Regulatory Approvals and Permits

Ontario’s new, streamlined approach to approvals and permits for renewable energy projects offers many benefits to project proponents and local communities while continuing to ensure protection of human health and safety, the natural environment and cultural heritage.

Please note that the permits and approvals outlined on this page are not an exhaustive list. Proponents are responsible for determining which permits and approvals are required in order to proceed with a project. There may be additional requirements at the federal and local level, as described below.

Renewable Energy Approval – Ministry of the Environment

Many renewable energy projects in Ontario will require a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) from the Ministry of the Environment (MOE). This single approval has replaced the need for multiple Provincial Environmental Assessments, Certificates of Approval, and Permits to Take Water while introducing province-wide standards for setbacks and a six-month service standard for the REA review. Please note that this approval includes transmission or distribution lines of less than 50 kilometres that are associated with the project. Also note that this approval does not discharge proponents from the obligations outlined under Electricity System Approvals below (e.g., Leave to Construct approvals by the Ontario Energy Board).

Depending on the project’s type and location, applicants can expect to complete a variety of studies about environmental, archaeological and heritage resources and other potential impacts of the project, including consultation with members of the general public, Aboriginal communities, and the local municipality/ies. MOE has posted draft technical bulletins on the Ontario Environmental Registry to provide details on REA requirements. To access these draft documents, please visit the Ontario Environmental Registry, and search for Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) Registry Number: 010-9235. The public comment period for these draft documents will close on May 30, 2010.

Prior to submitting an REA application, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) must review and sign off on your approach to managing significant natural heritage features. In addition, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MTC) must also review and provide sign-off on all archaeological and cultural heritage assessments. If MTC deems that a Stage Three or higher assessment is required, this work may commence during project construction (e.g., after you have received an REA).

If you are unsure whether your project will require an REA or would like additional information on its requirements, please consult the MOE’s Guide to Provincial Approvals for Renewable Energy Projects PDF Icon [PDF – 4.81MB]. To arrange a pre-consultation meeting with the MOE, please contact the Renewable Energy Facilitation Office (REFO).

Class Environmental Assessment for Waterpower Projects – Ministry of the Environment

Waterpower projects do not require an REA. Instead, waterpower projects must complete the Class Environmental Assessment for Waterpower Projects.

The Ontario Waterpower Association’s Class Environmental Assessment for Waterpower Projects PDF Icon [PDF – 2.43MB] sets out the rules governing the development of waterpower projects less than 200 megawatts.

Approvals and Permitting Requirements – Ministry of Natural Resources

In addition to requiring MNR sign-off under the REA process, renewable energy projects may require additional approvals from MNR.

MNR’s Approvals and Permitting Requirements Document (APRD) outlines the requirements for the application, review and decision-making regarding the approval of renewable energy projects. This includes any approvals or permits that may be required under various statutes, including the Public Lands Act, the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.

On April 6, 2010, MNR posted the Draft Bats and Bat Habitats: Guidelines for Wind Power Projects to the EBR for public comment (EBR Registry Number: 010-9521).

Access to Crown Land – Ministry of Natural Resources

If you are proposing to construct a project on Crown land, you must apply for access to the land through MNR’s site release process before applying for a FIT contract or initiating MOE’s REA process.

Please note that to better align with Ontario’s Green Energy Act and Renewable Energy Approval regulation, MNR is currently reviewing its waterpower and windpower site release policies and procedures. The window for new renewable energy applications for Crown land closed on September 24, 2009 and will remain closed until the completion of this two-phased review process.

Nutrient Management Act Requirements – Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs

Anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities which are located on a farm and already subject to an approved Nutrient Management Strategy under the Nutrient Management Act, 2002 and which would not have required a Waste Certificate of Approval are exempt from obtaining an REA from the Ministry of the Environment.

For more information, please visit the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) website. Further information on farm-based systems can be obtained from the OMAFRA fact sheet titled Anaerobic Digestion Basics.

Encroachment Permits – Ministry of Transportation

If your project is located within the Ministry of Transportation’s (MTO) right-of-way, you must obtain appropriate encroachment permits. An encroachment is usually any installation or works upon, under or within the limits of a provincial highway right-of-way placed by someone other than MTO.

For more information on this requirement, as well as information on how to apply for a permit, please visit MTO’s website.

Federal Requirements

Approvals, authorizations and/or permits may need to be obtained from federal agencies that have a regulatory responsibility for reviewing renewable energy projects, either in place of, or in tandem with, Ontario requirements.

All applicants should review the “Federal Focus” sections in MOE’s Guide to Provincial Approvals for Renewable Energy Projects PDF Icon [PDF – 4.81MB].

Proponents of projects with Aboriginal participation will be sent information regarding possible Indian and Northern Affairs Canada requirements in the near future.

Municipal Requirements

Municipalities are a valuable resource for proponents needing information on local conditions and circumstances and may help enable a smooth transition for projects. Some municipalities are leaders in developing and innovating green energy in their area.

In addition to asking the municipality about requirements for a building permit, you may need to meet other requirements prior to constructing your project. Please note that these requirements will vary depending on the municipality in which your project is located.

In order to identify these requirements, please check with the local municipality. The following links provide listings of Ontario municipality websites:

Electricity System Approvals

Project proponents who have received a Feed-in Tariff (FIT) contact must next obtain an assessment of their connection to the electricity system. If your project is connecting to a distribution system, your one point of contact is through the local distribution company. If your project is connecting to the transmission system, your one point of contact is the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).

System Impact Assessment & Customer Impact Assessment – Independent Electricity System Operator

Generation projects larger than 10 megawatts connecting to the distribution system (generally below 50 kilovolts) and all generation projects connecting directly to the IESO-controlled grid (generally above 50 kilovolts) are required to obtain a System Impact Assessment (SIA) and a Customer Impact Assessment. The IESO and transmitter together will take no longer than 150 days after the application is deemed complete to provide an assessment of whether the project can proceed with the next phase of development.

For more information on the System Impact Assessment and the Customer Impact Assessment, or to download a copy of the application forms for generation facilities, please visit the IESO.

There are six transmitters that are licensed and regulated by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), with whom the IESO is working to complete the Customer Impact Assessment:

Connection Impact Assessment – Local Distribution Companies

A Connection Impact Assessment (CIA) is a detailed assessment of a project’s impact on the system. The results include a technical report outlining technical connection requirements needed for the project and the impacts the project would have on the distribution system. All FIT projects connecting to a distribution system require a CIA.

The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) provides a Local Distribution Company (LDC) Locator tool on their website. This tool will allow you to find your LDC, so that you may contact them for more information.

Leave to Construct – Ontario Energy Board

Any person who proposes to construct, expand or reinforce an electricity transmission line or make an interconnection must obtain an order from the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) granting leave to construct such a line pursuant to Section 92 of the Ontario Energy Board Act, 1998. For more information on this process, see the filing requirements PDF Icon [PDF – 341kb] on the OEB’s website.

Radiocommunication and Radar Systems

The Radio Advisory Board of Canada (RABC) in consultation with Canadian Wind Energy Assocation (CanWEA) has recently released Draft Guidelines for Technical Information and Coordination Process Between Wind Turbines and Radiocommunication and Radar Systems.

Connecting New Renewable Generation – For Distribution Connections (Green Energy Act)

Where a generator is seeking to connect a renewable energy generation facility to a distributor’s distribution system, the distributor shall complete a connection assessment within 120 calendar days after the date when the distributor commences the assessment (this is set out in O.R. 326/09 of the Electricity Act and is inclusive of time needed for decision-making and communication of outcome).

The Independent Electricity Systems Operator (IESO) must provide a distributor with an assessment of the impact or potential impact of the connection on the integrated power system within 150 calendar days after the day the IESO receives the application (this is set out in O.R. 326/09 of the Electricity Act and is inclusive of time needed for decision-making and communication of outcome).

Connecting New Renewable Generation – For Transmission Connections (Green Energy Act)

The Independent Electricity Systems Operator (IESO) must provide a transmitter with an assessment of the system and customer impacts or potential impacts of the connection on the integrated power system within 150 calendar days after the day the IESO receives the application (this is set out in O.R. 326/09 of the Electricity Act and is inclusive of time needed for decision-making and communication of the outcome).