Parker Gallant on Ontario’s rising electricity charges and effect on the economy
Here from Sunmedia columnist Lorrie Goldstein, an analysis of Ontario’s completely daft energy policy, or lack of same…
Ontario’s Liberal government is making up its energy policy on the fly, for its own political ends
By Lorrie Goldstein ,Toronto Sun
In explaining why Ontario’s Liberal government scrapped its previous intention to build two new nuclear reactors, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli offered up that the province now has a “comfortable surplus” of electricity.
That’s a strange way of describing the decimation of Ontario’s manufacturing sector — in part due to the uber-high electricity rates the Liberals have contributed to with their insane rush into expensive and unreliable wind and solar power.
Indeed, the main reason Ontario now has a “comfortable surplus” of electricity — whereas a mere decade ago we were worried about shortages and rolling brownouts — is not because our supply is better but because our economy is worse.
Simply put, when there are fewer manufacturers producing fewer goods, electricity demand goes down.
If and when our manufacturing sector recovers, electricity demand will rise again, and that’s when we’ll need adequate sources of it if we’re not to return to the dire situation of just 10 years ago when Ontario was routinely described as “power starved” by energy experts.
That’s what makes the decision of Premier Kathleen Wynne to reverse the policy of her predecessor Dalton McGuinty, on the issue of nuclear power inexplicable, at least if we’re talking about common sense versus politics.
Simply put, nuclear power is the backbone of Ontario’s electricity sector and has been for more than four decades.
Last year, nuclear power supplied 56% of Ontario’s electricity needs. Every time you turn on a light switch in this province, chances are better than one out of two the reason your light goes on is nuclear.
As I’m writing this article on Friday afternoon, nuclear power is providing 69% of Ontario’s electricity needs, or 10,709 megawatts out of a total system demand of 15,595 megawatts.
By comparison, the Liberals’ heavily subsidized and unreliable darling, wind power, is providing 4% (630 megawatts). Solar contributes so little power to the grid it’s not even worth mentioning.
Contrary to what the Wynne government would like you to believe, nuclear power isn’t an unpleasant afterthought when it comes to meeting our energy needs.
It’s the workhorse and if it isn’t properly looked after and maintained, the whole system will come crashing down on our heads when we need electricity the most.
Further, nuclear power doesn’t emit pollution or greenhouses gases. If 69% of Ontario’s electricity needs were being met by coal today instead of nuclear, Toronto would like Beijing on many days.
The McGuinty-Wynne Liberals, who in 2003 promised to phase out Ontario’s coal use by 2007, now promise to do it by 2014.
But, contrary to their absurd propaganda, they aren’t replacing coal with wind.
Wind power can’t replace coal because it can’t provide base-load power to the grid on demand, and, ironically has to be backed up by natural gas power in Ontario.
What the McGuinty-Wynne Liberals are actually doing is replacing coal power with natural gas which emits less pollution and greenhouse gases.
McGuinty let that Liberal secret out of the bag, when, in defending his decision to cancel the Oakville and Mississauga gas plants prior to the 2011 election he said, “We got 17 gas plants more or less right, but we got two very, very wrong.” In other words, the Liberals have been building gas plants like stink to replace coal, except in Mississauga and Oakville, where it would have cost them five Liberal seats.
So there, they cancelled them, at a public cost of up to $1.1 billion. Meanwhile they imposed expensive and unreliable wind turbines on rural Ontario, despite widespread community opposition.
If you’re getting the idea this is no way to run an electricity system, and that the Liberals are making their decisions on the fly and for their own political benefit, rather than on the basis of logic or common sense, then you understand their energy policies perfectly.
Chiarelli says the Liberals will unveil a long-term energy plan later this year which will include the refurbishment of a couple of existing nuclear reactors, but which will de-emphasize nuclear power.
In so doing, the Liberals will again be ignoring the advice of their own experts, who have told them to maintain and expand nuclear power as the backbone of Ontario’s electricity system.
Instead, the Liberals have thrown in their lot with radical greens, many of them leftovers from the 1960s, who still associate nuclear power with nuclear war and who wax hysterical about Fukushima and Chernobyl, which have nothing to do with the safety record of nuclear power in Ontario.
And we’ll be paying for their mistakes for generations to come.
A few weeks ago, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne was asked if she was planning to repeal or change the Green Energy Act, given the (colossal) problems with renewable sources of power and other issues plaguing Ontario’s power system/ “We’re not going to go backwards,” she said.
This week, Ontario couldn’t ;look more backwards if it tried—and it sure seems to be trying.
In this weekend’s New York Times are a few articles on innovations in power generation, including using atomic waste (an idea being financed by Bill Gates), tidal power, and biomass using farm waste.
Ontario has great potential to use creative energy technology like this and others, especially small-scale initiatives, and to explore other technology like thorium for power, but what does it do? Cancel plans to build new, efficient and reliable nuclear, in favour of huge wind power plants, which have high impact for low benefit.
An Ontario Power Authority told a WCO member from South Branch that “We have to look at the big picture.” So far, the only “picture” Ontario is looking at is the profit picture for big corporations currently dabbling in subsidy-paying wind power.
Here is one of the three New York Times stories. Note in the story on atomic waste, the statement by Bill Gates: “If you could pick just one thing…to reduce poverty…by far you would pick energy.”
Ontario has picked energy alright–as a means to drive business away, and to impoverish its citizens.
More than 150 vehicles take to Hwy. 402 for mass rally against wind turbines 97
STRATHROY – Fired up and feisty, farmers angered at Ontario’s growing crop of wind turbines shut down a third of a major Southwestern Ontario trade artery Saturday.
With about 150 vehicles including pickups, massive tractors and other farm machinery – including a manure wagon – the massive convoy with police escort shut down the 30-kilometre mid-section of Hwy. 402 west of Strathroy.
“Premier Wynne, you will learn we are a tough crowd to deal with when we are pissed off,” activist anti-turbine firebrand Esther Wrightman told a post-convoy rally of about 300 in Strathroy.
“We will not be bullied and terrorized any more,” the organizer told the crowd of protesters who endured a steady cold rain.
Wrightman has been waging war against plans for a forest of industrial wind turbines planned for the farmfields west of Strathroy and into Lambton County.
“This is a demonstration of we the people, against we the corporations. Wind companies are strangling rural Ontario.”
Wrightman admitted earlier she was surprised at the strong turnout from as far afield as the Niagara region and Grey County.
“It just shows the anger out there,” she said moments before the convoy took to the highway at Hwy. 402 south of Forest.
OPP escorted the rolling protest and closed the highway’s entrances in the affected section.
“We understand they have a right to express their opinions,” said Const. Kevin Howe, noting police were on hand to ensure public safety. He said no incidents were reported and no one was arrested during the peaceful event.
Signs were everywhere, some rather crude and pointed and others noting 74 municipalities in Ontario have signed on as “unwilling hosts” for new wind turbines as the Liberal government continues to push renewable energy.
“Stop the Rape of Rural Ontario,” “No Means No,” and “The Wynne Scam,” were a few of the more reportable messages.
Are Conservative MPPs Monte MacNaughton, Bob Bailey and Lisa Thompson were joined by the party’s energy critic Lisa McLeod, all of whom blasted the Wynne government for ignoring rural concerns and promising to revoke the Green Energy Act.
“This is the most distrastrous policy in the province’s history,” MacNaughton said, blaming the loss of 300,000 industrial jobs on the energy policy of the Liberals.
When organizers thanked the OPP for their understanding and patience at their act of civil disobedience, the crowd responded with warm applause.
WHAT THEY SAID:
Neil Switzer, of Smithville, chairperson of the West Lincoln Glanworth Wind Energy Group, has been fighting turbines in the Niagara Region for three years and can’t believe how high-handed the Ontario government has been.
“This is very encouraging because it has brought people together from all over the province. And this is a show of support for Esther Wrightman.”
Ray Brown, of Mitchell’s Bay, who lives within 1500 metres of three turbines. He is upset at Randy Hope, mayor of Chatham-Kent, who has welcomed about 750 turbines to his municipality.
“He speaks and tells other he is doing the right thing. But he’s wrong. They are not welcome. We don’t need the hydro from them. I say take them down.”
Muriel Allingham, of Arkona, a co-organizer of the convoy of protest.
“I’m very, very happy at the turnout. Rain or shine it doesn’t seem to matter. We will continue to show the government that wind turbines do not belong in rural Ontario.”
Here from the London Free Press an up-to-the minute report on this morning’s anti-corporate-wind-power protest. Follow our Twitter feed for the moment-to-moment.
Anti-turbine activists take protest to Hwy. 402 for mass rally 31
If you plan to hit Southwestern Ontario’s busy Hwy. 402 Saturday morning, you may want to find another route.
Activists are sweeping into the area for a slow-moving rally on the 402, from Forest to Strathroy, to vent frustration at the growth under the Liberal government of wind farms in rural Ontario — especially in the southwest — with high-rise size industrial wind turbines.
OPP have encouraged the anti-turbine protesters not to use the 402, citing safety concerns for both activists and drivers alike.
But police will be on hand, just in case their calls go unheeded.
The protest is to begin at 10 a.m. at Michigan Line in Forest and will inch down the 402 toward Strathroy.
Many of Ontario’s industrial wind turbines are located in Southwestern Ontario. Their rapid growth, and the lack of local control over where they can be built after the province snatched that away, helped cut the Liberals to a minority government in the last election, losing many rural seats.
A series of new large-scale wind farms is scheduled to be operational in Southwestern Ontario by the winter of 2015, including the 40-megawatt Adelaide Wind Project, South Kent Wind Project (270 MW), Grand Bend Wind Farm (100 MW), Cedar Point Wind Farm (100 MW), Goshen Wind Energy Centre (102 MW), Jericho Wind Energy Centre (150 MW), and the K2 Wind Project (270 MW).
What: Hwy. 402 anti-wind turbine rally
Where: Starts at Forest on-ramp to Hwy. 402, ends in Strathroy
Begins: Oct. 19, 10 a.m. at Michigan Line
London Free Press reports that more than 100 people have gathered in the rain for the protest against huge wind power developments this morning.
The protest aims to slow traffic on Highway 402 briefly, then wrap up with a rally at Centre Road, Strathroy.
Ontario: higher electricity prices inevitable as death and taxes
|The average Ontario ratepayer today|
As we know, Europe is promoted as the success story for renewable sources of power; German, in fact, was the model for what Ontario did with wind and solar. And if by “model” you mean no cost-benefit or impact analysis was ever done, then yes.
But what’s the story now? Here from the latest edition of The Economist, a story of the “green dream” gone horribly wrong. (Thanks to Eric Jelinksi for the tip.)
How to lose half a trillion euros
Europe’s electricity providers face an existential threat
ON JUNE 16th something very peculiar happened in Germany’s electricity market. The wholesale price of electricity fell to minus €100 per megawatt hour (MWh). That is, generating companies were having to pay the managers of the grid to take their electricity. It was a bright, breezy Sunday. Demand was low. Between 2pm and 3pm, solar and wind generators produced 28.9 gigawatts (GW) of power, more than half the total. The grid at that time could not cope with more than 45GW without becoming unstable. At the peak, total generation was over 51GW; so prices went negative to encourage cutbacks and protect the grid from overloading.
The trouble is that power plants using nuclear fuel or brown coal are designed to run full blast and cannot easily reduce production, whereas the extra energy from solar and wind power is free. So the burden of adjustment fell on gas-fired and hard-coal power plants, whose output plummeted to only about 10% of capacity.
These events were a microcosm of the changes affecting all places where renewable sources of energy are becoming more important—Europe as a whole and Germany in particular. To environmentalists these changes are a story of triumph. Renewable, low-carbon energy accounts for an ever-greater share of production. It is helping push wholesale electricity prices down, and could one day lead to big reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. For established utilities, though, this is a disaster. Their gas plants are being shouldered aside by renewable-energy sources. They are losing money on electricity generation. They worry that the growth of solar and wind power is destabilising the grid, and may lead to blackouts or brownouts. And they point out that you cannot run a normal business, in which customers pay for services according to how much they consume, if prices go negative. In short, they argue, the growth of renewable energy is undermining established utilities and replacing them with something less reliable and much more expensive.
The decline of Europe’s utilities has certainly been startling. At their peak in 2008, the top 20 energy utilities were worth roughly €1 trillion ($1.3 trillion). Now they are worth less than half that (see chart 1). Since September 2008, utilities have been the worst-performing sector in the Morgan Stanley index of global share prices. In 2008 the top ten European utilities all had credit ratings of A or better. Now only five do.
The rot has gone furthest in Germany, where electricity from renewable sources has grown fastest. The country’s biggest utility, E.ON, has seen its share price fall by three-quarters from the peak and its income from conventional power generation (fossil fuels and nuclear) fall by more than a third since 2010. At the second-largest utility, RWE, recurrent net income has also fallen by a third since 2010. As the company’s chief financial officer laments, “Conventional power generation, quite frankly, as a business unit, is fighting for its economic survival.”
The companies would have been in trouble anyway, whatever happened to renewables. During the 2000s, European utilities overinvested in generating capacity from fossil fuels, boosting it by 16% in Europe as a whole and by more in some countries (up 91% in Spain, for example). The market for electricity did not grow by nearly that amount, even in good times; then the financial crisis hit demand. According to the International Energy Agency, total energy demand in Europe will decline by 2% between 2010 and 2015.
Two influences from outside Europe added to the problems. The first was the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. This panicked the government of Angela Merkel into ordering the immediate closure of eight of Germany’s nuclear-power plants and a phase-out of the other nine by 2022. The abruptness of the change added to the utilities’ woes, though many of the plants were scheduled for closure anyway.
The other influence was the shale-gas bonanza in America. This displaced to Europe coal that had previously been burned in America, pushing European coal prices down relative to gas prices. At the same time, carbon prices crashed because there were too many permits to emit carbon in Europe’s emissions-trading system and the recession cut demand for them. This has reduced the penalties for burning coal, kept profit margins at coal-fired power plants healthy and slashed them for gas-fired plants. Gérard Mestrallet, chief executive of GDF Suez, the world’s largest electricity producer, says 30GW of gas-fired capacity has been mothballed in Europe since the peak, including brand-new plants. The increase in coal-burning pushed German carbon emissions up in 2012-13, the opposite of what was supposed to happen.
So the gas and nuclear bits of the utilities’ business were heading for trouble even before the renewables bonanza, making the growth of solar and wind all the more disruptive. Renewables capacity (which is much higher than output) is almost half of electricity-generating capacity in Germany and roughly one-third in Spain and Italy. Total capacity, including renewables, is way above peak demand in all three countries. So renewables have added mightily to oversupply.
Excess supply plus depressed demand equals lower prices. Electricity prices have fallen from over €80 per MWh at peak hours in Germany in 2008 to just €38 per MWh now (see chart 2). (These are wholesale prices; residential prices are €285 per MWh, some of the highest in the world, partly because they include subsidies for renewables that are one-and-a-half times, per unit of energy, the power price itself). As wholesale prices fall, so does the profitability of power plants. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), a data-provider, reckons that 30-40% of RWE’s conventional power stations are losing money.
But that is only the half of it. Renewables have not just put pressure on margins. They have transformed the established business model for utilities. Michael Liebreich, BNEF’s chief executive, compares them to telephone companies in the 1990s, or newspapers facing social media now: “It is an existential threat,” he says.
Back in the 1980s, providing electricity was a relatively simple affair. You guaranteed a constant supply of power by building plants that ran on coal, nuclear energy (if you wanted it) or hydropower (if you had it). You ran these full blast around the clock—for technical reasons, coal and nuclear plants cannot easily be shut down anyway. And that provided “baseload power” (the amount always needed). Then, to supply extra electricity at peak times (like lunchtime or early evening) you had plants that could more easily be powered up and down, such as gas-fired ones. If you imagine a chart of power provision during the day, it looks like a layer cake: the bottom layers are flat (nuclear, coal and so forth); the layer at the top (gas) is wavy.
Deregulation swept away this tidy, ordered system, letting power plants produce according to the marginal cost of electricity. The advent of renewable energy then speeded up the changes. Renewables have “grid priority”, meaning the grid must take their electricity first. This is a legal requirement, to encourage renewable energy in Europe. But it is also logical: since the marginal cost of wind and solar power is zero, grids would take their power first anyway. So renewable energy slots in at the bottom of the layer cake. But unlike the baseload providers already in place (nuclear and coal), solar and wind power are intermittent, surging with the weather. So the bottom layers of the cake are wavy, too.
Now, when demand fluctuates, it may not be enough just to lower the output of gas-fired generators. Some plants may have to be switched off altogether and some coal-fired ones turned down. This happened on June 16th. It is costly because scaling back coal-fired plants is hard. It makes electricity prices more volatile. And it is having a devastating effect on profits.
Under the old system, electricity prices spiked during peak hours (the middle of the day and early evening), falling at night as demand ebbed. Companies made all their money during peak periods. But the middle of the day is when solar generation is strongest. Thanks to grid priority, solar grabs a big chunk of that peak demand and has competed away the price spike. In Germany in 2008, according to the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, peak-hour prices were €14 per MWh above baseload prices. In the first six months of 2013, the premium was €3. So not only have average electricity prices fallen by half since 2008, but the peak premium has also fallen by almost four-fifths. No wonder utilities are in such a mess.
Read the rest of the story here.
As you know, appellant Esther Wrightman has had most of her witness list destroyed by wind developer NextEra and the Ministry of the Environment (the latter supported by taxpayer dollars to fight taxpayers). Engineer William Palmer was allowed to provide “limited” testimony at the hearings in London yesterday.
Here is a lively account from Bob Lewis, excerpt courtesy the website Ontario Wind Resistance.
….They start out trying to reduce him as much as possible. They are ‘concerned’ about the ‘breadth’ of his planned testimony. They talk about his appearance at the Erickson hearing, that he wasn’t qualified as an expert. He pointed out that this was because the point became moot. He wasn’t DISqualified as an expert. This is how the game is played – they make insinuations hoping that the defense won’t be strong enough to save you or that you won’t be able to prove that it didn’t happen. It’s a game invented and tweeked and perfected by lawyers and it gives them good income but is really based on a dual of wits between different teams who have spent years mastering the arcane rules of the game – the law.Then Nextera’s [lawyer] John Terry [of Torys LLP] makes his offer: We will let him speak without hassling him if you put him on as a presenter – no Expert status. Esther doesn’t have to even think about that. Or we can fight for his Expert status and risk losing him altogether. Or let him testify and they’ll decide later if he’s an expert.Esther says, ‘He is a professional engineer. He IS an expert. What you suggest would reduce him to just someone like me.’Qualifications: William Palmer is a professional engineer in the province of Ontario experienced in public safety, risk assessment, and environmental assessment related to electrical power generating systems, including wind turbines and advising and reporting specific to the professional engineering aspects of safeguarding life, health, etc,requiring the application of engineering principles.He has taken courses at MIT in risk assessment of nuclear facilities. He was chosen by Bruce Power to train their people. Bruce is the largest nuclear power station in the world. He also did the risk assessment on the restart of units 3 and 4. Public safety is an essential part of being a professional engineer.It would be boring to read, but it was fun to watch – as they tried to suggest he couldn’t be expert in this or that – he just kept coming up with more qualifications and experience. When they asked about accreditation, he took them through accounts of the qualifications for acoustical societies in Canada, US, and Europe – and he’s a member of all of them. Even when they brought up that he had been a member of the board of Wind Concerns Ontario, he countered that he had also been a member of CanWEA five years ago.Nextera’s Terry had four problems with accepting his expertise:1. He’s taking expertise in one area and applying it in another2. He’s learned a lot from self-study to achieve his qualifications (engineering degree from UofT)3. He’s been an advocate for anti-wind4. (Missed the last one – then another 30-40 minutes of crap.)Jumping ahead to summation – Mr. Palmer outlined several reasons that he thinks the Director’s approval should be revoked – and most of these apply to all wind farms – not just this one.1 – He says there will be harm to humans from shadow flicker generally, and with the turbines along the 402, for a distance of 8km, drivers will sometimes be exposed to five minutes of very distracting continuous shadow flicker and the OPP have already listed driver distraction as a major safety issue.PANIC!! OBJECTION!! No mention of the OPP in the witness statement. Can’t use that!So drop that – but Nextera is not required to do anything about shadow flicker. The REA doesn’t deal with it at all. It’s a serious flaw, so the approval should be revoked.2 – Physical risk to neighbours – You can put a turbine within 60 m of a neighbour’s property. I have photos of ice falling further than that. Burning blades can go 200 m, he said. At mention of the Goderich turbine that burned, they asked if he had been there. He went and took photos. But did you actually see it burning?One of the lawyers objects – he doesn’t see the Goderich failure in the evidence. Mr. Palmer says it’s in tab… but they can’t find it, and time is fleeting – he says, ok – I’ll say Ontario, not Goderich. Really – this is what these legal eagles are resorting to. And the MOE guy was really offended by Esther’s accusation of nitpicking.He says that there’s a one in 14 million chance of winning the lottery and a roughly one in a thousand chance of failure so they shouldn’t be allowed to put them that close to a neighbour.Lawyer asks if anyone has died yet. Nobody. Except for the 33 during construction. There haven’t been more because most of the world’s turbines are older, smaller, and further from homes than these in Ontario.Nobody’s died yet.Ontariocitizens are not protected from known events that have happened.3 – Under REA rules, a leaseholder is allowed to VOID SAFETY RULES, which exposes to danger, family, children, employees, contractors, visitors and they have no voice in the matter.4 – He quotes Ben Greenhouse saying that IWTs are needed to replace coal, reduce CO2 emissions, etc, and then he goes on to show that it’s not happening and CO2 output is actually up, so the reason for having them is invalid.5 – MOE claims to be responsive and following the latest science but they fall very short in both instances.
6 – He said wind noise is different from other sound – more disturbing – the cyclical nature of it. At the Denver Noise converence, where MOE had people registered, there were 12 mentions of the special,unique quality of IWT sound. MOE denies any knowledge but even Vesta, a manufacturer, has made reference to it. People have complained about it all over the world and in the US, even 44% of LEASEHOLDERS found the sound bothersome.
In a letter published in The Ottawa Citizen today Wind Concerns Ontario vice-president Parker Gallant writes:
Ottawa Citizen, October 18, 2013
Peddling empty promises
RE: Angry Ontarians talk turkey with Wynne over $1B gas plant bill, Oct. 10