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.
Prince Edward County remains in a state of emergency today following an accident in which a barge being used to transport materials to the Windlectric wind power project on Amherst Island sank, polluting the waters of Picton Bay with diesel fuel. At the time of the incident, Windlectric had no Marine Logistics Plan in place.
The Association to Protect Amherst Island has called for cancellation of the power project, and issued this statement today.
Dear Premier Wynne:
Prince Edward County Mayor Robert Quaiff has declared a water emergency as a result of contaminants approaching the Picton-Bloomfield water intake due to a partially sunken barge in Picton Harbour under contract to McNeil Marine and ultimately under contract to Algonquin Power/Windlectric for the proposed Amherst Island Wind Project.
The silence from Algonquin Power/Windlectric is deafening.
Indeed Algonquin/Windlectric had the audacity to attempt to continue aggregate delivery from Picton Terminals to Amherst Island yesterday (Tuesday March 28 2017) but was thwarted either because either the water was too low or the dock too high, yet another example of the comedy of errors associated with this ill-conceived project.
The Association to Protect Amherst Island reiterates its request for MOECC to issue an immediate stop work order for the Amherst Island Wind Project until such time as a comprehensive report is available for the Picton Harbour incident and a preventative action plan is is place to address the high risk to public and environmental safety of all aspects of the project. and to address the need for a Major Design Modification to address the changed project location to include Picton Terminals.
At the same time, the Association reaffirms its request to reject the proposed amendment to the Certificate of Property Use for the contaminated Invista Lands on Bath Road (EBR 012-9749) designated as parkland. Similar to the Picton Harbour situation, a water intake exists in proximity to the proposed mainland dock for the Amherst Island Wind Project and serves a local industrial park. Algonquin/Windlectric in its Marine Safety Plan now advises that fuelling of barges is proposed at the mainland dock location. Not only is the land contaminated with the possibility of pollution of Lake Ontario, the company plans to fuel in proximity to a water intake.
The same “Marine Safety Plan” fails to address any aspect of transport of materials from Picton terminals except for a vague reference that “The bulk barge and the ATV (Aggregate Transfer Vessel) will approach and leave the island dock area from the west, . . . ” as if from the Land of Oz. The Association is in the process of reviewing this “too little, too late” document and will have further comments about use of barges in ice conditions, the lack of traffic volume, lack of simulation of barges crossing the ferry path, incomplete information about the installation of the high voltage transmission line from the mainland to the Island and the total lack of risk assessment, failure to mention Picton Terminals,among other matters.
The use of an “Aggregate Transfer Vessel” was not identified in the REA submission and no stockpiling of aggregate was proposed other than in immediate proximity to the proposed cement batching plant by the Island school.
The Association has emphasized the importance of marine safety since this project was proposed and has pleaded with politicians, MOECC, Ontario’s Chief Drinking Water Official and the Chief Fire Marshall and Head of Emergency Preparedness.
Please take immediate action to stop the Amherst Island Wind Project before a tragedy occurs.
Judge says OMB offers limited justice—is the same true for the ERT?
Recently, lawyer and retired Ontario judge Peter Howden published a book on the Ontario Municipal Board, titled, The Ontario Municipal Board: From Impact to Subsistence 1971-2016.
Howden, a judge for 20 years, also served for 10 years with the OMB.
According to a review of the book by Ottawa Citizen columnist David Reevely, Howden’s opinion of the OMB is that killing it off would be better than leaving it to function as it is.
In our view many of Howden’s comments about the OMB (which was a key factor in approval of Ontario’s early wind power projects against community wishes) can also be applied to the Environmental Review Tribunal or ERT. Both are administered under ELTO or the Environmental and Lands Tribunal Ontario branch of government.
The people who staff the OMB are “unknown entities, people largely without any public profile who seem to do whatever they want without criteria, limiting elements, or ability to define why one group won and the others lost.” Further, Howden says, OMB members’ decisions may be one-page rulings that are issued after days of detailed testimony, or they are rambling documents in which rationale is buried.
“The price to be paid,” Howden writes, “…is the continued progressively worsening public cynicism and the record over the past 10 years of insufficient deliberation and writing time, inconsistency in policy and outcomes, reliance on part-time members …”
Howden also says the set-up of these tribunals is a problem and interferes with their mandate: the adversarial nature of the hearings, not unlike court battles, is unfair for residents fighting well-funded developers.
“Most homeowners these days are simply trying to maintain their homes and families. They do not have the thousands of dollars it takes to round up a team of professionals….This kind of inequality erodes any sense of justice.”
Lack of justice is emblematic of the hearings before the Environmental Review Tribunal where Ontario citizens spend hundreds of thousands of after-tax dollars to protect their communities and the environment, ironically from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, which has a special, supportive relationship with the wealthy wind power developers it appears alongside in the hearings.
Countless appeals were mounted in Ontario by well-meaning dedicated citizens who took their fight for their community and environment to the Tribunal, without benefit of legal counsel at all, while wind power developers were represented by lawyers from Canada’s top law firms.
Millions spent by citizens
A recent informal poll of Wind Concerns Ontario member community groups reveals that communities have spent over $3 million in legal costs to mount appeals before the ERT, and that number is almost certainly understated.
Moreover, citizen evidence presented at the hearings, paid for by citizen dollars, is often critical to wind power project operations—even in appeals that have been unsuccessful, the evidence presented has resulted in changes to the proposed power projects. This evidence is usually indications of risks to the environment, facts that the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change would have been aware of, if they did any oversight or checking on Renewable Energy Approvals … which they do not.
For example, the evidence presented on the danger to species such as the Blandings Turtle and the Little Brown Bat –paid for by citizens who raised money through spaghetti suppers and garage sales—won the day for the environment in several appeals. The appeal of the Ostrander Point project, which took years of work by Prince Edward County naturalist and community groups, not only resulted in overturning the approval for the project in a fragile environment, but also caused the Tribunal to refocus its aims, and conclude that, contrary to claims by the MOECC and developer lawyers, wind power was not necessarily a “greater good” that outweighs everything—balance must be achieved in protecting the environment.
In the fight at Clearview, citizen evidence showed not only was there danger to wildlife from the proposed wind power project, but there was a clear danger to human life from a project planned close to not one, but two airports.
Judge Howden concludes that the OMB should be a body worthy of respect.
Parker Gallant looks at recent promises made by the Energy Minister and Premier and still has a question: where did the money actually go?
Last September 13, Minister of Energy Glenn Thibeault issued a press release announcing the Ontario Liberal government would reduce electricity bills for five million families, farms and small businesses. The relief granted was equivalent to the 8% provincial portion of the HST. The press release also claimed Ontario had “invested more than $35 billion” in new and refurbished generation.
Fast forward to March 2, 2017 and that $35 billion jumped to $50 billion in a press conference the Premier jointly held with Minister Thibeault. An increase of $15 billion in six months!
The press conference was to inform us the 8% relief announced by Minister Thibeault would be added to, with a further 17% reduction. A Toronto Star op-ed Premier Wynne wrote March 7, 2017 reaffirmed the $50 billion investment claim made the previous week, and further claimed: “By delivering the biggest rate cut in Ontario’s history and holding rate increases to inflation for at least four years, this plan provides an overdue solution.”
That made history alright, but not the way she meant. What the Premier forgot to say was that her government had brought us the biggest rate increases in Ontario’s history. In March 2011 the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) website shows the average electricity rate was 6.84 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) and on May 1, 2016 it had increased to 11.1cents/kWh. In just over five years, the price of the commodity — electricity — increased 62%, a multiple of the inflation rate during that five years, which added about $400 to the average consumer bill.
Electricity price goes down, your bills go UP
From 2010 to 2015 Ontario demand fell by 5 TWh (terawatt hours) to 137 TWh.* That is enough to provide electricity to 550,000 “average” Ontario households for a year, yet the price for residential consumers increased 62%. The increase was not driven by the trading value via the hourly Ontario electricity price (HOEP) market. In fact, the market treated Ontario generated electricity badly as it fell from an average of 3.79 cents/kWh in 2010 to 1.66 cents/kWh in value for 2016 — a 56.2% drop.
As to how they were achieving this “relief,” Wynne and Thibeault told us they were pushing the payback period for the 20-year contracts (wind and solar) out another 10 years. Those generation sources are the principal cause of the increase in electricity prices. (For further proof of that, read Scott Luft’s recent analysis on the costs of “other” generation in 2016 which confirms its effect on our rising electricity rates.)
Where did the money go?
What the Wynne/Thibeault announcement means is, ratepayers will pay for the intermittent and unreliable power for their 20-year contracted term(s), and continue to pay for the same contracts which, by that time use equipment that will be heading for, or already in the scrap yard.
It is time for Minister Thibeault to disclose what is behind his claim of $35 billion invested and for Premier Wynne to disclose the details of the $50 billion she says went to “necessary renovations” to rebuild “the system.”
Time to come clean.
(C) Parker Gallant
* Ontario consumption remained at 137 TWh in 2016.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent policy on Wind Concerns Ontario
Editor’s Note: The Ontario government has $5 billion in new wind power contracts that have not yet been added to consumers’ electricity bills.
From Parker Gallant’s Energy Perspectives, a view of how much wind power is costing Ontario.
Almost a week after Premier Wynne announced her plan to reduce our electricity bills by 25%, the wind was blowing! On March 8th, six days after the cost shifting announcement (from ratepayer to taxpayer), potential power generation from wind was forecast by IESO to produce at levels of 80/95% of their capacity, for many hours of the day. IESO was concerned about grid stability and as a consequence, curtailed much of the forecasted generation.
When the Premier made her announcement about reducing hydro bills, she also claimed “Decades of under-investment in the electricity system by governments of all stripes resulted in the need to invest more than $50 billion in generation, transmission and distribution assets to ensure the system is clean and reliable.”
It is worth noting that much of that $50 billion was spent acquiring wind and solar generation and its associated spending on transmission, plus gas plants (to back them because the power is intermittent), and distribution assets to hook them into the grid or embed them with the local distribution companies. It would have been informative if Premier Wynne had had Energy Minister Glen Thibeault provide an accounting of exactly what the $50 billion was spent on.
As it turned out the amount of curtailed wind generated on March 8th was 37,044 megawatt hours (MWh) was just short of the record of 38,018 MWh set almost a year ago on March 16, 2016 (estimated by my friend Scott Luft). The curtailed wind on March 8, 2017 cost Ontario’s ratepayers $120/MWh or $4,445,280.
The cost on March 16, 2016 was $4,562,160.
What does it mean? Curtailing or restricting power output but paying for it anyway means a portion of the $50 billion spent was simply wasted money. It went to the corporate power developers that rushed to sign those above-market contracts for renewable power.
Millions here, millions there= a whole lot of wasted money
The other interesting aspect of the surplus power generation on March 16th, 2016 and March 8th, 2017 is revealed in IESO’s Daily Market Summaries: the hourly Ontario energy price (HOEP) March 16th, 2016 was negative at -$1.25/MWh and on March 8th, 2017 was also negative at -.49 cents/MWh. This meant ratepayers paid for surplus exports sold to our neighbours in New York and Michigan, etc. Net exports (exports minus imports) on March 16, 2016 were 52,368 MWh, and on March 8, 2017 were 37,944 MWh. Total costs of their generation (HOEP + GA) fell to Ontario’s ratepayers along with the cost of any spilled hydro, steamed off nuclear and idling gas plants.
So, bear with me here, if we price the cost of the net exports at $110/MWh for those two days, ratepayer costs were approximately $9.8 million with $5.7 million for March 16, 2016 net exports and $4.1 million for March 8, 2017 net exports, not including the $84,000 we paid our neighbours to take our power.
How much did it cost you? Two days out of 729 (2016 was a leap year) cost Ontario ratepayers about $18.1 million for power not delivered (curtailed wind) or needed (net exports).
I hope this helps Minister Thibeault in his calculations for a long overdue accounting of where the other $49.982 billion went.
Is renewable energy responsible for driving up Ontario’s electricity costs?
With the Ontario government introducing a new program severing the link between the cost of power and the price of power so it can shift 25 per cent of household power bills today to future generation by way massive new debts, it seems like a good idea to know why Ontario’s power rate crisis developed.
Ontario’s power rates were relatively stable until 2008, when they started steep yearly increases. With the fastest rising rates in North America since then, Ontario’s rates surpassed the U.S. average years ago. The largest single factor driving this increase has been new generating capacity from wind and solar renewable generation.
The Ontario government and its supporters commonly report the costs of different types of generation counting only payments made directly to particular forms of generation.
But, when renewable energy costs trickle down to consumers, those costs are much more than just payments to renewable generators. While it is true that the payments to generators for wind power – 14 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) – is cheaper than for gas power — 17 cents/kWh – not all electricity has equal value. (For context, the average rate households pay for the commodity portion of their bill is about 11 cents/kWh.)
Why don’t we replace wind power with gas power, save money and cut emissions?
Where gas power is delivered on demand, wind is fickle. Eighty per cent of Ontario’s wind generation occurs at times and seasons so far out of phase with usage patterns that the entire output is surplus and is exported at a substantial loss or squandered with payments to generators to not generate. Gas power in Ontario backs up unreliable wind and solar, a necessary function if the lights are to stay on, but we pay twice for the same service.
Direct payments to solar generators average 48 cents/kWh, but the output is similarly low value. Except for a few days per year, Ontario’s peak usage of power is just as solar panels shut down – in the evening.
Not only is Ontario’s renewable energy production driving massive losses to subsidize exports and payments to generators to not generate under the terms of contracts that obligate consumers to buy even useless power, but it is also driving costly but low-value “smart grid” projects required to accommodate renewables.
Rising power rates have driven down usage. Spreading rising costs over declining sales has amplified the pace of rate increases.
Again, government and its supporters have pumped their claim that using less will save us money. What has actually happened is that conservation in Ontario is indeed saving money but mostly for utilities and their customers in Michigan and New York State on the receiving end of our subsidized exports.
But didn’t renewables enable Ontario to get off coal, saving us from smog days, and slash health-care costs? Although endlessly repeated by the government and its supporters, none of these claims bear scrutiny.
Coal’s replacement in Ontario was achieved with increased output from nuclear and gas generators. Improvement in air quality in recent years has been the result of a massive conversion to gas power in the mid-western states upwind of Ontario as well as improvements in transportation fleets and industry. Most of the coal power Ontario produced in its last years came from plants with good new scrubbers, delivering effectively smog-free energy. Predicted health-care savings from the coal phaseout never materialized.
But isn’t the cost of renewable energy plunging?
Ten years ago, the average payment to Ontario wind generators was around 8.3 cents/kWh. Taking into account inflation, the average today is up 50 per cent.
Wind and solar aren’t the only renewable energy ripoff. Recent additions to Ontario’s hydro-electric capacity have added billions in new costs but no additional production. Ontario’s most costly generator is a converted coal-fired station in Thunder Bay, now fueled with a wood product imported from Norway.
A bad smell emanates from renewable politics at Queen’s Park. Renewables developers who made the biggest donations to the provincial Liberals have tended to win the biggest contracts.
Ontario’s renewable energy program is not the only disaster on consumers’ bills. Excessive payroll costs and wasteful conservation programs also lurk, but no single factor has contributed more to the compounding semi-annual increases in rates since 2008 than renewables.
Most of the punishing cost consequences of Ontario’s radical renewables program are locked in with 20-year contracts. Children today will be paying these irresponsible contracts long into the future, along with current costs that the Wynne government has now decided will be added to this future burden.
Tom Adams is an independent energy and environmental advisor and researcher focused on energy consumer concerns, mostly in Eastern Canada. He has worked for several environmental organizations and served on the Ontario Independent Electricity Market Operator Board of Directors and the Ontario Centre for Excellence for Energy Board of Management.
The Premier of Ontario put out a news release on March 2, claiming the government was going to reduce Ontario’s electricity or “hydro” bills substantially.
“I’ve heard from you loud and clear,” Kathleen Wynne said in her statement. “Nobody should have to choose between keeping the lights on or buying groceries.”
The Ontario Liberal government still claims the high electricity prices were because of improvements it “had to” make to the system. The news release concluded with these statements.
“We are – and always will be – committed to making Ontario a fairer and more inclusive place for everyone. And fairness means ensuring government investments don’t disproportionately affect today’s electricity ratepayers. One generation of ratepayers should not have to pay for the sins of the past and for a system that will benefit Ontario for decades to come. So our plan reduces costs today and stretches out costs over the long term so rates are fairer for everyone.”
Fairness. We’ve heard that before, like “transparency.” But again, the government is being disingenuous. Its latest move is simply stretching out the costs of its policy decisions, not taking action to reduce costs. (Our favourite pronouncement on this comes from electricity analyst Bruce Sharp who calls this tactic, “delay and pray.”)
Not reducing costs
The truth is, the government has signed more expensive wind power contracts for power the province doesn’t need.
At the moment, these six contracts, awarded in 2016, total $3.3 billion in costs over 20 years. In addition, there are five more contracts for wind power projects that were approved but which are not yet on the grid –including White Pines, Amherst Island and Fairview Wind which are all in legal contests– that add up to another $1.8 billion.
The total for wind power contracts awarded, which represents new costs no yet on Ontario electricity ratepayer bills, is $5.1 billion.
That is not “reducing costs today”.
The government needs to cancel the 2016 wind power contracts (which contain clauses for pre-construction liability should the government cancel), and buy out of other contracts.