‘The Ontario wind industry has built a foundation worthy of celebration,’ explained Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), during the opening general session of the 29th Annual CanWEA Conference & Exhibition on Tuesday. However, lingering uncertainty surrounding the future procurement of large-scale wind projects in the province obscured some of Hornung's opening remarks.
At issue is what will replace the feed-in tariff (FIT) program for large-scale wind projects. The FIT program – which was ushered in during the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA) of 2009 – was hastily implemented, and several municipalities complained that they were left out of the decision-making process. And on May 30, the Ontario government announced that it was ending the landmark – and controversial – wind program for utility-scale wind projects.
Since the summer, Ontario stakeholders have been mulling over procurement alternatives, such as a competitive bid process, to replace the FIT for large-scale wind projects.
During the session, Colin Andersen, CEO of the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), told attendees not to expect a final decision immediately.
‘As far as timing for large-scale wind projects, it won't happen until 2014,’ he said, adding that input from a variety of stakeholders needs to be carefully considered before a new program can be rolled out. He also noted that the OPA issued preliminary recommendations for the Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) to the Ontario Ministry of Energy on Aug. 30. The new procurement process for large-scale wind will be part of the LTEP.
For its part, CanWEA also recently submitted its recommendations for the LTEP. The organization has called on the Ontario government to issue 2 GW of new wind energy procurement by 2018, which would act as bridge to the new energy plan. Further, CanWEA is urging the provincial government to create a long-term target that wind power meet at least 15% of electricity demand by 2031.
‘A lot of it is contingent on the feedback we get from the LTEP,’ Anderson explained. He added that input from First Nations and municipalities will be heavily weighed moving forward. Anderson also hinted that the OPA will be posting the marching orders for the so-called FIT 3.0 – the third iteration of program rules issued by the OPA under the FIT program.
Despite the lack of regulatory progress, Hornung urged attendees not to overlook the significant gains made by the wind industry as a whole. ‘We have a good story to tell,’ he said, ‘but we have to be able to tell it.’
Since the GEA, the Ontario wind industry has grown dramatically. At more than 2 GW in installed capacity, the province is Canada's largest wind market. According to CanWEA, there is enough wind-generated electricity in Ontario to power 750,000 homes. And wind energy is poised to double in three years. As further evidence of the growth of wind, turbine manufacturers, such as Siemens and REpower Systems, have heavily invested in production facilities in the province.
Nonetheless, wind power in the province remains controversial. Hornung referenced several claims brought by wind opponents, including lower property values, raised electricity prices and adverse health effects. He even rattled off several studies that have disproved the myths. Still, he said, it's critical for the wind industry to remain active in countering such misinformation.
‘Wind energy has become the focus of public and political discussion,’ Hornung explained. ‘And we should welcome that discussion, even if it is painful. Such debate is to be welcomed. We have an enviable track record and we have nothing to hide.’
Wind energy projects are being built in communities, Hornung told attendees, and the industry must do all it can to engage local stakeholders. ‘We cannot assume community support – we have to earn it,’ he said.