Clear adverse health effect from wind turbine noise: expert health panel

Council of Canadian Academies

Wind turbine near Ridgetown ON
Wind turbine near Ridgetown ON

Released April 9, 2015

Ottawa (April 9, 2015) – A new expert panel report, Assessing the Evidence: Wind Turbine Noise, released today by the Council of Canadian Academies provides an in-depth examination of 32 potential adverse health effects linked to wind turbine noise. For most of the identified symptoms, the evidence is inadequate to draw a direct link between wind turbine noise and a negative health effect.

However, there is sufficient evidence of a causal relationship between exposure to such noise and annoyance.

Determining whether wind turbine noise causes adverse health effects is an important issue as demand  for renewable energy, including wind power, is expected to grow in Canada and around the world. The wind sector has expanded rapidly since the 1990s, and Canada is now the fifth-largest global market for the installation of wind turbines. With this demand, however, come concerns that the presence of wind turbines may pose a public health risk to nearby residents. In response to public concern, Health Canada asked the Council of Canadian Academies to conduct an in-depth expert panel assessment to evaluate the evidence and identify gaps in knowledge.

“The Panel looked at what had been written on the potential health effects of exposure to wind turbines, in the scientific literature, legal cases, and the most informative public documents,” said Dr. Tee Guidotti, Expert Panel Chair. “We identified 32 health issues and then analyzed the published peer reviewed studies on each problem to determine if there was evidence for a causal relationship with wind turbine noise.”

The Panel’s report stresses that, given the nature of the sound produced by wind turbines and the limited quality of available evidence, the health impacts of wind turbine noise cannot be comprehensively assessed and further information and study are required.

The Panel outlined 11 main findings discussed in the full report. Some findings include:

1. The evidence is sufficient to establish a causal relationship between exposure to wind turbine noise and annoyance.

2. There is limited evidence to establish a causal relationship between exposure to wind turbine noise and sleep disturbance.

3. The evidence suggests a lack of causality between exposure to wind turbine noise and hearing loss.

4. For all other health effects considered (fatigue, tinnitus, vertigo, nausea, dizziness, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, etc.), the evidence was inadequate to come to any conclusion about the presence or absence of a causal relationship with exposure to wind turbine noise.

5. Technological development is unlikely to resolve, in the short term, the current issues related to perceived adverse health effects of wind turbine noise.

6. Impact assessments and community engagement provide communities with greater knowledge and control over wind energy projects and therefore help limit annoyance.

The Expert Panel’s assessment was extensive; they considered a wide range of evidence and developed a rigorous methodology for their work. The resulting report provides key information and insights on what is known and not known about wind turbine noise and its possible impacts on human health. The foundation of knowledge contained in the report can support all levels of government, the scientific community, industry, and community stakeholders as future policies, regulations, and research agendas are considered.

For more information or to download a copy of the Panel’s report, visit the Council of Canadian Academies’ website, www.scienceadvice.ca 

About the Council of Canadian Academies

The Council of Canadian Academies is an independent, not-for-profit organization that began operation in 2005. The Council undertakes independent, authoritative, science-based, expert assessments that inform public policy development in Canada. Assessments are conducted by independent, multidisciplinary panels (groups) of experts from across Canada and abroad. Panel members serve free of charge and many are Fellows of the Council’s Member Academies. The Council’s vision is to be a trusted voice for science in the public interest. For more information about the Council or its assessments, please visit www.scienceadvice.ca.

Amherst Island groundwater could be affected by wind farm

A map of Amherst Island from the Revised Draft Site Plan by Windlectric.

Kingston Whig-Standard

STELLA — The group battling a proposed wind energy project that could radically change the skyline of Amherst Island has taken its fight to the ground.

In its latest salvo, the Association to Protect Amherst Island has called for the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to better study the impact of the proposed project could have on the island’s groundwater.

Windlectric plans to build a 75-megawatt wind energy project on the 70-square-kilometre island, involving up to 36 turbines.

The association has been arguing that the project’s Renewable Energy Approval application is not complete enough to be approved.

In response to a series of inquiries earlier this year, the provincial government stated that groundwater could be protected during the construction, operation and maintenance of the project.

“The potential for impacts to groundwater quality and/or quantity is low,” the ministry stated.

In a letter last week, APAI president Peter Large cited a ministry-funded study from 2007 by Trow Associates Inc. that showed the importance, and fragility, of groundwater as a source of drinking water.

“The (Environment Ministry) is either unaware of or has ignored entirely the Trow Report, which indicates that Amherst Island exhibits “moderate to high to very high” sensitivity to pollution of its groundwater,” Large stated in his April 2 letter.

Windlectric “has made no effort to determine the effects of its 33 to 37 proposed deep excavations would have on island wells or that by merely opening up an excavation would allow polluted surface water into the groundwater supply,” Large added.

The Western Cataraqui Region Groundwater Study was prepared by the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority and funded by the Environment Ministry, the Ontario Operations Clean Water Initiative and participating municipalities.

“This study examines groundwater in relation to its supply, natural quality characteristics and its potential vulnerability to contamination,” Large stated, quoting the study.

“Groundwater is the primary source of potable water in the study area.”

The study covered about 3,000 square kilometres — home to about 43,000 people — and noted that groundwater in limestone plains is particularly vulnerable to contaminants.

About two-thirds of the wells in the study area draw water from the limestone zones, the study determined.

“Most wells in the study area are shallow, drawing groundwater from a depth of 15 to 30 metres. With so many shallow wells across the region, potential contaminants have a short pathway to groundwater,” the study stated.

“The majority of the groundwater in the study area is used for domestic purposes and is highly vulnerable to contamination.

“Groundwater in the limestone plains is most vulnerable to potential contaminants, with shallow wells, little soil cover (overburden) over bedrock, with fractures and other openings.”

The study classed all of Amherst Island in the moderate to very high sensitivity categories.

In another letter last week, the association took issue with what it called the third change to Windlectric’s Renewable Energy Approval application.

The change deals with a temporary cement factory that is to be built on Second Concession and accessed by trucks from that road and Front Road between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., six days a week.

The plant is to draw 120,000 litres of water each day while it produces concrete for the 600-cubic-metre foundations of the turbines.

The association is arguing that it has yet to be determined if that water will be drawn from Lake Ontario or transported from the mainland.

Also, there has been no solution put forward to handle the wastewater from the plant.

Ontario Energy Board: new rate design for consumers! (Look out, it’s going to hurt)

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) plans to implement its “Rate Design for Electricity Distributors”soon.  Their report starts with this vague attempt to explain how ratepayers in Ontario have been affected:

“We have concluded that this change is an important step in the ongoing evolution of the electricity sector in Ontario that will benefit customers and support distributors.”

Reading through the 31-page report, it becomes obvious that the author(s) regard the 4.9 million customers of the various local distribution companies as naive when it comes to the consumption of  electricity: “Focus groups and surveys undertaken by the OEB suggest that customers have little understanding of how electricity is measured. Customers do not yet have a good understanding of what is meant by a kilowatt hour.”  And, “Focus groups and surveys have told us that customers have little understanding of the structure of the electricity industry that underlies the current form of the bill or how electricity is measured.”

Bear this attitude in mind as you read my analysis of what will happen to distribution rates over the next few years, and consider the first objective of the OEB, “To protect the interests of consumers with respect to prices and the adequacy, reliability and quality of electricity service.”  Perhaps we need a focus group to see how the OEB met their first objective!

The OEB report preamble notes: “Distribution rates are designed to recover the costs for the poles, wires, meters, transformer stations, trucks and computer systems that bring electricity from the high voltage transmission system to the individual homes and businesses of Ontario. These charges represent about 20% to 25% of a residential customer’s total electricity bill.”

Well, not in Toronto, as Hydro bills suggest the “Delivery” charge is 33%!  So, why does this report start with incorrect facts?  It goes on: “The new residential rate design will be a fixed monthly charge only. All distributors will make this change. The specific charge will vary from distributor to distributor, depending upon the costs of the specific distributor.”

So the “fixed monthly charge” varies by distributor, and this report suggests it will continue to vary.   Why no benchmarking?

Here is the OEB future: “residential customers that use a lot of electricity and those that use very little electricity will see larger changes. Customers that use a lot of electricity (for example, those that heat with electricity) will see their distribution charges go down; customers that use little electricity will see their distribution charges go up.”  How exactly is this an incentive to conserve?

Coming so soon after Minister Chiarelli’s launch of the Ontario Electricity Support Program, this proposal will raise rates for people who don’t heat with electricity and those who use very little electricity.  It seems destined to raise distribution rates for certain “low-income” ratepayers.

Another distortion of facts is this statement from the report:  “The current framework for conservation is being delivered by Ontario’s distributors with funding and coordination by the Independent Electricity System Operator.”  (IESO)

Now who has “little understanding”? The author(s) seems blissfully unaware  conservation funding is paid by ratepayers in the commodity charge via the Global Adjustment (GA). The error is later corrected: “Every dollar in distribution charges that a customer saves through conservation is subsequently recovered from customers.”  So, funding doesn’t actually come from IESO just like the commodity cost, i.e., every dollar we lose exporting surplus generation (lots of it wind power) is recovered from customers via the GA.

Further on in the report the issue of benchmarking is sort of raised:  “The new distribution rate design simplifies one aspect of electricity rates. It will also allow for clearer comparisons between distributors.”  Does that mean customers will be able to choose a distributor, or simply look longingly at those who are more efficient?  One should expect it will be the latter.

Bill impacts projected by the OEB:

We analyzed the bill impact for the residential customers on eleven distribution systems, or about 850,000 customers1..

• About 57% of customers will see no change, or will see a bill increase or decrease of less than $5 per month.

• About 21% will see a bill decrease of more than $5 per month.

About 22% will see an increase of more than $5 per month.

That means 22% of ratepayers will experience a minimum increase of at least $60 annually, and perhaps half of the  57% will experience an increase in the range of  $30/40 annually.  Without factoring Hydro One’s customers into the “analysis,” this writer is skeptical those numbers will translate to their client base—as one would expect rural clients will be hit the hardest as Hydro One has the most “poles, wires, meters, transformer stations, trucks and computer systems.

This begs the question: is this simply a way to fatten up the profitability of Hydro One before Premier Wynne sells some or all of it off?

Further on in the report we find this interesting claim suggesting LDCs will no longer need to apply for rate increases because of our conservation efforts: “The more successful distributors are in achieving these conservation targets, the greater the bill savings for customers.”

This ex-banker reads that as, because most of the delivery costs will be fixed, the LDC’s revenue base will have increased and they will not care if you conserve or not because they are getting additional revenue via the higher “fixed distribution” charge.  No skin in the game!

The authors of this report apparently see it the same light:  “Stable and predictable revenues improve a distributor’s cash flow and also improve credit worthiness.”  An improved cash flow would suggest this increases the ability to sell off a chunk of Hydro One at a higher price as the following suggests:  “While a number of stakeholders were of the view that the return on equity should be reduced, distributors were of the view that no change would be justified. This issue raises a number of important considerations and requires more extensive analysis, all of which is beyond the scope of this consultation.”

Justifying increased fixed distribution rates, no matter the consumption, was not “beyond the scope of this consultation” but reviewing the “return on equity” apparently is?

There is more: “We are phasing the change to reduce the impact on those customers whose bills will increase. The rate changes will begin in 2016 and will be completed in 2019.”

In other words, we have been guaranteed distribution rates will increase for the next four years by the OEB who take orders from Bob Chiarelli, Minister of Energy.

We ratepayers with “little understanding” should be thankful our Liberal government is instituting distribution pricing to “benefit” customers?

Sure, and the gas plant moves cost only $40 million!

© Parker Gallant,

April 5, 2015

1.  Based on the number of customers, Hydro One was obviously not included in the analysis.

Ontario’s spooky “phantom power”: beware!

Ontario: we have to pay for more wind turbines because of THIS!
Ontario: we have to pay for more wind turbines because of THIS!

Phantom Power? Beware of Phantom messaging

The Conservation First theme of Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli‘s Long-term Energy Plan (LTEP), “Achieving Balance,” is in full swing these days as evident by the brochures that arrive in the mail, and with our (inflated) electricity bills.  The various local distribution companies (LDCs) are out promoting the  message where ever and whenever they can.  The brochure from Toronto Hydro told me to “BBQ my meals,” have an “energy-free night” once a week, and start an “energy waster jar” and fine my kids for leaving lights on!

They also tell me to unplug electronics to avoid paying for “phantom power.”

Hydro One has a lot to say about “phantom power” and this one is particularly amusing, as they first tell you to purchase “energy efficient” appliances but later on warn you:

“ Too many clocks in the kitchen? Appliances with clocks use electricity when not in use. When purchasing new appliances, look for ones without a clock feature. As well, if you have pay-tv services, you may want to keep your cable television converter powered up at all times, otherwise you risk rebooting problems.”

These are “words of wisdom”?

So the LDC providing you with progressively more expensive electricity tells you to stop wasting that “phantom power” but have no hesitation billing you for power you don’t consume.  The difference is they refer to “phantom power” as “line losses.”  In the case of Toronto Hydro, you are billed for 3.76% for power you didn’t consume—for Hydro One it can be as much as 9.2%.

That “phantom power” they don’t deliver is now hidden in the “delivery” line of your bill.

Conservation? Or, hypocrisy?

© Parker Gallant

April 7, 2015

 

Durham Citizens to appeal court decision on endangered species

Endangered Redside Dace: Ontario's environmental legislation is supposed to protect, not aid destruction
Endangered Redside Dace: Ontario’s environmental legislation is supposed to protect, not aid destruction

News Release from DACES/Durham Citizens for Endangered Species

The DACES (Durham Area Citizens for Endangered Species) Inc. judicial review of the MNRF (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) was heard in Brampton, Ontario, on March 19th, 2015.

The judicial review alleged that the MNRF failed to protect sensitive endangered species habitat from wind turbine construction in a protected area of Ontario. Primarily at issue was whether the Ontario Government, through its Ministry, allowed a for-profit corporation to “self-regulate” with regards to determining whether its construction activities would harm the habitat of an endangered species, the Redside Dace.

Judgement was handed down on March 25, 2015. The Court dismissed the DACES Inc. application, on the grounds that the decision made by the MNRF did not constitute a “statutory power of decision” which the Court could review judicially.

Respectfully, DACES Inc. disagrees with this finding, as in DACES Inc.’s view, amongst other concerns, it appears to contradict the Mandate of the MNRF as stated by Premier Kathleen Wynne (detailed below).

DACES Inc. will be filing a “Leave to Appeal” application within 15 days from March 25th. It is the hope of DACES Inc. that leave will be granted, which would allow the Ontario Court of Appeal to hear DACES Inc.’s concerns. DACES Inc. firmly believes this issue is one of concern to all Ontario citizens, who share a legacy of natural heritage that deserves to be protected.

The Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO) listed the Redside Dace as endangered in 2009 under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007.  Redside Dace was assessed as endangered in Canada by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in April of 2007. The Redside Dace is currently being considered for listing as endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA)

Premier Kathleen Wynne, in her September 2014 Mandate Letter to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, included the following directive: Implementing the Endangered Species Act. I ask that you continue to implement the act in a way that protects and promotes the recovery of species at risk in Ontario.

Respectfully, the decision of the MNRF, and subsequently the Court, does not appear to be fulfilling this mandate.

DACES v Ontario-Final Decision-March 25 2015

How to get those electricity bills down: Parker Gallant to Bob Chiarelli

 Parker Gallant to Bob Chiarelli: you can fix this. Here’s how.Parker Gallant has written an Open Letter to Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli, advising him on the courses of action he could take to get Ontario’s electricity bills down.

It has been posted on The Financial Post, here.

Parker Gallant, the former banker who several years ago launched FP Comment’s prophetic Ontario’s Power Trip campaign against the province’s expensive and pointless electricity industry reforms, has some new advice for the government. As the price of electricity soars, Ontario industries and consumers are being hammered by rate increases that seem never-ending. In an open letter today to Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli, Mr. Gallant lists a few easy initiatives the government could undertake to stop some of the madness and save consumers billions of dollars.  Terence Corcoran

To: Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli

Re: Dropping Ontario’s Price for Electricity

I have noted the difficulty you have experienced over the past several months trying to convince the media and the general population of Ontario they should simply bite the bullet and accept the fact that electricity prices will continue their above inflation climb. Having studied the situation I believe I have come up with some suggestions that would allow you to move things in the opposite direction.

First I suspect that Premier Wynne and Finance Minister Sousa exerted considerable pressure on you to come up with a scheme to help out the 500,000 to 700,000 “low-income” households in the province experiencing what is generally referred to as “energy poverty.” While the plan recommended came from the Ontario Energy Board and was altered somewhat by yourself I believe I have a better plan.

More on that later in this letter.

I also suspect that the Premier and Finance Minister told you unequivocally the OCEB was finished at the end of the year as they wish to wave better deficit numbers in front of those pesky credit rating agencies. The $1.2 billion that went to keep electricity rates down, a little bit, would no longer be available and they made that clear to you.

While you did your best to dance around the issue associated with the upcoming big jump in our electricity bills I could see the criticism was troublesome for you. As a result I believe my suggestions on what you should do will put some spring back in your step.

Here they are:

Recommendations to reduce future ratepayer bills

Conservation spending for the period 2015 to 2020 is forecast and budgeted at $1,835 million so drop it and that will provide close to $400 million annually that can go to reduce electricity prices.

Next, cancel the acquisition of the 500 MW of renewable wind and solar that you instructed IESO to acquire. That will save an estimated $200 million annually in future costs that would increase our rates.

I note there are 510 MW of wind generation contracts awarded that have not yet obtained their REA from the MoE and I recommend you also cancel those. I estimate that would provide relief from future increases of another $200 million per annum. I would suspect the costs of exiting these will be nominal.

Needless to say the cancellation of the above 1,010 MW of renewable energy will reduce future power surpluses meaning the HOEP might show some upward movement. That would allow all the dispatched wind and solar, spilled hydro, steamed off nuclear and idled gas to be sold via the market place to our neighbours. I estimate we could sell anywhere from 10/15 TWh annually at a price of somewhere around $40 million per TWh which would earn revenue of $400/600 million annually.

I would also cancel the new OESP plan which is estimated to cost $200 million (including a new administrative bureaucracy costing $20 million) annually.

Now if you do the math on the above the amount of money your portfolio would save in the future and also generate new income it totals $1.7 billion.

You could than use some of that $1.7 billion to both decrease electricity prices and provide relief for those suffering from “energy poverty.”

My recommendations on those two issues follow:

Recommendations to relieve “energy poverty”

First you should instruct the OEB that the .12% allocated to the LEAP program be increased immediately (providing you have completed the other recommendations) to 1% which will immediately make over $30 million available to the social agencies for relief purposes. You should also increase the maximums per household to $1,000 and instruct the OEB that the Return on Equity and/or Return on Assets for the LDC are to reflect a reduction to accommodate this.

Second you should drop the TOU off-peak rate from 7.7 cents per kWh to 5 cents per kWh. The cost of this would be about $350 million. It would also benefit many of those “low-income” households meaning they would no longer suffer from “energy poverty.” The other benefit is that the ratio of offpeak to on-peak would be much closer to the 3 : 1 ratio that the Auditor General suggested it should be and get more people to shift their use. It would also benefit our business community.

The cost of the two above recommendations are less than $400 million meaning ratepayers will be better off by avoiding future rate hikes and seeing some relief on existing rates. At the same time the TOU pricing will provide a clear signal that usage should shift preserving the “conservation” theme.

I certainly hope you will give my suggestions some serious thought and I do look forward to your response.

Yours truly,

Parker Gallant