by SUSAN MANN
Energy planners and developers must work directly with municipalities to identify appropriate locations and site requirements for any future large renewable energy projects, according to changes being implemented by Ontario’s Energy Ministry.
The ministry’s new comprehensive procurement process for renewable projects greater than 500 kilowatts will replace the existing large project stream of the Feed In Tariff (FIT) program. The ministry announced the changes today.
The changes are good news, says Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) president Russ Powers, a Hamilton city councilor. But AMO wants clarification on protection for municipalities that are unwilling hosts of large renewable energy projects.
“Will they (municipalities that are unwilling hosts) have a guarantee that nothing will be imposed upon them?” Powers asks. This is a question that hasn’t yet been answered but it’s one AMO will be asking the government, he says.
The process of how the consultation for willing host municipalities will work is to be sorted out this summer, he adds.
Powers says AMO has had extensive talks with Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli about the Green Energy Act. That Chiarelli and Premier Kathleen Wynne listened “to our concerns” is exhibited in the comments the energy minister made today.
The announcement “builds on what the premier had indicated was that she wants to approach project site (locating) differently with greater local input and a focus on willing communities,” Powers notes.
Progressive Conservative agriculture critic Ernie Hardeman, the MPP for Oxford, says he’s happy to see the government finally realized there must be local say in renewable energy projects. “I’ve said it many times before, they can decide where the Tim Hortons goes in their community why shouldn’t they be able to decide where that type of activity should go.”
But there’s a lot in today’s announcement that creates more questions than answers, he adds. For example, what happens to the projects currently underway? “What about all those (projects) that have been bulldozed through without municipal support and, in fact, directly in contravention of municipal support?” Hardeman asks. “Are they still going to be allowed to be built?”
Other changes the government announced in its May 30 press release include:
• Revising the small FIT program rules for projects between 10 and 500 kW to give priority to projects partnered or led by municipalities;
• Working with municipalities to determine a property tax rate increase for wind turbine towers;
• Providing funding to help small and medium-sized municipalities develop municipal energy plans, which will focus on increased conservation and help identify the best energy infrastructure options for a community.
About prices, Hardeman questions whether the government’s changes include provisions to ensure the power being approved is needed “and it’s not being put in the market when we don’t need it and it’s being done at a price that’s competitive with the power that’s available.”
The province also plans to make 900 megawatts of new capacity available between now and 2018 for small FIT and micro-FIT programs. Starting this fall, the Ontario Power Authority will open a new procurement window for both programs, including 70 megawatts for small FIT and 30 megawatts for micro-FIT. Starting in 2014, the annual procurement targets will be set at 150 megawatts for small FIT and 50 megawatts for micro-FIT. BF