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.
The wind power developers awarded contracts in 2016 are now gradually filing for Renewable Energy Approval, in spite of the fact that Ontario has a surplus of power, and wind power is produced out of phase with demand to the extent it is estimate 70 percent of it is wasted.
The Otter Creek project (50 megawatts, Chatham-Kent, $218 million over 20 years) was just on the EBR for comment, and now the Romney Wind Energy Centre (60 megawatts, Chatham-Kent, $261 million over 20 years) has filed documents that are being screened for completeness.
Ontario does not need this new power.
Ontarians do not need more costs added to their electricity bills.
Ontario has shown it is unable — or unwilling — to deal with thousands of reports of excessive noise from projects already operating.
These contracts should be cancelled, not granted Renewable Energy Approval.
This past spring, Wind Concerns Ontario conducted an analysis of Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) response to reports of excessive noise and vibration(MOECC) and concluded the process for responding to citizen complaints is deeply flawed and largely ineffective. Global News ran a two-part investigative report on this information, which featured Ontario families who have been complaining about turbine noise for years, with no resolution.
More documents recently released under Freedom of Information (FOI) and correspondence with Ministry staff reveal problems with the Cornwall office that are further examples of a poor strategy for response. The documents and email also are a clear indication that the MOECC has completely abdicated its role as a regulator, and leaves resolution of any problems up to corporate wind power developers.
The Cornwall office up to now has only had to deal with any reports of excessive noise stemming from the 30-megawatt South Branch power project in and around Brinston, Ontario. Documents show that noise complaints were made even before the project began commercial operation in March, 2014.
No report number means no records?
Our initial request for information resulted in three records, which did not match Wind Concerns Ontario members’ experiences with this power project. It turned out, the Cornwall office had not been giving Incident Report numbers to people reporting, as is procedure, so their complaints were not recorded or tracked. On the advice of insider, we re-filed a request, this time asking for “investigative” reports and a handful — again, at odds with our members’ real-life experiences–was turned over.
In the records was an email from the Senior Environmental Officer to the power developer EDP Renewables, in which the MOECC staff member actually apologizes for passing along a complaint. [Emphasis ours]
Tuesday July 22, 2014
Hi Ken [Ken Little , EDPR project manager for South Branch]
Sorry about this …
I received a noise complaint last week –not specific to any particular time last week, but a complaint of noise when the winds are from the west or south west. The resident lives [redacted] and is bothered by the noise from the turbine [redacted] The caller stated he cannot open his winds when the winds are from that particular direction due to the noise. …
Do you have any acoustic results for that specific turbine yet?
Excerpts from other complaints
May, 2014: There have been several nights when I am awakened with the window closed. I shudder to think of having the windows open all the time now …
March 20, 2014: I have had several sleepless nights when the wind is in the east direction as the sound waves of the turbines kept me awake from 12:30 a.m. or 2:30 a.m. until morning. [Redacted] Is there any way we can control the wind turbine motion for daytime hours only as [sic] they do not run from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.?
And, in one actual Incident Report:
June, 2014 IR 5006-9KYK5D: ..caller report last night was the 7th night since start-up of wind turbines as SBWF that she has been unable to sleep for the noise …Noise is described as drone of an airplane — very loud with windows closed.
MOECC noted: “acoustic monitoring conducted by tech support July 14-18 2014, report under review with noise engineer”
This summer, a Brinston area resident wrote to Minister Murray about the complete lack of response to her reports of excessive noise (she has had to sleep in her basement on occasion because of the noise and vibration), and an officer with the Cornwall Office telephoned her.
Here’s what she was told.
*Ministry staff were completely unprepared for wind turbine noise complaints.
*They still don’t really know what to do.
*They “lost” her records — even though she had so many reports that the MOECC actually installed equipment and did noise measurement for several days.
*Last, it was too bad they lost everything pertaining to her situation and reports but it didn’t really matter, she was told because “You’re the only one complaining.”
“Lost” records? Citizen complaints under the regulations “don’t matter”? And she was “the only one”, which is completely false?
Outrageous behavior for a regulator
Wind Concerns Ontario wrote a letter to new MOECC Minister Ballard, stating “This is outrageous treatment of a citizen of Ontario, who is simply following the process communicated to her by both the Government of Ontario and the wind power developer, who is mandated under its Renewable Energy Approval to act on and resolve any complaints of excessive noise.”
Moreover, WCO noted in its letter to the Minister, the Cornwall office is not ensuring compliance to conditions of the Renewable Energy Approval, specifically results of the compliance audit, which must be posted on the wind power project website, but are not. The response from the Cornwall Office (August 10, 2017):
“Copies of the acoustic audits can be obtained from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. I haven’t had a chance to check, but some reports have been included in the SBWF website– I assume you’ve already checked there. Let me know if you are interested in pursuing an FOI request and I’ll direct you to the form and process.”
When WCO responded that the report is supposed to be public as per the protocol released by the MOECC in April 2017, the Senior Environmental Officer replies [emphasis ours] on August 10, 2017:
“Ah…I haven’t had a chance to review this new protocol in its entirety…there are some changes worth noting. Thank you for bringing my attention to this. I will be requiring the SBWF to post their reports on their website. I’ll keep you apprised.
“This is completely inappropriate behaviour for a regulator,” WCO president Jane Wilson wrote to Minister Ballard.
“The people of this particular area are now facing approval of a 100-megawatt power project by the same developer, this one close to TWO communities,* and they have no assurance whatsoever that the Cornwall District Office is prepared, or even competent, to respond effectively to noise complaints.
“On behalf of our members, we ask that you investigate this situation. Government staff should be prepared to fulfill the department’s mandate, and carry out their responsibilities to the people of Ontario.”
As of September 4, 2017, the mandated compliance report is still not on the South Branch Wind Farm website.
We have just been informed by the MOECC that the EDP documents have been reviewed and found to be incomplete and cannot be posted at this time.
This project has been in operation for three years.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association or CanWEA, the wind power trade association/lobbyist/influencer has a document on community engagement for its developer members in which it advises, people have a right to object to your project.
Germany-based power developer WPD seems to have missed that page. Not only has the company faced the fact the community in Prince Edward County by and large does not want a huge wind power development as evidenced by a Not A Willing Host designation and numerous resolutions at council, but it has also seen its project decline from 29 turbines to 27 then virtually razed of 18 more by the Environmental Review Tribunal.
Undaunted in its quest for revenue from its rich contract with the Ontario government, the company now threatens to begin construction on the remaining nine turbines on Sunday, September 10. And in a move tantamount to walking into a room and putting a gun on the table, WPD sent a letter to Prince Edward County Council threatening legal action and substantial costs should the municipal government try to obstruct its project.
Mayor Robert Quaiff has called an emergency meeting at Shire Hall in Picton on Thursday at 1 PM, and Councillor Steve Ferguson is hosting a Town Hall in Milford, next week.
Update on White Pines wind project in Prince Edward County
The Tribunal’s decision of last April to remove 18 turbines from the White Pines wind project — two thirds of the total Project — seems not to have deterred wpd in the slightest. On the last day of July wpd served Notice to the County that it intends to start construction on the 9 remaining turbines in the project as of Sunday, September 10th.
In response to this Notice, South Marysburgh Councillor Steve Ferguson is calling a town hall meeting in Milford on September 5th to provide information about the wind project and to answer questions about the project’s implications to Milford residents and the surrounding area. Mayor Robert Quaiff and other Council members as well as municipal staff, will be on hand to answer questions.
Also on the meeting’s agenda is a Notice of Dispute that was issued to the County on August 23. wpd has given the County 10 days response time on a number of permit applications that were delivered to the County along with the Notice:
“In accordance with the terms of the RUA (Road Users Agreement), please advise of your decision on these applications within 10 days of this correspondence. . .The County’s failure to issue the permits to which wpd is entitled under its REA (Renewable Energy Approval) will be taken by wpd to be an act of bad faith and an attempt to frustrate its wind energy project. If we do not hear from you on or before September 7th, 2017, we will engage our external counsel to take all steps necessary to enforce our rights before the Divisional Court on an urgent basis and to seek our costs for doing so.”
While wpd blusters about others’ bad faith, its own actions tell a different story.
The company made no effort to comply with the REA condition to set up a Community Liaison Committee within three months of receiving its REA and has made no effort in the two years since receiving the approval.
To make things worse, wpd has wrapped itself in a cloak of silence. All pretense of public consultation has been dropped. wpd now declines to respond to any questions from members of the public. While everyone realizes there must be major repercussions after such a significant down-sizing, everything is now handled by wpd out of the public eye.
This has only fuelled speculation about the status of wpd’s FIT (Feed-In-Tariff) contract, the OEB approval for leave to construct a (now non-existent) 28-kilometre, 69-kv transmission line, the change from a transmission to a distribution project and all that involves, Hydro One’s potential involvement and rumours that wpd may be opting to hang power lines above-ground on poles in direct contradiction to their REA commitment to bury the lines (with two minor exceptions where overhead lines were required).
As September 10th draws closer, members of the public of Prince Edward County are looking for answers.
Last week, Wind Works Power announced it has cancelled the Feed In Tariff (FIT) contract with the Independent Electricity System Operator for its Cloudy Ridge wind power project, to have been located in Grey Highlands.
The company, based in Germany, made this statement in its news release:
Given that the government of Ontario recently cancelled the previously repeatedly announced second bidding process for up to 850 MW renewable energy, and given the loss incurred by Cloudy Ridge due to repeated governmental uncertainties, Wind Works has decided to terminate any activities in the uncertain and unpredictable Ontario renewable energy market.
Wind Works also claimed that it had planned to “invest” $300 million in Ontario, but will not now due to cancellation of further wind power procurement and government “uncertainty.”
The Auditor General for Ontario has stated that Ontario has paid far too much for wind power and that in fact, the citizens of Ontario overpaid by as much as $9 billion.
A commentary published by the Council for Clean and Reliable Energy noted that Ontario has a surplus of power and that because wind power is produced out of phase with demand in the province, as much as 70 percent of wind power is unusable. Of the remained, little of it actually gets to areas in the GTA and southern Ontario where it is needed.
Wind Concerns Ontario received documents earlier this year indicating that the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has failed to address reports of excessive noise and vibration. The Ministry’s own staff documented concerns with existing regulations regarding noise levels and setbacks.
Five more wind power projects received contracts in 2016 and are now proceeding through the approval process.
“These projects are not needed,” says Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “If approved and allowed to proceed, they will add $3.3 billion in costs to Ontario electricity customers’ bills for intermittent and unreliable power that also has significant negative impact on the environment and human health.”
There is news in the ongoing tragic tale of the single turbine owned by Unifor at its Family Education Centre in Port Elgin.
It’s not good.
The wind turbine — which would not be permitted under today’s regulations, lax though they are — has resulted in hundreds of noise complaints. Promises of noise measurement have been made but little or no real action has taken place, and members of the community are still suffering from sleep disturbance and anxiety as a result of the noise emissions.
Recently, Unifor had a deadline to produce a compliance audit. Here is correspondence from this week between the MOECC and Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau, sent to Wind Concerns Ontario.
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is committed to seeing that renewable energy projects are developed in a way that is protective of human health and the environment, and takes noise concerns very seriously. The ministry needs conclusive E-audits and I-audits in order to determine compliance with applicable noise conditions.
On April 28, 2017, following finalization of the revised Compliance Protocol for Wind Turbine Noise, Unifor undertook the commencement of the acoustic audit as required by the ministry. Insufficient data was collected in the spring to make a valid assessment in accordance with the ministry’s Compliance Protocol. Unifor will reinstall the sound level monitoring equipment in September, when ambient noise will be lower to collect additional data so a valid assessment can be made.
To date, the ministry has not determined that the Unifor Wind turbine is operating outside of the terms and conditions outlined in their Certificate of Approval, nor has the ministry confirmed any adverse effects due to the operation of the facility. If the ministry determines the facility to be in non-compliance with our legislation, ministry staff will take appropriate action through application of appropriate compliance and enforcement tools. Actions taken by ministry staff are assessed on a case-by-case basis and based on many factors, including an evaluation of risks to the environment and human health.
Although the ministry has not identified any non-compliance related to noise, Union Building is voluntarily derating and shutting down the wind turbine under certain conditions.
I understand that the [citizens filing a noise complaint] were sent the complaint numbers they requested this morning, complaint numbers are assigned automatically when a complaint is logged within the ministry’s IT system. Sincerely,
District Supervisor, Owen Sound District Office, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change
You cannot permit this to continue while people suffer
From: Luke Charbonneau Sent: Monday, August 21, 2017 1:13 PM
I am, unfortunately, all too aware of the information in your email. UNIFOR’s voluntary derating and shutting down of the turbine has been in effect for many years now – it has not abated the negative impact on neighbouring property owners. UNIFOR’s ‘voluntary’ acoustic audit has been promised for four years now. They have failed to deliver it because you consistently fail to demand it. The Ministry has not determined that the turbine is operating out of compliance because you have failed to investigate in spite of four years of ongoing complaints from the neighbours who are experiencing “unconfirmed” adverse effects.
You are a regulator and you failing to regulate.
You cannot permit this years long delay and procrastination to continue while people continue to suffer.
I again ask you to order the turbine shut down until the often promised (never delivered) audit can be completed – this, in the interest of public safety and your legal and moral obligations.
Wind Concerns Ontario received documentation on wind turbine noise reports 2006-2014 earlier this year via a request through the Freedom of Information Act. Many of the Master Incident files (i.e., files that had so many individual complaints they were bundled into larger “master” files) were related to the Unifor turbine, so many in fact that the single turbine ranked fourth in the number of complaints after multi-turbine projects Melancthon, Enbridge, and Talbot wind farms. In one report dated 2014, the MOECC staff recorded: “extremely loud swooshing and raking sound from the turbine blades – also a banging noise from the turbine vibrations could be felt.” The complaint, as others, was referred to Unifor for action.
Once again, with problems like these ongoing and without proper action by the ministry, no new wind power contracts should be approved. This government needs to acknowledge the problems and take action, immediately.
ONTARIO ENVIRONMENT MINISTRY TO REPEAT WIND POWER MISTAKES
August 22, 2017
Wellington, Ont. —
Applications for approval of new, huge wind power projects now being filed with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate should be denied, says Wind Concerns Ontario.
“There have been so many problems and mistakes with the government’s wind power program that not a single new project should be approved,” says Wind Concerns’ president Jane Wilson.
Recently, problems with well water have been revealed in the Chatham-Kent area, where vibrations from turbine construction and operation have disturbed the shale bedrock resulting in toxic heavy metals such as arsenic contaminating water, making it undrinkable.
On August 21st, Chatham-Kent council voted to demand a halt to construction of a new wind power project.
The Otter Creek project by French power developer Boralex is proposed to be built on the same geologic formation and there are questions as to whether it could also create water problems.
Turbine noise is an ongoing concern: Wind Concerns received MOECC documents earlier this year showing that the ministry has had thousands of complaints about excessive noise and vibration from operating wind turbines, but has not resolved any of the problems. Complaints about noise emissions from the turbines continue, often beginning as soon as the power projects begin operation. Citizens affected report sleep disturbance for weeks at a time, and other health problems such as headaches, dizziness, and cardiovascular symptoms.
“The Ministry doesn’t seem to be learning anything from reports of problems created by wind power projects,” says Wilson. “Their own field officers have documented issues with existing noise regulations and observed health effects, and now we have people with formerly pure well water turning black, but the MOECC continues to receive and approve these huge power projects based on the same regulations that have proven to be flawed.
“If the MOECC were a private business, they would acknowledge these mistakes and problems, and work to resolve them — that’s not what this government is doing.”
Wind Concerns filed a document recommending the Otter Creek project, now in review, not be approved. The turbines proposed have never been used and there are no actual noise output measurements for them, WCO says of the project which will operate immediately north of Wallaceburg.
“The modelling documents filed with their approval request are just estimates based on estimates,” says Wilson. “That’s not good enough to assure citizens of Wallaceburg their health will be protected.”
WCO says that projects not built yet should also be halted, such as the North Kent II, where water problems persist, and Amherst Island, to name two, where a tiny island community will be exposed to noise emissions from 26 50-storey high wind turbines and endangered wildlife will be affected.
The damage to the environment and to human health is inexcusable, WCO says, especially when the power projects are not needed. According to a report by the Council for Clean & Reliable Energy, 70 percent of Ontario’s wind power is wasted as it is produced out of phase with demand, and Ontario has a surplus of electrical power.
Rick Conroy, editor of the independent Wellington Times news paper in Prince Edward County, has had a front-row seat to at least three, probably four, wind power projects in The County. All have been vanquished save for the “White Pines” unwanted, unneeded power project which has been reduced from 29 turbines to 27 then to nine, and still, the power developer threatens to proceed.
Conroy has an interesting perspective, including a view across the water to nearby Amherst Island, where a tiny island community will almost certainly be destroyed by the Windlectric unwanted, unneeded wind power project … that will take a whole lot of wildlife down with the island, too.
Here is his editorial from the most recent edition of the paper.
Ontario is currently working toward another electricity import deal with Quebec. It is likely a good thing. Most of our neighbour’s electricity is generated by massive hydro dams on the James Bay and St. Lawrence watershed—so, by today’s convoluted meaning of the word, it is clean. It is also reliable and manageable—the opposite of the wind and solar power sources in which Ontario has invested billions over the past 15 years. The deal is expensive, however, about 40 per cent richer than Quebec earns from other exported electricity contracts.
But here is the interesting bit.
Coincidentally, the quantity of imported power represented in this deal, combined with another with Quebec in 2015— equals almost precisely the total electricity generated by wind and solar in Ontario. Ten terawatt hours of wind and solar are being made redundant by ten terawatt hours of hydro electricity. Maybe coincidence is the wrong word.
Put another away—the nearly useless intermittent power generated by wind and solar has been replaced by two power deals with Quebec. Electricity that is cheaper, cleaner and manageable.
It’s a sign, perhaps, the adults have wrested control of the province’s energy management away from the politicians.
The deal illustrates rather bluntly that Ontario’s wind and solar power projects are like costume jewellery—showy and glittery to a distracted public, but bearing little actual value.
Worse, these intermittent electricity trinkets are a persistent headache to the electricity system operator. Each year we spill enough electricity through exports to neighbouring jurisdictions, including Michigan and New York, to power a large part of their economies. We regularly export this power at a loss—sometimes we pay them to take it.
Sickeningly we spend as much as a $1 billion each year for others to take our unwanted electricity. Without these outlets, however, Ontario’s power grid would succumb to the variability of wind and sunlight on an electrical grid ill-equipped to endure it. And electrical systems operators in Michigan and New York know it.
So, they take advantage.
It is sophisticated modernday larceny. Here is how it works. Lacking formal purchase agreements, Michigan buys Ontario electricity mostly on the spot market, typically paying between one and two cents per kilowatt hour (kWh)—a fraction of what it costs the state to generate its own electricity. (The County’s Parker Gallant does a much more thorough job of explaining how this works in his regular contributions to the Wind Concerns Ontario blog, the Financial Post and other publications.)
To its credit and downfall, Ontario’s electricity market is utterly transparent—anyone with a computer can monitor the demand for electricity and the supply available at any given moment (as well as many other facets of the system). They can see plainly when the province is headed for a critical system overload— when Ontario must shed power or risk catastrophe. Folks in Michigan know it too. They know when Ontario will be calling them to offload electricity. They are happy and ready to oblige.
From time to time, the imbalance between too little demand and too much uncontrollable supply in Ontario’s electricity system becomes so precarious that grid operators in Michigan and New York can actually compel Ontario to pay them to take it the power. It is how it came about that today Ontario now powers about 10 per cent of Michigan’s electricity needs. And we lose money on every kilowatt.
All this has been said and explained before by others. The facts are uncontested. It is all easily verifiable thanks to Ontario’s transparent electricity operations.
Yet we continue to build useless wind and solar projects. We continue to make the problem worse.
Across the channel from Cressy, Amherst Island residents are bracing for a disheartening defeat. Their local government has recently conceded that it has secured the most it is likely to get from the developer of 26 industrial wind turbines and the province in order to protect the residents, the delicate waterway, the roads and other infrastructure as well as the endangered species that reside there. Any lingering regret over its own shortcomings at Loyalist Township hall, however, is likely to be eased by the $500,000 payment it has been promised each year by the industrial wind project owner.
Meanwhile on the ground, the developer’s actions sometimes bear little resemblance to the plans it submitted and promises made when asking from provincial approvals. For example, it told the Environmental Review Tribunal that it would widen only about three kilometres of road. Now it figures it will need to widen more than six times that length—a threat to the Blanding’s turtles and other animals. It is also threatening to fundamentally change the character of this pastoral island for a generation or more.
Folks on Amherst Island have begun to mourn the looming decimation of the quiet, rural island life that drew them to this place. We mourn with them.
Michigan residents, meanwhile, are likely unaware of the sacrifices that some Ontario residents on a wee island are making to subsidize their electricity bills.Will we connect these dots next June?
The approval for proposed Fairview Wind power project has finally been revoked by the Environmental review Tribunal, on the basis of serious harm to human health and risk to aviation safety — the project was close to two airports.
Our question is, HOW did this power project get as far as it did? How could Transport Canada not block this? Why should taxpayers have had to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect safety and the environment from their own Ontario Ministry of the ENVIRONMENT and Climate Change?
In the original decision issued last fall, the Environmental Review Tribunal accepted the appellants’ aviation expert testimony, which included a rejection of any “mitigation” proposed by the wind power developer, wpd.
In specific the panel noted:
 For these reasons, Tribunal accepts that the margin for error posed by introducing the proposed wind turbines at their proposed locations would be inadequate to either prevent collision with a wind turbine, or prevent a crash due to wind turbine-induced turbulence.
 The Tribunal finds that Mr. Cormier has provided informed criticisms of the proposed mitigation measures that were not contradicted by the Director’s or Approval Holder’s experts, and, therefore, the Tribunal accepts Mr. Cormier’s evidence in this regard. As such, the Tribunal finds that there is insufficient evidence that mitigation measures will be effective.
The reason for the delay in revocation of the approval was because a secondary issue was harm to the Little Brown Bat and the Tribunal felt it necessary —despite the clear risk to human health — to review and evaluate the mitigation procedures proposed. The Tribunal in its decision released this week, did find that the mitigation measures were acceptable but in any event, the risk to human health was sufficient to cancel the approval.
In the October decision, the Tribunal noted that documents from the power developer referred to Transport Canada in an apparent claim that that government agency was OK with proposals for new approaches for pilots to avoid the turbines. However, the Tribunal noted that the Transport Canada letter was “carefully worded” and did not, in effect, provide approval for the power developer’s notion of how to avoid plane crashes.
At “the end of the day” as lawyers say, we are left scratching our head as to how such a proposal could get so far when common sense would seem to dictate otherwise, and why our own government could be so blinded by its “green” ideology that it is more than willing to defend the proposal?
Ontario’s experiment with green energy via the Green Energy and Green Economy Act has not had the rosy effects the McGuinty-Wynne governments said it would: electricity prices up dramatically, promised jobs did not materialize, and all this has had “modest” environmental benefits, says Michael Trebilcock in a report released by the C.D. Howe Institute today.
Mr. Trebilcock’s language is somewhat reserved compared to what he said at the time when the Green Energy Act was passed. Then he remarked, “This combination of irresponsibility and venality has produced a lethal brew of policies.”
Focus on electricity is out of proportion with other areas of the economy in need of closer scrutiny, such as transportation – Michael Trebilcock
With the enactment of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (Green Energy Act) in 2009, the Ontario government committed ratepayers to massive subsidization of various forms of renewable energy, especially wind power and solar energy, along with the phasing out of coalfired generation in the province – a goal achieved in 2014. In the eight years since the initiation of these policies, what tentative assessment can we make of their impact? Such a review is especially important in light of recent commitments by the federal government and most provinces to adopt a minimum carbon tax (or its equivalent) across Canada and to provide a variety of subsidies to users of low-emission technology.
Any evaluation of the impact of Ontario’s green energy policies to date should focus on three factors: i) the costs of renewable energy; ii) the environmental impact of these policies; and iii) their impact on employment in the province. On the evidence to date, these policies have had a dramatic impact on electricity costs in the province, but they have generated very limited environmental benefits and have had a negligible to negative effect on economic growth and employment. In short, the current Ontario green energy policies have run up against Pielke’s iron law of climate change: when citizens are faced with a major trade-off between the economy and the environment, the former will almost always prevail (Pielke 2010). Ontario’s experience shows that, rather than an extensive reliance on technology or activity-specific subsidies, the best approach by far is a carbon tax (or its cap-and-trade equivalent) that is technology-, activity-, and revenue-neutral.
About 60 percent of Ontario’s current generation capacity is already accounted for by low-emission hydro or nuclear-generated electricity, with the balance provided by natural-gas generation and to a lesser extent by renewables. Wind power and solar energy, because of their intermittency and unpredictability, require back-up generation, especially during peak-load capacity, and that has generally entailed the construction of natural-gas plants. In Ontario, the phasing out of coal-fired generation has likewise led to the construction of more natural-gas– fired generation.
The electricity sector’s share of greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario in 2012 was only about 9 percent of total emissions, compared to the transportation sector with 34 percent and the industrial sector with 30 percent (Ontario, Auditor General 2015), meaning that further environmental gains in the electricity sector are inherently limited.4 In any event, this impact needs to be compared to other alternatives, such as further enhancing transmission connections and expanding power purchase agreements with neighbouring jurisdictions, in particular Quebec and Manitoba, which have substantial clean hydroelectric resources. More generally, developing a competitively structured capacity market in Ontario may be a preferable long-term alternative strategy (Goulding 2013).
The focus on electricity is out of proportion with the areas of the economy that are most in need of closer scrutiny, such as transportation. Although the industrial sector accounts for the largest share of energy use in Canada,5 the growth in use in the transportation sector outpaced all other sectors between 1990 and 2013 with a 43 percent growth, compared to 7 percent in the residential sector, 30 percent in the industrial sector, and 23 percent in the commercial sector (Natural Resources Canada 2016).
Read the news release and link to the full report here.
An Open Letter to the newly appointed Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Chris Ballard. “You have work to do”
July 31, 2017
To the Honourable Chris Ballard
Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
Queen’s Park, Toronto
Welcome to your new position as Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.
Unfortunately, Minister Glen Murray has left you an extensive list of action items requiring your immediate follow-up. We highlight the key issues for you in the following list, related to Ontario’s energy policy and wind power projects.
White Pines – Withdraw the Renewable Energy Approval for this project as developer wpd cannot meet the terms of their contract. There are significant environmental concerns with this project that remain, even after a successful appeal by citizens before the Environmental Review Tribunal.
Amherst Island – Rescind Renewable Energy Approval for this project which is planned for the tiny island heritage community. Significant environmental risks are present including the serious impact on migrating birds that congregate in this area; Ontario does not need the power from this project.
Saugeen Shores – The single wind turbine at the Unifor educational facility has been fraught with problems and engendered hundreds of complaints about excessive noise. This turbine would not be allowed under present regulations. You can immediately address the failure to meet a June 30 deadline for submission of a compliance audit report.
K2 Wind – This is another wind power project, a large one, with many problems in its relatively short history. You can deliver on Minister Glen Murray’s mid-May commitment to Black family, and others, to provide a solution to wind turbines that MOECC testing indicated were not compliant with Ontario regulations to protect the environment and health.
Address Concerns Raised at Request of Minister Murray – Many people across Ontario took Minister Murray at his word when he said that there were no complaints reaching his office and that he would ensure his officials responded quickly to address the issues. They wrote to him and are still waiting for action on their issues.
Complaint Tracking Process – Complaint records released to WCO in response to an FOI request indicate that the MOECC does not respond to most complaints about wind turbine noise. These complaints should be a source of learning for the Ministry rather than being ignored as currently appears to be the case. A full revision of the process is needed to ensure that complaints are actually resolved with procedures that allow the Minister’s office to track resolution. MOECC records indicate little or no resolution of more than 3,100 formal Pollution Reports made by Ontario citizens between 2006 and 2014.
REA Approval Process – Increase setbacks from residences to reflect learning from MOECC complaint records that include staff reports that confirm that current regulations are not sufficient to protect health of residents living in wind projects. Last week, the Supreme Court set out standards for consultations with communities which are substantially more rigorous that the standards used for Ontario Renewable Energy Projects.
MOECC Noise Modeling Procedures – implement new noise modeling procedures based on MOECC internal testing that demonstrates wind turbines routinely exceed predicted levels.
Otter Creek – Retract decision to deem this application “complete” for the Renewable Energy Approval process. The proponent is unable to provide noise emission data for the turbine equipment proposed. The noise report submitted with the application for a REA is not grounded in fact but rather is estimates based estimates. Also, a full MOECC investigation of the impact on well water is required.
LRP I Contracts – suspend REA process for remaining LRP I projects until full review of requirements based on internal complaint records is completed.
Noise Compliance Audit Protocol – Expand the wind speeds covered under the protocol to include wind speeds below 4 metres/second which are the source of a substantial portion of complaints about excessive noise. Even MOECC testing shows these wind speeds are the source of noise levels exceeding 40 dB(A), which completely undercuts the credibility of this audit process.
REA Enforcement – REA terms make the project operator responsible for addressing the concerns raised in each complaint to ensure that it does not recur. The MOECC needs to follow up on all operating with projects to ensure compliance with these terms and take action where it is not occurring.
Shadow Flicker – The flickering shadows produced when a turbine is positioned between the rising or setting sun is a major irritant for residents. It is not considered in the REA approvals and is easy to address by turning off the turbine for the times when it is casting moving shadows on a house. In some projects, these changes have been implemented by the wind company but in other MOECC staff is telling residents no action is required, even though the REA requires the wind company to address complaints like these.
Infrasound – Expand MOECC testing to include the full range of noise emissions from wind turbines as independent testing shows the presence of elevated levels of infrasound in homes where residents have had to leave to protect their health.
Health Studies – The Ministry has been telling residents that its policy is based on the “best science” available since the first turbine projects were built. MOECC records clearly show that this is not correct, but the Ministry continues to be willfully blind to input from both residents and its own staff, quoting dated and selective literature reviews in a field where the science is rapidly evolving. The need for noise studies and other investigation has been highlighted in numerous reports but never undertaken. It is time for some serious field studies of the problems being caused by wind turbine projects in rural communities across Ontario. This was an information gap identified in 2010 by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
Last, it is important that as you prepare for this major portfolio, you understand that industrial-scale wind power generation offers no significant benefit to the environment.
Wind power generation on this scale is a high-impact development for little benefit, if any. Two Auditors General for Ontario recommended that Ontario undertake a cost-benefit and/or impact analysis — that has never been done.
We ask you to approach this issue with honesty and honour, and respect the wishes of the citizens of rural Ontario.
Wind Concerns Ontario
Wind Concerns Ontario is a coalition of community groups, individuals and families concerned about the impact of industrial-scale wind power development on Ontario’s economy, the natural environment, and human health.