Ontario’s Liberal government is changing the rules on green energy projects to give municipalities a greater say over the location of new wind and solar farms, and a chance to get a slice of the revenue.
Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli says developers of large energy projects will have to work with municipalities as part of a competitive process before they can ask for approval from the Ontario Power Authority.
He says developers that partner with a municipality will be given top priority for approval, while those that don’t get local participation stand little chance of getting the go ahead.
Under the current feed-in-tariff program, developers can apply directly to the OPA, which led to many complaints from municipalities that had no say over new industrial wind turbines or solar farms set up in their community.
Chiarelli says the changes will give municipalities a much greater voice in the locating of large-scale energy projects, even though they won’t get actual veto power.
Anger over large wind farms, especially in southwestern Ontario, cost the Liberals several seats in the 2011 election, when they were reduced to a minority government.
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.
Chiarelli says the province is looking for another 900 megawatts from micro and smaller green energy projects over the next four years, and hopes to get participation from municipalities, universities, school boards, hospitals and industry.
The energy minister will formally announce the new feed-in-tariff rules later today in a speech to a solar energy conference in Niagara Falls.
On Wednesday, Chiarelli announced the province would move to eliminate another key part of its Green Energy Act, which required made-in-Ontario content in wind and solar projects.
The World Trade Organization ruled part of the legislation requiring electricity generators to source up to 60 per cent of their equipment in Ontario to qualify for generous subsidies contravened international trade law.
Ontario intends to comply with the WTO ruling, said Chiarelli, but is confident the province’s manufacturing base for green energy components is strong enough now to survive without the regulation.
“The Ontario content provision five years ago was a lot more important than it is today,” he said.
“In the last five years we’ve actually created an industry in the province of Ontario … so it’s not as big a factor. There will be a very viable industry moving forward.”
Japan and the European Union had argued Ontario’s incentives for green energy were illegal because they discriminated against foreign firms, a complaint that was upheld by a WTO adjudication panel last December. Canada appealed in February, but the WTO dismissed it in a decision released earlier this month.