Renewable Energy Generation Facility and Battery Energy Storage Systems Regulations

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The City of Ottawa is conducting a zoning by-law study to establish zoning provisions for energy generation infrastructure uses in accordance with new Official Plan policy.

The City of Ottawa is conducting a zoning by-law study to establish zoning provisions for energy generation infrastructure uses in accordance with new Official Plan policy.

  • Proposed Zoning Amendments

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    Timing of required Zoning Amendments

    The City of Ottawa is preparing a New Zoning By-law, scheduled to be completed in 2025, to ensure conformity with the approved new Official Plan.

    On February 22, 2023, City Council approved a motion directing staff to develop the zoning provisions for renewable energy generation facilities (in accordance with Section 4.11 of the OP) in advance of the new Zoning By-law.

    The need for an expedited process is due to overly broad permissions for energy sector infrastructure in the existing zoning by-law, coupled with new requests for proposal (RFP) by the Independent Electricity Systems Operator (IESO) to initiate new energy projects in Ontario. The IESO RFP process is geared towards independent projects that would not be exempt from zoning under provincial legislation. There is, therefore, an advanced need for zoning provisions to ensure that upcoming development proposals will be in compliance with OP policy.

    The IESO manages how and when energy generation projects may connect to the public energy grid based on detailed monitoring, management and forecasting of energy usage and availability in the province. The IESO ensures adequate capacity and reliability of Ontario’s energy systems.

    Interim Zoning Measures

    Prior to the release of the draft REGF provisions in fall of 2023, to ensure that REGF applications currently being filed with the IESO are not approved under the broad permissions for ‘Utility Installations’ in the Zoning By-law (which would be inconsistent with the new Official Plan), an interim zoning by-law amendment to define REGF independently from other types of Utility Installations was approved by Council on with the new land use definitions being as follows:

    Utility installation means the equipment used to make or deliver a utility product, commodity or service and includes the actual building, plant, works, utility line, tower, relay, pedestal, and may also include a storm water management facility, but excludes antenna systems and renewable energy generation facility

    Renewable energy generation facility means a facility as defined in the Electricity Act, 1998, S.O. 1998, C. 15 Sched A, and not exempt under section 62(1) of the Planning Act, R.S.O, 1990, c. P.13..

    Note that the use ‘renewable energy generation facility’ was not added as a permitted use to any zones at the time of the interim amendment. Staff have been involved in IESO consultation efforts and the temporary removal of REGF uses from land use permissions in the Zoning By-law is not anticipated to affect timelines for potential projects advancing through the IESO RFP process.

    Zoning Intent

    It is not the City’s intent to duplicate the provincial approvals process for renewable energy generation infrastructure. Rather the focus of the proposed zoning by-law amendment is to build upon existing provincial review processes to address local land use compatibility concerns and direct such development to the most appropriate locations within the parameters directed by the Official Plan.

    Energy generation and storage infrastructure is not something that has previously been regulated by municipalities and requires thoughtful consideration of potential impacts from local considerations of potential land use conflicts, to the energy, resiliency, and climate impacts that may be associated with limiting opportunities for new energy generation projects.

    The City will not be conducting, evaluating or commenting on independent health and safety research with respect to renewable energy infrastructure. Staff will be looking to the expertise and direction provided by the Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Environment, and the Ministry of Energy in incorporating health, safety, and environmental considerations that may be associated with renewable energy generation and storage infrastructure into zoning and/or other potential municipal review processes such as Site Plan Control.

    Zoning Drafts

    Zoning provisions being developed for energy generation and storage infrastructure will not outright preclude any of the potential uses in the city. Provisions will be focused on establishing the following for various types of energy generation and storage infrastructure in the city where they do not outright preclude any of the potential uses:

    • lot coverage standards
    • minimum setbacks
    • screening requirements
    • maximum heights

    Provisions are being developed in a manner that is consistent with the Official Plan and ensures locally-sensitive opportunities for new REGF developments.

    Public and Stakeholder Input

    Public and stakeholder input is an important part of developing locally-sensitive zoning provisions. In meeting the directives of the Official Plan, public and stakeholder input is recorded and considered carefully. Staff have received numerous constructive comments from public and industry stakeholders to date and encourage continued feedback and participation in this process. Every effort will be made to incorporate feedback and requests submitted into the upcoming amendments, to the extent possible within the framework of the Planning Act, and meeting the directives of the Official Plan.

  • Project Background

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    Provincial Direction

    The repeal of the Green Energy Act in 2019 restored municipal authority to regulate renewable energy generation land uses in Ontario, offering a new opportunity for municipal input on the siting of such infrastructure.

    The Ontario Planning Act sets the rules for establishing municipal zoning by-laws, permitting municipalities to regulate the location of any energy generation and storage uses that are not undertaken by a Transmitter (Hydro One Corporation) or Ontario Power Generation, which are exempt from zoning under Section 62(1). In addition to renewable energy generation and storage infrastructure, the exemption does not apply to natural gas power plants where they are run by independent operators, providing limited opportunity for additional zoning provisions beyond the renewable sector.

    The majority of REGF projects in Ontario are carried out by private enterprises or as joint projects with OPG or Hydro One Corporation, meaning that the majority will be subject to municipal zoning regulations.

    There are certain classes of REGF projects [JCM1] which must obtain a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) from the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks per Part V.0.1 of the Environmental Protection Act and O. Reg. 359/09. Provincial approval submission requirements vary depending on the project, however in all cases the applicant must provide evidence of both compliance with municipal policies and local public consultation. REA required public consultation is independent of any consultation that may be required by the municipality.

    Ottawa Official Plan Direction

    In recognition of the above, the City established Official Plan direction for the siting of such uses during the development of our new Official Plan, which was approved by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in November of 2022.

    Specifically, Section 4.11 of the Official Plan provides guidance on where large-scale renewable energy facilities that are subject to a provincial procurement and approvals processes may be permitted. The OP also provides direction for where ‘subordinate’ renewable energy generation infrastructure that is not subject to provincial approvals, due to limited energy generation potential, may be permitted. [AM2] [JCM3] [JCM4] [JCM5] Note that small-scale accessory use energy generation infrastructure, such as rooftop solar panels or a residential geothermal installation, is currently and will continue to be permitted in the zoning by-law everywhere that it functions to aid and contribute to the principal use of land.

    As a principal use of land, the Official Plan permits renewable energy generation facilities in the following designations:

    • Rural Countryside (see Schedule B9)

    • Greenbelt Rural and Greenbelt Facility (see Schedule B9)

    • Natural Environment Area - Greenspace sub-designation (see Schedules C11-A, C11-B and C11-C)

    As a subordinate use of land (ancillary to a principal use), the Official Plan also permits renewable energy generation facilities in the following designations:

    • Agricultural Resource Area (see Schedule B9)

    • Rural Industrial and Logistics (see Schedule B9)

    Did You Know?

    Prior to the adoption of the new Official Plan, the City of Ottawa did not provide guidance on the appropriate location for renewable energy generation facilities (REGF) because these developments were exempt from zoning under the Green Energy Act.

    Zoning By-law 2008-250 therefore permitted REGF under the umbrella of a ‘Utility Installation’ use in most areas of the city.

    The Green Energy Act was repealed in 2019, which restored authority to municipalities to zone for any energy sector infrastructure that is not otherwise exempt from zoning under the Ontario Planning Act. This principally includes REGF developments such as solar and wind farms, but may also include private natural gas power plants and battery energy storage systems (BESS).

Page last updated: 05 Sep 2023, 10:40 AM