Renewable Energy has long been a topic of interest for North Americans, especially those living in Ontario. As clean energy generation prices decrease to levels that rival conventional methods, the debate of its viability will surely intensify.
“There is a segment of the population who understand that we have to go green, we have to reduce greenhouse gasses.” said Doug Wagner CEO of Saturn Power “However there is a general feeling that green energy is the cause of our high electricity costs.”
There are legitimate and unavoidable reasons why consumers are facing higher electricity bills. We have to cover costs of nuclear plant refurbishment, costs of new transmission and distribution infrastructure, costs of new peaking power plants coming into service, and yes, the introduction of newer sources such as solar energy. Increases in Ontario electricity prices were inevitable due to the need to update all aging infrastructure.
But as the cost of electricity from conventional energy sources continues to increase, the reality is that solar production has very little to do with consumers’ electricity bills going up. A recent independent study by Power Advisory LLC and published by Environmental Defence, shows that solar represents less than 4 per cent of the average electricity bill today, growing to an estimated 6 per cent of the average electricity bill in 2024 when much more solar generation will be connected to the grid.
Investments in any energy source have upfront costs, but unlike other forms of generation, solar has very low ongoing costs – the fuel is free. Further, it is well known that the upfront costs of solar are falling at a remarkably fast pace.
The solar industry, which employs approximately 8,000 people, generates direct and indirect annual revenues of $2 billion in Ontario alone. The benefits of solar energy can’t be overstated, and they are certainly worth the investment. It provides electricity during the day, periods of highest demand when the cost of electricity is most expensive. It is easily integrated into existing buildings and within communities. Basically, it’s energy where you need it, when you need it.
“This is what we all should be doing”
In the early days of renewable energy, the industry comprised of large companies playing a high stakes game. The environment was impossible for small companies to compete in. However, in 2006 the game changed with the introduction of Ontario’s Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program. RESOF effectively opened the door to smaller companies looking to develop wind or solar projects up to 10 MW.
“I was already enamored with turbines, it was amazing to me that we could be producing energy through wind. I thought- this is what we should be doing.” said Doug “The RESOF program marked a perfect time to enter the industry”
With Doug’s experience in all aspects of land development, the decision to enter the renewable energy industry was an easy one.
Saturn Power quickly expanded from a company with one wind farm in mind, to a multinational renewable energy developer and independent power producer. “Originally the goal was to develop one wind farm” said Doug “However we realized the viability of Solar very early on”.
“We looked at the US being an obvious place to go.”
With the continuous decrease in panel costs and the increase of prospective projects, Saturn Powers solar division took off. This growth eventually pushed Saturn to seek new horizons outside of Ontario.
“We looked at the US being an obvious place to go, right next door, big market, same culture, very similar to do business.” The US was an obvious destination for Saturn Power, but further jurisdiction diversification was desired. “We looked at a lot of different markets Mexico, India, Germany, UK, Argentina, but one stood out from the rest.”
Turkey, a country powered almost entirely by oil and gas was looking to install 10GW of renewable energy by 2023. At the time, Turkey had less renewable energy installed than Saturn Power’s portfolio in Ontario alone. Saturn Powers three Turkish projects totaling 10 MW of solar energy signified the beginning of international expansion for the company.
Looking at how far Saturn Power has come since their original goal ten years ago, Doug is proud of the growth and sustained success the company has achieved. “It’s hard to find another renewable energy developer in Ontario that started and is still privately owned.” said Doug “The fact that we have not only survived, but thrived, is a testament to our business.”
“Whether your interest is in finance, engineering, or project management there are a growing number of opportunities in this field.” said Doug, when asked about the renewable energy industry “It is a business that is here to stay”.