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Green energy tax assessments updated by Liberal gov’t

Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson is looking at a recent Liberal government change in property tax assessment for renewable energy projects as another “wedge issue” that benefits a few, not the majority.

‘Improving Property Tax System For Green Energy” was issued as a media release on Jan. 4, as a support for property owners who install renewable energy projects by ” improving property tax assessment policies for them.”

The changes impact property owners wind turbine projects, as well as solar panels and on-farm anaerobic digesters.

“Ontario is leading the way when it comes to producing reliable energy from clean, renewable sources,” said Dwight Duncan, Minister of Finance in the release. “These changes will help ensure that property tax assessment does not discourage property owners from contributing to a green energy system that supports a cleaner environment and healthier families.”

In terms of wind and solar power changes listed on the Ministry of Finance website, ancillary (non-corporate power producers) using small turbines sized 10kw or less will not impact property tax rates, while medium-sized turbines 10kw to 500kw will be taxed based on the surrounding land use (e. g. residential, farm, multi-residential, commercial). Large turbines over 500kw will be taxed based on the surrounding land use up to 500kw, and at an industrial rate for the portion over 500kw. These figures are based on ground-based turbines or solar panels, as rooftop wind installations aren’t impacted.

Anaerobic digesters will be taxed at the farm rate. Also mentioned were energy efficient installations like active solar heating/ cooling and geothermal heating and cooling installations, which will not increase assessment once they are completed.

Consistent with the treatment that has been in place since 2005, wind turbine towers will continue to be assessed at the rate of $40,000 per MW of installed capacity, except in the two situations noted above where the assessment would not be affected by the installation (rooftop installations and ground-based installations up to 10 kW).

Land, buildings and structures used for ground-based professional wind turbines electricity generation are taxed at industrial rates.

Minister of Energy Chris Bentley added the renewable energy system is “the foundation for a strong economy.”

“These changes will make it easier for Ontarians to participate in Ontario’s clean energy future -ensuring cleaner air, healthier communities and a brighter future for everyone,” Bentley said.

Asked how this would impact those whose homes have been negatively impacted by the installation of industrial wind power projects, Scott Blodgett, Senior Media Relations Advisor at the Ministry of Finance said the Municipal Property Assessmet Corporation (MPAC) relies on “arm’s-length sale prices” to determine assessed property values.

“MPAC has advised that, to date, the limited sales data available have not indicated any impact of wind turbines on the value of nearby property,” said Blodgett via e-mail. “However, MPAC will continue to monitor and analyze sales of these properties, and to the extent that there may be an impact, it would adjust property values accordingly. Each property is evaluated based on its individual circumstances.”

MPP Thompson said one of her main issues after the release was brought to her attention was the lack of courtesy from the Liberal government to provide information on the changes to all MPPs, opposition included.

“It should just be a courtesy that all MPPs receive this kind of info,” she said. ”

She said while 80% of the calls she’s received at her new constituency offices in Kincardine and Blyth were in relation to high electricity costs, the governing minority Liberals are creating wedge issues to buy favours from their supporters in green energy.

“People are wondering how they are going to pay their bills and need relief for their families,” she said. “You can’t pick winners and losers. We have to be proactive to make sure all angles are considered.”

She said Huron-Bruce is “ripe” for wind power development, but it has to be approached responsibly, with respect for all parties involved. Thompson said the defeat of Bill 10, a request for a moratorium on wind power until independent studies, by the Liberals and NDP was “very disappointing,” but it also showed the groundswell of opposition to the Liberals green energy policies that are increasing the costs of electricity.

Thompson, Ontario’s deputy energy critic, said she’s looking forward to a visit from her counterpart, Nipissing MPP and Opposition Energy Critic Vic Fedeli at the end of January.

Thompson said they plan on “looking at all sides of every issue,” with tours of local wind farms, Bruce Power, solar projects and individual meetings scheduled.