is more salient in light of efforts to close coal-fired generating facilities.

Few government officials understand the potential of Green Heat, and the association's Bill Eggertson welcomes the Environmental Commissioner's report as a sign that recognition may soon happen.

Solar is a cost-effective technology for heating water or space, while geothermal and biothermal are dispatchable sources of heating, explains Eggertson. Geothermal (earth energy) heat pumps can also provide 100% of cooling load in residential and commercial buildings.

For more information on reducing GHG emissions and operating costs from Green Heat options, go to
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canadian association for renewable energies
Bill Eggertson

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