The real cost of wind power

Ontario's Auditor General said Ontarians overpaid billions for renewable power; then Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said that wasn't true. Parker Gallant details the costs.
In 2015, Ontario’s Auditor General said Ontarians overpaid billions for renewable power; then Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said that wasn’t true. Parker Gallant details the costs.

December 6, 2016

Most electricity ratepayers in Ontario are aware that contracts awarded to wind power developers following the Green Energy Act gave them 13.5 cents per kilowatt (kWh) for power generation, no matter when that power was delivered. Last year, the Ontario Auditor General’s report noted that renewable contracts (wind and solar) were handed out at above market prices; as a result, Ontario ratepayers overpaid by billions.

The Auditor General’s findings were vigorously disputed by the wind power lobbyist the Canadian Wind Energy Association or CanWEA, and the Energy Minister of the day, Bob Chiarelli.

Here are some cogent facts about wind power. The U.K. president for German energy giant E.ON stated wind power requires 90% backup from gas or coal plants due to its unreliable and intermittent nature.  The average efficiency of onshore wind power generation, accepted by Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) and other grid operators, is 30% of their rated capacity; the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) supports that claim.  OSPE also note the actual value of a kWh of wind is 3 cents a kWh (fuel costs) as all it does is displace gas generators when it is generating during high demand periods.  On occasion, wind turbines will generate power at levels over 90% and other times at 0% of capacity.  When wind power is generated during low demand hours, the IESO is forced to spill hydro, steam off nuclear or curtail power from the wind turbines, in order to manage the grid.  When wind turbines operate at lower capacity levels during peak demand times, other suppliers such as gas plants are called on for what is needed to meet demand.

Bearing all that in mind, it is worth looking at wind generation’s effect on costs in the first six months of 2016 and ask, are the costs are reflective of the $135/MWh (+ up to 20% COL [cost of living] increases) 20 year contracts IESO, and the Ontario Power Authority awarded?

As of June 30, 2016, Ontario had 3,823 MW grid-connected wind turbines and 515 MW distributor-connected. The Ontario Energy Reports for the 1st two quarters of 2016 indicate that wind turbines contributed 4.6 terawatts (TWh) of power, which represented 5.9% of Ontario’s consumption of 69.3 TWh.

Missing something important

Not mentioned in those reports is the “curtailed” wind. The cost of curtailed wind (estimated at $120 per/MWh) is part of the electricity line on our bills via the Global Adjustment, or GA.  Estimates by energy analyst Scott Luft have curtailed wind in the first six months of 2016 at 1.228 TWh.

So, based on the foregoing, the GA cost of grid-accepted and curtailed IWT generation in the first six months of 2016 was $759.2 million, made up of a cost of $611.8 million for grid-delivered generation (estimated at $133 million per TWh) and $147.4 million for curtailed generation. Those two costs on their own mean the per kWh cost of wind was 16.5 cents/kWh (3.2 cents above the average of 13.3 cents/kWh).  The $759.2 million was 12% of the GA costs ($6.3 billion) for the six months for 5.9% of the power contributed.

But hold on, that’s not all. We know that wind turbines need gas plant backup, so those costs should be included, too. Those costs (due to the peaking abilities of gas plants) currently are approximately $160/MWh (at 20% of capacity utilization) meaning payments to idling plants for the 4.6 TWh backup was about $662 million. That brings the overall cost of the wind power contribution to the GA to about $1.421 billion, for a per kWh rate of 30.9 cents.   If you add in costs of spilled or wasted hydro power to make way for wind (3.4 TWh in the first six months) and steamed off nuclear generation at Bruce Power (unknown and unreported) the cost per/kWh would be higher still.

So when the moneyed corporate wind power lobbyist CanWEA claims that the latest procurement of IWT is priced at 8.59 cents per kWh, they are purposely ignoring the costs of curtailed wind and the costs of gas plant backup.

22% of the costs for 5.9% of the power

 Effectively, for the first six months of 2016 the $1.421 billion in costs to deliver 4.6 TWh of wind-generated power represented 22.5% of the total GA of $6.3 billion but delivered only 5.9% of the power.  Each of the kWh delivered by IWT, at a cost of 30.9 cents/kWh was 2.8 times the average cost set by the OEB and billed to the ratepayer.  As more wind turbines are added to the grid (Ontario signed contracts for more in April 2016),  the costs described here will grow and be billed to Ontario’s consumers.

CanWEA recently claimed “Ontario’s decision to nurture a clean energy economy was a smart investment and additional investments in wind energy will provide an increasingly good news story for the province’s electricity customers.” 

There is plenty of evidence to counter the claim that wind power is “a smart investment.” But it is true that this is a “good news story” — for the wind power developers, that is. They rushed to Ontario to obtain the generous above-market rates handed out at the expense of Ontario’s residents and businesses. The rest of us are now paying for it.

[Reposted from Parker Gallant’s Energy Perspectives blog.]

Suggestions for Ontario’s power bill crisis

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Global TV News published a summary of opinions by several commentators on how the Government of Ontario might deal with the crisis in electricity bills, which is causing unprecedented energy poverty.

Wind Concerns Ontario was pleased to be asked to contribute to the special news feature found here and excerpted below.

The following is by both Parker Gallant, a retired banker who now analyses Ontario’s energy sector and is the author of the blog “Energy Perspectives” as well as Jane Wilson, the president of Wind Concerns Ontario.

The Ontario government undertook its program to add renewable power without proper cost-benefit or impact analysis.

Now we have electricity bills that are the fastest rising in North America. The rich contracts awarded to huge corporate wind power developers are a factor.

Here’s what we suggest:

Immediately cancel Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) II that is currently “suspended.” With its target of acquiring 1,000 megawatts (MW) of more renewable capacity — it’s not needed and will further add to consumers’ power bills.

Cancel the five wind power contracts awarded in 2016 under LRP I and save electricity customers about $65 million annually or $1.3 billion over 20 years. Cancellation costs will amount to a small fraction of the annual cost. Cancelling approved but not yet built wind power projects and the new FIT 5.0 program will also save money.

Cancel “conservation” spending of $400 million annually. Ontario has already cut back on power use by more than 12 per cent since 2005 when consumption was 157 tWh to 2015 when it had fallen to 137 tWh. Do this and save immediately on electricity bills.

Read More: Kingston Hydro cuts off single mom who chose groceries over utility bill

Move the Ontario Electricity Support Program to the Ministry of Community and Social Services, where this social assistance program really belongs. Electricity customers should not bear the burden of its costs. The move would create a budget shortfall so we recommend the following action:

Levy a tax on wind (and solar) power generation. The auditor general reported that 20-year wind and solar contracts exceed those in other jurisdictions — the tax would help correct that.

Last, reduce the Time of Use (TOU) off-peak rate. This would encourage the shift of power consumption from peak to off-peak time in order to flatten daily demand, with less waste of hydro and nuclear power, and intermittent wind.

Let’s stop adding expensive, intermittent power to our system and stop punishing Ontarians.

WYNNE GOVERNMENT SHOULD CANCEL WIND POWER CONTRACTS FOR HYDRO BILL RELIEF

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NEWS RELEASE

November 21, 2016

Wind Concerns Ontario welcomes the acknowledgement by Premier Kathleen Wynne of financial hardship imposed by her government’s energy policies, and has sent six recommendations for action that will provide immediate relief.

“We know that energy poverty in Ontario is real and worsening under this government,” says WCO president Jane Wilson. “Hundreds of thousands of people are having difficulty paying their electricity bills, and many are having to choose between ‘heat and eat.’ Meanwhile, corporate power developers are getting paid huge profits in Ontario – this has to change, now.”

Wind Concerns Ontario sent the Premier a list of recommendations: 

  1. Immediately cancel LRP II renewable power program. Currently “suspended,” its target was to acquire 1,000 megawatts (MW) of power, even though the government says we have a “robust” supply of power for the future. The cost of this new capacity would go straight to Ontario’s electricity bills
  2. Cancel the five wind power contracts awarded under LRP I for 299 MW. This action will save ratepayers about $65 million annually and $1.3 billion over 20 years. Cancellation costs will amount to a small fraction of the annual cost, probably on the order of about $2 million, at most. In addition, cancelling approved but not yet built wind power projects, and the new FIT 5.0 program will also save money. Together, these cancellations can save ratepayers from future rate increases of nearly $4 per month.
  3. Cancel “conservation” spending of $400 million annually. This action would have an immediate effect on ratepayers’ bills, reducing them by $5.50 per month or about $70 a year. Ontario’s ratepayers have already reduced their consumption from 157 TWh in 2005 to 137 TWh in 2015, for a significant 12.7% decrease.
  4. Allocate the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) to the Ministry of Community and Social Services. The OESP is essentially a social assistance program and it is questionable as to whether ratepayers should bear the burden of its costs. With an estimated annual cost of $200 million, the effect of this would be an immediate savings of about $4 per month on ratepayers’ bills, and an annual savings of $50. We recognize, however, that the move would impact the budgetary shortfall by a like amount so we recommend the following action.
  5. Levy a tax on wind and solar power generation on a per-megawatt basis starting at $10 per/MWh. This would result in raising sufficient revenues to offset the OESP costs. The effective rate could be held at that level or increased in the event the OESP costs exceed the forecast $200 million per annum. The Auditor General previously reported the award value per MWh of the 20-year contracts to wind and solar power developers exceeded those in other jurisdictions by a considerable margin. The tax would serve as a recognition of those excessive margins. (Note: the wind power contracts also contain cost of living increases of up to 20% over the term of the contracts.)
  6. Immediately reduce the Time of Use (TOU) off-peak rate. We recommend an immediate reduction in the TOU off-peak rate from 8.7 cents/kWh to 7.4 cents/kWh to encourage the shift of power consumption from peak to off-peak time in order to flatten daily demand.

“Poverty is a major factor in population health,” says Wilson, a Registered Nurse. “It is time Ontario takes action to help people now, and not cause further hardship for Ontario families.”

Wind Concerns Ontario is a coalition of community groups, individuals and families concerned about the impact of industrial-scale wind power development on the economy, on the natural environment, and on human health in Ontario.

 

Contact:

Jane Wilson, President: president@windconcernsontario.ca

Parker Gallant, Vice-president: parker.gallant@gmail.com

Cancel the contracts, Minister Thibeault (we’re asking again)

It’s been quite windy the last few days in Ontario, as it often is in the fall. Temperatures have been mild, too — all that stacks up not only to a beautiful fall but a very expensive few days for Ontario’s electricity customers, already hard-hit by their power bills which are the fastest rising in North America.

Parker Gallant has done the analysis on a single day last week, November 10, which he says points out everything that is wrong with Ontario’s electricity policy. Too much power produced when we don’t need it means cheap exports to our neighbours and more expense for Ontarians.

Here’s an excerpt from his recent blog posting:

November 10th serves as a perfect example of what’s happening to electricity customers in Ontario: that day, the government’s electricity policy shows we reward huge corporate wind power developers and it also highlights the intermittent nature of power generation from wind — it is out of phase with demand.

November 10 should be the basis of a message to the Minister of Energy, Glenn Thibeault on the Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) program: Ontario should cancel both the LRP I contracts awarded last April and cancel the now “suspended” LRP II process.  The Minister has already admitted our electricity supply is more than adequate for the next 10 years (“robust” in fact, he says) so acquiring more wind generated power (and solar) should be immediately suspended. It does nothing other than drive up the costs for “average” households.

The $9.4 million of ratepayer dollars handed out November 10 neither reduced emissions nor provided useful electricity. Time for a complete overhaul of electricity policy in Ontario, starting with those contracts and the LRP process.

When the subject of cancelling contracts (which is government’s right) comes up, the immediate response from the influential wind power lobby is that to do so will incur lawsuits, and wreck Ontario’s reputation in the business/investment world. The fact is, anyone knows that building your business on a subsidy program is not good planning; it’s also true that the Ontario government included “off-ramps” in the latest contracts, so that it could change its mind if the power is not needed, and pay out the power developers’ documented expenses.

Here are the details for the five contracts awarded by the IESO last spring.

Project name Capacity MW 20-yr cost $ Max payout liability $
Otter Creek 50 218 million 500,000
Romney Wind 60 261 million 520,000
Strong Breeze 57 250 million 515,000
Eastern Fields 32 139 million 464,000
Nation Rise 100 436 million 600,000

Source: data from IESO contracts

So, in the case of Strong Breeze, for example, in the community of Dutton Dunwich which resoundingly expressed its Not A Willing Host status but got a wind power project anyway, the government could get out of a $250-million contract by paying, at most, $515,000. Similarly, Nation Rise, in another unwilling host community, could be cancelled for a maximum liability of $600,000 and save Ontario electricity ratepayers from having the $436 million cost added to their bills.

Let’s go farther! Among the projects with Renewable Energy Approvals (REAs) but not yet operating, are the much contested White Pines in Prince Edward County and the Windlectric project on Amherst Island, both of which are in legal battles and both are in danger of not meeting their contracted Commercial Operation date. Cancelling them would save a lot of wildlife and also save Ontario electricity customers almost $1 billion.

Mr Gallant says that November 10 is emblematic of what’s wrong with Ontario’s electricity policy; we add, why buy more power Ontario doesn’t need and inflict more damage on the natural environment and Ontario’s rural communities, when the answer is so simple.

Cancel the contracts, Minister Thibeault.

Ontario mayor to Wynne government: take action to protect residents from turbine noise now

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has failed to regulate wind turbines for safety, mayor says. A full investigation is necessary

Image result for image UNIFOR wind turbine

It’s been years since the Canadian Auto Workers union, now UNIFOR, allowed a wind turbine to be built at its education and recreation centre in Port Stanley — and it’s been years of complaints from local residents about the noise and vibration from the wind turbine.

What’s been done? Nothing.

More than 300 complaints have been lodged with the Ontario government and UNIFORS, to no avail. Promises to investigate and follow up have not been fulfilled.

The Mayor of the Town of Saugeen Shores says enough is enough; the government must do its duty and take action on this situation, now.

Last week, he wrote a letter to the Office of the Ombudsman, with a formal complaint about the government inaction in this matter, detailing all the broken promises and the failure to meet its mandate to the people of Ontario. Read the letter here.

Absolutely unreasonable

Mayor Mike Smith wrote, it is “absolutely unreasonable for our community to have to continue to wait until spring of next year in hope that an audit of this turbine’s operation will finally be undertaken voluntarily by the proponent. At the time of writing we are advised that as many as 328 complaints have been filed relating to the operation of this turbine. If this audit is not done until June 2017, it will come four years and three months after the earliest potentially non-compliant test result …”

How many complaints must be filed? Smith asks, and how many more questionable test results filed before the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change finally takes action?

The MOECC has failed

The situation is indicative, the Mayor says, of “the larger failure of the MOECC to fulfill its role in regulating and overseeing the operation of industrial wind turbines in the Province of Ontario.”

He concludes by requesting a detailed investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman.

 

 

Quebec wind power developer forces researcher to reveal sources

CBC/Radio-Canada has reported that a Quebec-based wind power developer obtained a court order to force a researcher with the University of Quebec at Montreal to reveal the names of participants in her study of the impact of a wind power development on a Quebec community. The decision is far-reaching as it indicates not only the lengths to which wind power companies will go to intimidate residents opposed to the huge power projects in their small rural communities, it also puts a “chill” on participation in research studies, if confidentiality cannot be assured.

Here is an unofficial translation of the news story, from the original French.

 

Law to force researcher to reveal identity of her sources

2016-10-31

A wind firm has obtained a court order to force researcher Marie-Ève Maillé to reveal the names of participants in a study she conducted to determine the deterioration of social climate in communities where turbines were built.

by Ulysse Bergeron

This first-to-happen in judicial history worries the Canadian scientific community which feels that the procedure undertaken by Éoliennes de l’Érable wind company against professor Maillé at UQÀM/Université du Québec à Montréal could potentially harm the confidentiality of university sources, as well as casting a shadow on future participation by citizens in any Canadian research.

The company commands the researcher to reveal the names of the 93 participants who provided information in the context of her doctorate research in 2012, indicating whether they were “for or against” the wind project.

It also requires her to release on-site noise recordings as well as the names and addresses of the people interviewed.

This request is in reaction to a civil action recourse from a citizens’ group which opposes the IWTs since 2014.

These citizens from de l’Érable and Arthabaska municipalities maintain being annoyed by the fifty IWTs in operation.

In November 2015, they had asked Ms. Maillé to testify as an expert witness.

That is when Éoliennes de l’Érablière filed its request stating that “it had every right to obtain all information and pertinent documentation relatively to this reported deterioration of the social climate to be able to defend its position against the class action it was facing.”

Last January judge Marc St-Pierre declared the company was right but the researcher refused to communicate the data.

She maintains that this data specifically fall under “immunity of divulgation” by force of the agreement of confidentiality that binds her to all participants as surmised from documents deposited in court.

If the judge overrules her objection, two options remain: renege on her word of confidentiality and release the information to the companies or risk being pursued for contempt of court.

Major supporters

This court case sparks a particular interest in the scientific community since its impact could have far reaching implications for research as a whole.

In a formal deposition dated August 2nd Rémi Quirion, Québec’s chief science officer and main counselor to the government in related scientific matters, is on record of defending the researcher. She must “respect her ethical duty of confidentiality and protect personal data” trusted in her by participants, adding that research project “would never have gained public funding” without a binding commitment of the sort.

In addition to Quirion’s supportive position comes a similar voice of approval from Ms. Susann V. Zimmerman, president of the Secrétariat sur la conduite responsable de la recherche (???) of Canada which supervises ethics in scientific research country-wide. In a statement also dated August 2nd Ms. Zimmerman upholds a researcher’s duty to ensure confidentiality of data entrusted in his/her care.

Confidence towards research in general can be affected by “even just one case where interest of the participants is ignored” writes Ms. Zimmerman, resulting in a dimming of “people’s willingness to participate in research in Canada.”

She also reminds that people doing scientific research do not have automatic immunity and are held responsible to go beyond the bind of confidentiality in cases, for example, of ill-treatment to minors or if there is a risk of homicide or suicide. 

UQAM University did not support its own researcher

Marie-Ève Maillé made repeated requests, to no avail, to many office at UQAM – ombudsman’s office, ethics committee, judicial services, vice-rector’s office – seeking help to defend herself against the company. “The establishment must bring financial support to a researcher in order to allow him/her to gain access to judicial counsel independent from the establishment to ensure that solely the interests of the researcher and the participants are taken into consideration”, as explained by director Susann W. Zimmerman.

“Any establishment not respecting any one of those guidelines puts its funding at risk” says Ms. Zimmerman.

Last March, UQAM in its last communication with the researcher – of which CBC/Radio-Canada obtained a copy – had declined all further responsibility, writing that “You are the holder to the intellectual property rights of your thesis including specifically your research data. These do not belong to the university.”

Confidentiality and public interest

In B.C. in 1994, the RCMP had tried to obtain data from a criminology master’s degree student which would have allowed identification in a study of a participant who was present in an assisted suicide. The judge sided with the student.

In 2012, two Montreal policemen tried to get information from an interview that Luka Rocco Magnota had done in 2007 with to researchers from the University of Ottawa in the context of a sociological study of people working as escorts. The judge had also ruled in favour of the students doing the research.

To establish whether public interest supersedes participants’ confidentiality in a research, a judge will generally let the decision rest on Wigmore’s test. The test’s four criteria help evaluate whether public interest is better served in respecting or breaking said confidentiality agreement. Two situations have been opportunities for reflection in these matters during the last twenty years. Although similar they did oppose researchers to the police and not to a company.

Following a call by CBC/Radio-Canada UQAM representatives have discussed the issue with Québec’s chief science officer. Jenny Desrochers now concedes that UQAM is reconsidering its position without admitting if it plans to help its researcher or not.

“Our position is that she has acted on her own, in a unilateral and voluntary manner in her decision to be an expert witness” counters Jenny Desroches, spokesperson at UQAM.

The stakes are not only ethical. They are financial.

Yet, from statements by the Secrétariat sur la conduite responsable de la recherche which oversees research in Canada “establishments must help researchers maintain their commitments of confidentiality” with regards to participants.

WCO note: The Canadian Association of University Teachers has issued a statement urging the university in this case to defend the doctoral student. “Maintaining the confidentiality of research participants is an ethical obligation,” said executive director David Robinson.

Ontario to add 150 megawatts of unneeded power under FIT 5.0

OPA Feed-in Tariff Program

IESO: Still giving away money for power we don’t need …

November 3, 2016

It may have escaped notice with everything else that’s going on, and the attention being paid to the billions lost in the Ontario government’s handling of the energy/electricity portfolio, but the Wynne government –despite an assertion by the Independent Electricity Systems Operator (IESO)  that Ontario has a surplus of power and therefore the Large Renewable Procurement II was suspended — began accepting bids this week for its FIT 5.0 program.

FIT 5.0 will give out contracts for up to 150 megawatts of renewable power generation; equipment must be less than 500 kW.

Already, power developers are seeking municipal support to tot up points for the bid process, apparently circumventing the 500 kW limit by gluing individual “projects” together.

Just this week, Brant County was asked to support a project by Germany-based Prowind for five to ten turbines, each of which would be 500 kW.

There are more.

The Ontario government should cancel this program too to save Ontario ratepayers from paying for more power we don’t need, and paying still more on our electricity bills, the fastest rising bills in North America.

For information on FIT 5.0 see this.

For the Brant County story, click here.

Prowind's Head Office in Hamilton until 2013
Prowind’s Head Office in Hamilton until 2013

Watch for the “Catch 22” and other terms in wind power leases, lawyer says

In this week’s edition of Ontario Farmer is an article by retired QC Garth Manning and Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson, advising landowners to get legal advice before signing any lease or option to lease for wind power projects and associated equipment.

Although Large Renewable Procurement II is “suspended” the government fully intends to bring it back (after the 2018 election), and the FIT 5.0 process is currently accepting applications for wind power projects with equipment less than 500 kW. (See story today about Brant County being approached for support here.)

Wind power contracts can be very one-sided ... and not in favour of the landowner, says an Ontario lawyer
Wind power contracts can be very one-sided … and not in favour of the landowner, says an Ontario lawyer

Here is the article:

Clients need help with complex wind turbine lease documents

In answer to Ontario citizens’ concerns about rising electricity bills and the fact that Ontario now has a surplus of power, the provincial government suspended its process to accept new bids for wind and solar power in 2017.

While the process is on “hold,” wind power developers are still holding open houses and prospecting for willing landowners to sign Options to Lease land for wind turbines and associated equipment, in hope the contract process will resume after the provincial election in 2018.

Landowners should know that these are very complex documents and they need legal advice before signing. Some option/lease agreements contain a box to be checked that means the landowner has read the agreement and waives legal advice. That may not be the smart move. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture, for example, advises members to seek legal advice before signing.

Why? There are many implications to signing an Option to Lease (which converts to a Lease if the company gets a power contract) including rights to use of the property, first right of refusal at time of sale or if the owner wishes to sever property, even the ability to speak out if there are side effects of having turbines on the land.

The fact is, current forms of options/leases are very one-sided in favour of the wind power developer and should be reviewed literally word for word by an independent lawyer. It’s easy to focus on the dollar amount offered by the developer, and ignore other, important aspects of the agreement. For example, some leases contain cancellation options for the power developer, but most do not provide any option for the landowners to terminate the agreement if they change their minds.

Wind power developers always create a separate corporation to own and operate each project. Its assets include, in Ontario, the Renewable Energy Approval, the contract with the government to supply power, the options/leases for the land for turbines and equipment, and any agreements such as for road use with municipalities.

These corporations are usually mortgaged to the hilt. All assets can be sold to another company without consent of the landowners; the buyer could be a dummy company without assets, which is unwilling or unable to perform any obligation of the original company, including, the decommissioning or dismantling of the huge towers.

There are key financial considerations to consider above the lease amount: having a lease on the property may affect the owner’s ability to use the land as collateral for financing; construction liens may also be filed against the project and will appear on the landowner’s title. …

Read the full article here. windfarmcontractscomplexnovember-2016

Wind power approval process must change, says Wind Concerns Ontario

Devastation in Prince Edward County as power developer proceeded with unauthorized construction activity while approval under appeal. That appeal was eventually partially successful. [Photo: APPEC]
Wind Concerns Ontario says Ontario’s Renewable Energy Approval process is not protective of the environment. Pictured, devastation in Prince Edward County as power developer proceeded with unauthorized pre-construction activity while its power project approval was under appeal. That appeal was eventually partially successful.  [Photo: APPEC]
November 1, 2016

Comments filed on Renewable Energy Approval process

“The litany of failures is astounding,” says president of community group coalition

Wind Concerns Ontario filed comments with Ontario’s EBR yesterday, with recommendations on revisions to the Technical Guide for the Renewable Energy Approval process for industrial-scale or utility-scale wind power projects.

Basically, WCO said, the guidelines for the power industry are not protective of the environment … and there is plenty of evidence to prove it.

In short, the requirements in place for companies to get approval are not adequate, there is not enough proper oversight by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (or even, capacity to do fulfill that role), and there is no check on compliance with Renewable Energy Approvals post-operation.

  • Findings from the ERT decisions and other legal activities have shown that the current process is not adequate to assess the expansion of renewable energy generation while upholding the government’s commitment to protecting the environment.
  • The process contains no provisions to discuss the creation of clean energy jobs and encouraging energy conservation.
  • The proposed process does not reflect decisions from the Environmental Review Tribunals (ERT)

“The fact is, almost every single wind power project that received an approval in Ontario has been appealed on the basis of protecting the environment and human health,” says Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “And four of those appeals have been successful. The Ministry should be embarrassed that ordinary citizens are not only taking on this protective role, but that they find information about these projects and the damage they will cause, that Ministry staff were not aware of.”

Wind Concerns not only recommended more stringent requirements for a Renewable Energy Approval, the coalition of community groups and Ontario families repeated its call for municipal support to be a mandatory requirement for wind power project approvals.

“Municipal governments are the local voice of the people and communities,” says Wilson. “And they know best what kind of development is appropriate and sustainable. They are also aware of conditions locally that logically should prevent a wind power project — but those voices are not listened to under this process.”

Thousands of noise complaints have been made to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, Wind Concerns Ontario says, which is a clear indication of the failure of the REA process. Moreover, MOECC protocols for measuring wind turbine noise emissions – when they do measure at all as follow-up – are not adequate and do not capture the full range of problematic environmental noise.

“In fact, the litany of failures of this process is astounding,” says Wilson.

The method in which projects are announced to communities is secretive and municipalities are forced to approve with almost no information on the impact of the power projects. Public “meetings” are a sham, consisting mainly of poster presentations and incomplete project information.

Post-operation, the numbers of bat deaths and bird kills far exceed what was expected from the wind turbines, noise complaints are being made more frequently as a result of more powerful turbines, and wind power companies have abused their approvals by removing trees from protected woodlands, for example, or placing turbines on sites not consistent with the approvals.

“Premier Wynne professed to be surprised recently at the removal of over 7,000 mature trees in the Niagara area for the huge power project there,” Wilson says. “Does the government not know what is really going on? The people of Ontario see the environmental damage being done and the effects on people’s health from high-impact wind power development — this process has to change.”

Wind Concerns Ontario

November 1, 2016

Trees being cut down along  1 km of the former old unopened road allowance and pioneer nature trail  known as Wild Turkey Road on the Oak Ridges Moraine in an area designated High Aquifer Vulnerability, a Significant Recharge zone, where two streams that support trout habitat and 12 species at risk as well as species at risk butternut trees adjacent to the Fleetwood Creek natural area are being destroyed and/or endangered to make way for new access roads for the Sumac Ridge wind facility. Photo sent to Kawartha Lakes Councillor Heather Stauble.]
Trees being cut down along 1 km of the former old unopened road allowance and pioneer nature trail known as Wild Turkey Road on the Oak Ridges Moraine in an area designated High Aquifer Vulnerability, a Significant Recharge zone, where two streams that support trout habitat and 12 species at risk as well as species at risk butternut trees adjacent to the Fleetwood Creek natural area are being destroyed and/or endangered to make way for new access roads for the Sumac Ridge wind facility. Photo sent to Kawartha Lakes Councillor Heather Stauble.]

Ontario government sees citizens as ‘enemies of the state’ says newspaper editor

Premier Wynne: fighting you ... with your own money
Premier Wynne: fighting you … with your own money

Rick Conroy, editor of the independent Wellington Times says the Ontario government has “turned against its people.” He cites the numerous examples of citizen groups forming and paying for legal actions to protect their communities against the government, and more recently, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne labeling Ontarians as “bad actors” when it comes to the environment.

In his editorial, he asks why, why it comes to huge wind power projects, “… What drives elected officials to use the state’s power and resources against those working to protect the natural world it has abandoned?”

We got a glimpse last week when Kathleen Wynne defended her government’s cap and trade emmissions scheme. She told a business audience in Niagara Falls that Ontarians are “very bad actors” in terms of per capita emissions of greenhouse gases. It wasn’t a slip of the tongue—or offhand remark. These words were part of a scripted speech.

Fortunately for the wretched folks in this province, we have a premier who understands good and bad—better than we do. She has unveiled the selfish and narrow view through which we see the world around us. Kathleen Wynne will be our better selves.

In this morality play your provincial government has decided it will not work in your interest— but rather what it believes your interest ought to be. It knows this better than you. Kathleen Wynne, and Dalton McGuinty before her, believe they know what is best, and cling to the hope that history will judge them better than Ontario’s weak and myopic voters do now.

Maybe.

But untethered by accountability to its voters and deaf to its ministries’ advice and counsel, provincial Liberals have made a terrible mess of the energy supply system in Ontario. It will take decades to fix. It has squandered billions of dollars chasing schemes unworthy of a Nigerian postmark. It has pushed manufacturing jobs out of the province. And it has rendered electricity bills that are unaffordable for many of its poorest rural residents. Meanwhile, it has made a select group of developers very, very wealthy.

In turn, they have dutifully filled her parties’ coffers— to arm her for the next election.

How is it that the most righteous tend to be the most susceptible to corruption and misdeeds? There is something distinctly Shakespearean in this tragedy.

 

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