On Monday night, July 20 in Flinton, Addington Highlands Council voted yes to signing a support agreement with Nextera and Renewable Energy Systems Canada (RES). Council's support will improve both companies' chances of securing contracts for wind turbine developments in the area from the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).
Reeve Henry Hogg, Councilor Helen Yanch, and Councilor Bill Cox all voted in support of the resolution. Councilors Tony Fritsch and Kirby Thompson voted against it on the basis that there hasn't been enough time to research the projects properly.
The meeting began in front of a packed crowd, with Councilor Yanch making a statement regarding recent accusations that she is in a conflict of interest because of the gravel pit she owns with her husband.
“I would like to set the record straight,” Yanch said. “We do not own a gravel supply company. We own a pit.”
She went on to state, “No materials from our pit will be used to construct wind turbines or access roads to the turbines in the Township of Addington Highlands.”
Following this, Tony Fleming, a lawyer with Cunningham Swan Lawyers out of Kingston, made a short presentation to council offering them some suggestions and guidance regarding Nextera and RES' community vibrancy fund offers.
Fleming, who has negotiated wind vibrancy agreements for other municipalities in the province, explained how Nextera's payment offers could play out for the township.
Currently, Addington Highlands doesn't know how many turbines will be installed or where the transmission lines will run. Fleming therefore used a hypothetical scenario wherein Addington Highlands had one transfer station built and 10km worth of transmission lines installed to illustrate to Council how much they could profit from the project. These projections were based on the proposed $3500/MW that Nextera and RES are offering the township.
“There are two scenarios for council's consideration...Council is looking at possibly $15.7 million over 20 years,” Fleming said. “Under the second scenario...you're looking about $2.6 million less over twenty years...but you're getting $2.15 million in year one.”
Fritsch raised concerns about some of the vague wording in the vibrancy agreements and pointed out that the Nextera agreement states the project is “expected to be rated at up to 200 megawatts... It depends on the approvals that they get from the province,” Fleming explained. “I think we can assume that if they're given 200MW they will do everything in their power to site and install 200MW of generating capacity.”
“If they don't know how many are going to go in and we're not going to know how many are going to go in until it's approved then how does that affect our vibrancy agreement...?” Councilor Cox asked.
Fleming explained that Nextera's vibrancy agreement awards the township a minimum of $500,000 regardless of the number of turbines installed.
Cox also asked, “What's the deadline for them telling the constituents and the council how many [turbines]...where they're going...when are we going to know that?
“I don't think that they can give that kind of information until after the procurement process and a supply contract has been awarded,” Fleming said.
Fleming explained that RES's vibrancy agreement is similar to the one Nextera put forth but that they are also offering a “balloon” payment of $595,000 to be paid after the contract is awarded but before construction begins, provided that RES wins the bid.
Fleming also spoke about light mitigation and Fritsch's concerns around the wording regarding it in the vibrancy agreement. The agreement states that Nextera will “use commercially reasonable efforts...” to mitigate wind turbine aviation safety lighting.
“At the end of the day if the federal government won't allow something that tall in this area without navigation lights on it (then) there really isn't anything that anyone can do about that,” Fleming said.
“I don't think you can say 'we must have it' because they [Nextera] can't say 'we'll absolutely provide it'..”
Fritsch wanted to know the “very last date” that they could submit their decision to Nextera and RES so that council could have more time to make an informed decision.
“I would suspect that they are anxious, obviously, to see if council will support,” Fleming said. “I believe they need some significant lead time to put their applications together...what the actual 'drop-dead' date is I really don't know.”
“If they need it for the first of August then we're looking at a week and a half to two weeks,” Fleming speculated.
“The province will do whatever the province is going to do,” Fleming said, regarding the small window for decision-making. “All you can try and do is what's in the public interest knowing that these things could be approved with or without you.”
“Is that a legal statement?” someone called out from the audience.
Tony Fritsch made a motion to postpone the vote on signing the support agreement until after agenda item #8 was read. Item #8 was a new resolution put forward by Fritsch asking Council not to sign the support agreement. Instead, the resolution would propose additional research and preparation for an anticipated wind project procurement in 2016. This would allow council a period of 10 months to evaluate the project and make an informed decision.
Reeve Hogg, Councillor Yanch, and Councillor Cox all voted against Fritsch's motion to review his new resolution prior to voting on the support agreement, defeating it 3-2.
Reeve Hogg then read aloud the resolution to support the turbine projects. After Cox quickly gave his “yea” to the resolution, Thompson spoke up.
“If we do this right now we don't have control. We don't get to say 'we want them a kilometre away, we want them this way...' Thompson said. “We've said repeatedly we don't have time to get this set up. We don't have time to negotiate these contracts. These companies will be here next year. There is another 300MW project being given for 2016 and 2017. They will come back again. They're not spending all this money up here and walking away.”
“If we have another 10 months to work on this and find out what we need to know...” Thompson said. “I just don't think we are prepared to do this right now. I think we are jumping the gun.”
At this point the crowd, made up predominantly of residents opposed to the current proposals, erupted into a long and loud applause.
“We need to take the time to do our homework,” Fritsch said. “We need to represent the people properly and do everyone justice.”
Again, a loud applause.
“It's not necessarily the developer's fault,” Fritsch said. “It's a terrible process. It puts everyone in an awkward position. It puts those developers in an awkward position. It puts our neighbours in an awkward position...and it puts the council in a terrible position.”
“The only thing we have control of is time,” Fritsch said. “It's up to the council. They can make the decision to take the time... I beg the council to make that right decision.”
Hogg quickly asked for a recorded vote once the applause died down and Bill Cox, Helen Yanch, and Reeve Henry Hogg all voted in favour of signing the support agreement, beating out Kirby Thompson and Tony Fritsch's “nay” votes 3-2.
When asked why council put the vote through so quickly, Reeve Hogg replied, “We do have correspondence saying that they're not going to wait. If they don't get a decision from us they're going to proceed without us.” Hogg explained, but was unable to specify whether a clear deadline had been provided.
“We have to decide some time.”