This year’s changes to the approval process for energy from waste facilities has caused a commotion in Hamilton.
In April 2004 the Government of Ontario announced its intent to acquire 2500 MW of privately funded renewable energy generation capacity. One of the responders, Liberty Energy, has spent the past three years developing plans for a 10MW power facility in Hamilton, Ontario, burning waste biomass (sewage sludge, yard waste, agricultural waste, waste wood etc.).
Until this year, there was a clear approval process for such facilities. To encourage alternative energy generation, special environmental assessment requirements for electricity projects were outlined in the Guide to Environmental Assessment Requirements for Electricity Projects (MOE, 2001) and O.Reg. 116/01 under the Environmental Assessment Act. The Liberty Energy Centre was classified as a Category B project, which began its mandatory Environmental Screening in July 2005, and expected to finish it this year.
Reportedly a million dollars in studies later, the province has changed the rules. Regulation 101/07, a new Waste Management Projects regulation under the Environmental Assessment Act, sets up a new environmental assessment regime for waste management projects. These include projects to generate energy from waste, such as the Liberty Energy Centre. Surprisingly, the new process simply wipes out the entire Screening Process that Liberty followed under O.Reg. 116/01, and requires them to start again.
These kinds of mid-stream changes drive investors crazy, and increase the perceived risks of investing in Ontario energy facilities.