Being a Good Neighbour in Ontario
Ontario's Renewable Energy Approvals Regulation provides the basis for a positive relationship between renewable energy proponents and local communities. We encourage renewable energy proponents to take a step further by developing a strategy for enhancing a long lasting positive relationship with local residents.
You can be a good neighbour by:
- Engaging the public, municipalities and Aboriginal communities - early and often. While Ontario's regulations have minimum consultation requirements, the more you engage the community, the better neighbour you can be.
- Getting involved in local community projects. Getting the community involved in the development will lead to greater understanding and generate support. You might consider establishing a representative group or "Public Liaison Committee" (PLC). Having a group that represents local residents, the local municipality and other interested groups early demonstrates your intent to establish long-term positive relations and encourages local participation in the development process.
- Making it easy for community members to express and resolve their concerns. One of the ways you can do this is by establishing a formal complaint resolution process and making it available early in the development process. There are rules in the regulation that require developers to have a plan to respond to the public and to provide information regarding the activities occurring at the project location.
- Eliminating and/or minimizing impacts of the operation on the community by:
- Responding promptly to complaints
- Having agreements on operation in place, e.g. voluntary slow-downs or shut-downs under specified conditions
- Working with the community to identify locally valued resources and take measures to mitigate impacts
- Considering provisions for adjusting a project's setbacks/locations or operation practices (e.g. times of operation, turbine speeds) if a sensitive or concerned receptor (human or ecological) is in the area
- Ensuring that tourism implications are considered, both in the location of the project and the project as a whole
- Considering visual barriers between receptors and a project (e.g. tree buffer or berm between road and solar farm)
- Keeping the lines of communication open beyond the development and approvals stages of a project. Engaging the community through the entire life cycle of the project demonstrates an ongoing desire to be a good neighbour by:
- Maintaining a website and posting meetings, project reports and notification of any proposed changes to the facility ,including upgrades and maintenance, to ensure the community is aware of workers in the area and reasons for their presence
- Responding to complaints in writing and demonstrating how issues have been addressed
- Maintaining customer service standards (inquiry/response times, complaint resolutions, etc.) and posting information publicly.
- Conducting site visits at appropriate times so that the community can see how the project is being maintained and the safety precautions being taken.
- Providing ongoing information sessions and educational opportunities for local community groups/schools
- Consider joining the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), the Canadian Solar Industry Association (CanSIA), or the Canadian Bioenergy Association (CanBio). Many developers are members of associations and commit to codes of conduct and ethics.
- Pro-actively providing a code of ethics to the community can help demonstrate commitment to good environmental and development practices.
- Documenting a Good Neighbour Approach in an agreement and making it publicly available for the local community to view.
You can find many more resources to help be a good neighbour here.