DENBIGH – Opponents of proposed renewable energy projects north of Kingston are declaring victory after the Ontario government suspended plans for a second round of energy contracts.
The government announced the cancellation early Tuesday, a move it said would save the taxpayers $3.8 billion and would save the typical residential electricity consumer an average of about $2.45 per month on their electricity bill.
The government also announced plans to launch a new consultation process later this year with consumers, businesses, energy stakeholders and indigenous peoples in order to develop a new long-term energy plan (LTEP).
“Our decision to suspend these procurements is not one we take lightly,” Ontario’s Minister of Energy Glenn Thibeault said in the statement announcing the program’s suspension. “This decision will both maintain system reliability and save up to $3.8 billion in electricity system costs relative to the 2013 LTEP forecast. The typical residential electricity consumer would save an average of approximately $2.45 per month on their electricity bill, relative to previous forecasts.
“As we prepare for a renewed LTEP, we will continue to plan for our future and ensure Ontario benefits from clean, reliable and affordable power for decades to come.”
The second round of the Ontario government’s Large Renewable Procurement (LRP II) was expected to add up to 930 megawatts of new renewable energy to the province’s supply, including up to 600 megawatts of wind power and up to 250 megawatts of solar power.
In North Frontenac and Addington Highlands, NextEra Energy Canada’s Northpoint I and II projects and RES Canada’s Denbigh wind energy project were among the wind power developments vying for a contract from the government.
“It’s a big relief. There has been a lot of strife in the community because of this,” North Frontenac mayor Ron Higgins said.
In March, North Frontenac Township, which in 2015 declared itself an unwilling host to the wind energy projects proposed for the municipality, passed a resolution calling on the provincial government to make municipal approval a mandatory requirement.
Higgins said now he and township staff can direct their energy to luring investors to the township, many of whom he said were leery about investing in the area while the wind energy projects were being considered.
“What it means now is I can take a breather for a few days off this and refocus my attention on economic development opportunities,” he said. “Instead of fighting the province, I can look after our own township for a change.”
John Laforet, a strategy consultant who has been working with the Bon Echo Area Residents Against Turbines (BEARAT) on its effort to prevent the project, is less optimistic that Tuesday’s announcement is the end of large industrial renewable energy projects in Ontario.
“I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief because there is no immediate threat, but I don’t think the nail is firmly in the coffin on large-scale renewable projects planned for wherever suits a developer in Ontario,” he said of the government’s announcement. “I don’t think they have found religion on this one. It’s still political science at its finest.”
Laforet said the Ontario government has made major changes to its energy plan before, including a moratorium on offshore wind power in 2011, the cancellation of the Feed-In Tariff program in 2013, the merger of the second and third rounds of the large renewable procurement and now the cancellation of that program.
He also questioned the government’s claim that the cancellation of LRP II would lower electricity bills. Instead, Laforet said the change would only mean bills won’t increase as much as predicted.
Laforet said the government’s next new long-term energy plan will likely include large-scale renewable energy.
“The Liberals’ green energy program seems to be a zombie that can be killed, maimed, wounded and it continues hobbling forward in some way, shape or form,” Laforet said. “It’s a bit like The Walking Dead meets green energy.”
Not everyone was celebrating the government’s change in course.
Tyson Champagne, executive director of SWITCH Ontario, said the move would hurt efforts to fight climate change.
“Unfortunately, the cancellation of LRP II appears to be a step backwards for Ontario’s commitment to providing affordable and reliable electricity to consumers while ensuring the province remains a leader in the transition to a low-carbon economy,” Champagne wrote in an email to the Whig-Standard.
SWITCH Ontario is a Kingston-based network of businesses, research and educational institutions, public sector participants and volunteers working to promote sustainable energy in southeastern Ontario.
“The decision also seems to reinforce the misperception that renewable energy is the cause of increasing electricity costs when, according to a recent study, the cost of green energy is only nine per cent of an average household power bill in the province,” Champagne added.
“The fact is that renewable energy is now cost competitive with gas and nuclear generation while also providing great economic benefits to the province as almost $500 million in economic activity flows back into Ontario communities for every 10,000 construction jobs created by the clean energy sector.”
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