Wind Concerns Ontario is a province-wide advocacy organization whose mission is to provide information on the potential impact of industrial-scale wind power generation on the economy, human health, and the natural environment.
Ministry of Energy Handing Out Renewable Contracts to Donor Companies
QUEEN’S PARK – Ontario’s archaic fundraising rules have continued to make news due to the appearance that large-scale corporate donations are having an impact on the business of the government. Today during Question Period, members of the Ontario PC Caucus highlighted a number of concerning donations from wind power companies, who in turn received government contracts.
“The Minister of Energy is a prolific fundraiser for the Liberal Party, because he needs to meet his cabinet seat quota. It is reported that the Minister of Energy’s fundraising target was as high as $300,000,” said Leader of the Official Opposition Patrick Brown. “That’s not an easy task for anyone. Some could raise that money through hard work, or maybe the minister found other ways.”
Over the last few years, seven renewable energy companies donated $255,000 to the Liberal Party, and in the latest round of renewable procurements all seven of those companies were awarded contracts from the Ministry of Energy. These contracts occurred despite the Auditor General confirming that the province is overproducing electricity and selling it at a loss.
Three wind companies, Enerfin, SWEB Developments, and Innergex, who have never donated to the Liberal Party of Ontario applied for contracts in the same round of procurement but didn’t receive any contracts.
“The Premier can deflect from the real reasons these unnecessary contracts are being signed but we all know she’s just paying it forward,” added PC Energy Critic and MPP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke John Yakabuski. “How can the Premier claim this is an impartial process when the companies that don’t donate get nothing and companies that donate a quarter of a million dollars get signed lucrative contracts?”
“Will the Premier tell us, has any Minister of Energy solicited donations for the Ontario Liberal Party from companies seeking grants or contracts with the government of Ontario, yes or no?” concluded Leader Patrick Brown.
In an effort to determine what track Energy Minister Chiarelli’s electric train is on I took a brief look at his ministerial forecast, “Achieving Balance”. My interest was piqued by a recent article suggesting China has put a chill on new wind power projects. As it turns out, China is having trouble because industrial wind turbines are “churning out power that’s being wasted” and they are being forced to curtail wind to ensure stability in some of the country’s grids.
Having recently noted the costs to Ontario ratepayers for just one day when power from wind was being curtailed, I decided to examine costs on a longer term. Thanks to Scott Luft, who does an incredible job of logging estimated curtailments of industrial wind turbines (IWT), I was able to determine the results for the final quarter of 2015. Total estimated curtailments for the Quarter ended December 31, 2015 were 434,750 megawatt hours (MWh).
An Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) report released a couple of weeks age claimed IWT-generated 3.0 terawatts (TWh) in the last quarter of 2015, so, if one includes curtailed wind, ratepayers were obliged to pay for 3,434,750 MWh. That represents 93.9% of net exports (exports of 5.401 TWh less imports of 1.742 TWh) or 63.6% of gross exports.
What this means is that in the fourth quarter of 2015, wind-generated electricity was all surplus to our needs, without including steamed off nuclear, or spilled hydro!
The 3,434,750 MWh is estimated to have cost ratepayers approximately $460 million. The 3 TWh of electricity IWT delivered to the grid cost about $405 million and the curtailed cost was almost $55 million. During the quarter, the HOEP1. averaged $1.50/MWh, meaning if all of generated and curtailed wind was a part of the 5.4 TWh exported, it would have generated only a shade over $5 million —that would have reduced the cost to ratepayers to $455 million. With 92 days in the last quarter of 2015, the money paid by Ontario ratepayers averaged daily was almost $5 million.
Back to Energy Minister Chiarelli’s “Achieving Balance” long-term energy plan, we should be captivated by the promise made: “Significant ratepayer savings will be realized as a result of reduced Feed-in Tariff (FIT) prices, the ability to dispatch wind generation, the amended Green Energy Investment Agreement, and the decision to defer new nuclear.”
Clearly the “significant ratepayer savings” promised by Minister Chiarelli was for the benefit of our neighbours who purchase our surplus electricity at a fraction of the costs to Ontario ratepayers.
It is well past the time for Minister Chiarelli to look at China’s position and to cease any further procurement of IWT generation, or is the Ontario Liberal Party too dependent on party donations from the IWT developers as suggested in a recent article emanating from Queen’s Park?
Citizens, municipal and provincial politicians and environmental groups met with Ontario Environmental Commissioner yesterday, detailing environmental, health and economic impacts from wind power projects and thousands of complaints about turbine noise. The Commissioner says she can’t do anything
Prince Edward County councillor Steve Ferguson and Mayor Robert Quaiff, and Warren Howard of Wind Concerns Ontario at the meeting table in Toronto yesterday [Photo: Todd Smith MPP]
April 5, 2016 TORONTO—
Wind Concerns Ontario was one of the presenters at a meeting in Toronto Monday with Ontario’s new Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe. The meeting was organized and led by MPP Lisa Thompson, environment critic for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.
Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) introduced its presentation by stating that our members of the coalition of community groups and individuals are about the impact of industrial- or utility-scale wind power development on the economy, environment and human health. “That sounds like three things, but it isn’t,” President Jane Wilson told the Commissioner. “The environment is everything: it is the economy, it is the natural environment, and it is health.”
Warren Howard, in speaking for WCO, detailed the fact that Ontario’s noise regulations are inadequate to protect health, which is borne out by research including the Health Canada noise study and the Cape Bridgewater study, to name two. He said that WCO learned from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change that there are more than 2,700 files of noise complaints. Details have been requested under Freedom of Information from the Ministry but not produced after a year; the matter is now in the hands of Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner.
Wind Concerns told the Commissioner that it is not merely audible noise that is the problem but infrasound/low frequency noise that produces unique sensation among some individuals exposed to the emissions. The group referred to several individual locations as examples of problems such as Prince Edward County where an eminent acoustics specialist testified before the Environmental Review Tribunal that virtually everyone in that community would be exposed to the turbine noise emissions. WCO also mentioned the Niagara project where thousands of homes will be within 1.5 km of 77 industrial-scale turbines. By conservative estimates, as many as 1,000 people could be affected by exposure to the noise emissions.
WCO concluded its presentation by asserting that the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change is not fulfilling its mandate of ensuring a “healthy environment” for Ontarians. Wind Concerns asked the Commissioner for a full review of Ontario’s noise regulations under Section 61 under the Environmental Protection Act.
Other presenters made striking presentations including Barbara Ashbee of Victims of Wind, City of Kawartha Lakes councilor Heather Stauble, Prince Edward County councilor Steve Ferguson and Robert Quaiff, Mayor of Prince Edward County, and Deputy Mayor Dutton-Dunwich, Bob Purcell. Representatives of citizens’ groups from Bruce County and Huron County also presented reports of environmental and health problems. There have been so many complaints of poor health from turbine noise emissions in Huron County, people told the Commissioner that, where the Health Unit has launched a formal investigation .
Mayor Quaiff detailed several environmental concerns about the two wind power projects proposed for Prince Edward County, saying that not only were the power plants to be built on land where endangered Blandings turtles and Little Brown Bats are found, the sites are also on important migratory pathways for birds. “Questions are not being answered,” he said, about the effects of materials used in turbine construction such as the reinforced steel bars and concrete foundations, which will leach into the water table. He added that the turbines will have a negative impact on the wineries locally, and the bird-watching areas. “The South Shore is the last undeveloped shoreline on Lake Ontario,” he said. “I think it should stay that way.”
MPPs Todd Smith, Laurie Scott and Jeff Yurek were also at the meeting.
In her closing remarks MPP Lisa Thompson said that while everyone wants to do the right thing for the environment, key parts of the wind power process are “not working.” “What is working,” MPP Thompson said, “is we have an Environmental Commissioner and I hope we can move forward.”
Commissioner Saxe said that her office is dealing with hundreds of issues and can realistically handle only five or six a year. She acknowledged “the passion” expressed in the meeting today but in the short term, she couldn’t do anything, and in the long term “we’ll have to see.”
MPP Thompson said that this serious issue is affecting “so many communities” that she hoped the Commissioner’s office would review all the information in the submissions presented.
These spring windy days are costing you: Ontario’s Wynne government pays millions for power it can’t use including wind, produced exactly when we don’t need it.
More than $13 million wasted on windy last day of March
By Parker Gallant
March 2016 left like a lion with the wind roaring mightily. Wind on March 31st could have generated over 90% of its IESO posted capacity of almost 3,900 MW— but it didn’t. Demand was relatively low in Ontario that day, with users requiring only 359,000 MWh. That meant the IESO folks were busy getting nuclear to steam off (about 26,000 MWh), spilling hydro, and actively curtailing wind.
Curtailed wind generation on that day exceeded both Ontario’s net exports of 31,400 MWh, and wind-generated electricity actually delivered to the grid. Our exported surplus was sold at a negative average price of the HOEP (hourly Ontario energy price) as we paid New York, Michigan, Quebec, and others $1.71/MWh to take our excess power.
We also paid wind power generators in the neighbourhood of $120 per MWh to curtail an estimated 40,500 MWh.
Our production costs for the month of March are collectively estimated at $117/MWh, suggesting the Global Adjustment (GA) will average about $112/MWh and the HOEP will average around $5/MWh. That means the cost of the day’s full generation of 400,224 MWh (Ontario Demand + exports) at an estimated $46.8 million. Included in that figure are costs for net exports, steamed off nuclear, spilled hydro, curtailed wind, and idling gas plants, needed to back up wind and solar.
The one-day costs included in the $46.8 million are: an estimated $1.5 million for Bruce Power to steam off nuclear; $3 million to pay idling gas plants; $3.7 million to pay for our exported surplus; and about $4.8 million for curtailed wind.
Without including costs for spilled hydro, the total costs for energy not needed for just one day came to about $13 million. We should be grateful the sun wasn’t shining too or we would have been paying for solar generation at even higher prices. We also saved about $15/MWh or $600,000 March 31st by curtailing wind generation or the $13 million daily cost would have been higher.
Now, try to imagine how that $13 million might have helped out our health care system, perhaps by retaining nurses at many hospitals such as Windsor, North Bay, etc., where recent staff reductions have occurred. No wonder an Ontario Health Coalition study a year ago stated: “we have been deeply disturbed at the devastating cuts we are seeing to needed public hospital care all across Ontario.”
The money that should be earmarked for health care is finding its way into the pockets of the mainly foreign wind turbine and solar panel developers instead of actually helping out Ontarians.
Time to scrap the acquisition of more intermittent wind and solar generation and earmark the money where it belongs. Ontarians don’t want to see $13 million wasted daily, just to pretend wind and solar are better than emission-free nuclear and hydro.
We present a collection of stories that review the manner in which strategies that are supposedly positive for the environment have been enacted (usually without any sort of cost-benefit or full impact analysis), and what the results are to date.
From Terence Corcoran’s review in The Financial Post, to a review of German energy policy (this is a sad, sad story worthy of Dickens), an article in Prince Edward County’s Wellington Times (one of the last independent newspapers in Canada) on a wind power developer’s arrogance, and last, an opinion on what the real effect on the local environment green energy policies are in reality, the collection deserves a read … and consideration by the Ontario government.
Will they? In the words of the team of academics lead by the University of Ottawa’s Stewart Fast, writing recently about the disastrous implementation of the Green Energy Act on Ontario communities, “Our recommendations will unfortunately remain unaddressed, without further consideration or assessment of the lessons that could be learned.” [Fast et al. Lessons learned from Ontario wind energy disputes, January, 2016]
Terence Corcoran, The Financial Post, “Clean, green, and catastrophic.” (Note: our Parker Gallant provided some figures for this article.)
Handelsblatt (Global edition) “How to kill an industry”. (Thanks to energy economist Robert Lyman in Ottawa for sending this in.)
Rick Conroy, The Wellington Times, “There’s always a catch.” (“The wolf has been sent to find out what’s killing all the lambs …” Conroy writes.)
Last, this letter to the editor of Ontario Farmer, excerpted here.
“Off-grid will make a bad situation worse for reluctant grid payees”
A farming friend recently took me on a “crop tour” of rural businesses that are partially or fully off-grid. We saw a sawmill, a pressed-steel manufacturer, a maker of wood-burning stoves, a cabinet-maker and an ethanol plant. Finding it progressively more difficult to remain profitable in the agricultural business with skyrocketing electrical costs, my friend is seriously looking at more cost-effective alternatives. If going off-grid works for others, perhaps it will work for him.
“Off-grid” means that these business owners are no longer victims of usurious hydro rates the Ontario Green Energy Act (GEA) has imposed on the vast majority who obtain electricity from Hydro One and other such utility companies. Are these enterprises trailblazers illuminating a path to greater energy independence for other beleaguered hydro ratepayers?
Or are they creating an even greater financial burden for those who remain on the grid?
And what may be the environmental impact if a great many businesses follow suit?
Operating the Ontario power grid has become exorbitantly expensive under the GEA. It is becoming ever more expensive as greater numbers of windmills spring up to further sully our rural landscapes. … Operating costs of a centralized generation and distribution system are borne by all users. The more users there are, the less share of fixed costs each user pays. Businesses fleeing to off-grid energy alternatives leave fewer users on-grid bearing fixed costs; thus, each user pays more. While going off-grid may financially benefit those who do it, greater economic burden falls on those remaining on-grid, and most have no choice.
Fossil fuels are the primary energy source for off-grid users. Electricity to run their businesses must be generated by some sort of power plant, typically an internal combustion engine driving and electrical generator. It’s far removed from the most cost-effective or environmentally friendly way to generate and distribute electricity —the way we used to do it — but the GEA has made grid power so prohibitively expensive off-grid generation has become economically viable for major energy users.