Rural Ontario debates green energy reforms

One county moves toward full reliance on renewable energy

By Jim Algie
Better Farming

Oxford County has adopted plans to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050 for eight municipalities within this mainly rural and heavily agricultural region.

In its plans to date, the county has not relied on provincial policies that the new PC government now questions, said Peter Crockett, Oxford County’s chief administrative officer, in a recent interview. County council’s renewable energy commitment is part of the strategic plan that the group adopted during the term that was completed in 2018.

The county set three key goals in its FutureOxford Community Sustainability Plan: 100 per cent renewable energy, zero waste and zero poverty.

Through energy commitments, Oxford became the first municipality in Ontario – and only the second in Canada after Vancouver – to set the renewable energy goal.

Oxford County’s new waste management and education centre, which opened in June, has enough solar energy capacity to “completely offset its annual electricity use,” a Strategic Plan Progress Report for 2015-18 says. The site is also part of a county plan to extend the service life of waste management facilities to 2063, 20 years longer than initially anticipated.

The county did use provincial incentives to help install electric-vehicle-charging stations in Woodstock, Ingersoll, Tillsonburg and Thamesford and at some county works facilities, Crockett said.

“I guess the key thing is we haven’t been reliant on the extra funding” from the province, he said. “We’ve put in almost a megawatt of renewable energy and infrastructure in our system, and well over half of that is outside of any FIT (feed-in-tariff) contracts.”

The term feed-in-tariff refers to provincial government electricity purchase agreements. They financed a lot of renewable energy development under former Liberal governments.

“We believe there’s a strong business case – not just an environmental reason, but a business case – for solar energy,” Crockett said.

solar panel
    SimplyCreativePhotography/E+ photo

“We’ve adopted a couple of zeros,” he said. “One is zero waste, another is zero poverty, and the (third) is 100 per cent renewable ... They are the right things to do, and saying we’re going to get partway there really doesn’t cut it.

“Our goals are aspirational and ... it’s going to take a long time to get there.

“We didn’t get here as a society overnight, so the real issue and the strategic vision is incrementally chipping away and hopefully making great strides,” he added. BF

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