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  • Two Case Studies International Energy Policies: What Ontario Can Learn

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When responding to consumer input regarding the relative success and failure of the Green Energy Act while compared to the relative success of green initiatives around the world. While many countries are leading in renewable energy, the path to prosperity leads many different ways. What are other countries doing with their energy policy that could benefit Ontario in the long term?

Germany Led The Way… Until It Didn’t

Germany will be remembered in the decades to come as an example of where a good PR campaign means everything. From 2007 to 2009, cheap access to solar panel technology created an absolute boom in the development of renewable energy projects and made Germany the darling of Europe’s green energy development. In addition, the massive success of home microfit projects led to German homeowners being able to make a tidy profit off their home energy generation.

And yet, in the race for more and more green renewables, Germany has left perhaps the strongest and most cost-effective solution by the wayside: nuclear energy. Germany has a long and controversial stance towards nuclear power, with over three-fourths of citizens opposing nuclear development. Following the Fukushima disaster in 2011, Germany has closed nearly half of all it’s operating plants, with a further goal of eliminating nuclear power by 2022.

For skeptics and alarmists of nuclear energy, rest assured that this has not helped Germany’s energy woes. With a production capacity from nuclear dropping from 25% to around 15%, the difference has been made up by significant investment in coal and oil fired plants. The resulting change of policy is like shifting gears without the clutch and, as a result, Germans pay six times more for their energy than the United States.

Complicating the matter is that Germany’s development of green technology has lagged behind in recent years. While their feed-in tariff program in the 1970s was enormously successful in reducing energy cost and promoting development, the majority of green investment is in subsidizing solar panels on wealthier homes while the majority of Germans spend over 10% of their income on power.

France Launches a Nuclear PR to Rampant Success

At first glance, their model of energy generation seems very similar to Ontario’s: a majority of their power comes nuclear energy (75%), they export more energy than any country in the world (Canada is third, for the record), and they are heavily invested in renewable technologies. So while Germany can teach us why pursuing wind and solar at all cost can be an economic disaster, what can France teach us?

Namely: Green Development can only begin with a cheap energy framework.

With a powerful nuclear base and a strong campaign to improve the safety and recycleability of nuclear waste, France has some of the lowest energy costs of any country in Europe. With a plan to reduce nuclear capacity to 50% by 2025, France holds an energy surplus and costs low enough to begin transition into a renewable sector without compromising their low prices.

What is Ontario Doing Right, and What Are We Doing Wrong?

As we’ve noted, Ontario is well poised to make the transition to renewable energy sources. But, without the strong framework of cheap and affordable renewable energy from a strong nuclear sector, paying into an expensive development process such as renewables will only become more difficult as more and more Ontario residents are subject to “energy poverty”.

There’s a page we can take out of both Germany and France’s books, and a lesson we can learn from reducing dependency on old models of energy generation too quickly and without keeping the economic outlook of that practice in mind. Nuclear may not be considered a “traditionally” green power, but for many countries that have successfully launched green campaigns: it may be the essential stopgap needed to ease us forward.

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