A huge green energy deal between the Ontario government and a consortium of South Korean companies led by Samsung is expected to be announced by Premier Dalton McGuinty this week, The Canadian Press has learned.
The negotiations were still going on Tuesday night, but an agreement to have Samsung build dozens of wind and solar farms across the province could be signed by McGuinty as early as Thursday, sources familiar with the deal confirmed.
"The government's really keen to bring a group of companies and an anchor investment into the province to support its green energy efforts," one source said.
The Liberal government ended months of speculation in September when it confirmed it was in talks with Samsung about a project that could create about 15,000 jobs.
Ontario's manufacturing sector has shed hundreds of thousands of jobs in the recession. The deal with Samsung would likely be the linchpin in McGuinty's push for renewable sources of energy and his plan to create 50,000 jobs.
The Liberal government's Green Energy Act aims to transform Ontario's economy by making the province an international hub for manufacturing and exporting green energy technologies to other provinces and states.
"Building a cluster of businesses in Ontario that will both generate electricity that's free from emissions and create jobs is something we're very interested in," one source said. "Our goal here is to create a green energy cluster and it actually has the added benefit of being really the first in North America, if the agreement is successful."
Critics warn of special deal
When the talks were confirmed last fall, critics predicted Samsung would get a special deal, and the sources confirmed the agreement would likely include incentives for job creation and economic development.
The South Korean consortium could be paid "slightly more" than the 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour the province pays for wind power, the so-called feed-in tariff rate, if it builds up to four new manufacturing facilities in Ontario and creates a specified number of jobs, said the source.
There are reports Samsung has already drawn up plans to build a wind farm, with 200 turbines on the north shore of Lake Erie, but that was not confirmed.
Word the Samsung deal was about to close came less than 24 hours after McGuinty promoted former aboriginal affairs minister Brad Duguid to the combined ministries of energy and infrastructure.
Duguid must also implement the government's commitment to closing the last of Ontario's coal-fired generating stations by 2014 and decide soon on refurbishing the province's aging fleet of nuclear reactors.
Despite the Liberals' big push for green energy, the government plans to continue having nuclear power provide about 50 per cent of the province's electricity.