Ontario Empowers Local Governments on Wind, Solar

solar_176x199On Thursday, the Province of Ontario gave local governments new authority over utility-scale energy projects. Energy developers must now work directly with municipalities to identify appropriate locations and requirements for any future large-scale renewable energy facility in the province.

The province will also revise the rules for smaller clean energy projects to prioritize those led by municipalities, work to determine a property tax rate increase for wind turbine towers, and fund municipal energy plans.

Further, Ontario is making an additional 900 megawatts of new capacity available to developers of small clean energy projects between now and 2018. All told, the new measures are expected to create 6,400 jobs and produce enough electricity each year for more than 125,000 homes.

We asked Kris Stevens (@ontariosea), executive director of the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, to share his thoughts on Ontario’s move. His comments follow:

The Ontario government is building on the successes of the Green Energy and Economy Act and working on the shortfalls by empowering communities to become partners and proponents.

It is also re-evaluating our energy choices—starting at the community level—to advise the province’s energy plan and the increased role of sustainable energy. This is great news and promises to power Ontario’s prosperity by creating good jobs, resilient communities and healthier environments for all residents.

Here in Ontario we need to prepare for a healthy and well informed dialogue in the months ahead as we work together to optimize community economic development defining the Long Term Energy Plan while navigating the immediate potential pitfalls as we refine existing policy, regulation and programs.

We should be prepared to address how a portfolio of sustainable energy can provide greater benefits and value for the dollars invested provincially and most importantly locally.

We also need to address the proposal to move away from the Feed in Tariff to a competitive bidding process for large projects, recognizing the significant harm this would likely have on the manufacturers and commercial and community developers who have invested based on a paradigm defined consistently for four years. We should also be prepared to explain that many of the headaches present today have to do with previous RFP practices and not the feed in tariff.

Thank you to everyone who champions and supports the advancement and deployment of community, public and commercial sustainable energy. Together we are making positive change. This announcement is a win—let’s work together to make the necessary changes to ensure we make a more prosperous and sustainable Ontario and Canada a reality.

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