Wind turbine leases need detailed legal review, lawyer says

3-MW wind turbine and house near Brinston, south of Ottawa. Lawyers need to review every word of contracts for their clients. [Photo: Ray Pilon, Ottawa]
3-MW wind turbine and house near Brinston, south of Ottawa. Lawyers need to review every word of contracts for their clients. [Photo: Ray Pilon, Ottawa]
Lawyer Garth Manning, a retired Queen’s Counsel, advises lawyers that their help is needed by clients considering signing wind turbine leases or options to lease. In an opinion piece in the current Law Times, Manning says that landowners may focus only on the amount of money they can receive by signing the document, and overlook many important features of the agreement.

“Typically, the wind power proponent incorporates a subsidiary for each individual project. Its agents obtain turbine sites from farmers who have limited understanding of what they’re being asked to do, which is to sign an Option to Lease many pages long; in this option may be a ‘further assurances’ clause that obligates them, if the option is exercised, to sign a form of lease.

“That document, many more pages long, is by far the most lessee-friendly imaginable to any real property lawyer, experienced or otherwise.

“Those farmers badly need legal advice; local law associations should emphasize this to their members,” Manning advises.

Manning emphasizes the impact of the agreement on farming practices, and on communities. Neighbours may not be too happy with the noise and effect on property value, he adds.

“Many of us went to law school in the belief that lawyers help people in trouble,” he concludes for the Law Times readers. “Here is a golden opportunity for lawyers to step up and provide the advice that is so badly needed.”

Read the full article here.

Stop digging the hole, utility company tells Wynne

Niagara On The Lake Hydro sent an open letter to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, outlining the steps the government needs to take to get costs down, and halt the unsustainable rise of electricity costs. “When you are in a hole,” President Tim Curtis said, “the best thing is to stop digging.”

The news release and letter can be read here and an excerpt follows.

There are concrete actions that can be taken both immediately and in the medium term to reduce the cost of electricity or slow down the increase.  NOTL Hydro has the lowest delivery charge in the Niagara region not because of anything special we have done but because of a fifteen year focus on managing the business to keep costs low for our customers.  This focus can be replicated at the Provincial level. The chart above shows that the driver of the increase in costs is generally not at the municipal LDC nor transmission level (both in line with inflation) but at the generation level.

Immediate actions include:

  1. Announce that you will stop immediately signing any FIT and MicroFit contracts and move as soon as possible to net metering.  This will prevent encumbering the system with more expensive contracts.  As you are moving to net metering you are not repudiating your climate action plan but accelerating the move to its next phase.  As a sign of our commitment, if you announce this by the end of September 2016 we will cancel our FIT contract.
  2. Eliminate the MDM/R branch of the IESO and their activities.  This branch collects the smart meter data and all their activities are redundant as are duplicated by the local distribution companies who need the information for billing.  If you announce you are eliminating this cost you can also announce you will be removing the $0.79 monthly charge on every customer’s bill.  While not a large amount this would be a symbolic gesture of the new direction.
  3. Recognize that the earlier FIT and MicroFIT contracts were overpriced and transfer the excess cost to the OEFC.  While this will increase the debt of the Province it will also reduce the cost of electricity which is needed to sustain jobs and keep Ontario competitive.
  4. Meet with industrial business representatives such as in the steel industry to develop plans that mitigate the impact time of use pricing is having on the drivers of our economy. This needs to be done in a manner that does not just transfer the cost to residential customers.

 

See the full letter for more actions suggested by Niagara On The Lake Hydro.

Six years of energy assault on Ontario municipalities says Mayor

No justice for Ontario communities under the Green Energy Act: removing democratic rights and ignoring calls to end subsidies
No justice for Ontario communities under the Green Energy Act: removing democratic rights and ignoring calls to end subsidies

September 14, 2016

Now 112 Ontario municipalities have either passed a resolution demanding change to the wind power contracting process, or have endorsed a resolution to that effect, and it’s all because of “six years of energy assault,” says the Mayor of Enniskillen Township.
In a letter published in Ontario Farmer, Kevin Marriott says that “Rural people in the Province of Ontario have been under assault by the provincial government for about six years since the Green Energy Act (GEA) of 2009 was enacted.”

That legislation, says Marriott, was “the first ever to take away a municipality’s democratic right” to perform local land-use planning, “in this case, to say no to industrial wind turbines.”

That’s not all, says Marriott: the other right taken away is affordable electricity. He also points to the difference between how rural and urban residents are treated.
“Why should rural Ontario pay almost double for delivery when most electricity is actually delivered to the GTA from rural Ontario?”

Marriott concludes by saying the electricity policy has made electricity bills three times higher than they were eight years ago. The government “has ignored our pleas to stop subsidizing wind turbines by billions of dollars”.

More Ontario municipalities demand final say in wind power sites: more than 100 stand up to Wynne government

Ontario municipalities want local land-use planning control back
Ontario municipalities want local land-use planning control back

September 11, 2016

Now 111 municipalities in Ontario have either passed or formally endorsed a resolution at Council, demanding that municipal support be a mandatory requirement for contracts in the Wynne government’s next round of Large Renewable Procurement.

The municipalities include several urban municipalities with rural components including Ottawa, Hamilton, and Stratford.

“That number, 111, represents more than a quarter of all Ontario municipalities,” says Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson.

“They believe that they are the best judge of where important infrastructure should be sited, and that they are the voice of their community concerns about where power generation projects are located. Development is only sustainable and appropriate where there is community support — and as we are seeing, many rural communities don’t support the government’s policy of forcing these power facilities on people, and the environment.”

Local land-use planning for developments such as wind and solar power generation facilities was removed by the Green Energy Act in 2009.

Despite a surplus of power in Ontario, the cost of long-term contracts for renewable sources of power,  and province-wide protests about Ontario’s rising electricity bills, which have forced several hundred thousand residents into “energy poverty,” the Wynne government still plans to launch a new procurement process in 2017. The deadline for corporate wind power developers to file a request for qualification with the IESO was Thursday, September 8th.

Energy analyst Tom Adams told Global TV news last week that the government needs to cancel contracts where it can, and cancel the planned Large Renewable Procurement (LRP II).

Michigan’s economy benefits from cheap Ontario power

Two Auditors General in Ontario have noted that the government never did any cost-benefit study on its renewable energy program; moreover, wind power is produced out-of-phase with demand in Ontario, and is a significant portion of the surplus power the province is forced to sell off cheap. Parker Gallant comments on who is really benefitting from Ontario’s energy management policies.

Wind turbines near SS Marie: power supply sell-off  (National Post photo)
Wind turbines near SS Marie: power supply sell-off (National Post photo)

Michigan outperforms Ontario. And why not? They have our cheap power

Parker Gallant Energy Perspectives

September 6, 2016

The state of Michigan is outperforming Ontario. That’s according to a recent study by the Fraser Institute. Since the end of the “’Great Recession” Michigan has out performed Ontario, increasing their GDP in 2013 by 2.8% versus Ontario’s growth of only 1.3%.  Unemployment levels in Michigan are currently at 4.6% versus Ontario’s 6.4%. Those are two very important  economic indicators.

That news plus the fact Ontario has become a “have not” province in Canada, it seems policies adopted by the Ontario Liberal government to “build Ontario up” is having the opposite effect.

One of those policies resulted in Ontario’s electricity sector focusing on acquisition of renewable energy from industrial-scale wind turbines, solar panels and biomass. The passing of the Green Energy Act (GEA) in 2009 resulted in adding intermittent and unreliable renewable energy that is unresponsive to demand (wind power is produced out-of-phase with demand in Ontario).   This had the effect of driving down the price of electricity.

The free market trading (HOEP) of electricity has resulted in Ontario exporting a rising percentage of our generation to buyers in Quebec, NY and Michigan, with the latter the biggest buyer.   In 2015 Michigan purchased 10,248 gigawatts (GWh) or enough to power1.1 million “average” Ontario residential households. We sold it at an average of 2.36 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) and were paid $242 million, but it cost Ontario’s ratepayers just over $1 billion.

Michigan doesn’t have to pay the Global Adjustment. You do.

Michigan appears delighted to be able to purchase our cheap subsidized electricity. Now they are seeking further transmission links to Ontario with an eye on the grid out of Sault Ste Marie.

Read the entire article here.

Wind turbines may close busy airport: pilots launch political campaign

This is an excerpt from the August edition of COPA Flight, provided by a member of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association.

So ridiculous, pilots can't believe anyone would put turbines at an airport
So ridiculous, pilots can’t believe anyone would put turbines at an airport

Windmills may close airport

By Russ Niles

The owner of an Ontario airport that will be in the shadow of a proposed wind turbine project fears Transport Canada [TC] will close his strip if the windmills are built.

Kevin Elwood says he’s been told by a senior TC official that the department will not intervene to prevent construction of the windmills but it will act to ensure public safety after the fact by restricting or even stopping operations at the affected airport.

“He said that if [the province of Ontario] chooses to put green energy before airports, that’s their choice,” he said. “We will respond by restricting airport operations and we will go so far as to close airports,” he {Elwood] quoted the official as saying.

That would seem to fit with the scenario now playing out over the so-called Fairview Project, a group of eight, 152-metre turbines planned for farmland adjacent to Elwood’s Clearview Aerodrome (also known as Stayner Airport). The huge windmills will be directly in the flightpath of aircraft in the circuit for his airport and the nearby Collingwood Airport.

TC has declined to oppose the project and that means the only hope Elwood and other opponents of the windmills have is the rarely used power on the Minister of Transport to unilaterally stop the project on safety grounds.

Minister Marc Garneau has so far been silent on the issue and COPA is calling on its 17,000 members (and voters) to apply their significant political influence to nudge him out of that complacency.

COPA has launched a full-scale letter writing campaign to draw attention to the issue that Elwood is convinced is an immediate threat to both airports and will set a precedent that could affect airports across the country.

The turbines would be in blatant violation of Transport Canada’s airport obstacle guidelines and Garneau, a long-time pilot and COPA member, has the power to stop their construction. In fact, because of the protection afforded such projects by Ontario’s Green Energy Act, Garneau is probably one of the few who can stop them. He won’t even talk about the issue, however.

“We really have a good working relationship with Transport Canada, very open and collaborative,” [says COPA President Bernard Gervais]. “As part of our regular discussions I presented the situation and possible course of action,” Gervais said. “Section 6.41 of the Aeronautics Act authorizes the minister to make an interim order to deal with such threats to aviation. If the minister is of the opinion that the windmills are hazardous to aviation safety, he (or his deputy) has the authority to stop such construction. … the lack of feedback from TC and knowing this is a very sensitive political issue, drives me to think that our only course of action at this point is to go on the political front.”

ERT members unfamiliar with aviation safety

COPA appeared at the original [ERT] hearings in the approval* process along with many other opponents, and all of the arguments were essentially ignored. … Complicating that process is the fact that the two members hearing the health arguments have no aviation background at all and have had to be schooled on airport operations and aviation terminology.

… [Elwood] says that if it plays out as he thinks it might, TC will either close his airport or make it so difficult and inconvenient to use that it might as well be closed. The aerodrome is home bas to Elwood’s business, an aircraft management and business charter operation. Over the years he’s invested heavily in hangars and other infrastructure and if the windmills go ahead, a lifetime of work might go down the drain.

[The wind turbines] will prevent pilots from using the recently re-invigorated [Collingwood Airport]. Ironically, the federal government has spent millions on improvements to the field, including a new terminal and lots of new pavement.

“Even people who don’t fly, [says Collingwood based pilot Austin Boake], they realize it’s just common sense …It’s just so ridiculous I can’t even believe it.”

*The author means the “appeal process.”

For more information on the COPA appeal go to: http://www.copanational.org/FeedFeds.cfm

Billion-dollar burden: how Ontario bungled green energy

Wind turbines near SS Marie: power supply saturated by Ontario buying more wind. (National Post photo)
Wind turbines near SS Marie: power supply saturated but Ontario buying more wind. (National Post photo)

Worthy of a repost, from the National Post, this opinion from a renewable energy insider.

September 2, 2016

Ontario set an all-time peak electricity demand of 27,005 megawatts (MW) 10 years ago this summer. At the time, rising demand and plans to retire its coal-fired power plants dominated provincial energy policy. What followed was optimism for a new energy policy, focused on the ambitious procurement of large wind and solar installations. I felt great pride in helping to lead an industry that would make Ontario’s power system clean, responsive and cutting edge.

What a difference a decade makes. Intrusive policy and poor implementation are largely responsible for the energy market debacle Ontarians face today. But there is no excuse now for buying more mega-projects when our power supply is saturated and hydro bills are skyrocketing.

Coal-fired power generation effectively disappeared after 2010, by which time Ontario’s electricity demand had already started to plummet. Demand has fallen 13 per cent in the past 10 years, including consecutive reductions in each of the past five years. In 2016, Ontario will consume less electricity than in 1997.

Peak demand exceeded 23,000 MW only one day this summer, despite parts of the province seeing 35 days with temperatures above 30 C. Yet our installed capacity approaches 40,000 MW. The system will have reserves above extreme summer peaks well into the 2020s. The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) reinforced this point recently when it confirmed “Ontario will have sufficient supply for the next several years.”

Against this troubling background, the Ontario government is procuring an additional 1,300 MW of large wind and solar generation under the Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) program. This decision is indefensible. It makes the frequency of negative pricing (paying our U.S. neighbours to take Ontario energy during periods of low demand) and curtailment (paying wind developers for energy production even when the grid can’t use the power) even worse. These problems have become billion-dollar burdens for Ontario electricity customers.

Sweet contracts, painful electricity bills

Offering sweet contracts to large renewable energy developers while demand stagnates has helped push hydro bills higher. Electricity prices have increased by seven per cent a year since 2009. Costs have risen faster than Ontario’s inflation rate in each of the past several years. The province’s electricity rates are increasing faster than any other jurisdiction in North America.

It’s clear that change must begin with the renewable industry, since our industry alone benefits from the continued overprocurement of electricity. The fact is large wind and solar developers have been pampered by Queen’s Park for far too long. Although solar installation costs dropped 70 per cent in the past decade, the government froze prices for years at a time. When permitting delays enabled projects to be built as much as five years after contracts were awarded, multi-millionaires were created overnight.

Today, with no logical reason to build more wind and solar mega-projects in Ontario, renewable developers must confront the economic damage they are doing to their families, friends and neighbours, and to the next generation of citizens who will bear the brunt of this green corporate welfare.

Renewable energy companies must confront the economic damage they are doing.

We need to make four changes. First, Ontarians must demand a return to basic electricity policy principles: safety, reliability and cost effectiveness. Second, the government should revisit the IESO’s legal obligations associated with the current LRP process and exit this procurement process without paying the ransoms that characterized Ontario’s gas plant debacles. Third, the IESO should restrict renewable procurement to the smaller rooftop and distributed energy projects that actually benefit customers. Fourth, Ontario renewable energy firms must learn to export their pioneering expertise and target new domestic and international markets.

The global renewable energy revolution has just started. Solar energy is increasingly the cleanest, cheapest and most environmentally sustainable option. The advent of battery storage, smart grids and the Internet of Things will catalyze innovative economies that embrace change. Renewables have a bright future in this world, but we need to regain control of Ontario’s failing electricity policies — and do it soon — to ensure we seize the energy opportunities of the 21st century.

National Post

Jon Kieran is a Toronto-based renewable energy consultant. He is  a member of the Canadian Solar Industries Association’s board of directors. He declines LRP work from clients.