The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) sets out the Province’s policies respecting land use planning. The Planning Act requires that all planning-related decisions of municipal councils, planning boards, Ministries and ministry boards, commissions or agencies of the government, including the Ontario Municipal Board, be consistent with policy statements issued by the Province. Municipalities must use the PPS when developing and updating their Official Plans.
The current Policy Statement came into effect on March 1, 2005 and is required by legislation to be reviewed every five years to determine whether updating amendments are required. The Province commenced the required five-year review on March 1, 2010 and after extensive stakeholder consultation and input, released a draft amended version of the PPS this fall for stakeholder review and comments until November 23, 2012.
The proposed amendments to the PPS will make it a “greener” document in terms of protecting human health and the natural environment and recognizing the importance of matters such as sustainability, transit-supportive development, climate change mitigation and adaption, biodiversity and linkages, management of water and natural resources and energy efficiency and conservation in the development of communities that are both strong and healthy. The PPS will continue to speak to the promotion of opportunities for energy generation facilities to accommodate current and projected needs, and the use of renewable energy systems. These policies are relevant to those renewable energy systems/projects that are not exempt from the amendments made to the Planning Act pursuant to the Green Energy Act and are therefore also subject to the PPS.
A number of proposed changes to the PPS may be beneficial to renewable energy systems subject to municipal approvals under the Planning Act. For example, zoning and development permit by-laws will be explicitly required under Section 4.7 to be kept up to date with official plans which is in accordance with Planning Act provisions, however, they will be newly recognized as important implementation tools of the PPS and will also need to be kept up to date with the PPS. By extension, zoning and development permit by-laws will therefore need to promote the development of renewable energy systems.
As an additional direction to municipalities to promote renewable energy, Section 1.8.1 will require that planning authorities support energy conservation and efficiency, improved air quality, and climate change mitigation and adaptation through land use and development patterns which among other matters, include the promotion of design and orientation which maximizes opportunities for the use of renewable energy.
Additional siting flexibility may also result from the deletion of previous references to where renewable energy systems could be located-settlement areas, rural areas and prime agricultural areas.
Notable changes to Definitions Section 6.0 relevant to renewable energy systems include the expansion of the definition of “renewable energy” to include biogas in addition to wind, water, biomass resource or product, solar and geothermal energy. Additionally, biomass has been added to the definition of “agricultural uses”. These additional changes will further promote the development of renewable energy systems that are subject to municipal Official Plans, zoning and development permit by-laws.