Bill 150, the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009 (“Bill 150”), had first reading on February 23, 2009. If passed, Bill 150 would enact the Green Energy Act, 2009, amend and repeal 21 existing statutes, and significantly alter municipal involvement in renewable energy projects.

Overview

The Green Energy Act, 2009 is aimed at achieving a number of goals, which include the following:

  • Streamlining approvals for renewable energy projects;
  • Increasing investment in renewable energy projects;
  • Promoting and encouraging conservation and energy efficiency; and
  • Promoting a green economy.

The Green Energy Act, 2009 defines “renewable energy source” as “an energy source that is renewed by natural processes and includes wind, water, biomass, biogas, biofuel, solar energy, geothermal energy, tidal forces, and such other energy sources as may be prescribed…”

To achieve its goals, the Green Energy Act, 2009 authorizes the Lieutenant Governor in Council to establish a number of reporting requirements for municipalities through regulations. For example, section 5 authorizes the Lieutenant Governor to make regulations requiring municipalities to establish energy conservation and demand management plans (“DM Plans”).

The Green Energy Act, 2009 further permits the Lieutenant Governor in Council to designate, by regulation, the following:

  • goods, services and technologies to promote energy conservation (3(1)); and
  • renewable energy projects or renewable energy sources to remove barriers to their use (4)(1)).

These designations are permitted despite any restriction imposed at law that would otherwise prevent or restrict their use, including any restrictions established by a municipal by-law.

Proposed Amendments

Bill 150 proposes amendments to a number of Acts, including the following: Electricity Act, 1998; Ontario Energy Board Act, 1998; Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993; Environmental Protection Act; Building Code Act, 1992; and the Planning Act, among others. Some of the proposed amendments are highlighted below:

Planning Act

  • Removal of subdivision control for land leased for not more than 40 years for the purpose of a renewable energy generation facility or renewable energy project (subsection 50(3)).
  • Official plans will not affect a renewable energy generation facility or renewable energy project.
  • By-laws made under section 33 (demolition control) will not apply to a renewable energy generation facility or renewable energy project.
  • By-laws, orders or agreements made under Part V will not apply to a renewable energy generation facility or renewable energy project (including site plan approval, minor variances and zoning by-laws).
  • By-laws passed under section 70.2 will not apply to a renewable energy generation facility or renewable energy project.
  • By-laws passed under section 113 (zoning by-laws) or 114 (site plan control) of the City of Toronto Act, 2006 will not apply to a renewable energy generation facility or renewable energy project.

Electricity Act

  • A municipality may generate electricity through a municipal corporation, a municipal service board, a city board or a municipal service corporation, established under the Municipal Act, 2001, or under the City of Toronto Act, 2006, if the renewable generation facility does not exceed 10 megawatts, or as prescribed by regulation.

Building Code Act

  • The Minister must initiate a review of the Building Code, with reference to standards for energy conservation, on or before six months after the provision comes into force.
  • The Minister must establish a Building Code Energy Advisory Council, which will, among other things, advise the Minister on standards for energy conservation.

Conservation Authorities Act

  • A conservation authority cannot refuse permission for development related to a renewable energy project unless it is necessary to do so to control pollution, flooding, erosion or dynamic beaches.
  • A conservation authority cannot impose conditions unless they relate to controlling pollution, flooding, erosion or dynamic beaches.

The effect of the changes noted above is to significantly change the role municipalities and conservation authorities currently play in balancing previously competing policy interests related to renewable energy projects. Private property rights and associated reasonable expectation interests (predictability and compatibility of neighbouring uses, rights of approval and review, stakeholder consultations, etc) are also to be significantly altered.

It is anticipated that changes will be made as Bill 150 continues through further readings and hearings at the Legislative Assembly.