By BRIAN SHYPULA QMI Agency London Free Press
STRATFORD – The National Farmers Union in Ontario fears that as in the case of food, most of the money made from green energy projects won’t end up in the hands of farmers.
The farm membership and lobby group has drafted a series of recommendations on renewable energy and the Ontario Green Energy Act. The NFU says the production of renewable energy must be under the control and ownership of farmers, rural communities and the broader public.
“A lot of the money that is going to be made off of these projects is going to end up in some big energy companies’ hands,” said Ann Slater, an organic farmer near Lakeside and a board member of the NFU’s Ontario arm.
Slater said the NFU also wants community consultation on large-scale or industrial energy projects, such as a proposal for a large wind farm in Oxford County south of St. Marys.
“Zoning, siting, all of that power has been taken away from municipalities, it’s all in the hands of the province,” Slater said.
“How do communities have any say if their municipalities don’t have any say?”
The NFU called for the return of planning, zoning and approvals of large-scale renewable energy projects to municipalities.
The NFU said it supports production of energy from renewable, sustainable sources including solar, wind and low-impact hydro. However, a culture of conservation must come first to decrease demand for energy, which would reduce the need to produce more energy.
Increased public transit, greater use of rail for moving cargo, more widespread adoption of organic and low-input farming practices and the development of “true” local food systems are among the ideas for creating a culture of conservation.
The provincial government must make conservation the first priority of the Green Energy Act and within the government as a whole, the group said.
The NFU all said it supports Ontario’s feed-in tariffs, as long as they are used to maximize benefits to farmers and rural communities.
The group called on the Ontario Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure to compile information to help farmers and others make informed decisions about reliable photovoltaic units, look at licensing or registering the companies selling them and make funding available for small-scale, community-based projects.
The NFU said there should be a 75% Canadian content requirement for renewable energy projects.
Stratford Beacon Herald