Rural residents frustrated with the provincial liberal government’s Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) program took their concerns into the heart of Toronto’s financial district yesterday, staging a peaceful protest rally that attracted hundreds of protestors from across Ontario.
Held in Simcoe Park adjacent to the CBC headquarters, the location put the protestors on the immediate doorsteps of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and underneath a digital sign with rotating messages, including one featuring a wind turbine, saying “this screen is powered by green renewable power.”
The location of the rally was purposeful.
Inside the convention centre over 600 delegates were gathered for the two-day, sold out, third annual Ontario Feed-In Tariff Forum, the annual conference for FIT contract holders, developers, manufacturers, suppliers, service providers and government.
Despite strong opposition in some Ontario communities, the provincial Liberal government remains firmly committed to building a clean energy future that includes the FIT program, a guaranteed rate program that provides stable prices through long-term contracts for energy generated using renewable resources.
Since it was launched in 2009 the provincial Liberal government report that almost 2,000 small and large FIT projects have been approved through the program; enough to produce the electricity needed to power about 1.2 million homes.
The government released its FIT program two year review a few weeks ago, announcing they were be developing an accumulated point system for communities to ensure better community engagement. At that time, Ontario’s agriculture minister Ted McMeekin told Ontario Farmer he believes the changes would bode well for proposed community-based and/or community-owned projects.
“I think it would be pretty fair to suggest that (the point system) will preclude in most instances any project from proceeding that is not seen as being in the best interests of the area,” he said at that time.
But some residents of rural Ontario disagree.
Bill Wright of Wyoming made the trek into Toronto for the rally to signal his support for the anti-wind turbine movement. “It’s not an efficient use of money…and it is an intrusion on the people in the rural setting… I’m strongly, strongly against it,” he said. Wright says he has been growing more active, “day by day” in the anti-wind movement, saying a group of concerned citizens have formed an advocacy group in the Wyoming area that will operate under the umbrella of the Middlesex Lambton Wind Concerns group. “We are going to do everything we can do to fight this issue,” he told Ontario Farmer at the rally.
Vic Fedeli, the Progressive Conservative party’s energy critic applauded the residents for bringing their message into Toronto, encouraging them to continue writing letters to the editors and to do radio interviews. “That’s our call to action to you,” he said.
Fedeli identified three concerns with wind energy.
He said for every megawatt of wind that is created, a megawatt of power is going over Niagara Falls. “When you are spilling water over Niagara Falls without generating power for the system you have already built, you know you are wasting money, literally throwing it down the drain,” he said.
He said the generous contracts offered through the FIT program “put wind at the top of the food chain”, saying it cost Ontario taxpayers $420 million last year to ship extra power across the border into the United States or Quebec.
Fedeli also said that when too much wind power was produced last July on four different occasions, the nuclear power plants were shut down, which took three days to wind up again. “We are spilling water, venting steam and draining jobs,” he told the protestors.
Many of the protestors were frustrated that people don’t seem to understand their concerns, but Fedeli said when it starts to affect the rest of Ontarians, they would come on side. “While wind isn’t here in their back yards, it is coming into their front doors soon–in their hydro bill and the price of their groceries (and) when it comes in their front door they will start to hear about it here in Toronto,” he said.
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