Dutton-Dunwich was the one Ontario municipality that held a referendum on wind farms.
Even though 84 per cent of residents opposed wind turbines, the Elgin County municipality that hugs Lake Erie learned Thursday it will end up with them anyway under a process the government promised would give local sentiments a priority.
“We were totally ignored,” Dutton-Dunwich Mayor Cameron McWilliam said. “We live in the province of Toronto, not the province of Ontario.”
A new round of wind farm development announced Thursday awards a contract to Chicago-based Invenergy to build dozens of industrial turbines in Dutton-Dunwich.
The municipality was the first in Ontario to hold a vote for residents on the issue and subsequently passed a resolution declaring itself an unwilling host for wind farm development. Another 89 Ontario municipalities also have passed the “not a willing host” resolution.
McWilliam said he was stunned Thursday when Dutton-Dunwich was on the list of new green energy projects.
The Ontario government had repeatedly assured McWilliam and other rural leaders that the wishes of local residents would be respected in a new era of public consultation.
In testimony before a legislature committee in November 2013, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said municipalities wouldn’t be given a veto over projects but it would be “very rare indeed” for any to be approved without municipal backing.
“It will be almost impossible for somebody to win one of those bidding processes without an engagement with the municipality,” Chiarelli said.
Representatives of Dutton-Dunwich had met with the Ontario government several times to make it clear the industrial wind turbines were unwanted, McWilliam said.
“They talked about local engagement and the need for local support. There wasn’t that support in Dutton-Dunwich. We’re disappointed,” he said.
McWilliam said the decision was particularly odd considering some other municipalities had rolled out the welcome mat for wind farm projects.
Malahide Township, which already has a wind farm, was one of them. Malahide Township Mayor Dave Mennill said he was shocked that a project proposed for Malahide was rejected while one was approved in Dutton-Dunwich.
It is a tough blow for both municipalities, he said.
“If you want to really tick people off, ask them for their input and then ignore it,” Mennill said. “I’m at a loss to explain it. Obviously, pricing trumps (community) support.”
The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) announced Thursday it was awarding contracts for five wind farms, seven solar farms and four hydroelectric projects in the latest round of green energy procurement.
Of the remaining four wind farms approved Thursday, two are in Chatham-Kent, a municipality that has officially embraced their development. The other two wind farms are in the Ottawa area.
Adam Butterfield, manager of renewable generation procurement for IESO, said a number of factors went into the selections, including community engagement and landowner support.
But he said a key element would have been how low a price each proponent was willing to ask the province for the electricity generated.
“The proposal’s pricing could have been more aggressive than its competitors.”
IESO announced the new process succeeded in driving down prices Ontario residents will pay for electricity generated by green energy.
Though the original green energy program paid wind farm developers 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour, the new contracts have an average price of 8.59 cents/kWh.
Larger solar projects have been receiving between 34.7 to 44.5 cents per kilowatt hour, but the average for the seven new solar farms is 15.67 cents.
“The results of this procurement confirm wind and solar power are now on a level playing field with other forms of generation. By putting emphasis on price and supportive host communities, today’s results put further downward pressure on the electricity price projections in Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan,” Chiarelli said in a statement Thursday.
Invenergy spokesperson Mary Ryan said the company was very pleased to be awarded the contract in Dutton-Dunwich for its Strong Breeze Wind Project.
“We will work closely with all stakeholders and we look forward to engaging with the community to build a project that helps create high-quality local jobs and a sustainable energy source for Ontario’s future,” she said.
But the citizens’ group in Dutton-Dunwich that has led the opposition to wind farm development said it isn’t about to give up the fight.
“We are frustrated, very frustrated,” said Bonnie Rowe, a spokesperson for Dutton/Dunwich Opponents of Wind Turbines. “We are not going to take it without a fight.”
What they said:
MPP Jeff Yurek (PC – Elgin-Middlesex-London): “Obviously with this government, it doesn’t really matter what the municipality says. It’s dividing, it’s destroying communities.”
Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli: “With today’s announcement of the Independent Electricity System Operator’s first competitive renewable energy procurement, Ontario is securing a future in clean, reliable and affordable electricity.”
Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario: “I’m not sure what else you can do with this government as a municipality to express yourself.”
Shawn-Patrick Stensil, energy analyst with Greenpeace: “Ontario’s renewable industry is now showing price declines similar to what we’re seeing internationally. This is good news for electricity consumers.”
Bob Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association: “The results of this latest RFP represent another example of Ontario showing leadership in the transformation to a future where carbon-free and affordable power production is available to drive down emissions across other key sectors of the economy like buildings, industry and transportation.”
How the process works (condensed version):
- province sets a maximum level of green electricity generation it wants and invites companies to bid on projects
- companies submit their applications, including what they want to build (wind, solar, biogas), how much energy to generated, location, community input and how much money they hope to receive for the energy they produce.
- Proposals are administered by IESO (Independent Electricity Supplier of Ontario) and over-seen by external advisor, using provincial criteria.
- Each is evaluated using a grid in which some elements of a plan get more weight than others.
- 40% of the rating weight comes from community engagement. A maximum 80 points in this category come from community approval (municipal resolutions and landowner support, for example) and 20 points for local Aboriginal participation.
- The remaining 60% of the weighting system includes price point – the main criterion: how much or how little the applicant is asking the province to pay for each kilowatt-hour of energy produced – as well as available capacity to connect to the power grid.
- Proponents are required to show community engagement that includes local meetings. Municipalities may have interpreted the mandatory community “engagement” to require community “support” but that’s not the case; the applicant does have to show it notified people and met with some of them.
- That weighting process all means some projects could score well because they offered low prices, even if a community expressed opposition.
Adam Butterfield: Manager of renewable generation procurement for IESO, said all projects will have had community engagement – notifications, public meetings, consultations – but acknowledged some might be offered “without the full gamut of community support.”
The selection process is “designed to strike a balance between early community engagement and achieving value for the ratepayers. It was really these two pieces of the puzzle there.”
He noted the prices offered under this bid process represent some of the lowest prices for wind in Canada and the lowest for solar in Canada.
He emphasized the process ran in accordance with what was outline in the request-for-proposals, a process developed the was developed on the basis of government priorities and principles.
And, he said, successful bidders will still have to meet all the enrvironmental requirements before building anything.
“It’s important to note this really isn’t the last kick at the can for community engagement. Receiving a contract does not mean a project will get built.”
NEW WIND FARMS
- Romney Wind Energy Centre, Chatham-Kent and Town of Lakeshore, by EDF EN Canada Development (60 megawatts)
- Otter Creek Wind Farm Project, Chatham-Kent, by Renewable Energy Systems Canada Inc. (50 megawatts)
- Strong Breeze Wind Project, Dutton-Dunwich, by Invenergy (57.5 megawatts)
- Nation Rise Wind Farm, Municipality of North Stormont, by Nation Rise Wind Farm Limited Partnership (100 megawatts)
- Parc eolien Gauthier, Municipality of The Nation and Township of Champlain, by Parc eolien Gauthier LP (32 megawatts)
BY THE NUMBERS
- 103 proposals for green energy contracts, totalling 3,600 megaWatts of potential production
- 5 wind projects approved, totalling 299.5 MW
- Average price to be paid out to producers is 8.59 cents/kilowatt-hour and in some cases as low as 6.6 cents/kilowatt-hour. (In 2009, first contracts awarded under Green Energy Act were 13.5 cents/kilowatt-hour)
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