Fit review unveils new prices, greater municipal voice

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By KRISTEN SMITH

Ontario’s Feed-in-tariff (FIT) program review will see projects with municipal support or community participation receive priority approval.

Recommendations from a scheduled review of the FIT program were announced last Thursday.

Minister of Energy Chris Bentley says the province confirmed its commitment to green energy.

“The report and our commitment reflects the fact that we’ve listened to municipalities, listened to communities, and organizations and are implementing an approach to locating these projects in the future which will give much greater priority to those that either have municipal support or community participation,” said Bentley in a teleconference Friday.

“We’re also making sure that when a project gets the nod there’s a mandatory meeting at the very beginning between the municipality, the community, and the project developer so that everybody knows what is being proposed, what the approach is, and any issues can be identified and dealt with,” said Bentley.

Brian Wilton, who works in sales and marketing for Sundial Solar PV in Collingwood, says he is glad to be back in business after a four-month stall while awaiting the review recommendations.

“The fact that there has been a renewed commitment to the Green Energy Act is a positive thing for my business,” said Wilton.

Wilton says the release of rates and a streamlined process is music to his ears.

Kristopher Stevens, executive director of the Ontario Sustainability Energy Association, says the recommendations give the local community more influence earlier in the project.

“Things are going in the right direction,” said Stevens.

Stevens says a third-party negotiating system between community and developer would he helpful, which would give them a “place to meet that’s on middle ground.”

He says the although “the price has fallen significantly” (the most significant drop of more than 30% for mirco-FIT solar rooftop installations), the new prices will still result in a reasonable return.

Wilton says the prices are in check with current equipment costs, and those who make the investment will still see returns of more than 10%.

Wilton says people are not interested in solar installations out of greed -it’s a reasonable, environmental business.

“The declining prices for green energy is a sign of the success of the program,’ said Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner.

“The Green Party has long advocated that prices should come down as demand for green energy grows, and companies become more efficient in producing green energy … and that is certainly happening.”

Schreiner says projects with community ownership and municipal support will have priority access means a stronger municipal voice in future applications.

“That’s a huge step forward and one that we’ve been advocating for quite a while now,” said Schreiner, adding he thinks the program would have met less controversy if it had taken this approach from the start.

The Dunedin resident points out the wind projects in Clearview Township won’t be affected by any changes.

Schreiner says he hopes Skyway 124 and WPD Canada will take the community-based approach as they move forward.

Schreiner says he’s disappointed there isn’t a mechanism for community energy planning.

“If we want to use electricity we’re going to need to come up with new sources of generation,” he said. “Generally what happens is no community wants a new energy plant – whether it’s a gas plant, wind turbines, or a coal plant -communities tend to reject them.”

He says a municipality which doesn’t want a specific project should be able to come to the table with an alternative.

“If the province is going to produce energy we have to have a way for the province to move forward without people saying no everywhere,” said Schreiner.

“There needs to be a mechanism for a strong municipal voice in local energy planning, while at the same time enabling the province to move forward with new sources of generation to keep our lights one,” said Schreiner. “I don’t think we’ve hit that balance yet with the new energy plan, but we’re certainly moving in the right direction.”

The report considered about 2,900 online submissions, 1,700 people participated in a webinar, and more than 80 meetings with associations.

“We didn’t do everything that everybody wanted some would want us to go further, some not as far –we struck the right balance for the people of Ontario,” said Bentley. “It’d be fair to say we listen very carefully and the report reflects much of the advice we were given -not everything -but much of the advice we were given.”

“There’s a lot more shaping of where these projects can actually end up,” said Bentley.

He says there is a lot of competition for renewable energy project.

“I think we’ll see the projects gravitate to those areas and communities that are very supportive of them,” he said.

FIT prices will be reviewed annually, with any changes announced on Jan. 1.

kristen.smith@gmail.com

See the original article at The Enterprise-Bulletin