One key promise of the Green Energy Act was to fast track and simplify renewable energy project approvals. This promise was realized, in part, by amendments to the Planning Act, which exempt renewable energy projects from municipal official plans, zoning bylaws, site control bylaws, etc.. Some municipal lawyers argue, however, that municipalities may still have the power to block unpopular renewable energy projects, such as wind turbines. They point to broad municipal powers to regulate a “nuisance”, to the greater deference municipalities now receive from the courts, and to the absence of anything in the Green Energy Act about the law of nuisance. This notable omission was contrary to the advice of the Ontario Bar Association, and could create problems for renewable energy proponents. Municipal attempts to block approved renewable energy projects would certainly be a longshot, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone try. The province could, of course, invalidate such municipal efforts with regulations under s. 5 of the Green Energy Act, comparable to the regulation now used to protect certain clotheslines from private and municipal controls. But Ontario has not yet adopted such a regulation.
Meanwhile, the resignation of “Furious George” Smitherman as Minister of Energy may slow the pace of renewable energy initiatives. Ministry staff seem to be grateful for a chance to catch their breath.