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.
(This does not have to be said, but Wind Concerns Ontario in no way condones vandalism.)
Destructive behaviour concerns OPP Lakeshore Advance, April 19, 2014
Energy company Nextera has been given the green light to start building a 92-turbine industrial wind farm in Lambton and Middlesex counties.
And that okay may have prompted the graffiti splashed on Grand Bend Highway 21 businesses and the municipal sign Friday morning. From the entry sign north to the Caldwell Banking sign “Stop wind power” was clearly written in red paint. At the Ausable Inn one car was splashed in red paint and the tires slashed.
Bill Weber, mayor of the Municipality of Lambton Shores, told the Lakeshore Advance that, “Reaction is disappointment. It’s disappointing that it would come to this in Lambton Shores.”
Even more frustrating for Weber is that the municipality – which includes Grand Bend – is one of nearly 100 unwilling host communities in Ontario.
The municipality has been fighting to keep turbines out of the community and stands largely on the same side as those in the anti-wind movement.
“Everyone understands the frustration that the anti-wind people have, that’s the frustration that the municipality has with the Green Energy Act,” Weber says adding he does not believe this destruction helps to further the protester’s cause.
Provincial approval to build 92 new wind turbines near Grand Bend was just handed down last week and although Grand Bend is not directly involved in the wind debate, yet, the businesses may have been targeted because they are close to homes and apartments being rented by wind company employees.
OPP Const. Chrystal Jones says “The OPP understands this is a very sensitive issue in our communities. Bottom line is, it’s mischief, it’s against the law and we’re not going to tolerate this.”
Weighing in on social media one poster said, “Shameful! This is not about wind power being a good or bad thing – this is about morons out vandalizing neigbourhoods! “
Another agreed stating, “Did they think this was going to change anything? What a bunch of fools!”
Anyone with information on what happened is asked to contact OPP at 1-888-310-1122, their nearest police authority or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
Middlesex-Lambton community group considering an appeal
Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment issued a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) earlier this week for the company’s proposal to build a 150-megawatt wind farm spanning Lambton Shores, Warwick Township and North Middlesex.
Some final details still need to be worked out, but construction of the Jericho Wind Energy Centre is expected to begin as soon as possible, said Ben Greenhouse, director of development with Nextera Energy Canada.
The project has been in the works since 2008, he said, and was submitted for ministry approval 14 months ago.
“We’re excited,” he said, noting a laydown yard — headquarters for construction — will soon be built on Thomson Line, north of Jericho Road and south of Northville Road.
But not everyone is enthused about the approval.
Lambton Shores resident Marcelle Brooks, with the Middlesex-Lambton Wind Action Group, has been a vocal opponent of the project.
It was a sad day when she saw the approval, she said.
“It was just devastating that our voices simply aren’t being heard.”
Concerns raised about whether turbines are being set back the required 550 metres from residential properties, and environmental concerns about nesting eagles near powerlines, haven’t been adequately addressed, she contends.
Concerns have also been raised about wind turbines affecting tundra swan migration, and the potential health impacts to people living nearby.
Brooks said she was planning to convene a meeting Wednesday with people affected by the project — connecting to Hydro One’s distribution system — to talk about options.
Prince Edward County farm owners Doug and Janet Murphy, have written a letter to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, asking a question that exposes a serious conflict between the Environment and Agriculture ministries, regarding the placement of wind turbines.
According to documentation from Agriculture, farm owners are advised NOT to erect wind turbines near routes for migratory birds. And yet, say the Murphys, the Ministry of the Environment is not only allowing the siting of the White Pines project in Prince Edward County, it is encouraging it.
The Murphys are demanding an explanation and further, that plans to approve the project by wpd Canada be halted.
What spurred the decision by Ontario’s Finance Minister, Charles Sousa to announce on April 11, 2014 that the Ontario Government is appointing a council to “recommend ways to improve the efficiency and optimize the full value of Hydro One, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO”? Was it a sudden realization that Ontario had undervalued assets? Or, was it an attempt to deflect attention from the gas plant scandal?
I’m betting the latter. Why? The shareholder value of the first two Crown corporations listed have been continually interfered with by this government. Everything from “smart meters” to coal plant closures, multi-billion dollar tunnels, run-of river hydro and coal plant conversions (to biomass) have played a big role in the current value of both OPG and Hydro One. Add that to above-market rates for wind and solar developments, and billion dollar transmission spending to hook them to the grid—the only reason OPG and Hydro One have any value is that electricity rates in the monopolistic electricity sector have been allowed to rise by over 100%. Four Long-term Energy Plans in 11 years and several dozen “directives” on how the businesses should operate have done nothing to enhance the value of those two entities.
Under the benign governance of the Ontario Energy Board (whose role was eviscerated by the government), electricity prices have increased at an average annual rate over 10% and driven well paying jobs from the province, as a result. Creating value seems to have been overlooked in the process. Is this another “Council” that will present a report that will simply be ignored as in the past?
What does Sousa expect?
Already, I see problems: Minister Sousa seems unaware the Auditor General in his 2011 report noted that Ministerial (Energy) directives to contract for above market priced wind and solar generation were executed without a cost benefit analysis.
He is also either unaware or in direct conflict with his party’s Energy Minister, Bob Chiarelli, who, just two days before Sousa’s announcement said, “The government is not currently looking at the disposing of any of our energy companies.” So, why “enhance value” if there is no plan to sell? Was Premier Wynne aware of this conflict or did she endorse both positions hoping that the new council would confuse the issue, and the electorate? Perhaps the gambit is to gain credibility to reduce or freeze energy sector salaries, or force a change in the way pensions and benefits are paid, to enhance value?
As recently noted OPG, had 77% of their employees on the “2013 Sunshine list” and Hydro One 67%; both have unfunded positions in the pension and benefits programs. A council isn’t necessary to figure that out!
So exactly what is Minister Sousa expecting from the council? OPG and Hydro One are both taxpayer owned institutions with one (Hydro One) holding a monopoly on the transmission business and on distribution of electricity to one quarter of Ontario’s ratepayers. OPG on the other hand has seen its share of the generation market fall since the PC government split old Ontario Hydro into five entities.
The final annual report of Ontario Hydro had this to say about their contribution to Ontario’s electricity supply: “ OPG facilities now supply about 85% of the province’s electricity demand. Under an agreement with the provincial government, that proportion will be gradually reduced so that by about 2010, OPG will control no more than 35% of the province’s total supply options.”
By the end of 2013 (three years later than planned) OPG had come close to achieving the “agreement” with 16,229 MW of installed capacity compared to total Ontario capacity (per recently “revised” Long-Term Energy Plan) reported as 38,374 MW giving OPG about 42% “of the province’s total supply.” That OPG capacity of 42% produced 80.3 terawatts (TWh), equal to 57 % of Ontario’s demand in 2013 and in 1999 had produced 136.2 TWh equal to 85% of demand.
The bottom line
On the financial side, OPG’s first full year of operation (2000) generated a profit, net of PIL (payments in lieu of taxes), of $605 million; by 2013 their profit had fallen to $135 million. So, OPG, based on history reflects itself as a business in decline. OPG are also about to undergo costly retrofits of their nuclear plants which have traditionally gone over budget. If Ontario sold OPG at, say, a 12 times multiple on earnings, it would net them only $1.4 billion. The best the province could hope to generate in a sale of OPG would be its current book value of $8.3 billion, but any buyer would demand guarantees on pricing of generation of all capacity and a guarantee of grid rights to ensure production is purchased. What is good for wind, solar and gas plant generators would be demanded by any new private sector owners of OPG! One also suspects a buyer would seek to cover any anticipated cost overruns on existing projects including nuclear refurbishments, biomass conversions, etc. In other words, it is likely the “Council” will recommend keeping OPG—it may not be sellable!
Hydro One, on the other hand looks like the star with Net Profit (after PIL) of $803 million for 2013 up from $378 million in 2000 (+112%), while Gross Revenue (net of Power Purchased) increased from $1,728 million in 2000 to $3,054 million in 2013 (+77%), despite a drop in terawatts (TWh) transmitted. An increase in employees of 1,173 however is cause for concern in respect to the transmission and distribution businesses. If, as suggested by Jan Carr in an article in the Toronto Star, Hydro One gets split into two entities—transmission and distribution—the breakout (2012 year-end) in Net Profit for the “transmission” business is $488 million and for “distribution,” $258 million providing a Return on Equity (ROE) on the former of 18.1% and 12.5% on the latter. The Return on Revenue (RoR) would be 32.9% and 25.8% respectively and above the comparable at, say, Enbridge with an ROE of 12.8% and an RoR of 18.8%.
Assuming the Council will suggest the two Hydro One businesses be split and could generate say 12 times their earnings in a sale, Ontario might generate $9 billion. That would come from approximately $3 billion for the distribution side and $6 billion for the transmission business. The sale would generate a one-time gain of about $2.5 billion for the province, or less than 25% of the current budget deficit. The sale would cause grief for the Liberal Party from the unions within the Hydro One family and so might prove unpalatable.
I am betting the Finance Minister’s appointed “Council” will deliver bad news but probably not until after an election. This is simply another exercise to deflect from the numerous scandals and the mismanagement of the energy file overall that are sure to be the message from opposition parties in a provincial election campaign.
The Washington D.C.-based energy policy “think tank” the Institute for Energy Research (which receives no funding from either government or industry) has reported that Germany’s experience with “green” energy has been an economic failure.
The Institute reports higher energy prices, energy poverty for Germany’s citizens, and “lavish subsidies” for renewable power generators.
North America (including Ontario) has looked to Germany as an example of green power generation; we can only hope they now heed these lessons.
This news story is doubly interesting when you consider that the maps associated with the new large renewable power projects procurement process show a “green light” for Eastern Ontario.
Farmers not sold on wind turbines, survey says
By Brandy Harrison
OTTAWA — While farmers are among the few who can directly benefit financially from hosting wind turbines, Eastern Ontario farmers are more likely to oppose than support them, a Farmers Forum survey shows.
In a random survey of 100 farmers at the Ottawa Valley Farm Show from March 11 to 13, nearly half — 48 per cent — disapproved of wind turbines. Another 29 per cent approved and the remaining 23 per cent said they were neutral.
But positions on the issue weren’t always clear cut. Even when farmers threw their lot in with one side of the debate or the other, their reasoning was peppered with pros and cons.
It’s in stark contrast to a Farmers Forum survey of 50 Western Ontario farmers at the London Farm Show in early March, where 58 per cent were strongly opposed to wind turbines. Farmers opposed outnumbered those who approved by nearly three-to-one.
The number of turbines reveal the difference: Of the 67 wind projects representing more than 1,200 turbines province-wide, almost all the turbines dot the landscape of Western Ontario. Only two projects are in Eastern Ontario, an 86-turbine project on Wolfe Island, south of Kingston, and another 10 turbines near Brinston, south of Winchester, which were completed in January.
Wind power is so controversial that 13 farmers polled at the farm show wanted to remain anonymous, unwilling to come out publicly as a supporter or a critic.
Nearly three-quarters of farmers who disapproved liked green energy in theory but panned turbines — and sometimes the Green Energy Act as a whole — as a too-costly, inefficient electricity source that’s driving up their power bill.
Eric VanDenBroek doesn’t mind the look of the turbines that are only a short drive from his Winchester dairy farm but isn’t a fan of the way the program was rolled out.
“A financial disaster”
“Financially, it’s already proving to be a disaster,” said VanDenBroek, who turned down a chance to get in on renewable revenue. “It’s costing taxpayers money and we don’t have a say in it. Anytime the government gets involved in something, the costs inflate.”
Doug Armstrong agreed. But the North Gower crop farmer may put one up on his own land, particularly if neighbours are considering doing the same.
“I’m not allergic to money. But to be quite honest, as far as I’m concerned, they’re a total and complete waste of money,” said Armstrong.
Turbines are ugly, said Elwood Quaile, who joked that Wolfe Island may one day levitate out of Lake Ontario. But his biggest beef is the expense compared to the return. “Especially when you have a whole lot of gosh-darn water generators sitting idle,” said the Navan crop farmer.
Higher per kilowatt costs make even less sense when excess energy is sold south of the border for less than it costs to produce it, said Bill Seymour.
“It’d be like me buying a Lamborghini for my farm. It’s really nice and sharp, but do the cost on it. Why would I do that?” asked the Lunenburg crop farmer.
Other reasons farmers disapproved included their appearance, adverse health effects, conflicts between farmers, lost farmland, decreasing land values, and that people have little say in where they go.
Among farmers ready to give wind turbines the go-ahead, just over two-thirds reasoned that there is a need for renewable energy.
“The wind blows. It’s free. How else can we make power out of something that’s free?” said Ivan Petersen, who runs an Osgoode crop, dairy, and elevator operation. Petersen has solar panels and also likes the additional income.
It’s a good idea but there are challenges, said a Peterborough-area farmer, who didn’t want to be named.
“For the farmer whose farm they’re on, it’s a great thing. For the farmer who’s next to him and gets nothing, it’s a bad thing,” he said, proposing a tax rebate to homeowners based on distance from the turbine. “Everybody wins. Then it’s not neighbour-against-neighbour.”
The debate isn’t rational and people are misinformed, said a Dundas County farmer, who approves but requested anonymity.
“People are willing to fight wind energy and still have a solar panel in their backyard, which is kind of hypocritical. You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” he said.
Other farmers approved in hopes of additional income, seeing a break on their energy bills, or out of a feeling that people can do what they like on their own property.
Many of the 23 farmers who remained neutral on the issue said they didn’t have enough information to take a firm stance, but they’d definitely heard the pros and cons.
“If it was making me money, I’d love ‘em. If it was keeping me up all night, I’d want to knock it down,” said Scott Kinlock, a Martintown crop farmer and custom operator.
Wind power approval ratings were high, however, in another Farmers Forum survey three years ago, where just over half of 200 Wolfe Island (pop. 1,200 in summer) residents polled approved of turbines. But nearly one-third of respondents said community spirit had plummeted since the turbines went up in 2009.
Large wind farms can knock as much as 12 per cent off the values of homes within a 2km radius, and reduce property prices as far as 14km away, according to research by the London School of Economics. The findings contrast sharply with a report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) in March, which found no negative impact on property prices within a 5km radius of a turbine.
The LSE findings will fan demands by homeowners for compensation when wind farm developments are given the go-ahead. Currently, wind farm operators pay rent on the land they occupy and make contributions to community causes, but are under no legal obligation to compensate homeowners for loss of value.
The report, “Gone with the wind: valuing the visual impacts of wind turbines through house prices”, by Professor Stephen Gibbons, found that “wind farm developments reduce prices in locations where the turbines are visible, relative to where they are not visible, and that the effects are causal”.
For the average sized windfarm, the price reduction is around 5-6 per cent for homes with a visible windfarm within 2km, falling to less than 2 per cent between 2-4km, and to near zero between 8-14km, which is at the limit of likely visibility. In areas close to windfarms, but where the turbines are not visible, the report found there was a small increase (around 2 per cent) in property prices.
Large wind farms cause the greatest decline in property prices. “As might be expected, large visible wind farms have much bigger impacts that extend over a wider area,” said Gibbons. “The largest wind farms (20+ turbines) reduce prices by 12 per cent within 2km, and reduce prices by small amounts right out to 14km (by around 1.5 per cent).”
Read the full news story here.
The Ottawa Citzen‘s Matthew Pearson lays out the challenges before Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne for 2014. Funny, despite the billions being spent on wind power, and the dramatically rising electricity rates which may be traced in part to renewable power sources, this issue is not mentioned.
Despite scandals, Wynne says government moving Ontario forward
By Matthew Pearson, Ottawa CitizenJanuary 1, 2014
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne looks back over her first 10 months in office and ahead to what 2014 will bring in a wide-ranging year-end interview with the Citizen.
OTTAWA — Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has graced the province’s television and computer screens lately dressed in a Liberal red jacket, jogging through the peaceful countryside near Orangeville. Her party may hope the ad instils confidence in voters; that it suggests the 60-year-old is training hard for the toughest race of all — a provincial election widely expected next spring. But it could also be seen in a much different light, one in which Wynne is running from the scandals that continue to chase her minority government and mounting criticism that, after 10 months in the premier’s chair, there’s been a lot of talk and little action. The last month alone has not been her government’s finest. Consider the damning auditor general’s report that revealed a system of overly generous salaries, pensions and bonuses at the provincially owned utility Ontario Power Generation. Or the revelation that Chris Mazza, the embattled former CEO of the Ornge air ambulance service, collected $9.3 million in salaries and bonuses from the province over six years. There was also a long-term energy plan that will see hydro rates increase by 50 per cent over the next decade and news out of southwestern Ontario that Heinz and Kellogg’s will both be closing factories, leaving nearly 1,300 people without jobs. Even the recent announcement that Cisco has partnered with the province to create as many at 1,700 new jobs in Ontario — which came on the first day MPPs were back in their ridings for winter break — had some observers suggesting it was not a job creation plan but rather a government handout to a deep-pocketed technology giant.
Internal energy department emails released following a freedom of information request show the lobby group RenewableUK met ministry officials and assured that their input was “reflected in guidance”
Earlier this year, the energy department, which is run by Ed Davey, a Liberal Democrat, was accused of blocking a report on the impact of wind farms because of fears that it would undermine the case for turbinesPhoto: PA
The lobby group for the turbine industry was able to influence the wording of a report produced for the Government on how noise from wind farms should be measured.
RenewableUK “raised concerns” with the Department of Energy and Climate Change over independent guidance produced by the Institute of Acoustics which resulted in changes being made.
Internal energy department emails released following a freedom of information request show the lobby group met ministry officials, after which it was assured that “the majority of R-UK’s input” was “reflected in the guidance”.
Both the Government and the report’s author said last night that RenewableUK had not influenced the advice, but the emails raise new questions about the Coalition’s openness over its wind farm policy.
Earlier this year, the energy department, which is run by Ed Davey, a Liberal Democrat, was accused of blocking a report on the impact of wind farms because of fears that it would undermine the case for turbines. The Lib Dems support onshore wind farms.