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Today, the renewable energy approvals part of the Green Energy Act came into force, with associated regulations. The Ministry of Natural Resources has also finalized its procedure for approving and permitting renewable energy projects that affect Crown land.

This means that renewable energy projects are now exempt from a wide range of municipal and provincial approvals, and can be sited in a more-or-less one window approach through the Ministry of the Environment. “Furious George” Smitherman has succeeded in pushing these regulations through in record time, as part of the province’s “Ten Steps to Renewable Energy” (see below). The Feed in Tariff is also now in effect, guaranteeing renewable energy producers a stable price for their power.

Wind is by far the most market-ready renewable technology and is exploding in many jurisdictions. Bonneville, for example, has added more than 4000 MW of wind in less than 2 years, and has another 14,000 MW in the queue. However, wind developers will be disappointed by Ontario’s minimum 550 metre setbacks, which are not used in any other jurisdiction and which will block many proposed wind sites.

It was ironic that Minister Gerretsen chose to announce the new rules in front of the very successful Windshare turbine, which would have been blocked by that setback requirement. Fortunately, a special exception may allow additional turbines on Toronto’s waterfront. The REA will allow smaller setbacks based on a noise study where roadway noise exceeds 40 decibels, as it typically does near busy roads.

The Ten Steps are:

1. Ontario makes landmark progress on Canada’s largest climate change initiative as the province prepares to close four coal-fuelled power units in 2010 – four years ahead of the 2014 target. The announcement advances the province’s transition to electricity generated from green energy which will open investment and opportunities in Ontario’s green economy.

2. Ontario launches an Aboriginal Energy Partnerships Program. This initiative will build capacity and participation through support for community energy plans, funding for feasibility studies and the development of an Aboriginal Renewable Energy Network.

3. Ontario announces the $250 million Aboriginal Loan Guarantee program (ALGP). Under the program, Aboriginal communities will be eligible for loan guarantees to take on equity participation in renewable generation and transmission projects. The AGLP will facilitate Aboriginal participation in energy projects by providing loan guarantees for up to 75% of an Aboriginal corporation’s equity in an eligible project.

4. In a historic move, Ontario gives the go-ahead to Hydro One to begin work on 20 transmission projects that are expected to create about 20,000 jobs and spur green economic development across the province over the next three years. Six core transmission network upgrades are moving forward, including North-South lines from Sudbury to Barrie and Barrie to the Greater Toronto Area and an East-West line from Nipigon to Wawa. Another series of core-supporting transmission projects and distribution upgrades are also moving ahead.

5. Ontario makes it easier for communities in Ontario, including farmers, co-ops and non-profit organizations, to bring green energy projects to life. Through the Community Energy Partnerships Program the province will provide one-time support to community groups to assist with the “soft” or developmental costs associated with new renewable energy projects.

6. Ontario makes it easier for municipalities to bring green energy projects to their communities. Through the Municipal Renewable Energy Program, the province will provide support to municipalities for costs associated with new renewable energy projects. While many of these costs are, and will continue to be, appropriately charged to the developers themselves, it is expected some additional costs may arise.
7. Ontario establishes the Renewable Energy Facilitation Office (REFO), a one-window access point to assist developers, communities and municipalities obtain information on developing renewable energy projects in Ontario, and help them navigate through the regulatory approvals necessary to bring their projects to life.
8. The Renewable Energy Approval (REA) process becomes law and is designed to ensure that renewable energy projects are developed in a way that is protective of human health, the environment, and Ontario’s cultural and natural heritage.

9. Ontario develops domestic content requirements which would ensure at least 25 per cent of wind projects and 50 per cent of large solar projects be produced in Ontario. Requirements for solar will increase on Jan. 1, 2011 and requirements for wind will increase on Jan. 1, 2012.

10. The Green Energy Act introduces North America’s first comprehensive feed-in tariff program that guarantees specific rates for energy generated from renewable sources. It is designed to encourage the development of renewable energy projects by a range of generators including First Nations and Métis communities, homeowners, farmers, schools, stores, factories, co-ops, offices and larger-scale commercial generators.

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