Premier Dalton McGuinty said there will be more local input into renewable energy projects, but municipalities still won’t have a say in planning decisions.
McGuinty discussed green energy during an exclusive interview with Sun Media reporters at The Chatham Daily News office Tuesday.
He said recent changes to the feed-in tariff (FIT) program gives the edge to projects that have community support.
“We have too much competition for us to be putting wind turbines, for example, into communities that don’t want them,” he said.
However, the Green Energy Act removed planning decisions from municipalities.
When asked if municipalities will regain the power, McGuinty said no, adding the province is taking a different approach.
“Rather what we’ve done is we have a point system in place that says if you have the support of the community, you’re going to be at the front of the line,” he said.
Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope said, “we had (planning) process that worked very well for our community, before the Green Energy Act come in.”
He said since the province took over planning decisions, “it’s like an egg and it’s been dropped a few times and it’s got a lot of fractures in it.
“I don’t want that problem handed back to me and to the leadership of this community,” he added.
The mayor would like to see the province give municipalities decision-making power for solar and biomass renewable energy projects with respect to what lands are used for this project.
He believes it would be more effective and efficient for municipalities, because there’s a closer relationship with the agriculture sector.
Hundreds of wind turbines have been erected across Chatham-Kent, and many more are in the planning stages. But, the manufacturing facilities for wind turbine components are located in other communities.
Hope said Chatham-Kent’s economic development department continues its efforts to entice renewable energy projects here.
“It’s like everything, we’re competing against everyone else. It’s the best value proposition for those businesses that will win,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can do be in the forefront of that.”
McGuinty said Ontario’s long-term goal is to translate its prowess as the No. 1 automobile manufacturer in North America, into building renewable energy components.
“We want to be able to say, ‘You know the people who make all those great cars? We’ve got solar panel and wind turbine manufacturing capacity. We’re ready to go.”
There has been wide-spread criticism about fixed price contracts for renewable energy projects that are above the current rates customers pay for hydro.
The premier said Ontarians are seeing the impact of this, noting 5% of the bill is attributable to the clean energy program.
He said the province been able to drive down the cost of the FIT program, adding, the province is “determined to keep getting those costs down over time.”
He said in an era of uncertainty over globalization, the province knows two things are certain.
Every year oil and gas prices will keep going up, because there’s only a limited supply, he said.
Conversely, he added, every year the price of technology comes down, pointing to computer technology as an example.
“Last year, for the first time, the world, in fact, invested more in renewable technologies than they did in fossil fuels,” the premier said.
“So the question we have for ourselves as Ontarians is: ‘Do we want to lead or do we want to follow?'”
McGuinty said he would prefer Ontario leads.
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