An Elgin County community that stands to gain a wind farm it doesn’t want has told regulators they should count native endorsement of a project only if the bands have claims near the planned site.
Dutton Dunwich says any future renewable-energy rules should also require municipal support before any contract can be awarded.
Still steamed by a 20-turbine project awarded to Chicago-based Invenergy this month, Dutton Dunwich wants the province to do more than just tweak rules for Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) for wind, solar and water power. The Independent Electricity Systems Operator has asked for corporate and municipal feedback for the next two LRP rounds.
Under current rules, a company needs to prove it has engaged the community if it wants to win a contract. But that doesn’t mean what Dutton Dunwich thought it meant. “They talk about community engagement. All that means is public meetings,” said Mayor Cameron McWilliams.
His council has unanimously passed a resolution saying a municipality’s no should mean no and only a municipal ‘yes’ can place a project in the running.
In Dutton Dunwich, in a referendum answered by 56 per cent of voting-aged residents, 84 per cent said they didn’t want turbines.
NCC Developments – a green-energy partnership among six Northern First Nations groups – has a 10% ownership interest in the Invenergy Strong Breeze project in Dutton Dunwich.
In a letter to The Free Press NCC chief executive officer Geordi Kakepetum said the proximity of native partners should have no bearing on a project’s value.
NCC’s revenue from this project will help First Nations develop remote solar microgrids and reduce dependence on diesel, it says.
Dutton Dunwich also wants to know why some projects were selected and others rejected. “As elected officials, we are supposed to be transparent . . . but it doesn’t seem to work at a provincial level,” McWilliams said.
The six northern First Nations are hundreds of kilometres northwest of Dutton Dunwich.
But there is precedent for green-energy contracts with aboriginal support far from where the power would be generated: A solar project in Ryerson Twp west of Algonquin Park is backed by Missanabie Cree First Nation near Sault Ste. Marie; a hydro-electric project on the Trenton Locks near Belleville has backing from Dokis First Nation west of North Bay; and Invenergy’s solar contract at Lake Simcoe Airport also has support from the NCC in Ontario’s northwest.
NCC says Dutton Dunwich should be proud to be part of the greening of Ontario.
And, it notes, Dutton Dunwich will see economic benefit from the $150-million development: 150 construction jobs, plus local suppliers providing many of the materials; and tax revenue in excess of $4 million during the 20 years of the contract.
McWilliams said the province limits tax assessments of turbines to about one-fiftieth of their actual value. “I’m not disputing there’s some tax revenue but it’s not significant.”
Neighbouring Malahide Township offered to be a host site to turbines but the bidder there was unsuccessful.
IESO has said bidders were chosen based on a formula that includes native involvement, pricing, nearby energy needs and proximity to electrical connections.
Turbines have been a flashpoint in Southwestern Ontario, where opponents have criticized a process that minimizes local decision-making. Others worry about possible health effects of turbines on people and migrating birds.
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