Do not expect wind turbines to rise on the landscape in the St-Bernardin area anytime soon.
The Eastern Fields wind power project proposed by Montreal-based Renewable Energy Systems (RES) was among those cancelled in July 2018 by the provincial government. The Green Energy Act that enabled such projects was repealed by the Ontario legislature in December 2018.
However, for the citizens group called Save The Nation/Sauvons La Nation, which opposes the project, there was doubt that it really had been cancelled when the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) had issued a generation licence that is valid until 2038.
“It doesn’t make sense, it should not continue,” said Save The Nation spokesperson Julie Leroux.
According to Stephen Cookson, the Director of Development for RES, “The project is on hold indefinitely.”
Cookson emphasized that it was a generation licence that was issued, and not a permit for the development to proceed.
He called the granting of the generation licence by the OEB a “perfunctory,” or routine function, but said actual development cannot proceed unless there is a valid contract with the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), the agency that manages Ontario’s power market and supply.
“It doesn’t bring us any closer to building the project,” said Cookson.
OEB spokesperson Mary Ellen Beninger said that the agency only looks at the technical and financial ability of a generation company to successfully develop and operate a project and is not involved in the siting or construction aspects of projects.
Beninger explained that the generation licence was still granted to RES because it provided financial statements and evidence that its employees had the required expertise to make Eastern Fields feasible, so a generation permit was issued on December 6, 2018. That was the same month the legislature repealed the Green Energy Act.
Natasha Demetriades, a spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Energy, Northern Development, and Mines, said the Eastern Fields contract had not yet reached a point associated with “advanced project development” and was therefore cancelled.
“The action targeted long-term supply contracts for proposed projects. “It did not cover activities that are separate from the contract process, including permits and licensing,” Demetriades added.
Even though there was opposition from residents and Save The Nation, Cookson believes Eastern Fields could still have been constructed.
“We do believe it had a good level of local support,” he said.
The IESO is reforming its market program and Cookson is hopeful there will still be possibilities for renewable power generation in the future.
He said RES invested “millions” in Eastern Fields but would not say exactly how much.