Canada’s Green Energy and Jobs Programs Butt Up Against WTO Rules, says Japan

by Fran Smith on September 22, 2010

in Blog

Do green energy and green jobs mandates run counter to World Trade Organization rules?  Japan says “yes” in relation to Canada’s program for renewable energy generation and green jobs in Ontario. Japan is complaining to the WTO that Canadian measures that mandate domestic content requirements for renewable energy generation equipment are inconsistent with WTO rules because they discriminate against equipment produced outside of Ontario and also represent a subsidy prohibited by the WTO. The country has asked the WTO for a formal consultation with Canada on the issues it raises in its September 13, 2010 filing. Consultations are often the first step in trying to resolve an issue before a country opens an official case with the WTO’s dispute settlement body.

Primarily Japan’s complaint hits Canada’s domestic content requirements in its “feed-in tariff” (FIT) program for Ontario, which requires that the renewable energy equipment, such as solar panels, wind turbines, biomass, and waterpower generation equipment, be produced in Ontario in whole or in part. (Feed-in tariffs are renewable energy payments that electric grid utilities obligate themselves to pay to purchase electricity generated from renewable sources.)  Under the program guaranteed prices for renewable energy electricity production are provided through long-term contracts.

According to a provincial government backgrounder on FIT, the domestic content requirements are intended to support “new green jobs in Ontario”:

Domestic content requirements for both FIT and microFIT projects are intended to help support the creation of 50,000 new green jobs in Ontario. MicroFIT projects will help create new local businesses and green jobs as demand grows for technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines, biomass and waterpower generation equipment, and for Ontarians who can design, build, install, operate and maintain these technologies.

And the domestic content requirements can be very specific (and somewhat ridiculous).   Here, for instance, is the one for silicon ingots and wafers:

Silicon ingots and wafer, where silicon ingots have been cast in Ontario, and wafers have been cut from the castings by a saw in Ontario.

From my quick review of the Canadian program, Japan seems to have a real cause for its complaint. Other countries looking to follow Canada’s example for green jobs creation should be wary about including their own protectionist measures.

H/T/ Julie Walsh

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