Ottawa companies call renewable energy contract cancellations a waste

The Ontario government is cancelling 758 renewable energy projects, as people involved with the sector call the move a 'waste' that will create uncertainty.

Energy Minister Greg Rickford says cancellation will save ratepayers $790 million

Solar panel projects by the Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-operative were scrapped as part of the Ontario government's larger cancellation of 758 renewable energy projects. (CBC News)

The Ontario government is cancelling 758 renewable energy projects, a move people involved with the sector call a 'waste' that will create uncertainty.

The government made the announcement Friday, which includes the cancellation of 26 Ottawa projects. 

Four of those cancelled are solar projects that belong to the Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-operative, according to spokesperson Aaron Thornell.

"This is the province undermining efforts of municipalities, of Indigenous communities, of community groups such as ours, who've been working toward developing renewable energy projects in their own communities and elsewhere in the province," Thornell said. 

Two of the projects were rooftop installations with schools — Mer Bleue High School in Orléans and Paul Demarais High School in Stittsville in partnership with the French Catholic board. The other two were ground-mount installations, each with a generating capacity of 500 kW, in the city's west end, he said.

The government announcement said the cancellation will lead to $790 million in savings for ratepayers.

"We don't really see how the cancellation of these renewable energy projects can save ratepayers' money. We actually feel that this is nothing really more than a waste of time and money and people's energy," Thornell said.

The ministerial directive says both feed-in-tariff projects and large renewable procurement projects are covered by the cancellation if they hadn't reached a certain stage of development.

Greg Rickford, minister of energy and mines, was not available for an interview Friday. 

In the announcement, the province said it will introduce legislation to insulate ratepayers for any costs that come from the cancellations of contracts.

Projects were cancelled if they hadn't been issued a "notice to proceed" or met all "key development milestones," according to a publicly posted ministerial directive to the Independent Electricity System Operator.

'Policy by sledgehammer'

The Canadian Solar Industries Association said the cancellations will lead to a loss of half a billion dollars in planned investment leaving Ontario and 6,000 jobs.

Robb Barnes, executive director of Ecology Ottawa, said the Ontario government is conducting "policy by sledgehammer" on the energy file.

"Investors are going to go elsewhere. They're going to go to jurisdictions like California that are moving ahead with green jobs," he said.

"The rapidity with which the province is trying to dismantle anything related to green energy or action on climate change really throws the industry into turmoil."

Robb Barnes, executive director of Ecology Ottawa, says the Ontario government's recent policy moves on the energy file are creating turmoil for the industry. (CBC)

The recent cancellation of the carbon cap-and-trade system has dried up funding for energy-efficiency school repairs, home renovation projects and cycling infrastructure.

Barnes said renewable energy projects have been scapegoated for rising hydro bills and he would like to see how the province estimate hundreds of millions of dollars of savings for this latest announcement.