Coalition of community groups and Ontario citizens says planning process for industrial-scale wind power projects needs to be revised, with municipal support mandatory for any contractMay 4, 2016
Wind Concerns Ontario submitted a series of recommendations to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) as part of the “engagement” process on the Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) process on May 3rd.
In a letter to IESO CEO Bruce Campbell, WCO president Jane Wilson wrote:
WCO has been involved supporting individuals and community groups dealing with wind turbines imposed on communities since before the Green Energy Act was enacted. We saw the government’s commitment in 2012 that it would only place wind turbines in communities willing to host them as a positive first step toward addressing the concerns of rural Ontario. The results from the RFP I process, however, made a complete mockery of this policy. The Minister of Energy stated as recently as March 7 that it would be “virtually impossible” for a contract to be awarded without municipal support. Yet, three of the five successful bids for wind turbine contracts in LRP I were awarded to municipalities that did not support the project.
The wind power contracting process shows no respect for Ontario citizens and communities, Wilson said.
The key issue is: neither the government nor participants in the procurement process have listened to valid community concerns or displayed any learning from problems created by the existing projects. Most people in rural Ontario seem to know more about the impact of wind turbines (economic, environmental, societal) than the people proposing projects, who continue to use outdated and limited information to support their proposals. Far from streamlining the process, the Green Energy and Economy Act has created a confrontational environment. Based on local activities such as municipal resolutions, public demonstrations and media stories, it is clear this situation is not going to change until provincial government agencies deal seriously with the problems that have been created by wind turbine projects to date.
WCO recommendations: let communities choose
The recommendations to change the RFQ and RFP process as well as the generic contract are driven by four objectives.
- Activities within the process need to be consistent with the high levels of openness and transparency that the provincial government expects of agencies and municipalities.
- Full disclosure of project information is needed to allow the community to provide meaningful feedback.
- Mechanisms need to be included within the process to measure the responsiveness of proponents to input from the community.
- The process needs to place value on and respect for community views on proposed projects.
Among the recommendations was the need for municipal support to be mandatory. “More than 90 municipalities have declared themselves ‘unwilling hosts’ to wind power projects,” says president Jane Wilson. “They have good reasons for that. But this government has no respect for Ontario citizens and their elected governments, who want to plan what is appropriate and sustainable for their own community.”
Highlights of WCO Recommendations:
Qualification of bidders
Failure to deliver past projects on time should result in disqualification of bidders
Inappropriate behaviours or actions such as clearing land that is habitat for endangered species while a project is still under appeal, should result in disqualification as a bidder
The qualifications of proponent team members should be evaluated: “experts” in noise and health impacts for example, should have appropriate training/education and proper professional credentials
“Engagement” should not be confused with “support”
Public meetings should be more accessible and greater in number, and take place before a municipality is called upon to determine whether it supports a wind power project bid
Communities need much more detail about projects than they were given under FIT or LRP I
Proponents should disclose and have available the full range of documentation on impacts of the proposal including impacts due to environmental noise (potential for adverse health effects), and effect on property value as well as other economic considerations (e.g., airport operations, tourism)
Municipal support must be a mandatory requirement in contract bids
Proponent engagement with Aboriginal communities should be subject to the same disclosure requirements as for other communities
IESO needs to do an independent technical review of proponent submissions
Full documentation should be provided to municipalities prior to bid submission, so that local governments can review the information and comment as to completeness and accuracy
Again, a resolution of support from a municipality must be a mandatory requirement for a bid in the RFP process