Cashing in or selling out?
In an unprecedented deal that could become standard fare under new provincial rules for green energy projects, a Southwestern Ontario township could rake in more than $5 million if it gives its blessing to a wind-farm plan.
But at least one opposition group says Southgate, near Mount Forest, would be selling out its residents and principles if it agrees to willingly host wind turbines and solar installations.
Southgate Township has been offered a deal with Samsung in which the company would make annual payments that would total $5.1 million over 20 years in exchange for a council resolution expressing support for a wind and solar farm within its boundaries.
Under Samsung’s offer, the money would go into a “community vibrancy fund” that could be used by the municipality for a wide variety of projects, including roads, recreational facilities, job training, social events and property tax relief.
Samsung is proposing to build a wind farm with about 50 industrial wind turbines and a solar farm in Southgate.
The proposed deal has been denounced by Wind Concerns Ontario, the umbrella organization fighting against wind farm projects across the province.
“We were quite surprised by what was in it,” said Jane Wilson, the organization’s president.
The group’s objection is based on everything else Samsung specifies goes with the resolution of support – unconditional granting of road use agreements, building permits and severance applications.
“The municipality shall ensure that any municipal approvals with respect to the project approvals are carried out by the applicable staff of the municipality with due diligence, promptly and without delay,” Samsung’s draft of a tentative agreement specifies.
“Basically what Samsung is saying is ‘Whatever we want, you are going to give us and here is what we are going to pay,’ ” Wilson said.
Southgate Mayor and Grey County Warden Brian Milne said the township is working with Samsung on a community benefit agreement and hasn’t declared it will host the project.
“If such an agreement can be reached, we will then consider the willing host issue,” Milne wrote in an e-mail.
— – —
Ontario government faced rural backlash after stripping planning control over projects from municipalities. Last year, it announced an overhaul of how it awards renewable energy contracts and asked the Ontario Power Authority for recommendations.
In a final report last week, the OPA recommended companies show community support when they vie for the billions Ontario plans to spend on new wind energy in the next few years.
The gold standard, the report says, would be a resolution of support from a municipal or First Nations band council.
Other indicators of community support, the report suggests, could include support from adjacent landowners or local property owners owning part of the project.
Energy Ministry is reviewing the recommendations as it sets the new rules for renewable energy projects.
— – —
What they said
Andrea Arbuthnot, of the Ontario Energy Ministry: “Our goal is to have a balanced approach that considers the views of local communities while ensuring the long-term sustainability of Ontario’s electricity system.”
Brandy Giannetta, Ontario regional director for the Canadian Wind Energy Association trade group, said the community consultation recommendations are workable. But she said she doesn’t believe companies should have to meet all the community support criteria to compete for a contract.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding