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Canada

Ontario Hydro sued for scrapping bid

In the midst of the turmoil surrounding Ontario Hydro's announcement that it is to shut seven of its nuclear reactors, 47 renewable energy companies have filed a class action lawsuit against the Canadian utility to recover C$250 million in losses. The companies, which filed the suit in July, claim they spent millions of dollars bidding for contracts under the utility's Renewable Energy Technologies (RETs) competition, cancelled abruptly in January (Windpower Monthly, March 1997).

Ontario Hydro has reacted sharply to the filing: "We will challenge the class action lawsuit. We'll see them in court. The lawsuit is inappropriate," says John Earl of the government owned utility.

The plaintiff representing bidders involved in the suit is Controltech Engineering of Ontario, a developer of wind projects. Most of the other plaintiffs decline to be identified for fear of commercial intimidation and retribution by Ontario Hydro.

The RETs programme was designed to implement 50-60 MW of independent renewable energy projects in its first round. Ontario Hydro's senior management scrapped the competition just before the winners were to be publicly announced and contracts signed.

Controltech president Ian Baines says his company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars preparing eight wind proposals, of which a 600 kW project was among the ten winning bids. He complains that Hydro "has broken the faith with the private sector companies it once claimed were its partners."

Supporting the legal action are the Independent Power Producers' Society of Ontario and the Canadian Wind Energy Association. CanWEA's Jeff Passmore says the lawsuit is an important step: "In the past, we have been all too ready to jump when Hydro -- or any other big utility -- says jump. At some point, it was inevitable that the industry would stand up and fight," he says.

The RETs court action is expected to proceed from September through the winter. Named personally in the lawsuit are Hydro chair Bill Farlinger, president Al Kupcis, executive vice president John Fox and vice president Rod Taylor.

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