Ontario is considering allowing more municipal input on green energy projects, says Energy Minister Chris Bentley.
In 2010, the Government of Ontario introduced the Ontario Green Energy Act and announced its support of several alternative energy projects, including two wind turbine farms in Clarington.
The act’s limited municipal input was lamented by Clarington council and residents opposed to the farms.
In a conference call, Mr. Bentley said he is open to allowing municipalities more input within the framework of a provincial approach.
“We’re very committed to a province-wide approach. If you have a patchwork approach that applies differently in different jurisdictions, and may change frequently between jurisdictions, you’re simply going to stop interest and investment,” he said. “People are making long-term commitments, long-term interest and they’re investing a lot and they want to make sure that the climate will continue to support that investment.
“There are people who believe there should be some additional input, some input from, for example, municipalities, in a different way than it’s being received, some voices that could be heard in a different way. So, I’m very open to improving the approach that we have,” he continued. “I’m open to suggestions as to how the approach could be strengthened. I don’t have a closed category, or series of ideas, so I’m open to the suggestions … I think we’ve got an opportunity to get creative here. Let’s bring all the good ideas to the table. The patchwork approach doesn’t work, it won’t work, but, there are lots of good creative ways of getting strong input that reflects local needs and issues, so I’m interested in hearing what they are.”
Clarington’s wind-power projects are still in the review stages. The main issue raised by Clarington residents and council regarding the farms was a lack of research on the effects of wind turbines.
Mr. Bentley said the Province is currently researching health and environmental risks of wind turbines, in partnership with American researchers.
“There is a study going on,” he said. “There is a development of a study with respect to offshore (wind turbines), and there’s some work going on in the United States, and we were going to combine our efforts with those of the American researchers and take a look at issues, health and related – health, environmental and other issues – with respect to offshore wind projects.”
He noted the Province is also studying the effects of onshore wind turbines.
“The Ministry of the Environment has a research chair, I believe at the University of Waterloo,” he said. “That research chair is in place to look at, among other things, noise monitoring issues, techniques, studies and related … I know that the medical officer of health is very aligned to the health issues and will give us good advice on the type of research that we should or might be conducting, and we’re always going to keep our eye firmly planted on health issues.”
He said the provincial and federal governments have no concerns about adverse effects from wind turbines.
“There have been studies around the world with respect to health, safety and wind farms. The medical officer of Canada (and) the medical officer of Ontario have taken a look at this and they have passed judgment on that,” he said. “We do have siting criteria that are probably as strong as you’ll find just about anywhere in the world, and so, from the perspective of the medical officer of health, as I understand it, there is not a health and safety issue with respect to these (wind turbines) as they are proposed to be sited.”
As a whole, Mr. Bentley touted the Green Energy Act, which is coming up to its first review.
“We said all along that we would conduct a review of the feed-in tariff approach after two years,” he said. “It’s been very successful – more than 20,000 direct and indirect jobs. I think cumulatively, about $26 billion worth of investment attributable to our green energy initiatives.”
He added the Province is focused on diversifying its energy supply.
“There’s a lot going on in the energy sector,” he said. “We’ve been very active the last eight years bringing on new generations (of power). People do need power, and they expect it when they need it, and in the way they need it.”