Windfall Ecology Centre Receives Taxpayer and Ratepayer Windfall

“The name came from sitting under an apple tree in the graveyard. “The apples were plunking down around me as they fell off the tree, and I thought, there’s a lesson here. If you take care of things and leave nature alone, it provides.” The foregoing was from the February 2008 edition of York University’s magazine story about Brent Kopperson, the founder of Windfall Ecology Centre an environmental not-for profit. Perhaps Mr. Kopperson felt that his comment put him on a par with Sir Isac Newton but the short story doesn’t give us that insight!

Kopperson in the story claims responsibility for co-founding the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA) and in his biography on the Windfall website it states he was a founding director in the creation of the Canadian Renewable Energy Alliance (CanREA), the Community Power Fund , which led the Green Energy Act Alliance (GEAA) and was the former Chair of Green Communities Canada. His bio also claims he authored “Ontario’s landmark Standard Offer Program or Feed-in Tariff for renewable energy”, that he was a Director of the World Wind Energy Association and “Along the way he earned his private pilot licence and solo aerobatics Endorsement.” Considering his reputed commitment to the environment the latter effort doesn’t sound very carbon neutral, now, does it!

Mr. Kopperson was one of the 14 individuals instrumental in the creation of the Green Energy & Economy Act and his bio and the short story mentioned above confirms that. He purports, in my opinion, to have discovered (with the help of the UN IPCC) the gravity (perhaps a play on words) of “fossil fuels as a finite energy source” as he clearly states in this MaRS video filmed at the “Social Finance Forum”. In his speech he states Ontario is using 19th century technology and further on in that speech he pushes wind turbines (19th century technology) to source our future electricity.
That particular speech (late 2008) confirms that the Community Power Fund, which Kopperson says he co-founded; received $3 million from the Ontario Provincial Government. This was upped to $10 million annually by Brad Duguid in his directive of November 26, 2010 to the Ontario Power Authority (OPA). Part of this fund was subsequently allotted to OSEA, one of the entities Kopperson co-founded. Prior research on OSEA indicated they received almost $2 million ($1.5 million from the Trillium Foundation plus $200,000 from the Toronto Atmospheric Fund or TAF) from various Ontario government (taxpayer funded) ministries and institutions but perhaps that was just part of the “windfall” that came to Kopperson when those apples were falling!

Just to put the latter point in perspective it is worth pondering the fact that Trillium Foundation have approved grants to Windfall Ecology of $1,047,600, to Green Communities Canada, $1,181,000 and $465,000 to another entity that Kopperson is involved with—Chippewas of Georgina. In fact Kopperson has been involved with the Chippewas of Georgina for many years almost since the advent of Windfall itself.

Kopperson has ingratiated himself with the Chippewas to the point where he is a director of the Pukwis Energy Co-operative which has a contract with the OPA for a 20 MW wind turbine development (Phase 1) on Georgina Island. The development is to consist of ten (10) 2 MW turbines on the island which Kopperson purports to be capable of producing enough energy to supply 7500 homes meaning it would produce energy at a level of over 41% of capacity. [Strangely the link that should take you to the “Pukwis” website posted on Windfall Ecology’s page actually leads to a “coupon” website.] The Kopperson suggested level of production would trump any wind development project in the province and pretty well anywhere in the world. Wind turbines, in Ontario during 2011 operated at a level of about 27% of capacity which is consistent with global experience. The claim was not disputed by the Ministry of Energy but a June 20, 2011 posting on the Ministry blog said the Pukwis development would generate enough power to power 4500 homes. Lake Simcoe’s Georgina Island is approximately 14.5 Sq Kilometres with a population of 220 and 1.5 kilometres from the mainland. The foregoing means the costs of hooking this development to the grid will be borne by Ontario’s ratepayers as the projected amount of energy produced is well in excess of what should be required for a population of that size.

Georgina Island is approximately 50 miles north of Toronto and outside the area of financial interest to the City of Toronto, yet TAF (Chaired by councillor Shelly Carroll) at a Board meeting on December 15, 2010 approved financing of $500,000 for the Pukwis Energy Co-Operative to erect the 20 MW Pukwis Community Wind Park. Later that month the Deputy Mayor of Toronto, Doug Holyday, got wind of this approval and raised the issue in the press and was quoted as follows: “I just don’t see the benefits to the citizens of Toronto to be sending $500,000 up to Georgina Island.” As time passed TAF reported that Pukwis was able to raise cheaper financing and the TAF financing was no longer required. Despite that claim, one wonders if that is really the truth. Perhaps Kopperson was able to arrange alternate financing from conventional sources, however, it certainly appears that Pukwis may have instead tapped into other government financing sources including the Aboriginal Renewable Energy Network which may have provided funding of up to $770,000.

Needless to say the Pukwis Energy Co-operative has received a lot of attention from Mr. Kopperson in his efforts to push this project forward to conclusion. Those efforts included one of the Trillium grants ($150,000) for Windfall to “develop a community owned wind farm”. His efforts to utilize the Sheppard House in Aurora as Windfall’s offices resulted in Trillium grants of $100,000 to make it “energy efficient” and another $100,000 for “office equipment” and hire an “education co-coordinator”. Sheppard House and the Sheppard’s Bush conservation area it occupies is managed by the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) which in 2011 received almost $9 million of taxpayer (municipal, provincial & federal) funds which represented 65% of their gross revenue. [As a taxpayer I find it insulting that conservation authorities and many other quasi-government entities believe an annual report is; nature pictures, verbiage and two pie charts showing revenues and expenditures-actual disclosure is devoid of facts].  Windfall reputedly pay $12,000 (in kind) in annual rental payments to use the Sheppard House which seems to be very cheap rent.

Windfall obtained another $568,000 grant from Trillium to develop and launch Repower Ontario. Repower operates out of the Sheppard House and according to its website it:

“is a learning program that orients, trains, and connects eager participants with employment and self-employment opportunities and provides insight into what is possible and what is driving rapid growth in the new green economy.”

Mr. Kopperson has done an admirable job of multiplying those falling apples into what can only be properly described (in my opinion) as a windfall for him and the various entities he claims he founded or co-founded.

Amongst his other claims Kopperson reputes he introduced George Smitherman, former Minister of Energy, to Herman Scheer of German renewable energy fame at the 2008 World Wind Energy Conference and that introduction led Smitherman (after a tour of Germany) to bring the Green Energy & Economy Act forward.

The ratepayers and taxpayers of Ontario are paying dearly for those falling apples; since Brent Kopperson had his “aha” moment. Based on his numerous claims, in this writer’s opinion, it certainly appears he deserves to be included in the small club of people that greatly influenced the Liberal government pushing the creation of Bill 150, the Green Energy & Economy Act that has cost Ontarians billions of dollars, created health problems, driven down property values in rural Ontario, killed tens of thousands of birds and bats and set in place the causes of the rural/urban divide that exists today.

Some windfall for Ontario!

Parker Gallant,
September 10, 2012

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