Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault’s announcement last week that it won’t be signing $3.8 billion in renewable energy contracts was welcome news to one local politician who has been fighting plans to build wind farms in his Township for awhile now.
“I’m thrilled,” said North Frontenac Mayor Ron Higgins. “And I think 115 municipalities being opposed to such development without them having any say in it played a big part in the decision.”
Cancellation of the Large Renewable Procurement II (LRP) was a move to reduce electricity bills, the Minister said.
“I’ve been tasked to find ways to bring bills down,” he said. “When our experts said we didn’t need it (the 1,000 megawatts of power the LRP II projects would have produced), I acted.”
(For comparison, the Darlington nuclear power station generates 3,500 megawatts.)
Higgins said that there were still some current contracts he’d like to see cancelled and there is still a group of municipalities continuing to work towards repealing the Green Energy Act but he’s optimistic they can work with the new Minister. (Thibeault replaced Bob Chiarelli in the portfolio earlier this year.)
Higgins said he’ll “take a few days to enjoy this and then get back focused on economic/community development issues” in his municipality.
But there is more work to be done in the energy sector, he said.
“I’m not against green energy,” Higgins said. “I just don’t like the process.
“The Green Energy Act overrides municipal Official Plans and Zoning Bylaws and to me it’s the root of the problem.”
Higgins said the decision did come as a surprise but one that served to show him they could work with the new Minister.
“We were supposed to meet with the Minister and I’d still like to consult with him,” he said. “I’m very happy with the new Minister and his willingness to compromise.
“The previous minister just shut us out.”
Higgins said most of the feedback he’s gotten has been positive, other than one email.
“And that email was from Central Frontenac,” he said. “But the majority of people here are happy with the decision.
“Landowners who’ve already signed agreements won’t be happy but they can’t say anything because of non-disclosure clauses.”
The move won’t stop 16 projects approved last winter (5 wind, 7 solar and 4 hydroelectric) but will stop a proposed $2.45 per month charge from appearing on customers’ bills.
Earlier this month, Premier Kathleen Wynne promised to cut the 8 per cent provincial tax on hydro bills and a 20 per cent cut for thousands of rural customers.
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