McGuinty ‘listen’ to us? Yeah, right….

Greater local voice in the wind for turbines in Ontario

WIND ENERGY: Province willing to tweak controversial Green Energy Act

By Debora Van Brenk, The London Free Press    February 29, 2012

As wind turbines multiply like rabbits across Ontario’s countryside, the provincial energy minister’s assurances of greater local voice over where they’re located is being met with a mixture of optimism and doubt.

“This is an opportunity for the democratization of energy,” said Kristopher Stevens, executive director of the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association that helped draft some aspects of the Green Energy Act.

That act is a foundation of the Liberal platform and encourages renewable energy sources and “green” manufacturing jobs.

But dozens of municipalities have expressed concerns over their inability to change provincial decisions about the best places locate wind turbines.

This week, Energy Minister Chris Bentley said that consultation process is also under review as the province examines how to tweak the Green Energy Act.

“We’re listening, and taking municipal concerns into account as we make thoughtful choices and move forward,” he told a conference of the Rural Ontario Municipalities’ Association.

Pressed to say if municipalities will be able to veto disputed projects, he said they’ll need to wait until changes come forward.

“We are looking for ways to make sure that voices, which may not feel they have been heard in the way they would like to have been heard, can be heard in a stronger and better way in the future.”

Ontario has enough turbines to generate more than 1,510 megawatts.

Under construction are turbines that would generate another 719 megawatts, according to the Independent Electricity System Operator that operates the Ontario electricity grid.

Another 160 applications for large-scale wind farms have been submitted to the province.

Stevens said he’s encouraged by Bentley’s comments as one way to return community power to communities.

The Ontario Sustainable Energy Association’s suggestions to improve the process include: a recommended minimum community ownership in turbines (in Denmark, a minimum 20% equity is required); and any proposed cluster of more than five turbines should need municipal approval.

He said the association is looking for long-term stability in green power generation and community participation should be a mainstay of that.

A critic of the province’s process isn’t convinced anything will change.

Esther Wrightman, who is battling the siting of more than 60 turbines near her home near Strathroy, wasn’t buying it.

“I guess I’ll believe it when I see it. Otherwise it’s just talk.”

E-mail deb.vanbrenk@sunmedia.ca, or follow DebatLFPress on Twitter.

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Posted on February 29, 2012, in Dalton McGuinty, Green Energy Act, London Free Press, Ministry of Environment, Municipalities. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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