In Ontario “green” living means…propane

30" White Off Grid Propane Range

 

A propane stove: the latest in “green” living

Home Hardware‘s spring Home At Home catalogue arrived in many mailboxes last week; one of the features was an article titled “The power to live off grid.”

“Few people think about alternative sources of energy until electricity and oil prices go through the roof,” Home says. “These situations remind us how dependent we are to [sic] a national grid and how we can be left feeling helpless…”

The answer? Go” off-grid” with propane appliances!!!!

More proof that, as unreliable and intermittent, expensive wind power is added to Ontario’s power system, causing the utility cost to skyrocket, people will make other choices—that includes burning more wood to heat their homes, and using fossil-fuel sources for cooking and home power generation.

As economics professor Ross McKitrick told Wind Concerns Ontario last week, the Green Energy Act in Ontario has failed on every objective. Wind power is backed up almost 50 percent by natural gas.

And now….living better with propane!

Hydro One’s billing mess: getting worse

How much will it cost us to fix Hydro One's billing mess?
How much will it cost us to fix Hydro One’s billing mess?

When I was contacted for help recently by a Hydro One customer concerned their billing was wrong, I went in a search for a “multiplier”.  The bill, sent after 10 months of no bills, was for almost $20K.  A “40 times multiplier” statement also appeared on the bill.

As it turns out, Hydro One has a simple “multiplier” explanation:  “If your meter has four main dials, it records thousands of kilowatt hours. You’ll see the    words ‘MULT X 10’ on the face of your meter — that means when you calculate your usage, you multiply the reading by 10.”

The meter in question is a four-digit meter (Trilliant smart meter) but there is no 10 times on it, just as there is no reference to a 40 X multiplier on Hydro One’s website!

Another person contacted me to tell me she is forced to sell her three-unit apartment building because the Hydro One bill alone (excluding natural gas, taxes and insurance) almost exceeds the monthly rental income. She can’t raise the rents because the Landlord and Tenant Board restricts rent increases to 1.6% for 2015.  (The building uses natural gas for heat and  hot water.)

I suspect these two examples are typical of what the Ontario Ombudsman is hearing in the office’s billing investigation; the report is not due for release until later this  year.

Both of the people who approached me were serviced by Hydro One’s distribution arm, so I took a look at the 2014 Annual Report and their MD&A; there is interesting information there related to the billing mess that has already received bad reviews from Ontario’s Ombudsman, Auditor General and the general public.

The press release for the annual report issued February 12, 2015 stated:

“Our 2014 net income decreased by $54 million or 7% compared to 2013. This was primarily  due to the increase in our distribution operation, maintenance and administration costs, as a    result of a number of factors, including our customer service recovery initiatives and the    increase in our bad debt expense1, resulting from the temporary suspension of collection     activities during several months in 2014”.

The annual report admitted this admission in respect to their Customer Information System (CIS):

            Customer Service Recovery Cost – As a result of billing issues that arose from the implementation of our new CIS in 2013, the    effects of which became acute in early 2014, our company established the customer service   recovery project to dedicate staff to resolve outstanding and any new billing issues and stabilize the billing system. We anticipated, and fixed as a target, costs of $48 million (including revenue impacts) for this project. The project was completed in 2014 and the CIS is now in sustainment mode. As the costs of the customer service recovery project exceeded the target,  our company did not meet this anticipated target.”

Traveling back to a June 15, 2012 filing with the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) to see what may have preceded this debacle on their billing system we find this interesting response from  Hydro One’s spokesperson Mike Winters2, SVP. Engineering & Technology to a question posed by an intervenor: “HCL AXON was selected as system integrator and during the discovery phase Hydro One   negotiated software costs for Itron and SAP. Hydro One used Gartner for third party expertise to discern the level of discount that could be expected from SAP. Hydro One was pleased to       report that they were able to achieve an approximate 85% discount from SAP.”

Earlier in this filing with the OEB Mr. Winters disclosed the project name was Cornerstone, it involved four phases, and the CIS was the final phase. He said: “Phase 4 involves a CIS to replace the customized, legacy CSS built on discontinued platforms, to simplify interactions for customers and to drive efficiency and effectiveness through innovation and service delivery transformation.”

It is questionable whether the new customer billing system has simplified any issues or interactions for Hydro One’s customers; instead it has caused nothing but frustration, and raised the issue of “energy poverty” for many more people suddenly faced with electricity bills out of proportion to their actual consumption.  The Ombudsman’s office has received almost 10,000 complaints—about 1% of all of Hydro One’s customers.  I would bet Hydro One quietly admitted their mistakes in thousands of cases, and rectified the problems before they reached the Ombudsman’s office.

Despite the promises, execution of this billing system change was a complete disaster and the SVP, Mike Winters, touted by Hydro One as a winner of the “KITE3 award in late 2012, was moved to the position of SVP, Engineering, at Hydro One—he is now with Rogers Communications.

A couple of other laughable quotes from the 2012 Annual Report and MD&A related to the CIS include these two bon mots:

            “Since this system directly impacts our end customers, stringent test exit criteria must be met        prior to placing it into production.”

“With the design phase complete, the CIS Project is currently in the system integration phase.       Internal controls have been documented and will be tested for adequacy and effectiveness with     any remediation effort to be completed prior to the go-live date in 2013.”

As we all know, the “go-live date” occurred in 2013 and Hydro One customers have felt its effects for almost two years.  It apparently wasn’t enough for ratepayers to be hit with rising electricity costs so the biggest LDC in the province, Hydro One, also decided to stick us with a messed up billing system.  No doubt the OEB will grant Hydro One an approval to increase their rates for the cost overruns of the CIS meaning ratepayers will be paying even higher delivery rates in the not too distant future.

(C) Parker Gallant, March 4, 2015

1. Bad debts increased $30 million from 2013 representing an 83% increase in one year.

2. Salary disclosed on the 2013 Sunshine list was $422,067

3. “Winters was selected for Hydro One’s leadership in solving business problems by leveraging technology and business process improvements in today’s challenging North American utility environment.”

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent Wind Concerns Ontario policy.

Opponents of wpd Sumac Ridge project considering Judicial Review

March 3, 2015, My Kawartha.com

Legal team for opponents of Sumac Ridge wind turbine project near Pontypool are reviewing Tribunal’s dismissal of their appeal; a judicial review could be an option

 MyKawartha.com

MANVERS TWP – The legal team for opponents of a controversial wind energy project approved for Manvers Township are going over the recent dismissal of their appeal by the Environmental Review Tribunal with “a fine-toothed comb,” says the local City councillor.

Ward 16 Coun. Heather Stauble could not estimate the cost to mount the legal challenge to wpd Canada’s Sumac Ridge project, which has provincial approval to install five mega-wind turbines near Pontypool; two of them on the Oak Ridges Moraine.

Sumac Ridge was approved in December of 2013, and Manvers Wind Concerns, Cransley Home Farm Ltd and the Buddhist Cham Shan Temple immediately appealed to the Tribunal.

Most of 2014 was spent in legal wrangling and weeks of hearings, and the Tribunal released its decision on Feb. 19, dismissing the appeal.

The group could ask for a judicial review of the decision; they have 30 days (from Feb. 19) to file that request.

The opponents are concerned about the effects on the huge turbines on the environment, human health and particularly the water aquifers on the Moraine, which ironically is protected under provincial legislation.

The Tribunal ruled, in part that some of the evidence presented by the appellants was more opinion than fact. But Coun. Stauble said there were “many experts and strong testimony” from those who qualified as witnesses. Dozens of people who volunteered to lend their talents to the appeal.

Coun. Stauble said there is an option to appeal to the Ontario Divisional Court, but, it’s too soon to say whether or not the Tribunal’s decision will be appealed to the Ontario Divisional Court as lawyer Eric Gillespie and his team are reviewing every aspect of the decision.

But, Coun. Stauble said one of the most important victories the appellants scored was when the Tribunal recommended a hydrogeological study be conducted.

“The City has asked for that study from wpd Canada since the beginning,” she said. “If it was ever conducted, they never showed it to anyone. So, it’s important that the ERT has recommended it be done.”

She said wpd Canada produced a water report, but it only examined surface water. On the Moraine, the primary water sources are underground aquifers. There was never a hydrogeological study done, which is an in-depth examination of the aquifers that flow through the layers of sand and gravel, and what could have an impact on them.

Coun. Stauble said the City continually asked for that study, but without results.

“The moraine is the direct source of water for 250,000 people, and indirectly for most of southern Ontario,” she said. “A hydrogeological study would have looked at the impact of wind turbines on that water source. The Tribunal recommended that it be done and the MOE could ask for it.”

The councillor said the Green Energy Act does not protect the Moraine as well as the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, but that it was good news that on Feb. 27 the Province announced that Plan will come under review.

With more wind energy projects from other companies in the queue for the area, Coun. Stauble said the Province should rescind the Sumac Ridge approval and withhold all others until the proper studies are done. That said, she insisted there should be no wind turbines of any kind permitted on the Moraine. Two of the Sumac Ridge turbines are on high vulnerability aquifer areas, and another concern is that hazardous materials are stored inside the turbines.

“If they spilled, they would disappear into the ground and contaminate the water so quickly, no one would realize it.”

Coun. Stauble said while she didn’t know how much the case cost to date, “it would have been a lot more without the volunteers” who helped out. And, she noted the battle is not over yet; there are plans to fight two more wind turbine projects proposed for the area; Snowy Ridge and Settlers’ Landing.

Paul Reid of Manvers Wind Concerns expressed his disappointment in the decision, saying that, in his view, “it was pre-ordained from the outset. We have until 30 days after the decision of Feb. 19 to file an Appeal and I suspect we will use up all of the time available to us by statute.”

Mr. Reid added, “I remain however, very disappointed, and naively so, in the system that is in place that completely disregards local sentiment and existing legislation that was intended to protect the Green Belt from industrialization. A shame.”

For more information, visit Manvers Wind Concerns at www.manverswindconcerns.wordpress.com. To donate to legal expenses, send a cheque to Manvers Wind Concerns, 1450 Highway 7A, Box 14, Bethany, Ontario, L0A 1A0.

Interview with Australian acoustics expert Steven Cooper

Cape Bridgewater wind "farm" in Australia: "done without our consent"
Cape Bridgewater wind “farm” in Australia: “done without our consent”

This is an hour-long interview with acoustics engineer Steven Cooper, whose Cape Bridgewater wind noise/infrasound study has broken new ground in wind turbine noise research.

Although the study was limited, Cooper managed to change the landscape of wind turbine noise research by focusing on appropriate methodology, and using new language to describe the phenomenon.

Here the interview from Fair Dinkum Radio here.

For more information on Cooper’s work, and a supporting review document, go to the Waubra Foundation site here.

NOTE: this is a radio interview presented for your information only; statements about climate change, politics in Australia etc., do NOT necessarily represent Wind Concerns Ontario policy.

Suncor wind farm decision expected Thursday

Members of WAIT-Plympton-Wyoming at a rally in Sarnia, last year: will Big Wind win over the citizens of Ontario again?
Members of WAIT-Plympton-Wyoming at a rally in Sarnia, last year: will Big Wind win over the citizens of Ontario again?

The Independent, March 3, 2015

The Environmental Review Tribunal is expected to rule March 4 on whether Suncor Energy can move ahead with its Cedar Point wind project.

The company has been planning the 43-turbine project in Plympton-Wyoming and Lambton Shores for years but has faced stiff opposition from the community. WAIT – We’re Against Industrial Turbines – was formed to try to stop the project.

WAIT, as well as the County of Lambton, were part of a hearing held mostly in Camlachie in December and January, aimed at stopping the project. The Bryce Family, who will have a number of turbines around their home, also were part of the appeal.

The final arguments were heard Feb. 19 and the tribunal is expected to release a decision March 4.

In the history of wind projects in Ontario, the ERT has only stopped one project because of concerns it could damage the environment of the area.

Wind farm infrasound: testing shows “significant” population affected

Telling people wind turbines do not affect health is wrong, Kevin Dooley tells Wind Concerns Ontario conference in Guelph
Telling people wind turbines do not affect health is wrong, Kevin Dooley tells Wind Concerns Ontario conference in Guelph

Not everyone exposed to the infrasound produced by utility-scale wind turbines gets sick from it. But those who do, can get really ill, acoustics specialist Kevin A. Dooley told a packed audience at Wind Concerns Ontario’s conference Saturday, in Guelph Ontario.

Testing of infrasound inside and outside homes confirms that the infrasound produced by large wind turbines is “symmetrical,” Dooley said, and provides a false cue to the human body which results in “sensory conflict.”

A sensory conflict occurs, Dooley said, “when sensory inputs from one or more senses conflict with other sensory inputs. Since infrasound is and has always been associated with motion in an atmosphere, sensory detection of infrasound without other motion cues will cause sensory conflict in some people, leading to motion sickness symptoms.”

These conclusions are supported by work done and published in 1985 by David Nussbaum, Dooley explained.

About 15 percent of people exposed will experience dizziness, nausea, headaches and other symptoms, he said. “That’s in line with the recent Health Canada research, which shows 16.5 percent of people in close proximity showing distress.”

Mr Dooley, who has more than 100 patents to his name for technological solutions to problems with noise and other issues, has published several papers on wind turbines and infrasound.

The research is there, he said. The wind power companies say that there is no link between the infrasound produced by their turbines and human health, but that is incorrect, he said.

What is needed now, Dooley concluded, is research done by “an independent institution” so that government policy and regulations can be altered to protect the health of residents forced to live near wind turbines.

For more information on Mr Dooley and his research, go to his website.

 

 

“Charter challenge” appellants have to pay court costs:it’s a terror tactic, says lawyer

Blackburn News, March 1, 2015

Midwestern Ontario Families face large wind-farm legal bill

By on March 1, 2015 1:02pm

Shawn Drennan -- The Canadian Press

Shawn Drennan — photo by The Canadian Press

TORONTO – A demand that four Ontario families pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs to billion-dollar companies is a thinly disguised warning to anyone pondering a challenge to industrial wind farms in Ontario, the families say.

In asking the courts to set the legal bill aside, the citizens say the award would cripple them financially and undermine access to justice, even in important public-interest cases.

Court documents show the companies — K2 Wind, Armow, and St. Columban — are seeking $340,000 in costs from the Drennans, Ryans, Dixons and Kroeplins, who lost their bid to scuttle three wind-farm projects.

The families, who worry wind turbines near their homes could harm their health, had challenged the constitutionality of Ontario’s approvals process before Divisional Court. They are now hoping the province’s top court will hear the case, potentially adding more litigation costs.

Shawn Drennan, of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, said his $240,000 bill was excessive given that he was only looking to protect his rights.

“We will have to go to the bank and beg and ask if we can borrow more money to pay their costs and it will be a significant burden on my wife and I,” Shawn Drennan told The Canadian Press. “My wife already works two jobs.”

Lawyer Julian Falconer, who represents the families, called the wind companies “blood-sucking, intimidating bullies.”

“It’s not just a bar to justice, it’s actually a terror tactic,” Falconer said in an interview.

“This is not about money. The idea is to send a message: ‘We will wipe you out if you challenge us’.”

The companies say the high-stakes court challenge forced them to deploy considerable legal resources to defend projects they say are safe.

“While the appellants were entitled to bring their litigation, their decision to do so had significant consequences,” St. Columban argues in its court filing. “There must be an appreciation of the real disruption, and real cost, suffered by the adverse party.”

Generally speaking and as a matter of fairness, the losing side in civil proceedings has to pay the legal bills incurred by the winning side.

K2, which is putting up 140 turbines, some of which are about 750 metres from the Drennans’ home near Goderich, Ont., says the families knew the risks of losing. In addition, the failed bid to halt construction pending outcome of their court battle was unnecessary and should “never have been brought,” K2 says in its submissions.

The families argue they raised an important and novel constitutional issue that is squarely in the public interest given the reasonable prospect of serious harm to the health of citizens. They also say they did not stand to benefit financially.

The companies reject that argument. They maintain the families were indeed fighting a personal battle, do have the means to pay, and say the case was in fact contrary to the public interest because the challenge delayed government-approved green-energy projects.

For the families, it’s become a case of “lose your home to save your home,” they say.

“By simply exercising their right to access to the courts, the appellant families now face the disheartening prospect of financial ruin,” their submission states.

“When, as in this particular case, the consequence of that access becomes crippling financial loss, ‘access to justice’ becomes a meaningless platitude.”