I just got back from a vacation. After the Artic Sunrise’s tour in September and the Ontario election in October I needed a bit of a rest.

Back on the job I’m starting to see signs of how the energy and climate debate is going to shape up in Ontario over the next couple of years.

I just did an interview for Radio-Canada about a project by Inniskillin Wines in Niagara-On-The-Lake. The winery is going to produce electricity from its byproducts such as grape skins. Typically these organic wastes are just discarded and sent to a dump somewhere.

I must say I like the combination: locally-generated power and locally-produced booze.

My hunch is that we’re going to see more and more of these projects setting up shop in Ontario.

Renewable energy development in Ontario has already surpassed the expectations of our politicians and government bureaucrats. Remember that in 2006 the government’s wise system planners (the Ontario Power Authority) said we should expect to see only 50 MW of solar power in Ontario 2025. They were forced to eat crow, however, when several solar developers said they would surpass this target within the next couple of years. As a result, the government’s energy planners reluctantly revised their solar power target and are now calling for 200 megawatts of solar power in 2025. Notably, Germany installed five times as much solar capacity in 2006 alone, so we’re obviously undershooting our potential.

The second trend I think we’ll see is green power developers demanding their right to power Ontario.

Despite the McGuinty government’s claims to leadership on renewables, its energy plan reins in the growth of renewables post 2010 in favour of nuclear. Ontario’s electricity plan limits growth of new low-impact renewable energy to about 5,000 MW in 2025 to ensure there is demand the power from nuclear plants when they come online around 2020.

Simply put, renewable energy developers are being denied access to Ontario’s electricity grid because priority has been given to nuclear generators.

A friend from Guelph sent me a press release from the Ontario Rural Council this morning regarding a conference it hosted in Stratford this week on the challenges facing the development of renewable energy in rural Ontario (see http://www.torc.on.ca/ for more information).

Note what Russ Christianson, a long-time cooperative business developer said:

“The province’s commitment to nuclear power as an energy source hampers its perceived commitment to renewable energy moving forward. The province has already designated a large percentage of their budget and the electricity grid for nuclear power. That’s why we’re having the kind of access issues we’re having for renewable energy. These are political barriers…not technical barriers.”

He’s right. So is Harold Flaming of the Ontario Rural Council who says in the same release that “Traditional mindsets must be made to understand that renewable energy is a viable option from a production, environmental and rural economic development perspective.”

Traditional mindsets do need to change. We were told during the election by pro-nuclear politicians (the Liberals and the Conservatives) that we simply don’t have enough green energy resources to do without big nuclear and coal plants. This is the old guard talking.

As the project by Inniskillin Wines and the conference by the Ontario Rural Council show, green energy developers across Ontario are ready to power Ontario. They just need to be given the chance.