Ontario Keeps 2011 Offshore Wind Moratorium, Says More Data Needed

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The government of Ontario, Canada, will keep its moratorium on offshore wind projects imposed in 2011 as it still does not have enough data to make an informed decision on whether to lift the ban, local media reported the province’s energy minister Glenn Thibeault as saying.

Thibeault did not completely rule out the possibility of lifting the ban, but said that the moratorium will remain while the government is carrying out a review of its long-term energy plan.

When asked if the research on offshore wind is still being actively done, Thibeault said he was not ”100 per cent sure”.

The U.S. based Windstream Energy, one of the companies directly impacted by the 2011 moratorium, was recently awarded around CAD 28 million in damages by a NAFTA tribunal for its stalled 300MW wind project in Lake Ontario.

The tribunal ruled that the government of Ontario “on the whole did relatively little to address the scientific uncertainty surrounding offshore wind that it relied upon as the main publicly cited reason for the moratorium.”

Further, it “did little to address the legal and contractual limbo in which Windstream found itself after the imposition of the moratorium.”

The tribunal declared that the contract is formally “in force” and has not been unilaterally terminated by the government of Ontario, Windstream said.

In November 2009, Windstream submitted eleven FIT applications for wind power projects, including an application for the 130-turbine offshore wind project in the Wolfe Island Shoals off Lake Ontario, near Kingston.

Having met the basic conditions of a FIT application, the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) offered Windstream a FIT Contract on May 4, 2010. Windstream did not sign back the contract immediately, but requested a series of extensions throughout the summer while the Government of Ontario undertook a policy review on offshore wind development.

On August 20, 2010, prior to the finalization of the policy review on offshore wind, Windstream and the OPA signed the FIT Contract, which provided for fixed pricing for power generated over a 20-year period on the condition that Windstream brought its project into commercial operation by May 4, 2015. This included acquiring all of the necessary permits and approvals to develop the project.

The Ministry of the Environment’s Offshore Wind Policy Review closed on February 11, 2011, when the government of Ontario decided to defer offshore wind development until the necessary scientific research is completed and an adequately informed policy framework can be developed.

Windstream alleged that the government of Ontario acted in an expropriatory, arbitrary and discriminatory manner when it deferred offshore wind development, resulting in the loss of its investment.

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