I had the opportunity today to interview Averil Parent from WECEC. You’ve probably never heard of WECEC, and that’s why I felt this was worth doing. WECEC stands for Windsor-Essex County Environment Committee and it is a group of environmental-related organizations that meet monthly to ensure the ongoing health and stability of our local environment. Amongst other things, they serve to protect and enhance the quality of the environment for residents.
Recently, they placed a focused emphasis on promoting solar energy and the programs that are in place to help develop the industry that would provide it. It involved hosting a news conference and taking calls from the public during an Am 800 Experts on Call session, with the aim of educating the public. The only people who seem to be opposing renewable energy development are people who are either misinformed about it or have a vested interest in keeping business as usual. This educational campaign is a sorely needed, balanced and non-commercial rebuttal to this smear drive.
So without further ado, here is the interview explaining who WECEC is and why they do what they do:
Certified Solar: What is WECEC, how is it funded, what is it’s purpose for being?
Averil Parent: WECEC’s mission is to protect and enhance the quality of the environment for residents in Windsor and Essex County by providing guidance to City and County Councils on policies and procedures as well as supporting advocacy, community education and outreach programs. The Committee is funded by the City of Windsor and the County of Essex.
C.S.: What is the purpose of the Renewable Energy Campaign?
AP: The purpose of the Public Education Campaign is to increase environmental awareness and education of the benefits of renewable energy technologies in Windsor-Essex. The Campaign will showcase how various renewable technologies (beginning with solar) in our region contribute to providing sustainable energy resources for the betterment of our environment.
The Public Education Campaign will engage local stakeholders, consumers and the community at large. Further, the Campaign will utilize regional media outlets to build capacity with respect to reporting on the many advantages of solar energy technologies in our communities. It is the hope that the solar education campaign will be a success and then WECEC can begin another campaign focussing on a different technology utilized in our region.
C.S.: What does WECEC stand to gain by promoting the FIT program?
AP: This campaign will try and stay away from discussing the FIT program specifically, but will aim to educate residents on the overall benefits of the industries. We, as well as our environment, will benefit from an increased acceptance and awareness of renewable energy technologies.
C.S.: What do Ontarians and Windsorites stand to gain from FIT?
AP: Same answer as above. The FIT program, regardless of its limitations, has done a great job at decreasing the upfront capitol costs for residents and made solar systems cost effective. One of the myths that we wanted to myth-bust was that the amount of subsidies given to more conventional energy sources is quite a lot more than the renewable sector (see below two points from our fact sheet, as found on our website).
- In fact, 70% of the global adjustment monies paid out go to natural gas generators and nuclear plants when the market price does not meet their guaranteed price (which is almost all the time). In 2010 the Ontario Power Authority paid out $1.35 billion to meet gas and nuclear power purchase agreements. (Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, 2011).
- In 2010 the average cost of electricity per kWh was about 13 cents. The Ontario Power Authority paid $317 million for conservation programs and $269 million for renewables. This is a lot of money, however when recovered over a total Ontario consumption of 142 terawatt hours in 2010, it amounts to 0.4 cents per kWh, split roughly equally between conservation and renewable subsidies. Therefore the cost of renewable subsidies in 2010 amounted to 0.2 cents of the 13 cents we paid per kWh in our homes. (Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, 2011).
C.S.:The Windsor/Essex region seems to be taking quite well to the FIT program- am I being biased here or is there something truly special and unique happening right here? Is it true that we are making a name for ourselves as a “green hub“?
AP: I definitely think that Windsor has become a manufacturing/installation hub and this is great to see. It has created a great deal of economic development in our region. There are many residents and businesses who see the value in investing in renewable technology and this can be seen clearly as you drive down the 401 into Windsor.
C.S.: I can’t help but notice a very vocal few who seem hell-bent on spreading fear and misinformation via responses to Windsor Star, etc. What would you like to say to them?
AP: The Committee would urge those individuals to consider the potential ramifications of continuing down the conventional energy path… we are currently energy dependent, there are clearly documented human health effects, costing our Province a great deal of money and resources, and it should be clear that we are promoting renewables to be included as a part of a mix of energy sources. We know that renewables will never be the sole form of energy, and since we are already heavily subsidizing conventional, polluting sources, it is fair to provide incentives for renewables as well so that they are more affordable to home owners. Since they are a new technology, prices are high at the beginning and decrease overtime, similar to many electronics and new products.
Certified Solar would like to thank Averil and WECEC for their hard work and initiative.