A Good Neighbour Approach: Tips for Communities
Ontario's Renewable Energy Approvals Regulation provides the basis for communication, a key in developing a positive relationship between renewable energy proponents and local communities.
Local residents have an important role to play and can get involved in projects to help create long lasting positive relationships. Empowered communities are what help power our province.
- Attend meetings and ask questions. Consultation is the cornerstone of successful project applications and minimum requirements are mandatory for all projects requiring a Renewable Energy Approval (REA), except small wind projects and on farm bio-energy facilities.
- Provide the developers with a list of community concerns and key community contacts.
- You can ask for more. For example, some developers have established a public liaison committee and nominate members of the community to be members.
- Find out what the renewable energy developer will do if you have a concern about the operation of the project. Did you know that there are rules in the regulation that require developers to respond to public inquiries and provide information regarding the activities occurring at the project location?
- Understand the proposed project and learn how it may impact your community. The ministry's minimum regulatory requirements include sharing any reports and project plans with the municipality in the early stages of project planning and all draft reports must be made available to the public 60 days before the final public meeting. Read these reports and comment on them at the public meetings. You can also:
- Request additional relevant project documentation.
- Ask about the project's compliance and management plans to ensure any potential impacts will be promptly mitigated.
- Identify any locally valued resources for the developer to minimize impacts.
- Discuss 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.
- Establish protocols for voluntary slow-downs or shut-downs when conditions call for it to reduce impacts.
- Find out if the renewable energy developer is a member of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), the Canadian Solar Industry Association (CanSIA), or the Canadian Bioenergy Association (CanBio).
- Educate yourself about land-lease agreements and what your rights are when you are a "participating landowner". Participating landowners agree to have part of a renewable energy facility built on their land. This definition is not based on the presence of a lease agreement, but rather the fact that the owner will be physically hosting part of the facility. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association have excellent guidance if you are considering a land-lease agreement.
- Request that the developer provide educational or outreach sessions on renewable energy to schools or community groups.
- Request that the developer publish a project newsletter and regular website updates on progress.
- Request ongoing open houses, formal presentations and workshops to engage with the community. Provide the developer with input on which format and how often updates should occur.
- Request that a Good Neighbour Approach be documented in an agreement and be made publicly available for the local community to view.
- Educate yourself about the options available to you if you have a concern:
- Contact the renewable energy developer to inform them of your concerns.
- Contact the Ministry of the Environment call the ministry 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by calling the Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060.
You can find many more resources to help be a good neighbour here.