Renewable energy on Crown land

Renewable energy developments on Crown land need to be consistent with provincial energy plans, programs and goals.

You may also be granted access to Crown land for a renewable energy project if it supports:

  • provincial economic development priorities
  • off-grid Aboriginal community use
  • small-scale use for local resource management

In early 2014, the ministry approved new policy that covers renewable energy projects on Crown land (also known as public land). It provides direction on where and how the ministry grants access for these projects.

Renewable energy on Crown land policy

How to propose a grid-connected renewable energy project

The Crown land site access process is aligned with the Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator’s (IESO) energy procurement programs. The IESO’s procurement process determines which projects will be offered a contract to sell electricity onto the transmission grid.

Pre-development activities for waterpower projects

Waterpower project proponents may need access to Crown land for early pre-development activities to collect information:

  • that can help assess potential waterpower development site feasibility
  • about resource potential, site constraints and other data affecting potential project viability to inform next steps and decisions about the site

We may authorize early entry onto Crown land for these purposes in ways that reflect the scale, complexity and potential impacts of the activities.

If you are planning an activity on Crown land for waterpower pre-development, contact to:

  • discuss your activity details
  • determine if there are permitting requirements

Proponents are responsible for securing all other necessary municipal, provincial or federal approvals.

Desktop studies (where you do not need entry onto Crown lands) do not require consultation with us or our approval.

Duty to consult Indigenous communities

We have a duty to consult Indigenous communities if the Crown:

  • has knowledge, real or constructive, of credibly asserted or established Aboriginal or treaty rights
  • is contemplating actions that have the potential to adversely impact those rights

We assess the duty to consult and the depth of consultation required on a case-by-case basis.

We encourage waterpower proponents to engage with local Indigenous communities early in the pre-development stage where activities are being considered.

Table 1: Examples of pre-development activities for waterpower projects and authorizations required for access to Crown land

The following table shows:

  • examples of pre-development activities for waterpower projects
  • the types of authorizations that are normally required to access Crown land under our regulations

The table does not provide all waterpower pre-development activities that could occur on Crown land. We may also need to consider other activities for potential impacts.

Example of pre-development activityWork permit required under the Public Lands Act, 1990Occupational authority (such as a land use permit) required under the Public Lands Act, 1990Other authorizations or requirements under the Public Lands Act, 1990 or other laws administered by the ministry
Site visits - observational activitiesN/AN/AN/A
LiDAR (air based), aerial photographyN/AN/AN/A
Flagging (meaning use of flag tape) sites of interestN/AN/AN/A
Installation of trail cameras or acoustic monitorsN/AN/AConsent to deposit authorization under the Public Lands Act, 1990
Fish surveys (for example electrofishing, netting)N/AN/ALicence to collect fish for scientific purposes under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997
Installation of water flow and level gauges (may include tethering/anchoring but no dredging or filling)NoYes, if there is occupation of public landIf dredging or filling is required, an approval under the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act, 1990 may be required
Minor brush clearing (no merchantable trees)NoNoN/A
Overnight accommodation (including camping)NoYesCampsite clearing may require an authorization under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, 1994, if trees are removed
Tree clearing (meaning merchantable trees)NoNoA forest resource licence or permit to remove Crown forest resources may be required under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, 1994
Privy or similarly sized structureYesYesN/A
Trail, water crossing, road constructionYesYes, unless otherwise permitted. Read Ontario Regulation 161/17If a water crossing holds back, forwards, or diverts water, an approval under the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act, 1990 may be required
Surveying including installation of survey postsN/AN/AThe ministry issues survey instructions prior to survey
Geotechnical drillingContact usContact usContact us

Fees and approvals

If your renewable energy project is granted entry to Crown land to conduct pre-development investigations, this does not guarantee regulatory approvals to develop the proposed project.

It also does not guarantee any future occupational authority required for the project.

You need to be familiar with the regulatory, approval, permitting and survey requirements (and applicable fees/rent) associated with your application, authorization and tenure.

For details, read the following: