Today, the Ontario Government tabled its long-awaited Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009 (Bill 150) for first reading in the Legislature.
If passed, Bill 150 will enact a new Green Energy Act, 2009, and amend several other key energy and environmental statutes including the Electricity Act, 1998, the Ontario Energy Board Act, 1998, the Environmental Protection Act, and the Planning Act.
Among the key features of Bill 150:
- Creation of a Renewable Energy Facilitation Office: This office will be created within the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure to facilitate the development of renewable energy projects by working with proponents and other Ministries during the project approval and consultation processes.
- Streamlined Approvals Process: In addition to the creation of a Renewable Energy Facilitation Office, the Environmental Protection Act is being amended so that new renewable energy projects will need to obtain a single “renewable energy approval” but will be exempt from having to obtain a number of other provincial approvals (e.g., Certificates of Approval for air and noise emissions, waste disposal systems, sewage system works, water taking permits, etc.).
- Feed-In Tariff Program: Bill 150 allows the Minister to direct the Ontario Power Authority (“OPA”) to develop a feed-in tariff program designed to procure energy from renewable energy sources. Provision is made in Bill 150 for the Minister to direct the OPA on specific features of the feed-in tariff program such as First Nations participation in the renewable energy projects, and domestic content in such projects. A “feed-in tariff program” is a procurement program that offers standard contracts and standard pricing to developers of renewable energy projects (i.e., similar to the OPA’s Standard Offer Program for small renewable projects).
- Expedited Connections for Renewable Power Projects: In an effort to simplify and expedite connection assessments for renewable power projects, Bill 150 will allow for regulatory time limits to be established for the completion of connection assessments by distributors and transmitters, and will require transmitters and distributors to provide “priority connection access” for certain renewable energy generation facilities that are prescribed by regulation.
- Planning Act Exemptions: As previously indicated by Minister Smitherman, Bill 150 will exempt renewable energy generation facilities and renewable energy projects from zoning by-laws under the Planning Act, and municipal development permit regimes.
- Conservation and Demand Management Directives: The Minister will be permitted to issue directives to the Ontario Energy Board (“OEB”) requiring the OEB to take steps to ensure that electricity distributors meet certain conservation and demand management targets.
- Smart Grid: Similar directive-making power is established relating to the establishment, implementation or promotion of a smart grid. Other matters related to the establishment and implementation of a smart grid are left to be dealt with entirely in regulations.
- Generation by Municipal Electric Utilities: The Bill will enable electricity distributors to own and operate small renewable generation facilities, combined heat and power facilities and energy storage facilities. At present, electricity distributors are essentially prohibited from carrying on any business activity other than electricity distribution.
- Renewable Energy Cooperatives: Bill 150 will amend the Co-operative Corporations Act to authorize the incorporation of renewable energy co-operatives. These businesses would be authorized to generate and sell electricity produced from renewable energy sources, and distribute their surpluses in accordance with the by-laws of the co-operative rather than according to the provisions of the statute.
Bill 150, of course, will be subject to committee hearings and subsequent readings, which may result in amendments to the Bill.