The Green Energy Act (GEA) was introduced in 2009 by the Dalton McGuinty Liberal government. To get a perspective on the content and intent of the Act, I went to the actual legislation for some reference points.
Part II, section 5 (1) Permissive designation of renewable energy projects, identifies the intent “to assist in the removal of barriers to and to promote opportunities for the use of renewable energy sources.”
Section 5 (2) Effect of Designation states, “A person is permitted to engage in activities with respect to a designated renewable energy project… despite any restriction imposed at law that would otherwise prevent or restrict the activity.”
According to Rick Conroy of the Wellington Times, “The real goal of the GEA was not about renewable energy at all. It’s primary function was to neuter McGuinty’s own ministries of energy, environment, heritage and natural resources. Other government agencies – Ontario Power Authority, Ontario Energy Board, Hydro One, OPG – were forced to fall in line.”
Before the GEA, McGuinty was growing impatient with the slow pace of wind and solar development. His vow in 2003, and repeated many times afterwards, to see that thousands of wind turbines and solar panels constructed across the province, had not been fulfilled. In 2009, he convened a committee of developers and renewable energy advocates to advise him on what was needed to speed up the proliferation of renewable energy projects.
The committee’s message was that the province’s own regulatory apparatus, erected to safeguard the environment, nature, health and the electricity distribution system, was itself the problem. The province’s own protections discouraged investments in these projects. Developers need certainty. At each stage, a ministry bureaucrat could stall the process, creating delays that cost money.
With the enactment of GEA, the renewable energy business blossomed just as McGuinty had hoped.
Today, renewable energy applications are expedited within ministry walls away from the curious and probing eyes of the public; with just a single appeal opportunity, the Environmental Review Tribunal.
The resulting divide between urban and rural has widened. Despite requests for local autonomy, the provincial government has removed all authority for municipal governance over the approval process for renewable energy projects.
Sadly, permits to “harm, harass and kill” endangered species are being granted to developers by Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry – all in the name of promoting renewable energy projects. All in the name of progress.