WIND RUSH A Look at the Wind Turbine Controversy

This is a press release for an upcoming program looking at industrial wind issues
An article by Paul Morden, in the Sarnia observer, quotes the program’s writer/director as stating “…obviously there is a problem,” and notes, “While wind energy is the subject of the film, it’s really about science.

WIND RUSH A Look at the Wind Turbine Controversy on CBC TV’s Doc Zone, Thursday, February 7, 9PM 
Driving by a wind farm, looking at the rural houses, it’s easy to be skeptical about the talk of wind turbines making people sick. We’re told that wind turbines are good and green. So how could those people living by them have an issue?

But there is a problem—and it’s there because some governments and wind companies didn’t do their homework before installing megawatt after megawatt of huge industrial machines. And as a result there are people living among the turbines who are suffering.

In the new documentary film WIND RUSH, produced for CBC Doc Zone by Toronto’s 90th Parallel Productions, the battleground for the pro and anti wind forces is southern Ontario. The government there pledged to wean the province off coal fired generation plants and replace them with green wind energy. WIND RUSH will be broadcast on Thursday, February 7 at 9PM (9:30PM NT).

But as soon as the turbines went up in places like Wolf Island, Amaranth and Bruce County, people realized they could hear them. Sometimes it was like a whisper, but other times it sounded more like a jet taking off.

And then it got worse.

New turbines started coming in at two and three times the size of the old ones. And they were even louder. It led to chronic sleeplessness for many people living close by—and that can lead to diabetes, depression and heart disease. Others were affected in their inner ears by low-level sounds that set off their equilibrium. Doctors started seeing patient after patient complaining of the same sets of symptoms. And then people started to realize that no one had done any significant human health studies before giving the green light to the turbine farms.

WIND RUSH takes viewers to southwestern Alberta, where wind has been an energy staple for more than twenty years. There is plenty of room for humans and windmills to coexist—a stark contrast to Ontario, where the same prairie technology was installed in a dramatically different landscape. The film then moves to Denmark, a country long considered the poster-child for the wind energy movement. But as WIND RUSH reveals, the relationship between the Danes and turbines has soured.

WIND RUSH talks to people on either side of the turbine divide, and then turns to scientists to try and determine what has gone wrong. In the next several years the turbines will double in size again—bigger, louder and more powerful. But without sufficient research have the people who live among the wind farms been forgotten?

WIND RUSH is produced by 90th Parallel Productions of Toronto. Gordon Henderson is Executive Producer. WIND RUSH is produced, written and directed by Andrew Gregg.

For further information, etc. please contct:

David McCaughna,
Publicist, WIND RUSH
David.mccaughna@cbc.ca 416-250-3030

Writer and director Andrew Gregg’s blog

Wind Wise Radio has posted a trailer for the program on their YouTube Channel

Ontario Spin Week

Did we all miss some parliamentary declaration that created an Ontario focused Spin Week?

With the bulk of the MSM (main stream media) focused on Spence, of hunger strike fame (not the Spence of Toronto District School Board plagiarism fame) and Bill 115, Ontario’s charter busting affrontry dealing with the various teacher’s unions/federations/associations “right to strike”, it was hard to keep up with the rest of the news coming from the Liberals and the energy sector.  Much of that latter news was simply skimmed or ignored by most of the press.

One item that gained a fair amount of traction with the media was related to the erection of several wind turbines in rural Ontario and the damage they will or could cause. The story wasn’t connected to either human health, the negative effect on property values or the economic effect of industrial wind turbines on our electricity bills, it was about nature. One of those large foreign companies (NexTera) that rushed to Ontario to get those lucrative contracts handed out under the Liberal’s Green Energy Act received permission to cut down a tree containing one of only 57 bald eagle nests in Southern Ontario.  They got permission from the Ministry of Natural Resources where the reigning, career Liberal politician and Minister Michael Gravelle is in charge.  A few years ago Gravelle was really excited about his riding attracting a 99 MW industrial wind farm which is owned by Enbridge.  The uproar on the granting of approval to remove the eagle’s nest was considerable throughout rural Ontario and received wide coverage in their media. Another event that also garnered some media attention for the past couple of weeks was the granting of the approval to erect nine wind turbines at Ostrander Point, a sensitive environmental and important migratory bird path in Prince Edward County.  Those industrial wind turbines with a capacity factor of 22.5 MW are not needed but despite that, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources blessed their erection.

The eagle’s nest removal, to allow an access road for the erection of industrial wind turbines, wasn’t picked up by the MSM however other events were, including the announcement by Premier McGuinty on the closure of the last two remaining coal plants in the Province. The Premier spoke to that issue to the media when expounding on the expansion of the Green Belt, despite the media getting him off topic by raising the upcoming planned illegal “action” by two of those teachers unions.  Those unions had supported the Liberal party in the last three provincial election campaigns via “Working Families” and supported the Green Energy Act.  In 2011 those two unions (ETFO & OSSTF) donated almost $100,000 to the Liberal Party, just over $100,000 to the NDP and zero to the PC Party. The Working Families coalition reputedly spent millions on media advertising during the 2011 and prior election campaigns.

McGuinty’s announcement and a January 11, 2013 press release from the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) were enough to intrigue two of the Toronto Star’s “reporters” in the form of John Spears and Tyler Hamilton who within hours of the release of IESO’s annual mid-January media missive (pinpointing how much electricity Ontario consumed and how it was produced) had written about the events. Hamilton wrote on the issue of how anti-wind people fail to understand how, as a generation source, wind fits into the grid and reduces fossil fuel use from coal plants but he does admit that “wind isn’t perfect”.  For Hamilton that latter admission is a big step forward.

The McGuinty announcement about the coal plant closures failed the “union” test as the only quasi-union I could find that spoke out on this issue was the Society of Energy Professionals who lashed out “over planned coal plant closures.” Ironically the newly appointed President of the Society, Scott Travers is a “Senior Analyst” with IESO.  The Society didn’t appear to contribute to any political party from a search conducted by the author.

The IESO missive disclosed that for the first time ever (in Ontario) electricity produced by industrial wind turbines (4.6 terrawatts-TWh) surpassed production from coal plants (4.3 TWh) and the Star reporters jumped on the news.  Spears obtained quotes from a CanWEA (Canadian Wind Energy Association) officer and headlined his article as; “Wind out-produces coal”! What Spears failed to note in his article is that wind gets “first to the grid” rights and coal generation gets “last rights” (actual and metaphysically speaking) for the past several years. He funnily quotes how the numbers “delighted” the CanWEA spokesperson. The “delight” expressed by the CanWEA spokesperson is akin to a runner of a 100 yard dash starting 50 yards behind ”the starting line” and told they must hop on one foot for the first 50 yards.  Obviously your opponent will win the race hence the “delight” from the winner who in this case is represented by the CanWEA spokesperson.  Somewhat amusingly Spears suggests the price of electricity “crept up by 2.9%”. In the process he ignores the elephant; the actual “wholesale price”; referred to as the “hourly Ontario energy price” (HOEP) fell by 23.5% ($7.10 per MWh) from 2011. He also failed to note that the price of the Global Adjustment Mechanism (GAM) had risen 23.7% ($9.50 per MWh) over 2011. The GAM pot is where the difference between the HOEP and the “contracted” rates are dumped before allocation. Combining the two brought the increase to the 2.9% Spears says “crept up”!

The creep, ascribed by Spears, only affects Ontario’s consumers. The IESO report disclosed that Ontario demand was 141.3 terrawatts (one TWh is equivalent to 1 billion kilowatts), a slight reduction from 2011. It also disclosed Ontario exported 14.6 TWh.  The foreign buyers of those 14.6 TWh are not required to pay for anything in the GAM pot nor do they pay for the stranded debt, or regulatory charges. They pay only market prices.

The 14.6 TWh exported generated about $352 million @ $24.1 million per TWh in 2012. That power cost Ontario’s ratepayers ~$1,076 million (14.6 TWh @ $73.7 million per TWh) for a direct hit to ratepayers of $724 million as that money went into the GAM pot. The foregoing hit to ratepayers is without factoring in the weighing of production from wind and solar.  It also doesn’t reflect costs of nuclear steam off, the shift (about 5%) from Class A to Class B of the GAM, the revenue loss to OPG to spill hydro, NRR (net revenue requirement) for the gas generators, or even the HST on the GAM allocation.

The actual subsidized cost of those 2012 electricity exports using the average 2.41 cents per kWh measured against the average of 8.2 cents that Ontario’s residential ratepayers paid under time of use (TOU) rates indicates the subsidy was 5.8 cents per kWh or about $850 million for the 14,6 TWh exported; up considerably from the 4 cents per kWh ($420 million) estimated subsidized costs of 2011. That subsidy caused more than the Spears creep and had those exports not occurred, ie demand and production were matched, ratepayers may have actually experienced a small decline in the cost per kWh.

More spin came from the Environment Commissioner, Gordon Miller on January 8, 2013 when he released Volume Two of his 2011 Annual Energy Conservation Progress Report to the Ontario Legislature (which is prorogued) and castigated all Ontarians for not conserving enough and in the process claimed that it only costs us 3 cents per kWh to reduce our consumption.  An article I had penned a week before his release indicated that the cost of conservation was in fact closer to 14 cents a kWh based on the $4 billion that had already been dedicated to get us to conserve.  His media event received scant attention due to all the other issues deemed more important and as the Legislature wasn’t sitting the opportunity for say, Peter Tabuns, the NDP Energy Critic to castigate the Energy Minister, Chris Bentley, for not spending more to conserve didn’t present itself.  With our outgoing Premier, Dalton McGuinty, heading off on his China junket there also wasn’t any opportunity for the media to seek him out for his views on the report.

I think most Ontarians were insulted by one of the Commissioner’s comments when he said; “In the past, Ontarians were very conscious of the cost of heating their homes but that’s no longer the case.”  Only moments before he claimed we were all “fascinated by the price of electricity”.  Did Commissioner Miller appreciate the dichotomy of his statements to the media, or is he simply pushing his own agenda which in this writer’s opinion is very confusing.

Commissioner Miller’s media event presented a perfect opportunity for him to speak out about that eagle’s nest being moved or the Ostrander Point industrial wind project but he chose to remain silent. So just what is important to the Environment Commissioner is clearly not the harm that wind turbines are causing to nature or the environment but it is tough to figure out just what is!

What this province now gets is too much spin and not enough transparency or honesty from our politicians and bureaucrats.

Parker Gallant,
January 13, 2013

Conservation or Consternation: A Reflection of Ontario’s Energy Policy

Parker Gallant’s latest – may also be downloaded/printed as a .pdf file

An article in the Ottawa Citizen on Boxing Day indicated Ontario was the only place in North America forecasting negative growth in demand for electricity for 2013-2022 and carried quotes from an Ontario Power Authority (OPA) spokesperson on the reason. Chuck Farmer, director of planning policy had this to say about Ontario’s position: “It’s really because the growth is being offset by energy efficiency in one form or another and I think that’s quite a success story.” Ontario’s ratepayers know that “energy efficiency” is another way of saying “conservation” and it is impossible to open up your hydro bill without finding coupons or energy efficient rebate offers or an offer to pick up your old fridge for free. In Ontario we hear ads on the radio, see them on TV and find them in newspapers and webpages and they all all aimed at helping us save energy.

Ontario also has “smart meters” which were touted by our Liberal government as energy savers when introduced by then Minister of Energy, Donna Cansfield in 2005. Minister Canfield said: “By helping Ontarians make smart choices about how and when they use electricity, we’re helping them save money and making the most of our electricity supply.” Ms. Cansfield promised to couple that “with a pricing structure that reflects the cost of power production at certain times of day and year, allows consumers to make informed decisions about their electricity use. This will save money for Ontario consumers and reduce the strain on the power system at peak periods.”

The “pricing structure” referred to by Minister Cansfield, begat time-of use (TOU) pricing reputedly to allow us all to save money. Just prior to that announcement the OPA had been created and Minister Cansfield in the November 3, 2005 press release indicated that they would appoint Ontario’s first “Chief Energy Conservation Officer.” Almost exactly one year later the appointee to that position; Peter Love, (part of the Bruce Lourie circle) delivered a speech to the Empire Club about conservation and opined on how it would all save us money. Included in his speech were the words; “When it comes to being of benefit to the economy, electricity conservation has a multiplier effect. It truly is a gift that keeps on giving.” The OPA has led our publically owned energy sector companies in spending billions of ratepayer dollars to entice us to save energy as Minister Canfield envisaged and as so persuasively stated by Peter Love.

Several years have passed since our Liberal politicians first began pushing “conservation” so lets have a look at what we have achieved, the money we have saved, and if it is the “success story” that Mr. Farmer says it is and the gift “that keeps on giving” as Peter Love said. Lets examine a few facts;

  • Smart meters cost ratepayers about $2 billion with the principal purpose; to allow our local distribution companies (LDC) to bill on a TOU basis. The Liberal government told us TOU pricing would allow ratepayers to choose when to do our laundry or cook our meals to “save us” money. 
  • In 6 years (2006-2011) the OPA budgeted spending on conservation initiatives of over $1.6 billion and have developed over 30 programs aimed at getting us to conserve energy. 
  • Our 75 LDCs have also spent several hundred million dollars in the 6 years on conservation initiatives. NB: In 2011 alone they spent about $94 million over and above the OPA initiatives. 
  • The conservation initiatives were started in earnest, by our current Minister of Finance, Dwight Duncan when he occupied the Energy Minister’s chair. He issued his first directive on conservation matters to the OPA on May 2, 2005 and issued a definitive one July 13, 2006 that took the initative province wide. These directives always mentioned the reason behind the conservation initiatives was to allow Ontario to close those coal plants. 
  • Minister of Energy, Brad Duguid on April 23, 2010 issued a directive to the OPA to continue the conservation program to the end of 2014 (beginning January 2, 2011) after having issued one to the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) March 31, 2010 instructing them to reduce peak demand by 1330 Megawatts. 
  • Millions of dollars have been spent by the OPA advocating conservation by advertising on radio, TV, in the print media and the internet all due to the issuance of Ministerial directives. 
  • When LDCs demonstrate they have met conservation targets they can freely apply for rate increases to the OEB to cover the loss of revenue from ratepayers conservation efforts. 

So after spending $4 billion or so in six years to get us to conserve how did the ratepayers respond was the question that needed an answer!  Was the money well spent so that the ratepayers of Ontario got value for those billions of dollars and was it the “success story” Chuck Farmer said it was?

The OEB annually, since 2005, has produced a report referred to as the “Yearbook of Distributors” which is a compliation of data, of an economic/actuarial nature.  The report also contains all relative data in respect to the client base, annual consumption of electricity, number and class of customers and a myriad of other facts of each LDC on an individual and consolidated basis. Needless to say all of this data is beneficial in analyzing the effectivness of both the LDCs (individually and collectively), the programs initiated by their political masters and the oversight of their policy directives.

Co-incidentially the OEB just released (December 20, 2011) what they refer to as their; “Conservation and Demand Management Report – 2011 Results” (CDMR). This appears to be the first and only report from the OEB that deals with the “history” of the programs instituted to achieve what the Liberal political masters decreed so the data available is limited to just 2011. Each LDC was required to file a report and needless to say they vary in both size and achievements. In reviewing the Yearbook of Distributors from the OEB and the data presented in this Conservation and Demand Management report however one can extract certain key elements on the outcomes of that $4 Billion spent. Some of those facts follow:

  • Comparing the Yearbook of Distributors for 2005 total consumption with that of 2011 show the drop in consumption was 2,733,000 MWh (megawatt hours) or enough to power 289,000 average homes. That drop in consumption over those 6 years represented a 2.2% decrease. 
  • The foregoing drop does not include “industrial users” (consumption of 5,000 MWh or more per month) whose population at the end of 2005 numbered 172 and had dropped to 144 by the end of 2011 for a decline of 16.3%. 
  • Big Industry presumably showed a significant decline in consumption helped out by the change in how the Global Adjustment Mechanism (GA) is now calculated allowing them to reduce their GA costs by picking the top five peak hours to reduce consumption which commenced January 1, 2011. 
  • The OEB’s CDMR report makes no mention of the effectiveness of “smart meters” and the move to TOU pricing in respect to ratepayers changing their habits despite it’s cost of $2 billion. 
  • The OEB’s CDMR report for the 2011 year indicates 2011 total “incremental energy savings” of 605,000 MWh which would represent 21.8 % of the consumption drop of 2.2% so one must assume the other 78.2% came in the prior 5 years. 
  • Using the $4 billion estimate of spending on conservation against the MWh saved (2006-2011), the 2,773,000 decreased consumption indicates each MWh saved cost ratepayers $1,442. 

As noted above each LDC was required to file a report with the OEB in respect to their conservation efforts and those reports are available for viewing on the OEB website. A quick look at some of the reports shows the average length to be about 60 pages with some stretching to almost 100 pages so in total the OEB sorted through approximately 3,800 pages to produce their 20 page report. This writer intentionally took some time to review the reports from the two largest LDCs to uncover what their success was in getting their ratepayers to buy into the conservation sales pitch. The two examined were Hydro One Networks and Toronto Hydro (TH) who together are responsible for electricity distribution to approximately 40 % of Ontario’s households and businesses. I discovered some interesting facts about their individual conservation “success stories” which follow:

  • In 2005 Hydro One had 24 large industrial users (see above) and in 2011 had none (zero) whereas, Toronto Hydro had 47 large industrial users in 2005 but in 2011 had 52. 
  • Hydro One’s customers consumed 500,000 MWh less in 2011 than 2005 representing a drop in percentage terms of 2.1% or less than the average of 2.2% whereas Toronto Hydro showed a drop in consumption of 1,688,000 MWh representing a drop of 6.4%. 
  • Toronto Hydro in their CDMR complained that the OPA didn’t provide them with “any evaluations of savings from TOU pricing” for allocation to the LDCs meaning TH could not “provide any verified savings related to” their TOU program. 
  • TH indicated “incremental energy savings” of 173,000 MWh for 2011which represents 29% of the overall “conservation” savings reported in the OEB’s 2011 CDRM report. 
  • Hydro One reported “incremental energy savings” of 126,000 MWh for 2011 which represents 20.8% of the overall “conservation” savings reported in the OEB’s 2011 CDRM report. 
  • TH spent in excess of $1.5 million on 8 conservation programs with no (zero) participants and Hydro One spent $220,000 on 3 programs with no (zero) participants. 
  • TH spent an average of $127 to pick up that old fridge or freezer and claimed that each one resulted in conservation of 385 kWh per annum whereas Hydro One spent $120 and claimed conservation of 420 kWh for each. 
  • Energy savings from retiring or replacing old fridges or appliances seems to be an arbirtrary decision by each LDC without common standards and appear to apply even if the appliance or the old RAC was simply gathering dust in the garage. 
  • TH spent an average of $186 each to remove and decommission room air conditioners (RAC) which is about the price of a new Frigidare 5000 BTU RAC. It cost Hydro One $125 each. 
  • TH spent an average of $443 each to provide and install a load control device for customers who enrolled in the “peaksaver PLUS” program but the cost for Hydro One was $348 each. 
  • TH performed 60 energy audits for owners and lessees of commercial, institutional, multi-family buildings at a cost of $8,402 each and these audits cost Hydro One $7,743 each for the 3 they conducted. 

The individual LDC’s reports frequently highlight faults with a number of the programs and with incompatibilty of some of the devices installed (eg; load control devices and programmable thermostats etc. were mentioned) and with the failure to have a comprehensive plan for roll-out of some programs. With no standards applied to “energy savings” for say, decommissioned appliances; each LDC seem able to pick what they think they should be in order to meet goals set by the OEB under the Minsterial directives.

Monies spent on program administration seems consistently more than any benefit to the participant in most cases. From all appearances the Ministerial directives have resulted in LDCs creating another level of bureaucracy driving up operations, management and administration costs (OMA) that are recovered from ratepayers using money that should have instead gone to replacing or refrubishing infrastructure.

So the burning question is, was there “real” value in spending $4 billion dollars to achieve a reduction in consumption of 2,773,000 MWh? A reduction that appears to have been caused by the economic downturn and the flight of large industrial customers from the province?

Interestingly enough the 2,773,000 MWh in reduced consumption from 2006-2011 could have been achieved by simply buying each of the 4.5 million Ontario households five (5) LED 16 watt bulbs (equivalent to 100 watt incandesent) each at a cost of about $1 billion or $361 per MWh of the reduced consumption. I suggest LED bulbs because they do not use mercury (a poison) in their production and will last 20 years.

On another note the 2,773,000 MWh could have been supplied by one 400 MW gas plant with a price tag of about $400 million in capital costs (developers expense) and supplied the power at $70/90 per MWh meaning it would have taken almost 20 years to spend the $1,442 that Ontario ratepayers have paid to conserve those same MWh. I am confident that the Auditor General of Ontario, had he examined the “conservation” issue in his 2011 report, would have reached the same conclusion as he did on the push for renewable energy—the monies were spent without any consideration of a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis.

From the evidence presented in the reports noted above the only conclusion one can draw is that the spending on “conservation” has been a waste of ratepayers monies to achieve nothing substantial. Couple that spending with the new initiative to attract “industrial” consumers to the province to soak up surplus electricity production recently announced by Minister of Energy, Chris Bentley, and it is obvious that the push/pull of the Liberals confused policy directions on the energy sector show they are trying to push the rope up the hill.

The gift that Peter Love saw as one “that would keep on giving” and that Minister Cansfield saw as a spending program to “save money for Ontario consumers” has cost Ontario’s ratepayers and taxpayers billions of dollars that could have created meaningfull jobs.

In the end we are all conservationists and left alone Ontarians would have done a more efficient job at conserving without the Liberal government telling us they knew what we should do, and in the process throwing away billions of our hard earned dollars.

Parker Gallant, 

January 3, 2013