Ontario Technology Corridor: The Global Green Capital
The events are the latest efforts by the Ontario Technology Corridor, a provincial-wide partnership formed to advance the economic interests of Ontario, notably in gaming and now prominently in clean tech, to invite global renewable energy companies to the region.
Global audiences heard firsthand from Ontario Technology Corridor partners OCRI and the London Economic Development Corporation about the Ontario Power Authority’s guaranteed feed-in-tariff (FIT) pricing program, which is North America’s first. FIT guarantees a stable operating future for renewable projects and the proprietary companies.
“Many leads were developed in Munich,” says Mike Darch, Executive Director, Global Marketing, OCRI. “The biggest bargaining chip Ontario uses is the feed-in-tariff. The Samsung agreement demands activity in the region. To take advantage of that, companies have to be in Ontario in some way, shape or form.”
And more opportunities are available than previously thought.
“We were working under the assumption that there was about 2,000MW of transmission availability, about equal to Niagara Falls,” says Ben Chin, Vice President of Communications, Ontario Power Authority. “We found out that there was more than we anticipated, by about 500MW.
World’s Leading Green Destination
Ontario Technology Corridor representatives reinforced the region’s appeal by pointing to the Ontario Provincial Government’s $6.7 billion green energy investment deal with Samsung and the Korea Electric Power Corporation. The deal to create numerous wind and solar clusters over the next decade is the largest of its kind in the world.
“Samsung is getting a 500MW FIT contract in the first phase,” says Chin. “Finding the extra 500MW limited the projects that would be affected by the Samsung deal.”
FIT and the overall grid project will have a combined power-generating capacity of 2.5 GW, pushing the province closer to its goal of eliminating dirty coal-fired generation by the end of 2014.
Additionally, the Ontario Technology Corridor assures companies of the robust pool of financial resources in place. The province offers incentive-laden tax breaks for clean tech companies while the Federal Government has contributed $1.05 billion to Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC).
The SDTC finances the $550 million STDC Sustainable Tech Fund and the $500 million STDCNextGen Biofuels Fund, which offers research and development financing to clean tech companies.
The raison d'être is abundantly clear why the more than 2,800 environmental industry companies and the 110 head offices of clean technology companies—that generate approximately $9 billion in revenue and employ over 65,000 people—call Ontario home.
“The companies are different suppliers and developers from all over the place,” says Chin. “Recurrent Energy, probably the largest solar player in the US, is here. Florida Power and Light, their company Nextera was also given a contract offer.”
Ontario is the world’s leading destination of choice for renewable energy development. Plasco Energy Group, Schneider Power, Stein Industries, MacDonald Steel, Biox Corporation and DMI Canada Inc. are a fraction of the companies specialising in renewable generation that have discovered just that.
The Ontario Technology Corridor and the government campaigns would fall on deaf ears without the FIT program, which was enacted by the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009.
“As soon as you start talking feed-in-tariff, everybody listens,” says Blair Patacairk, Senior Investment Consultant, Global Marketing, OCRI. “When it comes to clean tech—anything wind and solar related—that’s absolutely the carrot.”
The Ontario Power Authority’s FIT program, which offers stable prices under long-term contracts, addressed the primary concern of all renewable companies: indeterminate market conditions.
“The feed-in-tariff is driving everything,” says Heather Pilot, Director, Business Development, London Economic Development Corporation. “Wind companies seek the FIT and the fact that competition is limited in terms of wind turbine manufacturers.”
Two types of contracts exist dependent on generation size: FIT and microFIT. Eligible renewable fuel sources include biogas, renewable biomass, landfill gas, solar photovoltaic (PV), waterpower, onshore wind and offshore wind.
To date, a total 694 Feed-in Tariff (FIT) contracts have been approved, creating 20,000 direct and indirect green jobs and attracting about $9 billion in private sector investment. The Samsung deal and the first phase of FIT contracts promise to usher in a new era of Ontario-based manufacturing.
“In the next phase, between 2012 and 2013, we’ve got a Bruce to Milton transmission scheduled to be up and running with some extension west of London,” says Chin.
“That will enable an additional 1,500MW. Going forward, the need to deliver on the Samsung agreement from our side of building transmission where projects are will open up more transmission space for other proponents.”
Ontario’s future as the global hub of green technology manufacturing and generation has never been brighter.
Microsoft: Building a secure foundation to drive NASCAR
Microsoft is a key partner of The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and together they are driving ahead to create an inclusive and immersive new fan experience (FX).
These long-term partners have not only navigated the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic with the use of Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365, but are now looking to a future packed with virtual events to enhance the FX, well beyond NASCAR’S famous Daytona racetrack.
“Together, we've created a secure environment that's allowed for collaboration, but the future is all about the fans”, said Melinda Cook, General Manager for Microsoft South USA Commercial Business, who cited a culture of transparency, passion, adaptiveness, and a growth mindset as to why this alignment is so successful.”
“We've partnered to create a fluid, immersive experience for the users that is supported by a secure foundation with Microsoft in the background. We are focused on empowering and enabling customers and businesses, like NASCAR, to reach their full potential. We do this with our cloud platform which provides data insights and security.”
“Our cloud environment allows NASCAR to move forward with their digital transformation journey while we are in the background,” said Cook who highlights that Microsoft is helping NASCAR
- Empower employees productivity and collaboration
- Improve fan engagement and experience
- Improve environment security and IT productivity
- Improve racing operations
Microsoft Teams, which is part of the Microsoft 365 suite, enabled employees to work remotely, while staying productive, during the pandemic. “This allowed people to provide the same level of productivity with the use of video conference and instant messaging to collaborate on documents. Increased automation also allows the pit crews, IT, and the business to focus on safety, racing operations, and on the fan experience,” said Cook.
“We have started to innovate to create a more inclusive fanbase, this includes using Xbox to give people the experience of being a virtual racer or even leveraging some of the tools in Microsoft Teams to have a virtual ride along experience.”
“These environments are how we create a more inclusive and immersive experience for the fans. We're working on a virtual fan wall which allows people from new locations to participate in these events,” said Cook, who pointed out Microsoft was also helping bring legacy experiences alive from NASCAR’s archives.
“At Microsoft we can take it one level further by letting fans know what it's like to see the pit crew experience, the data and all the behind-the-scenes action. We will continue to improve automation with machine learning and artificial intelligence, from marketing to IT operations to finance to racing operations,” said Cook.
Christine Stoffel-Moffett, Vice President of Enterprise Technology at NASCAR, said: “Microsoft is one of our key partners. They have been instrumental in helping the NASCAR enterprise technology team re-architect our Microsoft systems to ensure an advanced level of security across our environment, contribute to our business outcomes, and focus on fan experience.”