WINDSOR, Ont. – While the provincial government is moving ahead with changes to its controversial Green Energy Act and feed-in tariff program, politicians across Essex County are seeking a moratorium on future wind projects because of health and financial concerns.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Energy announced price reductions for its feed-in tariff program while at the same time vowing to speed up the application process and eliminate a 15-month backlog.
But that’s not enough to satisfy some area politicians, including Essex County Council which passed a motion Wednesday calling for a moratorium on wind energy projects across the county.
“I’ve always had reservations and objections about the program but now there’s a growing number of municipalities who are concerned as well,” said Tamara Stomp, deputy mayor of Kingsville. “I’m not talking about the small residential turbines but the large industrial units you see everywhere in the county.
“I’m in favour of green energy but this is far too costly,” said Stomp. “It adds too much money onto the backs of residents and the vast majority of it is going to multinational corporations.
“These lower rates are too little and too late,” said Stomp. “There are also problems related to property values.”
But County Warden Tom Bain, who is also mayor of Lakeshore, believes the call for a moratorium is premature and ineffective.
“It’s purely a provincial jurisdiction and we have little or no control over wind or solar projects and where they are located,” said Bain. “I don’t agree with dropping solar projects into the middle of town but in rural areas, it’s way of helping farms remain financially viable.
“It’s a difficult issue and we are certainly going to make the province aware of our concerns,” said Bain.
As part of a two-year mandated review, the government will reduce prices for new solar projects by more than 20 per cent and for wind projects by about 15 per cent.
Prior to the new rate schedule being announced, FIT prices ranged from 44.3 cents per kWh for small ground-mounted projects to 80.2 cents for large rooftop installations while wind rates were 13.5 cents per kWh for onshore projects and 19 cents for offshore.
Contract applications still awaiting approval will be paid out at the new rate, even though some customers could have been waiting for 15 months.
Energy Minister Chris Bentley said the review was “something we committed to when we launched the program which has been an enormous success with thousands of contracts already awarded and 20,000-plus jobs created, including many in the Windsor area.”
Bentley said the review and its recommendations built on the strengths of the program and made adjustments where necessary.
Manish Nayar, managing partner of Windsor’s OYA Solar, said his company is just “happy there is a price structure after all the uncertainty of the past year.”
During last year’s provincial election campaign, Nayar said business slowed down after the Conservatives vowed to cancel the Green Energy Act as part of their election platform but once the Liberals were re-elected, albeit with a minority, business began to pick up again.
“Unfortunately, there is still a large 15-month backlog of applications waiting to be approved for contracts,” said Nayar. “We’re hoping that with the review now completed, there will be a concerted effort to release those applications so we can get moving and start building projects again.
“Overall, I believe the new prices are fair,” said Nayar.
As part of the review, the government also said it would streamline the application approval process, reduce wait times by up to 25 per cent and conduct annual price reviews.
Patrick Persichilli, director of administration at CS Wind, said he expected the new pricing structure would have an impact on the industry.
“I imagine it will tighten the availability of loans and investment for future projects,” said Persichilli. “Customers will also have to decide whether or not projects in the pipeline but not yet approved are still economically viable.
“Economics of certain projects may have been based on a certain rate of return and may no longer be viable,” said Persichilli.
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