With wind energy a controversial issue in Chatham-Kent and throughout the province, proposed changes to Ontario’s green energy project approvals are already drawing mixed reviews.
Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli announced on Thursday his ministry will cancel the feed-in tariff program.
This will instead be replaced with a competitive process requiring developers to work with municipalities before seeking Ontario Power Authority approval.
However, Doug Desmond, a Ridgetown lawyer and spokesperson for Chatham-Kent Wind Action, called the move “nonsense.”
He said there are few details on what it actually means – and no veto power.
“They’re going to give municipalities more say, but what’s the nature of the say?” he told The Chatham Daily News.
Desmond said even when municipalities made the decisions on green energy projects; they still didn’t have the resources to conduct the in-depth environmental studies needed.
The changes also won’t be retroactive. Speaking to reporters at the Canadian Solar Industries Association’s Solar Ontario conference in Niagara Falls, Chiarelli said contracts already awarded for wind projects can’t be changed without risking pricy legal battles.
“We cannot continue to do what was done in Oakville and Mississauga,” he said.
The government had racked up massive fees slashing two gas plants there.
The minister said there must be a level of engagement and acceptability from municipalities concerning projects.
But Chiarelli stopped short of handing them the power to say no altogether. He said the province could not meet its energy needs if every municipality refused to accept energy projects.
“It would not be possible… to have an absolute veto,” he said.
Desmond said no matter what action is taken, the damage has already been done in the area, given the existing turbine density.
“For Chatham-Kent, we’re already screwed,” he said. “There’s nothing they can do.”
The Canadian Wind Energy Association said in a statement it supported the changes. It believes that green energy has provided a boost to economic development, in addition to helping the environment.
“Ontario’s progressive approach to renewable energy development has successfully attracted billions in new investment and helped revitalize the manufacturing sector and wind energy is now a very cost-competitive source of clean, renewable electricity generation,” said Robert Hornung, president of CanWEA.
He said his organization will review details of the announcement. He added CanWEA will work with the government and stakeholders to ensure projects are developed in a “responsible and sustainable manner.”
– With QMI Agency files
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