Samsung to bring 15,000 green collar jobs to Ontario?
As part of its green energy initiatives, the Ontario government is reportedly wooing industrial giant Samsung Group to make a major investment in Ontario. Details of the proposed investment are still confidential. However, it is expected that Samsung will participate both as a developer of renewable power projects and as a manufacturer of equipment that meets the local content requirements of the Feed-in Tariff ("FIT"). While potentially a big win for the province, the deal is attracting criticism both from within the McGuinty cabinet and from other players in the industry.
The Toronto Star reports that Minister of Energy and Infrastructure George Smitherman is pegging the investment at $6 to $7 billion and expects that he is "looking at a job count of more than 15,000." The deal would therefore be a huge leap forward in the government's promise to create 50,000 new green collar jobs in the province.
However, not everybody is enamored with the potential Samsung deal. The Star also reports that a major feud over the deal has erupted in Premier McGuinty's cabinet. Some MPPs are (correctly) concerned that taxpayers will ultimately bear the burden of any largess the government bestows on Samsung.
Other industry players are concerned that the deal is unfair, questioning why the government would already bend rules that it just spent almost a year developing. Minister Smitherman apparently retorted that the "economic adder" being offered to Samsung could be available to others: "Anyone who is prepared to make investments on that scale of course warrants our very substantial interest."
However financial incentives are only part of the deal being offered to Samsung. In a directive to the Ontario Power Authority dated Sepetember 30, Minister Smitherman ordered that 500 MW of transmission capacity be held in reserve. This is a significant portion of the 4,500 MW of capacity that the OPA estimates will be available for allocation as of November 30, when the first round of the FIT closes. In a previous directive, Minister Smitherman ordered the OPA to procure not more than 500 MW of ground-mounted solar projects over 100 kW. The September 30 directive further provided that 100 MW of this solar allocation in the Western Region of Ontario were also to be held in reserve. These special reserves are expressly being held for renewable energy generating facilities "whose proponents have signed a province-wide framework agreement with the Province" - i.e., Samsung. Other developers may be right to complain as these reserves have the potential to alter the dynamics of the initial FIT market significantly.