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Conference opens on note of caution and optimism
Colin Andersen OPA keynote cp2011 crowd shot

In his keynote speech, Paul McKay, an award winning journalist and author warned of the "factually explicit material" he was to present. But first he began by citing the list of complaints against the feed-in tariff program including high prices, and the ineffectiveness and inefficiency of renewable energy technology.  Specifically he pointed fingers at the Financial Post newspaper for what he described as "brazenly trying to engineer the election process." He disputed the media's contention that  McGuinty lost his majority because of the Green Energy Act. He pointed out that the additional cost of renewables on people's hydro bills was negligible.

McKay also took aim at the nuclear industry and its "covert subsidies," and $14 billion dollar debt, jokingly suggesting that nuclear power be restricted to 10 megawatts. He was also scathing in his criticism of Hydro One for dragging its feet hooking up people to the grid system. His advice to the new Minister of Energy was to be "bold."

As an example of exactly how much can be accomplished was given by the next keynote speaker, Eckhard Fangmeier, director of Bioenergiedor Juhnde eG. He told how the village of 750 residents in Juhnde, Germany, were able to become totally sufficient in clean energy, using primarily biomass for heating homes and hot water and producing electricity. "People are the most important factor, he stressed. "There are no technical limits. The only limits are the people. If you can get people together you can move mountains. "

His community began by holding public meetings, street discussions and workshops to inform people about the possibilities and to motivate them. He also stressed that it is important to give people something to do to involve them. Now the community generates enough electricity to enable some of it to be sold outside the community. Meanwhile as many as 60 other communities are following the example set by Juhnde.

Ontario still has a long way to go yet before it can match this achievement, but Colin Anderson, CEO of the Ontario Power Authority, said that the province had made huge strides and that the FIT program had been an overwhelming success. He noted that 10 MW of renewable energy is being generated. Now, he said, the FIT is underway to improve the program. He also talked about the emphasis the OPA was putting on conservation with several interesting pilot programs including an innovative ice cooling system for the Toronto Zoo.

The greatest challenge, he said, was now integrating renewables into the system. For a while there will be surpluses of electricity, he said, but this will be vital during the refurbishing of the nuclear reactors, to which the government is still committed.

In closing Anderson advised renewable energy developers to "look at the long term as we work things through."

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