The Progressive Conservatives have promised to repeal the legislation — but farmers and residents have been counting on the income that renewable energy generates
LONDON — Over the past decade, wind turbines have been popping up across the province. There are now more than 2,500 of them, mostly in rural Ontario — and some local residents aren’t happy.
Some worry about the effects of wind farms on the environment and property values — and they put the blame on the 2009 Green Energy Act, introduced by the Liberals under Dalton McGuinty, which facilitated the proliferation of wind turbines.
The Progressive Conservatives, whom rural Ontario largely supported in the recent election, have pledged to “stop sweetheart deals by scrapping the Green Energy Act.” But experts caution that abruptly doing away with the legislation could have serious consequences for rural Ontario.
Abruptly cancelling the act could also damage rural businesses: many farmers and small-business owners in rural Ontario have signed on to programs such as microFIT and net metering to offset hydro costs by producing their own electricity. Other property owners lease land to larger producers of renewable energy. Many participants in microFIT will not break even on their projects until 2019 or later — if their contracts were cancelled, they would face potential losses.
“I’ve known farmers that have said they earned more money from the solar panels on the barn than they did from the chickens that were under the roof,” says Paul Parker, a professor of geography and environmental management at the University of Waterloo.
He says that if the act is dissolved without being replaced by something else, the province’s fledgling green-energy industry may not survive.