In The Media
September 4th, 2012
This time last year, residents in the provincial riding of Kitchener-Waterloo were exactly where they are today — headed to the polls.
Whereas last year Ontario’s party leaders debated the rising cost of electricity, smart meters and time-of-use billing, and the costs associated with the feed-in-tariff (FIT) programs offered through the Green Energy Act, in Thursday’s byelections in Kitchener-Waterloo and Vaughan there has been almost no mention to date of energy policy.
The energy supply issues debated last year remain unsolved. While we have a revised FIT program and efficiencies within Ontario’s electricity sector are being explored, we still don’t have answers as to how Ontario will generate clean, safe, and reliable energy in the long term. We can’t afford to ignore this issue, and as voters, we have the opportunity to ensure our candidates address the challenges our province is facing.
According to the Ontario Power Authority, as much as 80 per cent of the province’s existing power facilities will need to be refurbished or replaced over the next 20 years, leaving a gap of 30,000 megawatts between available and required capacity by 2025.
Half of today’s power plants will need to be replaced or rebuilt in the next 10 years, and over half of the transmission system in Ontario is more than 50 years old. Coal plants in Ontario are being phased out by 2014 and all of Ontario’s nuclear plants will reach the end of their operational lives in the next 20 years. This presents an expensive challenge, but also the opportunity to meet provincial greenhouse gas emission targets that aim to reduce emissions 80 per cent by 2050.
Currently, nuclear and hydro plants provide Ontario’s baseload electricity. Renewable energy sources supply additional power when available. Coal is being eliminated as an energy source because of the impacts to health and the environment. Nuclear produces virtually no greenhouse gas emissions compared with fossil fuel sources like natural gas and coal but there are concerns about safety and waste disposal, and not a single reactor in Ontario’s history has ever been built on time or on budget.
Renewable energy technologies like wind and solar offer the promise of producing electricity without greenhouse gas emissions and are quickly becoming an important component of the provincial energy mix, but challenges exist in storing the energy for use during peak hours and connecting new supply to the province’s aging electricity infrastructure.
The challenges surrounding our energy supply mix are diverse and there are conflicting views on how to overcome them.
The Ontario Green party platform consists of plans including prioritizing energy efficiency and conservation, and increasing hydro generation. The Ontario Liberal party is promising to create 50,000 new jobs in clean energy and is giving Ontarians 10 per cent off their electricity bills through the new Clean Energy Benefit. The Ontario New Democrats plan to take the harmonized sales tax (HST) off hydro and home heating bills, maintain the FIT program, and bring 10,700 megawatts of renewable energy online by 2018. The Ontario Progressive Conservative party is championing “affordable energy,” including the cancellation of the FIT program and affirming nuclear energy.
The importance of this week’s byelections to Ontario’s future can’t be ignored as it could reshape the political landscape in the province. Two ridings are battling for seats that could either return the Liberals to a majority government or bolster the opposition. While no one is campaigning on energy policy in this election, it’s important to remember that successful job creation, health care, and education all depend on a reliable and sustainable energy supply mix.
In the lead-up to last fall’s general election in Ontario, Sustainable Waterloo Region partnered with the David Suzuki Foundation to release a non-partisan expert review of the energy policies of leading political parties, entitled Ontario’s Energy Future: A Climate Change Perspective, available at www.sustainablewaterlooregion.ca/ontarioenergy.
This year, Sustainable Waterloo Region has invited each of the four leading local byelection candidates to contribute a guest blog providing highlights about their party’s energy platform and its impact on environmental and organizational sustainability.
To read the responses and find out where our candidates stand when it comes to energy and environment, please visit www.sustainablewaterlooregion.ca/blog.
For residents in the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo, make your voice heard on Thursday: vote. Our energy future hangs in the balance.
Mike Morrice is the executive director of Sustainable Waterloo Region, a not-for-profit that advances the environmental sustainability of organizations in Waterloo Region.
May 20th, 2012
Scott Gilmore, founder of Building Markets, is elected as a Senior Ashoka Fellow. He is stimulating economic growth in the most conflict-prone countries in the world, such as Afghanistan and Haiti, by building the market for local entrepreneurs and vendors. His solution to the lack of demand and financing was to work with international aid and humanitarian agencies and multinational corporations, changing the buying practices of foreign missions to support the local economies in which they operate. Building Markets was the only Canadian organization to win the G20 SME Finance Challenge in 2010. Senior Ashoka Fellows, at the time of election, have had continental impact and made a ‘scratch on history’. Scott is based in Ottawa.
Mike Morrice created Sustainable Waterloo Region in light of inadequate national and global responses to pressing environmental problems. Through a community-led approach, Sustainable Waterloo Region inspires and facilitates organizations to co-create ambitious yet realistic public commitments to reduce their environmental impact, measuring and reporting back on their accomplishments.
Jason Potts, founder of Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade (FAST), is facilitating access to finance for sustainable small and medium-sized enterprises located in developing countries. Through FAST, he is developing innovative tools that help socially oriented financial institutions and commercial lenders to provide finance more efficiently to those most in need. Jason is based in Montreal.
These three social innovators are the new Ashoka Fellows, joining a network leading social entrepreneurs implementing systems-changing solutions for tackling major social challenges in Canada. There are more than 3,000 Fellows in 72 countries who are building better communities around the globe.
“Ashoka Fellows are creative innovators who have developed ground-breaking projects that address social issues at their roots. They impact thousands of people in Canada and the world. We believe that a new idea in the hands of a social entrepreneur is the most powerful force for social change in the world. We are thrilled to elect Mike, Scott and Jason, particularly as we celebrate 10 years of Ashoka in Canada” says Elisha Muskat, Executive Director of Ashoka Canada.
Ashoka believes that the only solution to the world’s social problems is more problem-solvers. The organization identifies and supports people (rather than projects) as top changemakers who inspire and motivate others to be changemakers, showing the world it is possible to solve social issues.
“This election is an incredible honour – I’m humbled to join such esteemed company as an Ashoka Fellow,” says Mike Morrice. “To have the support of Ashoka Canada and to learn from other Fellows will go a long way towards efforts to scale our impact in Waterloo Region and as we share our model with other communities.”
As a global association of social entrepreneurs with the vision of creating a world where everyone can be a changemaker, Ashoka helps everyone realize their potential to be changemakers: to have the confidence, resources and societal support to do so. As part of its Fellowship program, which Scott, Mike and Jason are elected to for life, Ashoka supports them to grow their systems-changing new ideas to broaden and deepen their impact. Ashoka provides support and professional services through its international strategic partners, such as McKinsey & Company, H+K Strategies, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP and Egon Zehnder International.
About Ashoka Canada
For more information, visit www.canada.ashoka.org
April 19th, 2012
Events are being held throughout Kitchener this weekend.
Mike Morrice, the executive director of the not-for-profit group Sustainable Waterloo Region, says these kinds of international events are important for raising awareness of environmental issues at a local level.
“These events are meaningful insofar as acting as a catalyst for people across our community to get engaged in various sustainability initiatives,” he said.
“In Waterloo Region, we’ve got a number of various environmental organizations and initiatives for people to connect to, including REEP Green Solutions, CREW, the Grand River Car Share, and Sustainable Waterloo Region among them.”
Sustainable WR works with businesses and agencies that have made a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. So far, 41 partners in the region have committed to a 45,000-tonne reduction.
“I think what that’s indicative of is our community, and organizations in our community, that are really taking a leadership role in moving us toward a low-carbon economy,” Morrice said.
Sustainable WR was initially inspired by Sustainable Silicon Valley and the Toronto City Summit Alliance, but Morrice said Waterloo Region is increasingly at the forefront of sustainability inivitiaves.
“We have been coaching communities — folks in Niagara, and London and Hamilton — as they’re looking to engage businesses to
commit to action,” he said.
“I’m excited to the extent that we’re increasingly being seen as a leader.”
Charlotte Prong Parkhill
April 15th, 2012
Founded only three years ago by Mike Morrice, fellow students and alumni at Wilfrid Laurier University, Sustainable Waterloo Region (SWR) announced in its annual report on Apr. 12 that it has expanded its membership for its regional carbon initiative (RCI) from 29 to 41 in the past year. Of those members, ten have committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by a total of 42,550 tonnes — the equivalent of taking 10,000 cars of the road.
Morrice wants to see these numbers increase.
“41 organizations is certainly a good start but nowhere near the impact we’re hoping to have and the progress we’re hoping to see across this community as more businesses buy in to make measurable, meaningful changes,” said Morrice of the growing members SWR will help to set targets of lowing their carbon emissions.
One of the challenges he addressed in getting the attention of businesses is showing them how becoming more sustainable can ultimately help their bottom line. “There are examples from manufacturing to non profit ... that a business case has been successful for them and by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions they’ve been able to save money and attract better employees and really get ready for a transformational shift to a low carbon economy,” said the SWR founder.
An example that Morrice kept falling back to was his alma mater, WLU, which released their Sustainability Action Plan with the approval of the university board of governors last week.
“I’m very proud of the progress that university is making and the real steps they’re taking; that Laurier joined the RCI two years ago with real intention to put in place sustainability actions,” he said. “To now be at a point where in many ways that’s now coming into fruition ... that’s just really exciting.”
The five-year action plan Laurier has committed to includes a carbon reduction goal of 15 per cent.
Yet for making any of these goals a reality, Morrice said, “It goes back to the theme of the [annual] report — this is all about people of action.”
At many of the member organizations, SWR has inspired them to set up “green teams” among their employees to lead sustainable practices within the company.
Colin MacIntosh, property service manager for House of Friendship in Kitchener, spoke during the annual report announcement on Apr. 12. Exemplifying that three quarters of green initiatives are driven by green teams, MacIntosh said, “Our green team is the heart that will pump our sustainable initiatives throughout the organization.”
And while SWR’s focus is on sustainable practices in businesses, the behaviours they promote translate to the individual lives of employees.
Looking at the influence the push for sustainable practices is having, Morrice concluded, “There’s certainly a lot of transfer between behaviours and change practices in the workplace that definitely go home [and] create that larger cultural, social norm shift that we’re really excited about.”
November 22nd, 2011
KITCHENER — Germany doesn’t get much sunshine. Its coastlines are not huge.
Yet in the course of a decade, that country managed to become a global production centre for solar and off-shore wind energy and created more than 300,000 renewable energy jobs in the process.
Chris Turner, author of The Leap: How to Survive and Thrive in the Sustainable Economy, says if Canada wants a sustainable economy, Germany is the model to look at.
“What we are actually seeing right now is the failure of a growth economy that’s built on fossil fuels,” Turner said in an interview prior to giving a talk at a Sustainable Waterloo Region event in Kitchener on Tuesday night. The event was held in partnership with the German Consulate, Canada’s Technology Triangle and WalterFedy.
“In dealing with the economic sector in turmoil, the increasing competition for increasingly scarce natural resources and of course the climate problem, which is the trump card in the deck, the only thing that aims at all three problems and cracks all three is to have new investments in sustainability and green energy technology,” Turner said.
Turner described the German “leap” into this sector through its “deceptively simple” feed-in-tariff program, by which people could generate green power and sell it into the electricity grid at rates higher than the going rate for electricity. “The genius of it was that it was really very simple,” Turner said. “All they did was to change the way that energy was priced.”
Germany boosted its share of green energy on its grid from 6.3 per cent in 2000 to over 20 per cent now. “Not only did the Germans put a lot of green energy on the grid, but they became world leaders in making solar panels, wind turbines, high efficiency windows and things like that,” he said.
Turner credits the vision of the late Hermann Scheer, a Social Democrat and environmentalist who saw, early on, that climate change was going to be “the defining issue for generations to come.”
Of course, the program has its critics. Germany recently reduced what it pays for solar energy. Critics say that makes solar industries vulnerable. Also, the industry is now being hit by the fact that China is bringing extremely low-cost solar modules onto the market.
Arise Technologies, a debt-laden solar company headquartered in Waterloo, recently announced that it was shutting down its solar-cell manufacturing plant in Germany.
But Turner said Germany is still investing heavily in a green energy future. “They did reduce the solar rate, but they have massively increased the investment in offshore wind, which they see as a big replacement for nuclear power.”
As with any new industry, “there is a lot of volatility in small companies starting up and some fail and some succeed,” he said. “But as an industry, it is absolutely thriving.”
Ontario’s feed-in-tariff program somewhat follows the German example and has also faced a lot of criticism. But Turner sees the problem in Ontario as being in the implementation rather than the concept.
“The solar developers talk about the fact that people want it and the industry has ramped up to serve it, but you wait indefinitely for your application to be approved and to actually connect to the grid,” Turner said.
Turner said even before the feed-in regulations, Germany had a “100,000 Roof” program that provided loans for people wanting to install solar roofs. That didn’t add a lot of energy into the grid, but as thousands of Germans got involved, “it was very effective as a social change agent.”
Turner says “the power of decentralized energy production” is the way forward in the new economy.
“The power of decentralized energy production has often been compared to the way that the internet has changed the way we think about telecommunications. It has gone from a one-way service to the omni-directional web we now exist in. That’s where you start to see the opportunities,” Turner said