The Ontario government is spouting fiction when it says renewable energy projects it approves are welcomed in the communities in which they are to be developed.
In the most recent approvals, announced in early March, three of the five wind projects were approved for municipalities that have formally rejected such projects, each adopting status as an “unwilling host.”
They include the Town of Lakeshore, the Municipality of Dutton-Dunwich, and the Municipality of North Stormont.
Yet Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli continues to pretend these projects are welcomed. Earlier this year he said the government has changed the way in which it consults with communities, “and ensures that only the most cost-efficient and locally-supported projects get built.”
But that can’t be the case when 60% of the most recent round of approved wind projects were awarded to jurisdictions that don’t want them.
Chiarelli used the same line Tuesday when his ministry announced it would be launching its next round of renewable energy contract bids this summer. A request for qualifications for 930 megawatts of renewable energy from solar, wind, hydroelectricity and bioenergy sources is due by Aug. 1.
“By putting the emphasis on price and community support, the next phase of renewable energy procurement will save customers money by putting further downward pressure on electricity prices,” Chiarelli said in a press release.
This again is fiction. There has never been any emphasis on community support. When the Ontario Green Energy Act was approved in 2009, municipalities were excluded from any participation in the approval process. Planning authority was concentrated in Toronto, where it continues to reside.
The government did give a small concession to local governments three years ago, allowing them to contribute to the planning discussion in a minor way, while suggesting municipal support for a renewable energy project would contribute to its approval.
But at no time has the government conceded its real authority. It still makes the final decision – even if that decision doesn’t have local support.
Dutton-Dunwich even held a referendum on wind farms, in which 84% of its residents expressed opposition. But that wasn’t enough to influence bureaucrats.
That Chiarelli continues to speak about “community support” is curious, given the strong opposition coming from municipalities and the government’s pattern of ignoring that opposition.
— Peter Epp
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