I am happy to be able to report on some promising developments, both within my own province and in the giant to the south.
Firstly, the Government of Ontario has tabled a new Green Energy Act. There’s a lot to the 75 page document, but one of the most promising elements is the introduction of feed-in tariffs for renewable generation. Here’s the idea: the bill will make it mandatory for those who own the electrical grid to buy energy from renewable power sources, after connecting them. The price paid for the energy will be set by the province, and it will vary depending on technology, resource intensity, project scale, and location. Tariffs of this kind have been effective at driving renewable deployment in the United States and Germany. The whole bill is online (PDF), as is an executive summary. There is also a guide on what more is required for ratification (PDF). In addition to feed-in tariffs, the bill contains provisions for developing a smart grid, the involvement of First Nations groups, the creation of two funding bodies, and a mandate for conservation. It will also adjust energy pricing (though the issue of how is vague) and streamline the approval process for renewable energy projects.
Secondly, it is worth noting that Obama’s new budget includes projected revenue from a national cap-and-trade system. Grist is discussing it in a three part series: I, II, III. While the projected revenues are low ($83 billion per year by 2020), this is further evidence of the Obama administration’s willingness to move forward on this file.
Carbon pricing and the promotion of renewables are both critical elements of a strong overall climate policy. There is reason to hope that after decades of inaction, things will really start to take off in North America within the next couple of years.
[Update: 2 March 2009] Over at Clean Break, Tyler Hamilton has written a good piece on the Green Energy Act. It includes more analysis than the other coverage I have seen.