Hydro One has been told to get a move on upgrading transmission lines in southwestern Ontario so more wind and other renewable energy projects can come online.
Ontario’s Energy Ministry has told Hydro One “to move forward immediately” on building a new transmission line and upgrading existing ones west of London.
“Ontarians want a cleaner energy system and we’re moving forward with that,” Energy Minister Brad Duguid said in a press release.
The government’s Long-Term Energy Plan calls for the spending of $2 billion on transmission grid upgrades, including three southwestern Ontario projects the plan says should be in place by 2017 to make room for new green energy projects.
The upgrades and new line west of London are to be completed by 2014, according to the plan.
The minister’s spokesperson Andrew Block said Hydro One will work with the Ontario Power Authority to “start planning out the scope and timing of all those projects.
“That work begins immediately.”
Hydro One spokesperson Daniele Guavin said, “Near term efforts will focus on work such as engineering studies to get a better sense of the characteristics of options for the projects.”
But, one wind energy critic in Lambton County thinks Ontario is getting ahead of itself.
Ann Towell, a member of the Dawn-Euphemia anti-wind group, said the government should wait until legal challenges by wind opponents in Prince Edward County and Chatham-Kent are settled.
“I think they’re going ahead without thinking,” Towell said.
“What if the courts decide there should be a moratorium?”
Towell said she also questions why Ontario would decide to halt plans to build wind turbines in the Great Lakes and continue with land-based projects.
“There are major concerns where those things are.”
A dozen proposed wind farm projects for Lambton are currently waiting in line for contracts to sell power, as well as provincial approvals and space on the transmission grid.
There have also been challenges for the province’s move to encourage individual landowners to connect small scale solar panel projects to the transmission system.
Don McGugan, mayor of Brooke-Alvinston Township, said he just learned a small solar panel project he planned for his farm can’t go ahead now because of lack of room on the grid.
McGugan said he was told by the deputy energy minister recently that improvements would happen “in the very near future” in the west of London region.
“Well, ‘the very near future’ in government terms is 10 years,” McGugan said.
The ministry said in its announcement that Hydro One has also been told to immediately begin upgrading key transformer station to allow small-scale energy projects to connect to the grid.
The ministry also said the Ontario Power Authority will move forward shortly to award the next round of renewable energy contracts.
The province wants to increase the renewable power supply from sources like wind, solar and bio-energy by 10%.
Ontario currently has more than 800 wind turbines, according to the ministry, including 10 operating near Forest.
The ministry’s moves were applauded by Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association.
“Proceeding quickly with new contracts for wind energy projects and necessary transmission system upgrades will strengthen investor confidence that Ontario is a good place to do business.”