German state Bavaria sets new wind farm setbacks

GERMANY: Germany’s new renewable energy law has passed through parliament in the second and third readings, in parallel with a law allowing each federal state to independently set the distance of wind turbines to the nearest houses.

The law has gone through despite additional last-minute demands from the European Commission made on 23 June.

Amongst other points, the commission had demanded that imported renewables electricity should not be subjected to the German renewables levy. It argues this has the effect of an import duty. (The intervention is believed to anticipate a European Court of Justice judgement due at the beginning of July 2014 on a dispute surrounding a Finnish wind station looking to participate in the Swedish renewables support system.)

Bavaria is setting a minimum distance of ten times the turbine height, which threatens to virtually rule out wind development in the state.

Both laws are to take effect on 1 August. Federal states setting minimum distances must do so before the end of 2015.

The new Renewable Energy Act caps onshore wind expansion at 2.5GW per year not including net additions from repowering projects. Offshore wind is limited to 6.5GW by end-2020, albeit with some flexibility allowed for installations to reach up to 7.2GW.

The law is a three-year interim measure, to be followed by new legislation setting out the rules for renewables tendering procedures beginning in 2017 and on market integration of renewables, according to federal economy minister Sigmar Gabriel.

Read the full story here

MPAC study critiqued

When the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, (an Ontario Crown corporation reporting to the Minister of Finance) released its report on the effect of wind turbines on property assessments (again, we caution readers that this is assessment, not appraisal), Wind Concerns Ontario released a statement to the effect that the report had a number of deficiencies, or  at least unusual parameters to the study, and that it was a “self-serving exercise.”

You may review our statement again here.

What we didn’t say was that there were aspects of the report that were unprofessional.

Just as the report on health effects by Colby et al in 2010 bizarrely claimed that not only was there no evidence of health problems from turbine noise there was so little evidence that no further research was warranted, the MPAC study spent considerable time trying to lay waste to the work done by Ontario real estate appraiser Ben Lansink. Mr Lansink, an AACI (accredited appraiser Canadian Institute), has appeared before numerous tribunals and in court as an expert witness on “injurious affection”; he studied several areas of Ontario where wind power projects operate, and documented the effect on property value.

Reviewers Michael McCann and Wayne Gulden have now done formal critiques of the MPAC study, and while criticizing its methodology and results,  also claim that the action of an Ontario Crown corporation to discredit a professional real estate appraiser were uncalled for.

See the critique here: MPAC v Lansink; McCann and Gulden Reviews, June 2014

The interesting thing is that the chief appraiser at MPAC is himself an AACI, i.e., not just an assessor, so there is a case to be made about the work done under his supervision, with regard to a fellow member of the Appraisal Institute of Canada. They have rules about such things. Those interested should contact the Institute’s Professional Practice section.

Wind power no bargain: letters

Readers of The National Post respond to CanWEA president Robert Hornung’s continuing assertion that wind power is “low cost.”

Wrong way to go green

Re: Wind Fight!, letters to the editor, June 11.
In his letter advocating the development of wind and alternative energy sources in Ontario, Robert Hornung, the president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, fails to address the flawed feed-in-tariff (FIT) model that the Ontario government implemented in order to encourage new projects. If he is concerned about the challenges of demonstrating the competitive viability of such projects, he should look to the initiative undertaken by New York state.

New York mandated that by 2015, 30% of all energy generated in the state must be derived from renewable sources. In order to encourage incremental growth in renewable energy sources and establish a leadership position in this industry, New York engaged in a reverse-auctioning system. Under this framework, projects competed frequently for subsidies the government was willing to offer in the short term. As a result, this established a more market-driven process to ensure that new supply would continue to come on stream at competitive rates, and further encourage suppliers to become more efficient. This is in sharp contrast to the FIT model and the exorbitant rates that discourage any incentive to improve efficiency.

New York state may soon see the corollary development of commercial nanotechnology centres, whose advanced material developments will contribute to reducing the costs of alternative energy projects. By comparison, the only ancillary industries Ontario has encouraged are the components suppliers that arose simply due to provincial content requirements that were in violation of the World Trade Organization rules.
Mark Parker, St. Catharines, Ont.

It is disingenuous of letter-writer Robert Hornung to state that, according to Power Advisory LLC, wind power accounted for only 5% of the increased cost of electricity in Ontario between 2009 and 2012, without putting this stat in context. The amount of power attributable to wind went from 1.6% of output in 2009 to 3% of output in 2012, for a contribution of 1.4% of output, for which it contributed 5% to increased costs. This is hardly a bargain.
Kendall Carey, Toronto.

Cases put forth by the Canadian Wind Energy Association and Wind Concerns Ontario both miss one very important fact: It costs more per kilowatt hour to generate electricity by wind than any of the alternatives. I would like to suggest that the Wind Concerns group use this fact to support their opposition to wind generation, as well as their less solid data about environmental and aesthetic issues.

I would also suggest that the Wind Energy Association should be more forthcoming by including this fact. Sure, it costs more to build a nuclear reactor, but the cost is quickly recovered. And the association well knows that it was only with heavy subsidies and guaranteed payback rates that are in excess of what the province charges that attracted the wind energy industry in the first place.
Peter Fedirchuk, Kanata, Ont.

Read the full Letters section here.

Holding to our message with a new government

Looking ahead
Looking ahead

This is a day of disappointment for many in Ontario: it was the Liberal Party that brought large-scale wind power to Ontario, and which has used every means possible to realize the Party’s “green dream.” The party now has a majority government.

Throughout the election campaign, however, our message was clear: wind power is expensive and unreliable, it doesn’t replace coal, and the manner in which it has been forced upon Ontario communities is undemocratic. In fact,  all four of the main political parties agreed that the implementation of the Liberal government’s policy on wind power was full of errors, and needs improvement at a minimum.

We will hold to that message in the days ahead, and insist that the new Liberal government make good on its promises for a fairer process, and to make changes that allow communities a greater role in the siting of all power projects, including wind. We will also continue to point out that industrial-scale wind power is not an effective power generation option; it is high-impact for very low benefit.

While some may feel disappointment today, the reality is that great strides have been made over the past few years. Many members of the public are now aware of problems with industrial-scale wind power generation and how it has been forced upon unwilling Ontario communities, and that there are serious problems with many of the existing projects.

That is due to much hard work by many people, whose dedication to community and family is unquestioned.

We will never give up in our efforts to protect our communities, the natural environment, and the health of Ontario citizens.

Wind Concerns Ontario

PO Box 11059, 105 Guoldwood Parkway, Scarborough ON  M1E 1N0

We will never give up the fight: WCO vs CanWEA

Wind turbines in Tiverton, Ont.

The Letters page in The National Post is ablaze today with the “wind fight” as letters from both Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson and wind power lobbyist Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) president Robert Hornung appear, toe-to-toe.

Re: The Ontario Liberals Don’t Deserve Another Term, letters to the editor, June 10.
The rising cost of electricity and its impact, is a key topic of discussion in the Ontario election campaign. All parties are committed to ensuring Ontario’s power supply is reliable and priced to support business growth and economic priorities, but their plans to meet that objective differ. One example of this is in the province’s approach to wind energy development.

The key driver of rising electricity bills in Ontario is not wind energy. Independent analysis by Power Advisory LLC indicates that wind energy accounted for only 5% of the increase in our electricity bills between 2009 and 2012, with the bulk of rising rates due to necessary upgrades to aging power plants and transmission systems.

A key economic driver for Ontario is a responsive, competitive electrical system that respects the environment. A steady stream of new wind energy complements energy conservation, and provides Ontario with the much-needed flexibility to align electricity supply needs with changing economic and environmental circumstances.

Today, wind energy is cheaper than building new nuclear power plants, and can compete with new hydroelectric development, as well. It is also not subject to the risks of rising costs, that could result from rising commodity prices or any future price on carbon emissions. Any political party that advocates a shift away from wind energy needs to demonstrate how their proposals for new electricity generation will be cheaper. It will be challenging to do so.
Robert Hornung, president, Canadian Wind Energy Association, Ottawa.

Re: The Republic Of Whiners And Blamers, Robert Fulford, June 7.
As the president of the coalition of individuals and community groups that have been fighting the Ontario Green Energy Act since its inception in 2009, and the invasion of Ontario’s rural communities by huge power development corporations seeking government subsidies as they despoil and bankrupt the province, I take issue with Robert Fulford’s assertion that not many people have expressed “unease” about this situation.

At present, we have over 30 community groups and thousands of individual members, who have all been fighting the Ontario government with heart and passion, as we defend our communities. Although the legislation put in place by the wind industry allows the public to appeals wind power projects, this has turned out to be an illusion. But this has not stopped Ontarians from trying. To date, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on the appeals, and on private litigation.

The citizens of Prince Edward County have raised over half a million dollars in their fight to save the environment against Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment. Others have already spent hundreds of thousands on legal fees to invoke a Charter challenge based on human rights.

The sad truth is that Mr. Fulford is right: No matter how high the stakes for all Ontarians, the people of the province’s cities, especially Toronto, have sat by and let this happen. In the meantime, we refuse to give up the fight.
Jane Wilson, president, Wind Concerns Ontario, Toronto.

See the letters page here.

As for Mr Hornung’s assertion about the costs of wind power, please see this post by energy economist Robert Lyman.

McGuinty government changed Green Energy rules to benefit insiders

McGuinty government changed green energy rules to benefit Liberal-linked firms, court filing charges

Scott Stinson, National Post, June 8, 2014

“The treatment of Mesa in this case is just another episode in a saga of maladministration, scandal, political interference, manipulation and contempt for the rule of law that dominated Ontario until the resignation of the Premier [McGuinty] early in 2013,” a court filing states.

Maladministration, scandal, political interference and contempt for the rule of law: court documents

A U.S. wind power developer that is seeking $653-million in damages under a NAFTA challenge accuses the government of Ontario of manipulating Green Energy Act rules to benefit the interests of Liberal-connected firms, according to court documents obtained by the National Post.

The court filing, recently made public in the case that pits Mesa Power, a Texas-based developer owned by U.S. financier T. Boone Pickens, against the government, alleges Ontario replaced “transparent” criteria for the selection of energy projects with “political favoritism, cronyism and local preference.”

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesU.S. financier T. Boone Pickens

At issue in the NAFTA arbitration are changes made to the Green Energy Act in 2011. They allowed wind developers a brief window in which they could change the location at which their proposed projects would connect to the transmission grid. NextEra, a multinational renewables firm that was represented to the government by lobbyist Bob Lopinksi, a former senior staffer in the office of Dalton McGuinty, changed their connection points and was eventually awarded more than $2-billion worth of power contracts. Mesa Power says in its court filing that the change effectively bumped its projects out of line, costing it sunk costs and lost future profits.

“The rules were changed to suit one applicant to the detriment of another,” the court document claims.

“The rules change was also specifically designed with NextEra in mind,” says the 243-page NAFTA document called the Memorial of the Investor. It was filed last year but released publicly last month. “On a number of occasions,” the document says, “the Minister of Energy’s Office took explicit steps to ensure the process was being executed to the benefit of NextEra.”

“NextEra also gained assistance through the Ontario Premier’s office,” the filing alleges. “The Premier’s office injected itself into the [Feed-in-Tariff] program, and began expressing its political preferences for matters that where entirely within the regulatory realm of the [Ontario Power Authority].

Read the full story and comments here including this excerpt from the documents filed:

“The treatment of Mesa in this case,” the court filing says, “is just another episode in a saga of maladministration, scandal, political interference, manipulation and contempt for the rule of law that dominated Ontario until the resignation of the Premier [McGuinty] early in 2013.”

Big Wind follows Big Tobacco in denying health problems

Doubt is Their Product

In his 2008 book Doubt is their product–how industry’s assault on science threatens your health, epidemiologist David Michaels says he got the idea for the title of his book after reading the words of a cigarette company executive. “Doubt is our product,” the executive wrote, “since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing controversy”.

Michaels went on to write the following:

…Big Tobacco, left now without a stitich of credibility of public esteem, has finally abandoned its strategy, but it showed the way. The practices it perfected are alive and well and ubiquitous today. We see this growing trend that disingenuously demands proof over precaution in the realm of public health. In field after field, year after year, conclusions that might support regulation are always disputed. Animal data are deemed not relevant, human data not representative, and exposure data not reliable. Whatever the story…scientists in what I call the ‘product defence industry’ prepare for the release of unfavorable studies even before the studies are published. Public relations experts feed these for-hire scientists contrarian sound bites that play well with reporters, who are mired in the trap of believing there must be two sides to every story.

Maybe there are two sides–and maybe one has been bought and paid for.

This scenario is being played out today in Ontario with the wind power industry where not only are health effects from the turbine noise denied, the industry actually claims that wind power saves lives and therefore that the “overall benefit” of wind power supercedes any nagging little negative like people becoming ill from sleep deprivation and the stress and anxiety caused by the turbine noise and vibration. Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment has been complicit in this strategy from the outset: the decision to establish setbacks between turbines and homes was not based on any science at all.

In appeal after appeal, the evidence of health problems is brought forward, and the witnesses so convincing (despite the industry’s highly paid lawyers’ attempts with questions about their mental state) that members of the Environmental Review Tribunals comment on the authenticity of their accounts. In Bovaird v. Director, Ministry of the Environment, panel chair Heather Gibbs wrote in her decision that while the evidence presented did not show a causal relationship, she quoted from Erickson, specifically that “the present situation is closer to the hypothesis generating phase of scientific research than it is to the point where statements can be made on causation.”

In other words, in the view of the Tribunal, there isn’t enough evidence to support the conclusion of “serious harm” (a construct of the Green Energy Act and not a real principle of public health) … but at the same time, there isn’t enough evidence to say there ISN’T.

Today, Big Wind carries on, impugning the testimony of ordinary citizens who have nothing to gain by telling their stories except to have them heard,  and presenting experts for hire whose goal is to produce doubt about the science we do have.

This is a shameful chapter in the history of Ontario.



Controversial wind power co-op claims approval coming soon

Tara Bowie, Woodstock Sentinel-Review, June 6, 2014

A local energy co-op that has caused some controversy in the county continues to move forward.

The Oxford Community Energy Co-operative (OCEC) announced the Financial Services Commission of Ontario approved its formation.

“The board of directors of the Oxford Community Energy Co-op is very excited that we have received the receipted Offering Statement from FSCO. We can now start our capital raising campaign. We would like to talk to anyone in this community who wants to become a part owner of the Gunn’s Hill Wind Farm because I am confident that we can offer a very attractive return on the investment,” Helmut Schneider, president of OCEC, said in a press release.

The first project on the co-op’s radar is the Gunn’s Hill wind turbines in Norwich Township being developed by Prowind Canada Inc.

Juan Anderson, vice-president of Prowind, said he expects the project to receive its Renewable Energy Approval by August after the Ministry of Environment completes its technical review of the application.

“We anticipate that under any new government there will be increased involvement of municipalities in the development process of renewable energy projects. We also see potential for further emphasis on co-operative and First Nations ownership in projects and we feel that the work we are doing with Oxford Community Energy Co-operative and Six Nations can be an example of how to share the benefits of a project more widely,” Anderson said when asked how a change in provincial leadership might effect the project.

The OCEC is looking to raise up to 49% of the project equity, which is approximately $9 million.

As per the OCEC website (http:// oxfordcommunityenergycoop. wildapricot. org), the hope is to raise $1.2 million of the equity from Oxford County investors and the remainder from across Ontario.

Currently the co-op has more than 50 members.

“The anticipated investment returns for preferred shares will be paid annually in the form of dividends, which are projected to be in the range 10 %,” the website stated.

The project is facing several hurdles in its last leg before possibly receiving approval to start building.

The East Oxford Community Alliance has notified Prowind of potential litigation if the project moves forward. Norwich Township deemed itself an unwilling host for the project several years ago and maintains that status.

Read the full story and take the poll here.

Editor’s note: Mr Anderson is possibly premature in his announcement; the documents filed by Prowind with the Ministry of the Environment which were deemed “complete” ae now the subject of a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario due to serious omissions and inadequacies in the documentation. Mr Anderson must also be unaware that there is an election in Ontario June 12th, and the further approval of wind power projects has been an important issue in the campaign.