Funding for Clean Technology in Ontario

As reported by Gowlings LLP, The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) recently took another step toward implementing the goals in the Ontario Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP).  By filing the Ontario Climate Change Solutions Deployment Corporation regulation, the MOECC created a new non-share capital corporation to stimulate the development of clean technology and assist with reducing barriers that may inhibit the implementation of the CCAP and its goals.

What you need to know

The corporation, called the Ontario Climate Change Solutions Deployment Corporation (“OCCSDC”), was designed to further the provincial deployment of clean technology for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is tasked with meeting this broad purpose by:

  • providing information;
  • engaging in marketing;
  • providing services and arranging for others to be provided with services;
  • providing incentives and engaging in financing activities;
  • stimulating private sector financing; and
  • researching market barriers inhibiting the deployment of clean technology.

Interestingly, research and development are expressly excluded from the scope of the duties of the OCCSDC.

The regulation places a focus on developing programs that will maximize absolute greenhouse gas reductions and stimulate the use of clean technology by low-income households.  Additional programs will be directed at:

  • switching from using fossil fuels to other sources of energy;
  • energy storage (of various forms);
  • renewable energy;
  • retrofitting existing structures to reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions;
  • stimulating economies of scale in technology;
  • stimulating private sector financing; and
  • stimulating the construction of buildings that significantly exceed provincial energy efficiency requirements (think net-zero and net-positive construction).

The corporation will be funded in part by the proceeds of Ontario’s cap and trade program, which the Ontario Government estimates to be approximately $2 billion per year.

 

Why is this important?

Since the closure of Ontario’s coal power plants in 2014 (an event which went generally unnoticed by both the press and the general public), the province’s mighty electric power system has become one of the least carbon reliant in the world.  To reduce its GHG footprint further, Ontario must now look to sectors outside of the electricity sector.  Under Ontario’s CCAP, there are new clean-tech business opportunities arising in transportation, built infrastructure (buildings and homes), land use planning, commercial industry, First Nations Communities, agriculture and the MUSH sector.  There may also be opportunities in contaminated site clean-up and brownfield redevelopment.  The OCCSDC is intended to work in tandem with the CCAP to drive change and stimulate economic opportunities.

Ontario has the tremendous luxury of not being the first jurisdiction in the world to set up a green bank.  The UK, Japan, Australia and Malaysia have all cut a path through the forest.  Over the past nine years in the U.S., several green banks have been set up at the state level.  Of these, New York, California, Hawaii and Connecticut provide excellent examples.  Additionally, the concept of the green bank is essentially similar to that of an export development bank – something Ontario businesses are accustomed to working with at the federal level.  The key element of a green bank is that it uses public funds, tailored credit requirements and moderately innovative financing techniques to lever private sector finance and commercial innovation capacity in order to achieve specific policy goals.  With Ontario’s OCCSDC the focus will be – as it should be – on commercially viable technologies rather than research or early-stage innovation.

The best green banks bring global knowledge and understanding to local markets, use their strategic position to develop market capacity where the private sector would otherwise be unable to, use credit-enhancement, co-investment, securitization and other financing tools to diffuse risk, create scale and mitigate private sector project risk.  Ontario’s OCCSDC appears poised to do most of this and, in addition, it also promises to provide direct small-scale incentives and financing to consumers and to businesses to drive practical and attitudinal change.

 Where are the opportunities?

The key is to remember that the OCCSDC is intended to work in tandem with the CCAP to drive change and stimulate economic opportunities.  These mechanisms provide a “stick and carrot” approach.  The other thing to remember is, as several have already said, this is a big deal.  This program has the potential to impact most of the economy, including a number of key sectors and industries.

 What comes next?

The Board of the OCCSDC is currently being assembled.  After this happens, it will take time for programs to be developed and launched.  As well, key details on the operation of the new corporation – including reporting obligations, how it will interact with existing and emerging federal and provincial bodies such as the Ontario Energy Board and the emerging federal infrastructure bank – will need to be finalized and revealed.  That being said, there is significant pressure on the province to get things underway.

Given the grave, global impact of carbon and other GHG emissions and the very diffuse nature of the GHG problem for Ontario, the OCCSDC and its parent policy, the CCAP, promise to drive gradual and fundamental change and to create substantial economic opportunities across many sectors.  As with green banks elsewhere, early renditions are likely to have flaws and there will undoubtedly be missteps.  That being said, considering the sums involved and given the experience seen in other jurisdictions, the launch of the OCCSDC will create economic growth and innovation opportunity and, ultimately, should help Ontario meet its GHG objective.   This one’s, as the saying goes, got legs.

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NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on this website in any form is for information purposes only.  It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice.  You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action based upon this information.  Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website.  Gowling WLG professionals will be pleased to discuss resolutions to specific legal concerns you may have.

 

About the Authors

 

Benjamin Ojoleck is an articling student in Gowling WLG’s Toronto office.   Benjamin graduated from Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law in 2016 with his Juris Doctor, and an additional specialization certificate in Environmental Law.  During law school, he pursued his interests by working as a research assistant to a law professor on a variety of environmental law-related topics, such as the development of renewable energy, including tidal energy, in Nova Scotia.

Thomas J. Timmins is a Partner in Gowling WLG’s Toronto office.  He is widely recognized as a leading lawyer in energy, infrastructure and commercial transactions, and his practice focuses on corporate, commercial and transactional law across a number of sectors. Tom has led several of the firm’s most significant power and infrastructure sector transactions and regularly acts for a wide range of corporations, investors, government agencies and financial institutions around the world.

The full article can be found at Gowlings WGP website here.

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