On May 14, 2009, Ontario's Bill 150, the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009 (GEA) was passed by the Ontario Legislature. Modeled, in part, after successful programs in Europe, the GEA is intended to provide the catalyst for the development of the green economy in Ontario, improve the environment, implement Ontario's commitment to climate change initiatives and create a culture of energy conservation. To accomplish this, the GEA amends 15 other statutes - including the Planning Act, Electricity Act, 1998 and Ontario Energy Board Act, 1998.

To re-cap our February update when we first reported on Bill 150, some of the key components of the GEA include the following.

Feed-in tariffs  

Arguably the most fundamental element of the GEA is that it paves the way for North America's first feed-in tariff program (FIT) which aims to simplify current procurement methods and provide incentives for investments in renewable energy technologies through standardized prices and long term contracts. FITs will replace the Ontario Power Authority's current request for proposal process and standard offer program. On March 13, 2009, the Ontario Power Authority released draft FIT rules and a draft FIT price schedule. It is anticipated that the Ontario Power Authority will finalize its FIT program this summer with the passage of the GEA.

Project approval streamlining  

The approvals process for renewable energy projects will be streamlined through a one-window, one-permit process with province-wide standards. The GEA also creates a Renewable Energy Facilitation Office within the Ministry of Energy for the purposes of facilitating the development of renewable energy projects, including working with proponents of renewable energy projects and other ministries to shepherd projects through the various approvals processes and through engagement with local communities.

Transmission and distribution  

The GEA requires transmitters and distributors to connect renewable energy generation facilities provided that certain requirements are met. The GEA further empowers the Minister to direct the Ontario Energy Board to take such steps, including through license amendments, to require transmitters, distributors and others to reinforce, enhance or expand their transmission, distribution or other systems to accommodate the connection of renewable energy generation facilities.

Conservation  

The GEA will help promote a culture of energy conservation in Ontario by setting energy conservation targets for consumers and distributors and encouraging the development of small-scale renewable energy projects.

Smart grid  

The GEA expands the Ontario Energy Board's objects to include the facilitation of the implementation of a "smart grid" in Ontario. In addition, every licence issued to a transmitter or distributor under the Ontario Energy Board Act will be required to prepare plans, in the manner and at the times mandated by the OEB, for approval for the development and implementation of the "smart grid" in relation to the licensee's transmission or distribution system. A licensee will be required in connection with any approved plans to make investments for the development of the "smart grid" in relation to the licensee's transmission or distribution system.

The GEA provides the framework for a green energy renaissance in Ontario. The bulk of the detail regarding the implementation of that framework will only be known once draft regulations are released. Current expectations are that such regulations will be released later this summer.