Ontario embrace renewable energy

While opposition to wind turbines, bio-digesters and solar farms make the headlines, communities are forging ahead with projects that will produce hundreds of megawatts of power. In the latest procurement of renewable energy by the Ontario Power Authority, contracts under the province’s feed-in tariff program have been awarded to 36 community and Aboriginal groups.

"This is great news for both the province and the planet," says Kristopher Stevens, executive director of the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, which represents communities developing renewable energy projects.

"The high number of contracts awarded to communities and Aboriginal groups clearly indicates that people see the opportunities to financially benefit from generating renewable energy, while meeting their moral obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. It is clear that there is widespread acceptance of renewable energy, especially when local people are involved."

In total, contracts for 254 megawatts of electricity have been awarded to communities eligible for the ‘adder’ to the feed-in tariff paid for renewable energy. Aboriginal groups have received contracts for a total of 120 megawatts.

One of those is M’Chigeeng First Nations, a member of OSEA, which is in the finally stages of developing a 10 megawatt wind farm on Manitoulin Island called Mother Earth Renewable Energy. Another OSEA member, the Windfall Ecology Centre, has with the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation, formed the Pukwis Energy Co-op, which also received a contract for wind power from the 54 megawatt wind farm it is developing.

"Community power projects allow Ontarians to invest in and own a part of Ontario’s new green energy economy," said Brent Kopperson, who sits on Pukwis’ board. "By granting contracts to community power projects, the government has ensured the people of Ontario can directly share the financial benefits of these renewable energy investments."

"Community ownership has many benefits," explains Stevens. "Local economies are bolstered by additional revenue, while residents have more control over projects and so can best address any concerns that arise."

The community and Aboriginal power projects are among 184 renewable energy projects receiving contracts announced by Energy Minister Brad Duguid, on April 8 at Durham College in Whitby. Together they have the capacity to generate 2,500 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 600,000 homes.