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Renewable energy

The Renewable Energy Approvals (REA) regulation (O. Reg. 359/09) supports Ontario’s Green Energy initiative to expand renewable energy generation, encourage energy conservation and promote the creation of clean energy jobs for Ontarians by streamlining the approval process for projects. The renewable energy approval is issued by the Ministry of the Environment.

Cultural heritage and the renewable energy approval process

All projects that require a renewable energy approval need to meet the requirements around protected properties, archaeological and heritage resources set out in the Renewable Energy Approvals (REA) regulation.  

The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport strongly encourages applicants to consider the potential for cultural heritage resources early in their project planning. If there is any uncertainty whether the project may impact cultural heritage resources, applicants should engage a consultant archaeologist and/or a heritage consultant to undertake a full assessment. These assessments identify and evaluate cultural heritage resources , and make recommendations about how they can be conserved. Conducting these ensures that these resources are protected, and reduces any potential risks and delays to the development.

Self-assessment

Applicants may choose to undertake a self-assessment if there is reason to believe that there is low likelihood for archaeological and heritage resources to be present at the project location.

Applicants who choose to self-assess are required to complete ministry checklists  to assess the potential for heritage and archaeological resources to be present at the project location:

If the applicant can demonstrate through their answers to the screening questions that there is low potential for resources to be present, further assessment is not required. The applicant is required to include a summary of their findings in their design and operations report, which is presented at the final public meeting.

The applicant may choose not to self-assess and hire a consultant archaeologist or heritage consultant to undertake full archaeological and heritage assessments. 

Properties protected under the Ontario Heritage Act

The renewable energy approvals process acknowledges the protection provided by the Ontario Heritage Act. Applicants need to obtain written authorization from the appropriate authority (the municipality, Ontario Heritage Trust, or this ministry) if their proposed project is located on a property protected under the Ontario Heritage Act. Applicants need to work with these bodies and follow the established processes in order to receive authorization. 

Proponents need to include a summary of their efforts to determine if the project is located on a property protected under the Ontario Heritage Act in their design and operations report. 

Requirements for heritage assessments

Section 23 of O. Reg. 359/09 outlines how to conduct a heritage assessment, the steps in the assessment process, and the report contents.

Ministry guidance material

The ministry has developed guidance to assist proponents and heritage consultants on meeting the heritage and archaeology requirements of the Renewable Energy Approval (REA): Cultural Heritage Resources: An Information Bulletin for Projects Subject to Ontario Regulation 359/09 - Renewable Energy Approvals.

Part 1 of the Information Bulletin includes information on the checklists to be used for the self-assessment process and changes to requirements for written summaries for archaeology and heritage.

Part 2 of the Information Bulletin provides guidance on preparing heritage assessments for the REA, including general information on best practices for identifying cultural heritage resources and assessing development impacts related to renewable energy projects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I need to consider cultural heritage as part of my application?

The conservation of heritage resources is a matter of public and provincial interest. The Ontario government recognizes that our cultural heritage tells us who we are, where we have come from and what we have accomplished.  

The Renewable Energy Approvals (REA) regulation acknowledges the protections provided by the Ontario Heritage Act and requires applicants to consider project impacts on potential archaeological resources, built heritage resources and cultural heritage landscapes.

Knowing from an early stage what cultural heritage resources exist at the project location allows applicants to propose an approach to designing, planning and implementing their project in a way that considers and avoids or mitigates impacts to these resources, and reduces any potential risks and delays to the development.

What is the role of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport?  

All archaeological and heritage assessment reports prepared for renewable energy approval projects must be submitted to this ministry for review. The ministry may request further assessment and/or revisions to the report.

Once the report has been finalized, the ministry will issue final written comments. Applicants must include ministry written comments together with the final versions of the archaeological and/or heritage assessment report in the application submitted to the Ministry of the Environment.

What happens if a cultural heritage resource is found on the project's site during construction?

Under the Ontario Heritage Act only a licensed archaeologist can alter an archaeological site.  Therefore, should the applicant encounter any archaeological resources during project work, all activities must cease immediately and a consultant archaeologist must carry out archaeological fieldwork.

The presence of an archaeological or heritage resource at the site of a renewable energy project should not be perceived as a barrier to development. Many options are available to help ensure the success of project development and protection of cultural heritage, including:

    • Changing the design, location or layout of the project
    • Avoiding or mitigating direct and indirect impacts to these resources
    • Incorporating the resource into the project site, making sure there is no negative impact to the features of the cultural heritage resource.

Where can I find more information?

The Ministry of Energy provides more information on the renewable energy initiative and the Green Energy Act, 2009.

The Ministry of Environment has a Guide to Provincial Approvals for Renewable Energy Projects, which provides an overview of the regulatory requirements for renewable energy projects.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has information on how the Green Energy Act, 2009 affects the land use planning process in Ontario.

The Renewable Energy Facilitation Office is a one-window access point to help renewable energy project proponents (developers, communities and municipalities) obtain information about what is involved in the approvals process for renewable energy projects.