The European Union is seeing red over Ontario’s green energy policies.
In a stern communiqué from Brussels, the EU complained to the World Trade Organization that the province gives subsidies to renewable energy producers to force the use of Ontario-made goods.
“This is in clear breach of the WTO rules that prohibit linking subsidies to the use of domestic products,” it said in its statement Thursday.
“The European Union leads the world in the promotion and development of renewable energies, and welcomes the commitment of Ontario to encourage their use,” the EU continued.
“However, the promotion of renewable energies must be done in a manner consistent with international trade rules. The EU believes that the Ontario Green Energy and Economy Act … is inconsistent with Canada’s WTO obligations. Under the WTO, it is illegal to condition access to a subsidy to the use of domestic products.”
In June, Japan launched a similar complaint to the WTO about Premier Dalton McGuinty’s signature green energy program.
Energy Minister Brad Duguid made no apologies for the initiative, which has led to $20 billion in investment and created 20,000 jobs – and should generate 30,000 more by the end of next year.
“We’re now seen as the world leader and when you’re in that position, you’re going to have other jurisdictions looking somewhat enviously at what’s being achieved here,” he said Thursday.
Duguid said building a thriving clean energy industry in Ontario is as much about economic development as the environment – and warned the government would protect jobs here.
“We’re going to stand up for Ontario. We will against Tim Hudak,” he said, referring to the Progressive Conservative leader who plans to scrap many of the Liberals’ green energy subsidies if elected Oct. 6.
“And we will against anybody outside of Ontario that wants to threaten our efforts to create jobs.”
Ontario has strict rules for domestic content in green energy generation.
For larger wind power projects over 10kw of electricity a year, the requirement started at 25 per cent and will increase to 50 per cent on Jan. 1. There are no domestic content regulations for wind projects of 10kw or less.
In all sun-powered projects, there must be 60 per cent Ontario content, which has led to a burgeoning local solar panel-manufacturing industry.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who has long called for more made-in-Ontario policies, said the province should consider ways to “improve” on the domestic percentage in green products.
“We need to make sure our Ontario workers are getting back to work and doing that through renewables, I think, is important,” said Horwarth.
But Tory MPP Elizabeth Witmer (Kitchener-Waterloo) said her party is more worried about the other costs related to the Liberals’ green energy crusade.
“We’re concerned about the unaffordable programs that are driving up hydro bills,” said Witmer.
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