Suggestions for Ontario’s power bill crisis

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Global TV News published a summary of opinions by several commentators on how the Government of Ontario might deal with the crisis in electricity bills, which is causing unprecedented energy poverty.

Wind Concerns Ontario was pleased to be asked to contribute to the special news feature found here and excerpted below.

The following is by both Parker Gallant, a retired banker who now analyses Ontario’s energy sector and is the author of the blog “Energy Perspectives” as well as Jane Wilson, the president of Wind Concerns Ontario.

The Ontario government undertook its program to add renewable power without proper cost-benefit or impact analysis.

Now we have electricity bills that are the fastest rising in North America. The rich contracts awarded to huge corporate wind power developers are a factor.

Here’s what we suggest:

Immediately cancel Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) II that is currently “suspended.” With its target of acquiring 1,000 megawatts (MW) of more renewable capacity — it’s not needed and will further add to consumers’ power bills.

Cancel the five wind power contracts awarded in 2016 under LRP I and save electricity customers about $65 million annually or $1.3 billion over 20 years. Cancellation costs will amount to a small fraction of the annual cost. Cancelling approved but not yet built wind power projects and the new FIT 5.0 program will also save money.

Cancel “conservation” spending of $400 million annually. Ontario has already cut back on power use by more than 12 per cent since 2005 when consumption was 157 tWh to 2015 when it had fallen to 137 tWh. Do this and save immediately on electricity bills.

Read More: Kingston Hydro cuts off single mom who chose groceries over utility bill

Move the Ontario Electricity Support Program to the Ministry of Community and Social Services, where this social assistance program really belongs. Electricity customers should not bear the burden of its costs. The move would create a budget shortfall so we recommend the following action:

Levy a tax on wind (and solar) power generation. The auditor general reported that 20-year wind and solar contracts exceed those in other jurisdictions — the tax would help correct that.

Last, reduce the Time of Use (TOU) off-peak rate. This would encourage the shift of power consumption from peak to off-peak time in order to flatten daily demand, with less waste of hydro and nuclear power, and intermittent wind.

Let’s stop adding expensive, intermittent power to our system and stop punishing Ontarians.

Ontario mayor to Wynne government: take action to protect residents from turbine noise now

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has failed to regulate wind turbines for safety, mayor says. A full investigation is necessary

Image result for image UNIFOR wind turbine

It’s been years since the Canadian Auto Workers union, now UNIFOR, allowed a wind turbine to be built at its education and recreation centre in Port Stanley — and it’s been years of complaints from local residents about the noise and vibration from the wind turbine.

What’s been done? Nothing.

More than 300 complaints have been lodged with the Ontario government and UNIFORS, to no avail. Promises to investigate and follow up have not been fulfilled.

The Mayor of the Town of Saugeen Shores says enough is enough; the government must do its duty and take action on this situation, now.

Last week, he wrote a letter to the Office of the Ombudsman, with a formal complaint about the government inaction in this matter, detailing all the broken promises and the failure to meet its mandate to the people of Ontario. Read the letter here.

Absolutely unreasonable

Mayor Mike Smith wrote, it is “absolutely unreasonable for our community to have to continue to wait until spring of next year in hope that an audit of this turbine’s operation will finally be undertaken voluntarily by the proponent. At the time of writing we are advised that as many as 328 complaints have been filed relating to the operation of this turbine. If this audit is not done until June 2017, it will come four years and three months after the earliest potentially non-compliant test result …”

How many complaints must be filed? Smith asks, and how many more questionable test results filed before the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change finally takes action?

The MOECC has failed

The situation is indicative, the Mayor says, of “the larger failure of the MOECC to fulfill its role in regulating and overseeing the operation of industrial wind turbines in the Province of Ontario.”

He concludes by requesting a detailed investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman.

 

 

Watch for the “Catch 22” and other terms in wind power leases, lawyer says

In this week’s edition of Ontario Farmer is an article by retired QC Garth Manning and Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson, advising landowners to get legal advice before signing any lease or option to lease for wind power projects and associated equipment.

Although Large Renewable Procurement II is “suspended” the government fully intends to bring it back (after the 2018 election), and the FIT 5.0 process is currently accepting applications for wind power projects with equipment less than 500 kW. (See story today about Brant County being approached for support here.)

Wind power contracts can be very one-sided ... and not in favour of the landowner, says an Ontario lawyer
Wind power contracts can be very one-sided … and not in favour of the landowner, says an Ontario lawyer

Here is the article:

Clients need help with complex wind turbine lease documents

In answer to Ontario citizens’ concerns about rising electricity bills and the fact that Ontario now has a surplus of power, the provincial government suspended its process to accept new bids for wind and solar power in 2017.

While the process is on “hold,” wind power developers are still holding open houses and prospecting for willing landowners to sign Options to Lease land for wind turbines and associated equipment, in hope the contract process will resume after the provincial election in 2018.

Landowners should know that these are very complex documents and they need legal advice before signing. Some option/lease agreements contain a box to be checked that means the landowner has read the agreement and waives legal advice. That may not be the smart move. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture, for example, advises members to seek legal advice before signing.

Why? There are many implications to signing an Option to Lease (which converts to a Lease if the company gets a power contract) including rights to use of the property, first right of refusal at time of sale or if the owner wishes to sever property, even the ability to speak out if there are side effects of having turbines on the land.

The fact is, current forms of options/leases are very one-sided in favour of the wind power developer and should be reviewed literally word for word by an independent lawyer. It’s easy to focus on the dollar amount offered by the developer, and ignore other, important aspects of the agreement. For example, some leases contain cancellation options for the power developer, but most do not provide any option for the landowners to terminate the agreement if they change their minds.

Wind power developers always create a separate corporation to own and operate each project. Its assets include, in Ontario, the Renewable Energy Approval, the contract with the government to supply power, the options/leases for the land for turbines and equipment, and any agreements such as for road use with municipalities.

These corporations are usually mortgaged to the hilt. All assets can be sold to another company without consent of the landowners; the buyer could be a dummy company without assets, which is unwilling or unable to perform any obligation of the original company, including, the decommissioning or dismantling of the huge towers.

There are key financial considerations to consider above the lease amount: having a lease on the property may affect the owner’s ability to use the land as collateral for financing; construction liens may also be filed against the project and will appear on the landowner’s title. …

Read the full article here. windfarmcontractscomplexnovember-2016

Wind power approval process must change, says Wind Concerns Ontario

Devastation in Prince Edward County as power developer proceeded with unauthorized construction activity while approval under appeal. That appeal was eventually partially successful. [Photo: APPEC]
Wind Concerns Ontario says Ontario’s Renewable Energy Approval process is not protective of the environment. Pictured, devastation in Prince Edward County as power developer proceeded with unauthorized pre-construction activity while its power project approval was under appeal. That appeal was eventually partially successful.  [Photo: APPEC]
November 1, 2016

Comments filed on Renewable Energy Approval process

“The litany of failures is astounding,” says president of community group coalition

Wind Concerns Ontario filed comments with Ontario’s EBR yesterday, with recommendations on revisions to the Technical Guide for the Renewable Energy Approval process for industrial-scale or utility-scale wind power projects.

Basically, WCO said, the guidelines for the power industry are not protective of the environment … and there is plenty of evidence to prove it.

In short, the requirements in place for companies to get approval are not adequate, there is not enough proper oversight by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (or even, capacity to do fulfill that role), and there is no check on compliance with Renewable Energy Approvals post-operation.

  • Findings from the ERT decisions and other legal activities have shown that the current process is not adequate to assess the expansion of renewable energy generation while upholding the government’s commitment to protecting the environment.
  • The process contains no provisions to discuss the creation of clean energy jobs and encouraging energy conservation.
  • The proposed process does not reflect decisions from the Environmental Review Tribunals (ERT)

“The fact is, almost every single wind power project that received an approval in Ontario has been appealed on the basis of protecting the environment and human health,” says Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “And four of those appeals have been successful. The Ministry should be embarrassed that ordinary citizens are not only taking on this protective role, but that they find information about these projects and the damage they will cause, that Ministry staff were not aware of.”

Wind Concerns not only recommended more stringent requirements for a Renewable Energy Approval, the coalition of community groups and Ontario families repeated its call for municipal support to be a mandatory requirement for wind power project approvals.

“Municipal governments are the local voice of the people and communities,” says Wilson. “And they know best what kind of development is appropriate and sustainable. They are also aware of conditions locally that logically should prevent a wind power project — but those voices are not listened to under this process.”

Thousands of noise complaints have been made to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, Wind Concerns Ontario says, which is a clear indication of the failure of the REA process. Moreover, MOECC protocols for measuring wind turbine noise emissions – when they do measure at all as follow-up – are not adequate and do not capture the full range of problematic environmental noise.

“In fact, the litany of failures of this process is astounding,” says Wilson.

The method in which projects are announced to communities is secretive and municipalities are forced to approve with almost no information on the impact of the power projects. Public “meetings” are a sham, consisting mainly of poster presentations and incomplete project information.

Post-operation, the numbers of bat deaths and bird kills far exceed what was expected from the wind turbines, noise complaints are being made more frequently as a result of more powerful turbines, and wind power companies have abused their approvals by removing trees from protected woodlands, for example, or placing turbines on sites not consistent with the approvals.

“Premier Wynne professed to be surprised recently at the removal of over 7,000 mature trees in the Niagara area for the huge power project there,” Wilson says. “Does the government not know what is really going on? The people of Ontario see the environmental damage being done and the effects on people’s health from high-impact wind power development — this process has to change.”

Wind Concerns Ontario

November 1, 2016

Trees being cut down along  1 km of the former old unopened road allowance and pioneer nature trail  known as Wild Turkey Road on the Oak Ridges Moraine in an area designated High Aquifer Vulnerability, a Significant Recharge zone, where two streams that support trout habitat and 12 species at risk as well as species at risk butternut trees adjacent to the Fleetwood Creek natural area are being destroyed and/or endangered to make way for new access roads for the Sumac Ridge wind facility. Photo sent to Kawartha Lakes Councillor Heather Stauble.]
Trees being cut down along 1 km of the former old unopened road allowance and pioneer nature trail known as Wild Turkey Road on the Oak Ridges Moraine in an area designated High Aquifer Vulnerability, a Significant Recharge zone, where two streams that support trout habitat and 12 species at risk as well as species at risk butternut trees adjacent to the Fleetwood Creek natural area are being destroyed and/or endangered to make way for new access roads for the Sumac Ridge wind facility. Photo sent to Kawartha Lakes Councillor Heather Stauble.]