Senior Ontario politicians are in no mood to consider giving municipalities more say in the approval and construction of renewable energy projects.
Premier Kathleen Wynne, in Kingston on Thursday, said changes were made to how renewable energy projects were approved that allowed municipalities more input.
The current rounds of Large Renewable Procurement have angered many rural politicians who say they have no say in projects proposed for their areas.
Last week, North Frontenac Township, which in 2015 declared itself an unwilling host to a pair of wind energy projects proposed for the municipality, passed a resolution calling on the provincial government to make municipal approval a mandatory requirement.
Since early February, more than 90 municipalities in Ontario have passed a resolution from the Township of Wainfleet that calls on the provincial government to cancel the request for proposals for new wind energy projects.
Of the 16 renewable energy projects announced in March, 13 were located in municipalities that had declared themselves willing hosts, Wynne said.
Wynne said the Ontario government changed the way energy project proposals are considered, making municipal support one of the criteria upon which an energy project is judged.
“I would say to them that they have a whole lot more say than they did five years ago,” Wynne said during a visit to Regiopolis-Notre Dame Catholic High School Thursday morning. “We never said there was going to be a veto for municipalities, but we put in place much more rigorous consideration of municipalities’ concerns.”
Wynne said the change motivated energy companies to work with municipalities to find solutions to challenges.
“What we’re finding is more and more proponents work very closely with municipalities to find a way to make it work in the local community,” added Deputy Premier Deb Matthews, in Kingston the day before Wynne. “The local voice does matter, but we are not prepared to give people a veto.
“We have a provincial interest in producing renewable energy.”
Matthews noted that Ontario has made big steps to make its energy system cleaner, including becoming the first jurisdiction in North America to close coal-burning electricity plants.
“We need to replace that power and our goal is to, whenever possible, replace with renewables,” she said, adding that, over time, people get used to having renewable energy projects built near them.
Wynne said her government “jump started” the renewable energy industry in Ontario with the Green Energy Act and said Ontario’s work in renewable energy makes it a leader in developing new technology and processes that could be sold abroad.
“The bottom line is we have much cleaner energy in this province than we did 15 years ago,” she said.
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