Letter from Ministry of Energy’s Renewable Energy Facilitation Office

This was received in response to a letter written by Bob Desjardins, a resident of Addington Highlands/North Frontenac to the Premier, the IESO, and the Minster of Energy.

Your e-mail message to Premier Wynne and Minister Chiarelli regarding the consultation process for future wind energy projects has been forwarded to the Ministry of Energy’s Renewable Energy Facilitation Office. I am pleased to respond.

The government’s priority is to build clean, reliable and affordable energy in a way that gives municipalities a stronger voice in renewable energy project siting.

The way new large renewable projects are developed in Ontario has changed. In 2014, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) launched its Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) program for renewable energy projects generally greater than 500 kilowatts (kW). The program includes mandatory engagement requirements that are intended to facilitate early relationship-building between the developer and the local community. Under the new IESO program, all developers must conduct preliminary environmental investigations for the proposed site, develop a community engagement plan, hold at least one community information meeting, and initiate at least one meeting with municipal representatives.

These engagement requirements are intended to facilitate early relationship-building between the developer and the municipality, and to collect feedback on local needs and considerations before an application is even submitted. Municipalities and developers are encouraged to engage in a constructive dialogue early and often in the development process. Municipalities are encouraged to explore the possibility of entering into an agreement with developers to clarify expectations, responsibilities, and costs related to renewable energy projects.

In addition, points will be allocated to proposals that demonstrate community engagement over and above the mandatory LRP program requirements. These rated criteria are optional measures focused on engagement and participation. This points-based system is intended to promote relationship-building between the developer and local municipality, and provide additional opportunities for local communities to raise local needs and considerations. Projects that achieve a rated criteria score may increase their likelihood of success; however, a lack of points does not mean a project will not move forward.

The IESO is responsible for administering the LRP program, including the evaluation and selection of LRP proposals. The Ministry of Energy is not involved in the proposal submission or evaluation process, and does not communicate with the IESO regarding specific project proposals.

The IESO has posted a list of Registered Proponents for the LRP I. The list also specifies which Registered Proponents submitted proposals by the September 1, 2015 deadline. The list of Registered Proponents is accessible through the following link: http://www.ieso.ca/Documents/generation-procurement/lrp/lrp-1-final/LRP-I-RFP-Registered-Proponent-List-20150910.pdf. Successful contracts are expected to be announced in March 2016. Further information about the LRP program can be found on the IESO’s website at www.ieso.ca/lrp.

It is important to note that the public meetings held as part of the LRP program are separate from any engagement and/or consultation requirement specified in the regulatory or environmental approvals.

Obtaining an LRP contract is only one step in the process of having a renewable energy project connected to the grid. A renewable energy project cannot be constructed until it meets applicable regulatory requirements.

Large wind energy projects are subject to the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) process, which requires developers to consult with the public, municipalities and Aboriginal communities and includes clear requirements to protect human health and the natural environment.

The REA process has specific requirements that must be met by large wind energy projects in order to ensure protection of Ontario residents.

These requirements include:

  • stringent noise limits that are based on a 40 decibel (dB) noise guideline, as recommended by the World Health Organization to be protective of human health
  • minimum noise setbacks for wind projects ‒ at least 550 metres from neighbouring homes and other buildings
  • setbacks from property lines, public roads and railways and some natural heritage features

With regard to your concern about property values, please note that a Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) assessment of properties located close to wind turbines concluded that the properties were equitably assessed, with no statistically significant impact on sale prices of residential properties in these market areas. You can get more information about this MPAC study at the following link:https://www.mpac.ca/PropertyOwners/IndustrialWindTurbines

The Ministry of Energy has recently updated its guide for municipalities, entitled Renewable Energy Development in Ontario: A Guide for Municipalities. This updated guide outlines the LRP process and provides information on the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) process for large-scale wind energy and ground-mounted solar projects in Ontario. It also provides information about the community engagement requirements and opportunities under the LRP program, and helps to support a constructive early conversation with prospective developers. The guide is available on the Ministry’s website:www.energy.gov.on.ca/en/renewable-energy-development-in-ontario-a-guide-for-municipalities/

Following the completion of LRP I, the IESO will be engaging with municipalities, Aboriginal communities and stakeholders regarding the LRP I process to ensure that any learnings and opportunities for improvement are taken into account in subsequent LRP procurements. I would encourage you to participate in this process.

Thank you for taking the time to share your concerns. If you have further questions, please contact myself, or one of the staff in the Renewable Energy Facilitation Office (REFO) by e-mailing REFO@ontario.ca or calling 1–877–440–7336 (REFO).

Mirrun Zaveri, Director
Renewable Energy Facilitation Office
77 Grenville Street, 5th Floor, Toronto, ON M7A 2E1
Office Phone: 416.327.3868