What’s the point of creating a policy if you’re not going to use it?
This is a question Minden Hills councillors might ask themselves.
Last week, council denied support resolutions for a half dozen solar project applications under the province’s feed-in tariff (FIT) program.
While municipal councils have no ultimate authority over whether or not proposals are approved, support resolutions from local councils earn applicants “priority points” in the process overseen the province’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), which is the ultimate granter or denier of approval.
In 2015, council decided it would strike a renewable energy task force for the township, charging that task force with the job of creating a framework through which council could judge the merit of proposals for the granting or denial support resolutions.
That was a good idea, however, the experiment, thus far, is proving to be a bit of a failure.
That framework, known as Policy 100, was used by the township’s planner in his evaluation of the latest round of solar project proposals.
“I evaluated the proposals the best I could using Policy 100,” he told councillors at last week’s meeting, and would later point out, “This was a council-approved policy.”
While the planner recommended all but one proposal be granted a support resolution, council ended up issuing a blanket denial for all.
Reasons cited were concerns councillors have reiterated numerous times.
The provincial process is flawed, for reasons including its short turnaround period and the fact that permission from municipalities is not ultimately required. Municipalities themselves don’t benefit from these projects in any way, when they probably should. Aesthetic impacts on communities that rely on tourism are not taken into great enough account. Etc.
All valid concerns.
But council went to the trouble of creating this policy and the volunteer members of the township’s renewable energy task force dedicated hours and hours to drafting it and have spent further hours looking over proposals.
The township’s planner – a trained expert – spent hours evaluating these proposals to ultimately have his recommendations cast aside by council. So not only were conducting those evaluations a waste of his time, they were a waste of public money as well.
Like a proverbial ostrich sticking its head in the sand, Minden Hills council has now decided it will put a moratorium on hearing FIT applications, thereby opting out of the only chance for input it has in the approval process, and begging the question of why it bothered creating Policy 100 in the first place.