OFA, and the need for green energy promotion

March 13, 2012
Written by Mark Wales, president, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Dec. 16, 2011 — On Dec. 5, an Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) commentary highlighted the review of the FIT and microFIT programs – the future price levels and contract terms.
It has generated a lot of discussion, not all of which is fit to print. Some equate the Green Energy Act with industrial wind turbines and feel very strongly that wind power should not exist in Ontario. Others are concerned with the price of green energy.
 
If over 30 years, green energy is less costly and cleaner than the power we now import, then Ontario will have cleaner, less costly power and the money will stay in Ontario. This is possible with improvements to green power. And it’s what the OFA expects from green power.   
 
Green energy remains a high priority for OFA. We will continue to take a strong stand, on behalf of our members, for viable options to support the production of green energy from renewable resources while protecting the interests of farmers as consumers of energy. This stand includes working to protect the health and well being of rural Ontario.
 
The simple fact is that Ontario will not use cheap coal to produce electricity in the future. Coal power was estimated to have killed 1,800 people per year due to its impact on air quality. Ending coal generation was a decision by all parties at Queen’s Park. So we need to find viable substitutes.

It’s critically important to remember that green energy is not about one source or another – it is about the long-term goal of generating cleaner energy from renewable sources. That is the sentiment behind the Green Energy Act, and that is why OFA worked on the development of this act that was passed in 2009.
 
The Green Energy Act replaced the old RESOP program that saw the first placement of wind turbines without reasonable setbacks and solar panels on good farmland. OFA was opposed to the original price levels offered for wind and solar. As advocates for farms as consumers of energy, we felt the price levels were too high. We continue to advocate for a more sensible price and planned generation system.
 
OFA has made important strides on energy on behalf of farmers and will continue to be at the table for the ongoing discussions on energy policies that impact agriculture. We are confident that we can continue to make a difference for the opportunities and options available to agriculture.
 
Our track record is strong on energy. OFA has worked to keep the discussion going, and advocate to government on behalf of our members about our issues of concern. Key activities and changes that happened because of OFA action on energy issues include:

• The setback for wind turbines is now 550 metres instead of only 420.

• Advised members on the potential pitfalls of wind leases and the need to secure suitable setbacks.

• Successfully protected class 1, 2 and 3 land from large-scale solar projects.

• Advocated for assistance programs for on-farm energy conservation that resulted in 30 per cent of Ontario’s energy conservation attributable to farms.

• Ensured corrections were made to rural transformer stations and line losses.

•  Ensured biogas was included in the Green Energy Act.

• Significantly reduced acceptable stray voltage levels from 10 volts to 1/10 of a volt.

•  Reduced energy delivery rates for farms.

• Secured the contracted price for ground mounted solar projects.

• Assisted with Bruce Milton power line purchases and expropriations affecting 300 members – and we expect to assist more than 2,500 members with five new power lines in the London to Sarnia expansion.
 
When it comes to energy, there is a lot at stake for Ontario’s agriculture industry. OFA must continue to present a strong voice for farm businesses at the energy table – as consumers of energy and in securing the opportunity to be an energy producer.
 
OFA fully recognizes the controversy of wind turbine developments. We have not advocated for or against their inclusion in our green energy mix but have strongly advocated for measures to ensure, if they are built, that they do no harm.
 
Green energy, properly planned, is about jobs, health, and power for homes, industry and farms that is cleaner and less costly than imports. OFA’s work on green energy is directed at our health, our economy, costs and innovations for farmers and all Ontario.  

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