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Clean energy, clean air, promises Energy Minister

By Kelly Pedro, The London Free Press

Minister of Energy Chris Bentley, right, takes a tour of the Robert G. Lake Generating Station in Peterborough on Tuesday, Apr. 10, 2012. (CLIFFORD SKARSTEDT/QMI AGENCY File)

Minister of Energy Chris Bentley, right, takes a tour of the Robert G. Lake Generating Station in Peterborough on Tuesday, Apr. 10, 2012. (CLIFFORD SKARSTEDT/QMI AGENCY File)

People in Ontario are taking easier breaths today than they did a decade ago because of the Liberal government's commitment to clean energy and clean air, Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley told an industry conference in London Monday.

It was in 2003, the London West MPP said, that then-Opposition leader Dalton McGuinty stood on a rooftop in London and said he would get out of coal-fired power.

"That was a pretty radical thing to say," Bentley said. "From a rooftop in London, Ontario we've made a lot of progress the last eight years."

The Liberals are determined to end Ontario's reliance on coal-fired power by 2014 and have been heavily promoting wind and solar power projects.

Bentley said the government has been doing it in a way that supports good jobs and good investment. Tens of thousands of jobs have been created by clean green energy, he said.

Ontario's commitment to green energy has attracted 30 manufacturing plants and created 20,000 jobs since the Green Energy Act was unveiled, Bentley said.

He was the keynote speaker at the opening of Solar Ontario 2012, a conference for those who work in the industry.

The conference has doubled in size from last year, with 100 booths and 1,000 people attending.

"That speaks volumes. It speaks volumes of the strength of the solar industry, the drive of its participants and the future you see not just in Ontario but throughout the world," Bentley told the crowd.

He acknowledged that the government's vision of clean, renewable power is not always popular.

"There are those out there who would turn the coal-fired (power plants) on in an instant," he said.

The Liberals have suffered a backlash in many rural communities who want a say in where green energy projects such as wind turbines are set up. That backlash led to a Liberal power loss in rural communities in the last election.

The government has done a complete review of the Green Energy Act, Bentley said, part of which includes speeding up the approval process for some projects so people have answers sooner.

"We share a goal. We share a goal in making sure this very important industry in the province of Ontario continues to flourish," he said.

The conference continues Tuesday.


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