It’s official: municipal support required for renewable energy proposals

Letter from energy minister Todd Smith is unequivocal: “I asked the IESO to be clear”

Community member in Eastern Ontario demonstrates disapproval of proposed wind power project

January 30, 2023

When the Indendent Electricity System Operator or IESO began releasing drafts of documents for its new Request for Proposal (RFP) process one thing was clear as mud: was municipal support mandatory for approval of proposals for new power sources?

It seemed not.

In a special webinar the day before the current RFP was launched December 7th, IESO staff answered questions put to them by Wind Concerns Ontario members about mandatory municipal support by saying, “They have a fair bit of say.”

A “fair bit” is not what was promised by then energy minister Greg Rickford when the Ford government revoked the Green Energy Act.

He said, “By repealing this act, we’re restoring planning decisions to municipalities that were stripped by previous government and ensuring local voices have the final say on energy projects in their communities.”

Municipal support missing from process

The IESO, however, seemed not to understand that, and had a process in which municipal approval was one of a set of criteria to be rated when proposals came in. Which meant it could be outgunned by other factors. As well, the format of “municipal approval” was unclear: the IESO documents seemed to suggest that simply having a building permit was evidence of municipal approval.

That’s not true. Handing out building permits is an administrative process, and does not show that a community or its elected council has in any way reviewed a proposal or approved it.

Wind Concerns Ontario, along with other groups such as the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Multi-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group, and various municipalities themselves all wrote to the minister asking for clarification and alignment of IESO process with government policy.

In December of 2022, a few weeks after RFP documents had been released, energy minister Todd Smith wrote to the IESO to clarify. Following that, the IESO put out new, revised documents.

The minister makes it clear

Last week, we received a letter directly from energy minister Smith which makes it 100-percent clear: municipal support is required for any new power generation proposals.

In the letter to Wind Concerns Ontario, Minister Smith wrote:

“Our government’s Green Energy Repeal Act in 2018 gave powers back to municipalities
regarding how land use for renewable energy is regulated and approved in Ontario, including
restoring municipal siting authority under the Planning Act over new proposed projects.

“In recent months, as project proponents look for sites to develop approximately 4,000
megawatts of generation and energy storage, I have heard from multiple municipal councils and
other stakeholders that they would like the IESO to be explicit that municipal council support is
required for the approval of projects proposed on sites that are located within their boundaries.

“For years, our government has been fully supportive of this stance and that’s why in my letter to
the IESO of December 23, 2022, I have asked the IESO to be clear as it moves forward on the
Expedited RFP Process, LT1 RFP and other upcoming competitive procurements.”

On the issue of what exactly constitutes municipal approval, Minister Smith also laid out the government policy:

“I believe that the submission of a council resolution by a proponent or counterparty to the IESO
demonstrating support for the project would be the only basis from which to conclude that an
elected council’s support on behalf of the municipality has been obtained.”

So, not building permits.

See the Minister’s letter here:

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