In a short press release, the government of Ontario announced on February 11 that the province “is not proceeding with proposed offshore wind projects while further scientific research is conducted.”
In its press release, the government reiterated its commitment to renewable energy and to its plan to gradually eliminate coal-fired generation as a source of power in the province. Emphasizing the government’s desire to gather more scientific data, John Wilkinson, Minister of the Environment, stated:
"We will be working with our U.S. neighbours to ensure that any offshore wind projects are protective of the environment. Offshore wind on freshwater lakes is a recent concept that requires a cautious approach until the science of environmental impact is clear. In contrast, the science concerning land based wind is extensive."
The decision comes at a time when opposition to proposed offshore projects was increasing among residents of lakeshore communities who were concerned their views would be disturbed by the presence of turbines. One contract had already been signed under the province’s feed-in-tariff program and several other projects were in the planning stages.
Not surprisingly, there were negative reactions towards the announcement from both opposition parties and the wind industry. John Yakabuski, Opposition energy critic, called the announcement “a spectacular backtrack” and Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, described the decision as “unfortunate… because Ontario has been working to position itself as a leader in this sector.”
Hopefully this development won’t have adverse spill over effects into other sectors of the green economy or renewable energy industry in Ontario, where investor perception of certainty is a key factor in getting projects financed and built.