George Smitherman has backed down on two of the most anti-democratic and dictatorial elements of his Green Energy Act. In response to pressure from the real estate industry, home energy audits will once again be voluntary:

A backlash from consumers and the real estate industry over a plan to require energy audits every time a home is sold has prompted Energy Minister George Smitherman to back down.

The audits – which raised concerns that information could be used to beat down the price on the seller’s home – will no longer be mandatory under amendments to the government’s Green Energy Act now working its way through the Legislature.

Buyers can request the seller to get an audit as part of the negotiating process but it will be voluntary, Smitherman said yesterday, urging buyers to go ahead with audits.

Smitherman also threw a bone to opponents of  the many wind projects that are being developed near populated communities. NIMBYism undoubtedly raises costs for any project. But to deny stakeholders a say in projects in their communities did not win him any friends.

The act, designed to bring more energy conservation efforts and renewable sources of electricity to the province, will also be amended so residents will have an easier time objecting to wind turbine projects near their homes given the health concerns that have been raised.

“We listen carefully,” said Smitherman, who earlier suggested the law was written to limit the number of “not-in-my-backyard” objections to turbines. “We’ve made it easier for people to raise concerns around health and safety,” he said.