KAWARTHA LAKES -The province has rejected giving municipalities a veto on wind and solar projects, but will give priority to new projects in communities where there is local support.
“They listened a little bit,” Ward 16 Coun. Heather Stauble said in an interview. She’s glad for the province’s change, but added, “I don’t think they’ve taken it far enough.”
She noted that Energy Minister Chris Bentley said the province couldn’t permit municipal vetoes. “We’d have 440 different rules around the province,” he said in a news report.
“They have 440 different situations already,” Stauble said. “The municipalities do their own planning.”
“I think they need to respect we are a [duly] elected level of government.” She compared the situation to Premier Dalton McGuinty not interfering with the City of Toronto’s decision regarding transit and for allowing cities to decide whether or not they want a casino.
The provincial Liberals made the announcement last week in concluding Ontario’s first review of its feed-in-tariff plan (FIT) that pays green energy producers above market prices to ‘feed’ their power into the grid.
Ontario will now pay 20% less to new solar energy producers and 15% less to new wind producers. The impact for new small solar projects is that the government will pay 54.9 cents a kilowatt, down from 80.2 cents. For large solar projects, the rate drops to 35 cents from 44.3 cents a kwh. Wind power rates go down to 11.5 cents per kwh from 13.5 cents.
The government said the lower rates reflect the lower costs for solar panels and wind turbines.
Tim Burke, chief operating officer at Evergreen Power in Lindsay, said it’s good that the government has made a decision on the FIT rates because there was about a six-month period of limbo on what was going to happen. But he said he had anticipated a 20% reduction and the actual amount to the smaller solar projects, Micro-FIT projects, is about 30%.
“It will force us to be very cost competitive, ” he said. “Green energy is still a good investment,” he added. “Overall we’re satisfied that the government is continuing the program. It provides jobs in the area.”
Existing projects are not affected by the rate changes. They will continue to receive their contracted amount for 20 years.
Stauble said the government didn’t do enough to address concerns about wind turbine projects, such as those in her ward, that have been approved. “There are still no environmental assessments,” she said. “They still don’t have a low frequency noise test” that would check for noise level compliance at a wind turbine.
However, she did see one bright spot. “The projects that have been offered contracts can withdraw without penalities and get their fees back. The fact that they’re letting them pull out is a good thing.”
The FIT program was started by the province in 2009 as a way to replace coal plants and create jobs during the global recession.
The president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario said in a press release that “AMO welcomes clarity on where renewable projects will not be permitted, such as on prime agricultural lands and subdivisions. The changes announced today should have the effect of gravitating green energy projects toward communities that support them.”
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