I've supported renewable energy for more than 30 years, even
before my years as legal counsel for the Ministry of
Energy. And I'm a strong supporter of the Green Energy Act. But every type of
energy generation has drawbacks, and none of them are suitable
Most solar, wind and biomass renewable energy projects need renewable energy approvals under the
Environmental Protection Act. But there is a different
approval system for small hydro projects, focussed on a twin
process of class environmental assessment which must be submitted
to the Ministry of the Environment, and site release by the Ministry of Natural
Resources. This process is proving very challenging, for
proponents and opponents alike.
Xeneca, for example, is a waterpower developer
funded by the Ontario Pension Trust, which was awarded 19 of
the 47 Feed In Tariff contracts for potential waterpower sites
across Ontario, more than any other developer. None of its sites,
so far, have been approved, although senior Ministry of Natural
Resources staff meet monthly with Xeneca to review its progress. In
March, the Ministry of the Environment Approvals Branch firmly
rejected Xeneca's claims to have completed adequate
environmental assessments of its first three projects:
Other projects, such as Xeneca's plan to dam Sturgeon
Chutes, just above French River Provincial Park, are also
encountering fierce opposition from local residents, businesses and First Nations. Local
people and their experts have been explaining, for years, that the
dam would cause significant damage to endangered species, including
a sturgeon spawning area, to public safety, and to river water
quality and quantity, among other problems. The Henvey Inlet First
Nation has flatly refused to permit the project, which is close to
at least one grave site and other areas of cultural significance.
If Xeneca is listening, it's hard to tell.
Such projects are not a good fit for the "green"
promises of either Xeneca or OP Trust. Some places just should not
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