Serious criticisms of Hydro One missing from Ombudsman report

Me, me, me, and, did I mention--me?
Me, me, me, and, did I mention–me?

Fifteen months after it was launched, the report from Andre Marin, Ontario’s Ombudsman, is finally out.

Exactly why it took 15 months to complete is worrisome: there have been literally dozens and dozens of articles on this issue, an Auditor General’s report, numerous letters to the editor, TV and radio exposure, etc., that detailed Hydro One’s billing and smart meter problems since the Ombudsman’s announcement of an investigation.

Hydro One was the fifth most complained about provincial entity for the 2011 and 2012 year, according to the Ombudsman’s own annual reports. Many of the articles and letters go back well before the launch of his investigation.  Most of those earlier complaints were connected to billing issues as a result of “smart meters” installed by Hydro One, but Mr. Marin clearly states in the 119-page report  “we received many complaints about subjects that were not the focus of this investigation – chiefly, electricity pricing and smart meters.”  Were those complaints included in his estimation of the 10,000 plus he claimed they investigated?

Why were “smart meter” related issues simply ignored?  Was it a lack of technical abilities within the Ombudsman’s office, or a case of being overwhelmed by the billing problems? Why wouldn’t the Ombudsman at least note in one of his 66 recommendations that someone with the technical skills should investigate the “smart meter” problems?

Surprisingly the report also says nothing about how the Ontario Energy Board has ignored Hydro One’s problems with the smart meters, nothing about the Energy Ministry’s role or their lack of oversight, and basically nothing critical of Hydro One’s senior management and its apparent failings.  Was Mr. Marin concerned any critique about those subjects might lead to his contract not being renewed?  If that was the case he doesn’t deserve to be our watchdog.

I have reviewed the findings in the report and his 66 recommendations and found many to be repetitive and overlapping.  I also found the report skirted many of the issues that needed examination as the root cause of the billing problems.   In my humble opinion, the Ombudsman’s prejudice against the private sector also shines brightly in the report as does his self-proclamation of his personal skill sets.

©Parker Gallant,

May 30, 2015

Read more Parker Gallant on the Ombudsman report here: Ombudsman’s report-the good, the bad and the ugly

Mothers Against Turbines: not done!

Niagara This Week, May 29

‘We’re not done yet’ say wind turbine opponents

                    Environmental Review Tribunal tosses MAWT case

Grimsby Lincoln News

By             Amanda Moore                                 

                            A group of mothers is not done fighting the onslaught of 77 wind turbines in their community despite a ruling against them by the Environmental Review Tribunal.

The ERT dismissed the case against the Niagara Region Wind Corp. project brought forward by Mothers Against Turbines Inc. in a decision issued in May.

“The Tribunal finds that the Appellant has not established that engaging in the Project in accordance with the REA will cause serious harm to human health,” ERT vice-chair Dirk VanderBent wrote in his decision. “The Tribunal further finds that the Appellant has not established that engaging in the Project in accordance with the REA will cause serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment.

“The Tribunal finds that the Appellant has not established that s. 142.1 of the EPA (Environmental Protection Act) violates the right to security of the person under s. 7 of the Charter.”

The decision came after a series of hearings held earlier this year in Wellandport and Wainfleet.

“We’re not done yet,” said Linda Rogers, MAWT director. “That’s the take home message from this. We are looking at other options carefully.”

Rogers said the decision was disappointing, but not unexpected. Despite several appeals filed by groups similar to MAWT — including the West Lincoln Glanbrook Wind Action Group — only one has had a victory at the ERT level.

Paramount to MAWT’s claims are that the proposed project will cause serious harm to children’s health as well as the environment. Rogers said just because the ERT ruled otherwise, doesn’t mean the issues disappear.

“The issues don’t go away because of the decision,” she said. “The ERT has ruled consistently that there is insufficient evidence, that doesn’t mean there is no evidence.”

MAWT is hopeful a recent decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal will help their case. Last month, the appeals court ruled that a nine-turbine project in Prince Edward County put the threatened Blanding’s turtle at even more risk. The medium-sized turtle with a smile-like expression can be found in the footprint of the NRWC project. According to MAWT member Loretta Shields, who testified at January’s hearing, 20 of the 77 turbines are sited in known Blanding’s habitats. The appeals court ruled the network of roads required to construct and service the project would put the turtle at risk. MAWT argued the same was true in regards to the NRWC project, but the ERT ruled the issue was outside the scope of the appeal.

“There are no rules for wind developers,” said Rogers. “If you want to build a garage, you can’t do it. If you want to open a business, you can’t do it. But if you want to build a wind project, blast holes and tear up roads it’s game on.”

Rogers said her group is not giving up, but is taking a pause to regroup and decide on the next steps. Appealing the ERT decision is one option MAWT is considering.

“We are moms of children,” said Rogers. “Our goal has always been to protect our kids, protect our community and protect our environment.”

 

Drennans denied appeal

Lawyer Julian Falconer, appellants and supporters in London, last year
Lawyer Julian Falconer, appellants and supporters in London, last year

For Immediate Release 

HIGHEST COURT IN ONTARIO DECLINES TO HEAR WIND APPEAL

FARM FAMILIES DISAPPOINTED

May 29, 2015 

On May 28, 2015, the Court of Appeal for Ontario denied leave to appeal to the Drennans, Dixons, Ryans, and the Kroeplins, in respect of their Charter Challenge to the current legislation for the approval of wind turbine projects.

These farm families had been seeking the opportunity to argue that the Environmental Protection Act provisions approving renewable energy projects exposes them to a reasonable prospect of serious harm to their health and therefore does not comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Health Canada Study Summary Results released on November 6, 2014, showed an association between wind turbine noise and annoyance, and an association between wind turbine noise annoyance and sleep disturbances, migraines, tinnitus, dizziness, and measured blood pressure and hair cortisol.

Shawn Drennan commented on the Court of Appeal’s decision: “We are disappointed with the Court’s decision not to hear our case. No one has been able to tell us that the turbines are safe.  We are being told that we have to wait to be harmed before we can do anything to stop them. The Court has given us two choices: leave the land my family has farmed for three generations, or be a guinea pig for the government and the wind companies.”

Lawyer for the farm families, Julian N. Falconer commented: “This decision will leave people like my clients, who face massive wind development projects across this Province, in an impossible position. The Health Canada Study has already shown an association between the turbines and serious health effects. My clients and other families in rural Ontario will now have to suffer these adverse health effects before they can seek any relief from our court system. It won’t surprise anyone that my clients are frustrated with a process that seems to be stacked against them.” 

While this decision may restrict these farm families from pursuing Charter remedies for these harms, they are committed to exploring the other legal options available to them and to holding both the government and the wind turbine companies accountable for the failure to protect their health.

Concerned citizen groups throughout the Province remain committed to seeking justice for those in rural communities affected by industrial wind projects.

For further information, please contact Odi Dashsambuu of Falconers LLP at

416-964-0495, extension 248.

 

Community meeting May 30 in Denbigh

Map of addington highlands

PUBLIC MEETING

SATURDAY, MAY 30TH, 2015

1 P.M.

DENBIGH COMMUNITY HALL 

TOPIC:

Industrial Wind Turbine Proposal in

Addington Highlands & North Frontenac Townships

GUEST SPEAKERS:

Parker Gallant

 VP WindConcernsOntario

Regular contributor to the Financial Post on matters related to the energy sector

Carmen Krogh

Published Researcher

Health Effects & Industrial wind energy facilities

Hydro One: explaining the unexplainable

Many puzzling over their Hydro One bills might head for the distribution company’s website where, Parker Gallant says, they will be no farther ahead.

It was shortly after Ontario’s Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk, released her damning report on “smart meters” when Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli suggested she got it wrong because “The electricity system is very complex, it’s very difficult to understand.”

Maybe Mr. Chiarelli will say the same thing about the recent “Understand my Bill” posting on Hydro One’s websit, as it misses the mark in several ways.  It is seven pages long (should you print it out) which is an indication of just how “complex” the Liberals have made things for electricity consumers.

Here are a few questions:

Why does Hydro One describe their “typical residential customer” as a user of 800 kWh per month but when applying for rate increases they use 1,000 kWh per month?

Why are two (2) charts missing from the website?

Why does the pie chart, “how the money is spent” have “replacing worn out equipment” in one slice and “new or higher rated equipment” in another slice?

Why does the pie chart claim 3% is for administration expenses when their filing with the OEB for the Yearbook of Distributors for 2013 indicates it is 23% of all expenses for their distribution business?

Why is the “Three column chart showing how delivery charges are calculated” missing?

Why does the chart, “A breakdown of your bill” indicate there are only “Over 400 generators” while the OPA/IESO indicates there are over 23,000 contracts?

Why does this chart indicate HST is 12% when it is actually 13%?

Why does the text following the heading “How we deliver electricity” suggest “electricity is created by harnessing other power sources like windmills,” and go on to say “or burning coal across the province”? Is Hydro One unaware that the coal plants have been shuttered?

Why do they claim they have $22 billion in equipment and later on indicate they have spent $7.3 billion in the last three years indicating they would fully replace all their equipment over a nine-year time span but still claim their focus is “on maintaining the performance of our aging infrastructure?”  Aren’t most transformers built to last 30 years?

Under “Frequently asked questions” why do they use the smallest recent rate increase in the chart subtitled “How much will my bill increase” which varies from a low of .01% to a high of 7.8%?

Why under this same section the question posed is:  “Why are my residential delivery rates increasing? I was told they were going to be reduced”  and the answer provided is: “We’re sorry for the confusion. When we applied to the OEB we thought delivery rates would be reduced for a typical residential medium density customer who uses 800 kWh a month.”  Why would they suggest that, knowing they applied for a rate increase, and exactly who did Hydro One tell rates were going to be reduced?

Following this and another question the site launches into a confusing array of combining TOU increases and delivery rate increases suggesting increases were effective January 1, 2015 but they are not going to be implemented until May 1, 2015 but an eight-month adjustment period will occur to catch up for the missing increases.

Is it perhaps too much to ask that those 70% of Hydro One employees on the Sunshine List to understand what they are billing their 1.2 million customers?

Minister Chiarelli should provide all Ontario ratepayers with an explanation but I suspect he will repeat that it is too complex to understand.

©Parker Gallant,

May 28, 2015

Suncor, NextEra proposing new wind farms in Lambton

People are not happy: local mayor. Democracy absent in Ontario
People are not happy: local mayor. Democracy absent in Ontario

Paul Morden, Sarnia Observer, May 26, 2015

Suncor is proposing another wind power project in Lambton County.

The company says it’s planning to bid for a renewable energy contract with the province for a 60-MW Nauvoo Wind Power Project proposed for eastern Lambton’s Warwick and Brooke-Alvinston townships.

Recently, Suncor, along with project partner NextEra, began construction of the 100-MW, 46-turbine, Cedar Point wind farm in Plympton-Wyoming, Lambton Shores and Warwick.

The company has scheduled public meetings in June for its new Nauvoo proposal.

“It’s very much in the early stages of the provincial process,” said Suncor spokesperson Jason Vaillant.

“We’re looking to start the conversation with the community.”

Applications from companies seeking contracts to build up to 300 MW of new wind energy generation across the province are due to be submitted by Sept. 1 to Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator, with the successful bids expected to be announced late in the year.

NextEra is also working on a proposal for a 100-MW to 120-MW wind project in Warwick, Brooke-Alvinston and neighbouring Adelaide-Metcalfe Township in Middlesex County.

NextEra’s 92-turbine Jericho wind project began operating last year in Lambton Shores and Warwick.

The project area for Suncor’s Nauvoo proposal covers a large portion of Warwick and extends south into Brooke-Alvinston to Petrolia Line.

Suncor said proposed turbine locations have not been determined yet.

“It’s relatively new,” Vaillant said.

“It’s some of the property that we’ve accumulated over the last number of years working in this area, along with some new properties.”

Brooke-Alvinston Mayor Don McGugan said the company is scheduled to make a presentation at a township council meeting June 11.

“It’s a hot topic, and a lot of people are not very happy,” he said about wind energy projects proposed for the township.

“But, as a council, we do not have control and we have to work with the odds we’re given.”

McGugan added he has heard of additional wind project proposals for the area.

McGugan said Brooke-Alvinston council is expected to be asked in the coming months by NextEra to consider passing a motion supporting its proposal, known as the Hardy Creek Wind Energy Centre.

“It’ll be tough,” McGugan said.

“People have got to realize that even if we don’t give them a motion, they can still come.”

Ontario recently changed the way it awards large renewable energy projects to give company’s extra points for bids with municipal council support.

But, McGugan said, lack of council support isn’t enough to stop a wind project.

Several years ago, Ontario took away municipal planning powers for renewable energy projects.

McGugan said residents in the township are split over the issue of wind turbines.

McGugan said he turned down a wind company land agent who approached him several years ago about leasing land on his own farm.

But McGugan has taken heat for saying he believes the township should try to get the community the best deal from wind companies it can if a turbine project is approved by the provincial government.

“No matter what council does, we’re walking a slippery slope,” McGugan said.

“If they come and we make a deal, well, we’re wrong. And, if they come and we don’t make a deal, we’ve let an opportunity slip.”

The township is already host to a small four-turbine wind project.

paul.morden@sunmedia.ca

Suncor has scheduled three public open houses for its 60-MW Nauvoo Wind Power Project proposal:

• June 22, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Brooke-Alvinston-Inwood Community Centre, Walnut Street, Alvinston;

• June 23, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Warwick Community Centre, Egremont Road, Warwick;

• June 24, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Adelaide-Metcalfe Township Hall, Egremont Drive, Strathroy.

April 2015: surplus wind power costs Ontario millions

Energy Minister hiding his head over consumer losses due to surplus power, lots of it wind
Energy Minister hiding his head over consumer losses due to surplus power, lots of it wind

Electricity exports cost heading for $2 billion in 2015

The continued costs to Ontario’s ratepayers for the oversupply of electricity generation in Ontario continued in April 2015; we exported another 2 terawatts (TWh) of power to our neighbours.  April’s exported TWh brings exports for the first four months of 2015 to 8.65 TWh — that’s enough to supply 900,000 average Ontario ratepayers with power for a full year.

Surplus exports represented over 19% of Ontario’s total demand for the month; that figure doesn’t include curtailed wind, steamed-off nuclear or spilled hydro.

The cost (Hourly Ontario Electricity Price + Global Adjustment) to ratepayers for exported power in April was $223 million. We sold it for 1.57 cents per kilowatt hour, thereby generating only $32 million. Ontario’s electricity ratepayers had to eat $191 million in losses that will find their way to the Global Adjustment pot and the “electricity” line on our bills.

As noted in a prior article, the first quarter of the current year generated losses (costs to ratepayers) of $437 million. So now, with the April figures, those costs to date are $608 million or $135 per ratepayer.

We still have eight months left in the year: at the current pace, our bill to support surplus exports will amount to over $400 for the average ratepayer.

Wind power generation for April represented 39% of the exported volume as it produced about 850,000 MWh (megawatt hours) at an average of $123.50 per/MWh, meaning its cost of $104 million represented almost 50% of total export costs.

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli doesn’t seem to notice our growing surplus*; however, he has directed the IESO to acquire another 500 MW of renewable energy from wind and solar in 2015, and mandated conservation of another 7 TWh by 2020.

Time to stop digging the hole.

© Parker Gallant

May 27, 2015

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

 Editor’s note: speaking at a wind power information evening in Finch, Ontario, on May 6th, Ontario Federation of Agriculture president Don McCabe said there is no surplus of power in Ontario. This is a lot of lost power and a lot of losses to electricity consumers—including farmers—to deny.

Where were you in protecting endangered species? MPP Hudak asks Minister of Natural Resources

Where were YOU MPP Tim Hudak asks Minister of Natural Resources
Where were YOU? MPP Tim Hudak asks Minister of Natural Resources

Yesterday, MPP Tim Hudak rose to ask a question about the Blandings turtle, which is an officially endangered species in Ontario, and whose habitat is now threatened by the approved Niagara Region wind power project.

Here is the record of the exchange:

Mr. Tim Hudak: My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. Minister, Blanding’s turtle is a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Where it exists in Ontario, it lives in shallow waterways and wetlands, including the Niagara peninsula. They are uniquely vulnerable to extinction because it takes 20 years before females start to reproduce.

The Ontario courts made the decision recently that set a precedent: When choosing between industrial wind turbines and a threatened species, Blanding’s turtle, they sided with the turtle, tossing out a wind farm application. It was the right decision. It was the right thing to do.

My question simply is, if it’s right in Prince Edward county, shouldn’t we protect the Blanding’s turtle environment everywhere in the province of Ontario?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Hon. Bill Mauro: I want to thank the member for the question. Before he concluded, I was gathering my thoughts—and the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, who I know would love to weigh in on this as well was having a similar thought and lobbed it over to me. He found it, I think, as I did, very interesting that the official opposition is asking a question in this regard.

The member posed a question. He seems to be supportive of what has happened in this case. I would assume that in the supplementary, he’s going to come forward with some information that suggests that in another instance the Blanding’s turtle did not carry the day. I would assume that’s the point of the question that’s coming forward. I look forward to hearing exactly what he has to say.

I’m happy to hear that in the first question he was happy that the Endangered Species Act, which we brought into place, actually did have an effect to protect endangered species. I’m happy to hear that you’re pleased with the legislation, although I don’t think it’s legislation that you supported when it was originally introduced into the House.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. Tim Hudak: I thank the minister for anticipating my question. I just would hope to get a single answer from the minister about how he’s going to protect the threatened species in the province.

You got it exactly right: The courts have determined in the decision that steel turbines 500 metres tall cemented in 40 truckloads of concrete in a wetland should lose out to a threatened species, the Blanding’s turtle. I agree with that decision; I’m sure you agree with that decision as well.

My point is, Minister, why was it that it was the courts that had to force your hand? Where were you? You’re the minister. You need to know your role and play it. You have the lead on the Endangered Species Act in the province of Ontario. Instead of waiting for the courts to intervene in the Niagara peninsula, will you do the right thing? Your choice is between the turtle or more steel. What should be in the wetlands, the endangered species or—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Minister.

Hon. Bill Mauro: Speaker, with the legislation in place, there is a committee called COSSARO, the Committee on—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): It’s never too late.

Finish, please.

Hon. Bill Mauro: Under the legislation—that I don’t think the opposition supported and they seem to be loving now—COSSARO stands for the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario. They make a decision on when a species is listed. Once it’s listed, it receives protection, and the habitat for the species also receives protection. Through that—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Niagara West, I’m standing. You should know that.

Finish, please.

Hon. Bill Mauro: Through that process, once the species is listed and the habitat is protected and a project is overlaid on that particular species and its habitat, there is a process in place called overall benefit, where if the contractor or the proponent can come forward and provide a way to accommodate the species—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

Power policies in Ontario: sacrificing the most vulnerable

Tell it to Bob: electricity bills now higher than rent for some Ontario residents
Tell it to Bob: electricity bills now higher than rent for some Ontario residents

Ontario’s current Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli is not afraid of issuing directives to his underlings.  On October 23, 2014 he directed the OPA to initiate a CDM (conservation and demand management) program to reduce demand by 7 TWh (terawatt hours) between Jan. 1, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2020.  The budget to produce those results is $2.4 billion or $400 million annually.

Conservation directives date to Donna Cansfield’s time in the Energy Minister’s chair and her February 10, 2006 NB: one; when she told the newly formed OPA  “I hereby direct the OPA to assume, effective as of the date of this letter of direction, responsibility for seeking up to 300 MW demand side management and/or demand response initiatives in the Toronto area by 2010.  In recognition of Toronto Hydro’s existing and planned conservation initiative funded through to September 2007, it is expected that the OPA will work cooperatively with Toronto Hydro and the community in the Toronto area”.

The “Conservation First” theme was recently echoed by IESO’s VP, Market and Resource Development in a speech at the Ontario Power Summit.  A quote from the speech:  “Conservation and demand response are providing clean, cost-effective alternatives to generation, and technological advances are leading to new possibilities through energy management tools, low-cost solar panels and energy storage.”

The billions spent and the billions to be spent on conservation programs get dumped into the Global Adjustment pot, added to the cost of electricity, and has been a factor in its continuing rise.  The revenue lost through conservation is simply replaced by a rise in the commodity and delivery charges—that is felt by the most vulnerable.  A recent story in the Toronto Star related to a Toronto Community Housing complex highlighted the effects of all that spending: “Tenants in a downtown Toronto Community Housing development are struggling to cope after being slapped with unexpectedly high hydro bills this winter. In some cases the bills were hundreds of dollars more than their rent, and several residents say having to make the payments left them without money for other essentials such as food.”  Foregone medication was mentioned by others.

There was more:  “Toronto Hydro spokesperson Tori Gass wouldn’t comment on whether the bills were excessive, but said the agency was expecting an increase in power consumption this winter because of the unusually cold weather.”  That comment was the opposite of what Hydro One reported in their first quarter release as they noted transmission revenue was down due to “milder weather in the first quarter of 2015, compared to the same period in 2014”.

The two biggest local distribution companies in the province can’t even agree on recent weather events!

So, let’s get this straight: conservation spending, coupled with adding thousands of megawatts of subsidized renewable energy from wind and solar, has put many of Ontario’s most vulnerable in a position where they must choose between “heat or eat.”

This is a legacy the Ontario Liberal government should be ashamed of.

©Parker Gallant

May 25, 2015

 

NB:  The directive is dated “2005” at the top but “2006” at the bottom.

Julian Falconer update on wind farm fight Tuesday

TheTalkShow-Logo

Lawyers Julian Falconer and Asha James will appear on radio CHOK at 9 a.m. Tuesday May 26.

Listen live at http://chok.com/

Also tomorrow:

Important Town Hall Event at Camlachie Community Centre

 

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

 

7-8:30 p.m.

 

SPEAKERS:  Julian N Falconer and Asha James from Falconers LLP and WAIT-PW

 

 

Construction of Suncor and Nextera’s Cedar Point Industrial