Ontario eyes green job bonanza

ONTARIO - The Ontario government is in advanced negotiations with South Korean industrial and electronics powerhouse Samsung Group about manufacturing wind turbines and other green-energy gear – including solar panels – in the province.

Samsung is considering a multibillion-dollar investment that would stimulate the creation of several hundred direct jobs and, indirectly, potentially thousands more. The province, lead by the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, has been in talks with Samsung subsidiary Samsung C&T Corp. for the past year, the Star has learned.

Energy Minister George Smitherman confirmed in an interview with the Star that serious discussions are ongoing and proceeding well toward the signing of what he called a "historic framework agreement."

"They're looking to get into the renewable-energy business in a big way, and Ontario seems suited to their ambitions," said Smitherman.

"If it comes to fruition, it would see them invest several billions of dollars and have the prospect of creating hundreds and hundreds of jobs in manufacturing at the same time.


That would be a coup for a province that has suffered a steep decline in manufacturing, particularly in the hard-hit auto sector, and the loss of thousands of jobs.

It also represents an early sign that Ontario's new Green Energy and Economy Act, designed to stimulate the development of renewable-energy projects, is attracting the foreign investment and "green-collar" jobs promised by Premier Dalton McGuinty.

It's not known what negotiations Samsung may be having with U.S. jurisdictions competing for jobs.

The company revealed in April that it planned to enter the wind-turbine market through subsidiary Samsung Heavy Industries. At the time it said it planned to manufacture 200 wind turbines in 2010, growing to 500 units annually by 2015, and was on the hunt for a U.S. state to lay roots.

Earlier this month, Samsung Electronics Co. disclosed it had completed its first prototype production line for manufacturing solar cells and planned to become the world's leading provider of solar power by 2015.

Smitherman said Samsung's first interest in Ontario is as a developer of wind farms, potentially in partnership with aboriginal communities.

Under the province's new feed-in tariff program, developers of wind turbines can earn a generous 13.5 cents for each kilowatt-hour of electricity they sell back to the province – about double what consumers pay right now.

Samsung officials visited Crown land this summer in South Cayuga, Haldimand County, about two hours southwest of Toronto. They met with Six Nations Chief William Montour to talk about a plan to build a 55-turbine wind farm, and using aboriginal workers to help manufacture and erect the turbines.

Smitherman said Samsung, as a developer, will get the same rate as every other developer taking part in the program. But if the company commits to manufacturing its equipment in Ontario, it will get what he called an "economic adder" on top of the 13.5 cents rate. He wouldn't say how much that benefit might be.


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