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July 02, 2009

The Green Energy Act - The Devil in the Detail

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) has provided some of the performance standards to implement its Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009. While both environmentalists and the environmental industry sector remain generally supportive, there is concern over the attendant technical and administrative requirements.

The MOE discussion paper, “Proposed Content for the Renewable Energy Approval Regulation under the Environmental Protection Act,” was posted for comment June 9, 2009. The paper outlines the MOE’s requirements—including the requisite plans, studies, public consultation and technology-specific requirements—for application, review and decision-making for Renewable Energy Approvals.

At the same time, MNR released its draft “Approval and Permitting Requirements for Renewable Energy Projects,” which sets out the process for reviewing renewable energy projects under section 13.2 of the Ministry of Natural Resources Act. Together, the two documents describe what is intended to be a more prescriptive and streamlined approval process for renewable energy projects. The deadline for public comment on both documents was July 24, 2009.

Much of the early criticism of the Act has centered on the controversial—and, as yet, unsubstantiated—health effects of wind turbines. To help allay public fears, MOE has proposed a generous setback regime for land-based wind turbine facilities. The setback is the distance separating the centre of a “Point of Reception”, essentially dwellings and other sensitive receptors, and the base of the closest wind turbine. The setback will vary according to the number of turbines in a three kilometre radius and the collective noise they generate.

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