Renewable energy projects may face greater headwinds in the future as pressure mounts to remove important exemptions. Opposition House Leader Jim Wilson (Simcoe-Grey) tabled bill 2 (Restoring Planning Powers to Municipalities Act, 2013) to remove the exemptions of renewable energy undertakings from the application of the Planning Act. The proposed Act would do the following:
1. Repeal exemptions of renewable energy undertakings from subdivision control provisions.
2. Repeal provisions exempting renewable energy undertakings from policy statements and provincial plan requirements including official plans, demolition control bylaws, zoning bylaws, and development permit regulations and bylaws.
Renewable energy undertakings are a positive step towards a green economy in Ontario, but large-scale projects may be subject to the same concerns as other infrastructure when it comes to planning and development in municipalities. For example, there has been concern about tall wind turbines located next to airports that encroach on flight paths.
At the same time, the proposed Act would increase uncertainty around renewable energy undertakings for a few reasons. First, there are no transition provisions so it is unclear how existing undertakings will be affected. Second, municipalities who oppose renewable energy undertakings will be able to do so through planning tools. The uncertainty surrounding approvals could impact the availability of financing for these projects.
Those involved with current or future renewable energy projects in Ontario should stay tuned for how these proposed sweeping changes may impact their project both from a financial and planning perspective. If the bill moves into law it could have major compliance repercussions for new renewable energy generation facilities, projects, testing facilities or testing projects
The bill was introduced in the House on first reading on Wednesday February 20th 2013 and was carried. Private members bills rarely get Royal Assent but because the repercussions may be significant, we will continue to monitor its progress.