In THEORY, the Green Energy Act's FIT Program should benefit the communities in which they are located and should eventually provide green energy employment to the people of Ontario. However, green energy projects are not always welcome in the communities in which they are proposed. Case in point: Niagara Region Wind Farm. Besides being an poor location for wind power according to the Canadian Wind Atlas, the community has been fighting this project and have requested that the proponent provide responses to their valid arguments. According to a resident of St Anns, the proponent has so far ignored many (all?) of these requests. According to the Ministry of Energy's letter of January 15, 2013:
The Renewable Energy Approvals (REA) regulation requires project applicants (developers) to engage the public, municipal governments and Aboriginal communities in consultation about the proposed energy projects. In their application packages, developers must document concerns that have been raised by local groups and individuals, and they must describe how these concerns have been addressed. Regarding the wind project under consideration in your community, the Ministry of Environment has a lot of information that may be of use to you. In particular, you may wish to read the Guide Provincial Approvals to Renewable Energy Projects (section 3 talks about consultation requirements & section 5 talks about setbacks), the Technical Guide to Renewable Energy (figure 5 on page 76 for example) and the section on working with developers in your community.
The way I interpret the above statement is that it's just good enough to report the concerns and provide responses. Actually addressing those concerns doesn't really matter to the application process. On January 3, 2013, Kathleen Wynne said municipalities need more control over green projects but this directive doesn't seem to have filtered down to the MoE. The Ministry of Energy's focus in community involvement appears to be solely on development of new projects and NOT in responding to the concerns of citizens opposed to the projects. The model for community involvement in renewable energy projects seems to be stacked against the community.
Having spoken with Jeff Mole of Trillium Energy Alliance recently, I learned that he has an idea to involve communities in renewable energy production and this is discussed in his proposal for the Community Energy Act. See his 2012 TVO interview with Steve Paikin as well as the Jeff Mole on Renewable Energy Policy video to learn more. This is not a new concept and is already in existence in Canada (see The Canadian CED Network) and elsewhere in the world (see Social Enterprises in Community Renewable Energy).
Basically, the Community Energy Act would create 50 community organizations (Community Enterprises), representing each geographic region in Ontario, to act as proponents for energy projects. The benefits of the power generation would remain in each community (and therefore also in Ontario) instead of being exported to absentee corporate shareholders. At this time, the only thing preventing Community Energy from taking off is the difficulty raising start-up capital and attracting investment.
Under the CEA, Community Enterprise would have control over the local grid resource and thus would have the option to participate in any project. There would be room for private proponents as minority partners. For those communities with existing Municipal Generating Companies, Community Enterprise works in addition to the local MGC. Not all municipalities have a MGC and the ones that do are not pursuing every opportunity.
To be clear, Mr. Mole is not suggesting development of so called "green" energy projects in communities that are unwilling to host these projects. What he proposes is a means to ensure communities have full control over the assessment of all future electricity generation opportunities. The Community Enterprise proposal will give communities the tools to have a fair, open and respectful discussion about all options impacts and potential benefits of a given proposal. This includes the tools to say NO to an unwanted proposal.
I support the idea of Community Enterprise and will work towards having the Community Energy Act enacted.