Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli announced Thursday afternoon the Ontario government will replace the Feed-In Tariff Program and give “communities and municipalities a stronger voice, more options and new tools when it comes to renewable energy” but no veto voice.
County councillor Robert Quaiff says that from what he reads, wind companies that don’t receive municipal support would stand very little chance of getting approval, but municipalities would not have complete veto power. Quaiff, is the eastern Ontario member of a group making a presentation to the Ministry of Environment Wednesday on ‘Municipal Perspectives on Turbine Siting Rules’. “We thought it was a good meeting that lasted over an hour. At the conclusion we were informed that Minister Chiarelli was making an announcement Thursday that would be favourable to municipalities. At a glance, it still doesn’t give us any veto authority.
Chiarelli said Ontario’s Feed-In Tariff (FIT) system for awarding renewable energy contracts will be replaced, for large projects over 500 kilowatts, with a new process where wind companies will be required to work with municipalities on locations and site requirements. Up until now, developers apply directly to the Ontario Power Authority, leading to complaints from municipalities such as Prince Edward County that they had no say over industrial wind turbines farms.
The FIT program for so-called “micro” and small green energy installations will remain in place, with priority points awarded to projects that are led by, or in partnership with the local municipality.
Hastings Prince Edward MP Todd Smith stresses a cautious approach in processing the information.
“There’s still too much that we don’t know. Municipalities want more than ‘more say’, they want their planning powers back. We don’t know what’s going to happen with the existing subsidies being paid out to projects and we don’t know what’s going to happen with proponents who have a right to proceed but their projects aren’t operational.”
About Prince Edward County, Smith continued caution. “It is my hope that this will kill the poorly thought through projects in the County. But I won’t be happy until Gilead pulls up stakes.”
The announcement, says Smith, comes 18 months, almost to the day, after Smith’s first Private Members Bill that would have restored all municipal planning authority for these projects. Since the October 2011 provincial election, the Progressive Conservatives have introduced three bills in the legislature, including Smith’s, that would have restored planning authority to municipalities. The other bills were introduced by Tory Leader Tim Hudak and Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson. All of these bills were defeated by the Liberals and NDP at second reading.
“The pressure we have been applying to the government has finally paid off. We’re witnessing the end of one of the most wasteful programs in Ontario’s history. FIT has been driving up hydro rates for families, it’s been killing jobs and driving manufacturing out of Ontario,” said Smith. “This is a program that no one should be sad to see go.”
Garth Manning, chairman of the County Coalition for Safe and Appropriate Green Energy, says “Chiarelli, who offered more details at a solar energy conference in Niagara Falls, has provided far too little, far too late.”
“Nothing in the announcement will affect the Gilead wind factory – only favourable results from the current appeals will do that – nor the wpd White Pines monstrosity if approved.” said Manning. “It is on defeating these two projects that all our energies should be focused, not on dubious crumbs from the minister of energy who, and whose government, still hasn’t got it.
Manning calls the minister’s announcement “more of the meaningless same with a fair dash of smoke and mirrors.”
“For large projects over 500 kw a new process will ‘require energy planners and developers to work directly with municipalities to identify appropriate locations and site requirements.’ A municipality is not bestowed with a veto nor any control, just “working directly” . Given the enormous number of municipalities who have adopted moratorium and/or “not willing host” motions, “working directly” should not be a time-consuming exercise, resulting presumably in the energy planners and developers proceeding along their own misguided paths as they would otherwise have done without “working directly”. That phrase itself is meaningless, completely permissive and obligates nobody to do anything in good faith or otherwise,” states Manning.
Manning understands Ontario will revise the Small FIT program to give priority to projects partnered or led by municipalities (10 to 500kw projects) and notes that “along with conservation, there could be something here for certain areas in some municipalities.”
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