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.
Canada’s federal government–deep in debt from policy decisions and now the COVID-19 pandemic–has pointed toward a focus on renewable energy as a way to “build back better” and strengthen the economy.
But will it work?
Wind Concerns Ontario took a look at what government incentives did in Ontario, when the McGuinty government had the same goal in 2009. Their aim was to make up for the devastating losses in the auto industry by fostering a new one: Ontario would become a world leader in green energy and benefit from a chain of economic endeavors from manufacturing wind and solar power components to generating “clean” “green” power.
The vision was to help “fledgling” companies grow and thrive.
Research on the companies that actually participated in the early days of wind power development in Ontario shows they were hardly “fledglings”. Names like Samsung, Enbridge, Suncor, SunEdison and more indicate, as the Wind Concerns Ontario report shows, companies from around the world flocked to Ontario to take advantage of lucrative, above-market contract rates. And then, many of them left. Today, much of the province’s wind power capacity is held by pension and investment funds who bought into the high yields from the rich contracts.
Prosperity for all? No. Ontario now has a new catch phrase: “energy poverty” as it watched manufacturing businesses hit the road for locations with more advantageous electricity rates.
In today’s edition of The Niagara Independent is an article by Catherine Swift, head of Working Canadians and former Chief Economist with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
She advises the Ford government to take the steps that are needed to get Ontario’s high electricity bills down—an action that was part of the government’s campaign promise in 2018.
“Most Ontarians also know that the reason for our outrageously high hydro costs is the ill-conceived Green Energy Act (GEA) of the previous Liberal government, which involved signing long-term contracts with solar and wind energy providers,” Swift writes. Those contracts were designed “guaranteeing them rates far in excess of any sensible market rates for electricity, while doing little if anything for the environment that would justify the massive added costs.”
Further, Swift says, “Despite strong rhetoric decrying the price of hydro power in Ontario and the negative impact it is having on businesses, households and the economy overall, the Ford government has in some cases merely perpetuated bad Liberal policy and has not attacked the underlying cause of high hydro rates – the ridiculous contracts awarded by the Liberals to generators of “green” energy at absurdly high cost.
“These contracts typically had terms of 20 years, and some as long as 40 years. The Ontario government has cancelled some of these contracts, at some cost to taxpayers but likely more benefit in terms of eventual savings. But the vast majority of the contracts remain in force and will keep hydro costs high well into the future. The bottom line is that the Liberals made a fine mess of the electricity market in Ontario, including all kinds of inequities in terms of the costs imposed on different groups of ratepayers, and foolishly committed Ontarians to contracts of much longer duration than any government should be permitted to do. Much of the Ontario economy has suffered mightily as a result, especially the job-creating small business sector. As the Ford government is finding, these policies are very difficult to reverse. And if this wasn’t bad enough news, many of the architects of this failed Green Energy Act are now advising the federal government, and advocating for similar policies on a national level.
It is true that the contracts negotiated by the McGuinty and Wynne governments will be difficult to unwind, and doubtless the Ford government’s lawyers are reluctant to get involved in more legal action (e.g., Nation Rise, which was handled badly), but it is possible. Queen’s University professor of law and economics Bruce Pardy wrote in a paper in 2014 that “However, government contracts are not the ironclad agreements they appear to be because governments may change or cancel them by enacting legislation.”
Whatever means is used, Ontario’s citizens do not deserve to continue paying high rates for intermittent, unreliable wind power via contracts negotiated by former, ideology-driven governments which never bothered, despite advice from the Auditor-General, to do a cost-benefit analysis of its pro-wind power program.
Energy analyst and Ontario government historian Scott Luft has just published an important analysis of energy contracts post the Green Energy and Green Economy Act passed in 2009, and has made some starting calculations: those above-market contracts cost us plenty, and still are.
The good news is that the increase in the costs incurred by the GEA contracting slowed significantly after 2016. Additional costs are still to come as the largest, most expensive, single feed-in tariff contract only entered service for the last third of 2019: a full year of operation will add another $75 million. Hydro output from sites contracted under the HCI and HESA initiatives have been producing less in the past couple of years, while global adjustment cost components reported by the system operation (IESO) for this group have been fare higher than my estimates – so I suspect the system operator is hiding payments for curtailment. I have not accounted for biomass contracts, although some exist: over 80% of contracted generation from biofuels is either on FIT contracts or is the converted-from-coal Atikokan Generating Station. Reporting on the global adjustment shows biomass responsible for $230 – $287 million annually over the past 5 years.
Precision is elusive, but I am confident the current annual cost from procurement programs initiated in 2009 is over $4 billion a year.
Wind and solar contracts are for 20 years. A handful of smaller hydro facilities have contracts for less than 20 years, but most are 40 and the largest, most expensive contracts are for 50 years (for facilities on the Lower Mattagami river). By multiplying $4 billion (per year) by 20 years it’s clear the entire cost will be more than the $80 billion.
This is bad news for the current Ontario government that promised lower electricity bills—hard to do when you’re locked into lucrative contracts for years to come yet. But this is interesting for people who complained about cancellation of the 758 new energy contracts last year—we didn’t need that power, and we certainly don’t need the cost of intermittent, weather-dependent power, produced out of phase with demand.
Damage, not help for the environment—and plenty of money to be made, says new Michael Moore/Jeff Gibbs documentary
April 24, 2020
Just in time for Earth Day, doc filmmaker Michael Moore released his newest film, directed by and starring environment writer Jeff Gibbs, “Planet of the Humans.”
The film is a scathing indictment of how huge corporations adapted the public desire to have “green” sources of power and used it to make billions, while excoriating the environment through development.
See the video here; Moore made it available for 30 days for free, but the forces behind the renewables money grab are actively working to have the film taken down.
New York State governor Cuomo’s move to pass legislation that essentially removes democracy for wind power approvals and rubber stamp the power projects is hardly surprising: community opposition is strong in the U.S. and Canada … and it’s having an effect.
Robert Bryce, author of Power Hungry: the myths of green energy and frequent contributor to publications like the Wall Street Journal, has an article in the New York Postexplaining why rural/suburban communities are fighting back against industrialization by wind and solar power developers.
“The truth is that growing numbers of rural and suburban landowners are resisting these types of projects,” Bryce writes. “They don’t want to endure the noise and shadow flicker produced by 500- or 600-foot-high wind turbines. Nor do they want transmission lines built through their towns, to they are fighting to protect their property values and views.”
In the U.S., jurisdictions are now passing zoning bylaws that enact much greater setbacks between turbines and houses, and specifying more stringent noise limits.
In Ontario, the government returned local land-use planning to municipalities but few have taken advantage of the timing to create new bylaw protection. If a pro-wind government is elected in 2022, it will be too late to take such action after a new procurement regime is announced.
Wind and solar power development takes up a lot of land, Bryce says; renewables will grow, but there must be a better way to “keep the lights on” than using up vast tracts of land for intermittent, weather-dependent power generation.
Read the full article here: https://nypost.com/2020/03/07/angry-us-landowners-are-killing-off-renewable-energy-projects/amp/
The wind power lobby in Canada is busy crowing about “low-cost” and “free fuel” but the truth is something else. Entirely.
Sure, it’s fast and easy the whack up wind turbines, faster than building new nuclear (though not small modular reactors, but that’s another story) but there are many costs to wind that are both visible and invisible.
Parker Gallant documents the costs in his most recent article*, here. An excerpt:
An article posted February 10, 2020 highlighted how wind generation, on its own, represented a cost of $12.760 billion over the ten years from 2010 to 2019 to Ontario ratepayers. Industrial wind turbines (IWT) delivered 83.3 TWh and curtailed 10.5 TWh over that time. The combined cost of the generation and curtailment represented an average delivered cost per kWh of 15.32 cents—without factoring in costs of gas plants being at the ready when the wind wasn’t blowing or spilling clean hydro.
Over the same ten years, exports of surplus power to our neighbours cost ratepayers about $12.5 billion dollars. Wind’s habit of generating power in the middle of the night and spring and fall when demand is low drives down the market price, the HOEP (Hourly Ontario Energy Price), resulting in export sales at prices well below contracted rates. This results in ratepayers having to pay the difference.
Last weekend (February 22 and 23) was no exception. The wind was blowing for the two days but Ontario Demand was low, averaging 341,800 MWh. IWTs however, were generating power we didn’t need with grid-accepted wind at 148,175 MWh and 14,900 MWh curtailed. The cost of both was $24 million or 16.2 cents/kWh. IESO was busy exporting surplus power of 141,648 MWh or 96% of grid-accepted wind.
On top of that we were probably spilling water (and paying for it) at the same time.
The question is, how much were we paid for those exports? Exports sold February 22 were at the average price of $1.99/MWh and $1.64/MWh on February 23, so total revenue earned was a miserly $239,000 versus a cost to ratepayers and taxpayers of the province of over $24 million just for what the IWT delivered. Our US neighbours must love us!
Wind’s hidden costs
While the foregoing confirms IWTs are unreliable and intermittent and require backup from gas plants, they have other bad habits. One example is their killing of birds. The Audubon Society has suggested it is anywhere from 140,000 to 328,000 annually. They also kill bats in large numbers. Bird Studies Canada in 2016 estimated the kill rate in Ontario was 18.5 kills per turbine (over 50,000 annually). Many killed are on the endangered list! Additionally, tourism areas may also be negatively affected by IWT as noted in a poll in Scotland by the “John Muir Trust found that 55% of respondents were ‘less likely’ to venture into areas of the countryside industrialised by giant turbines”.
A recent report from Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) raises many other negative issues related to IWT. The report is a synopsis of complaints about IWTs submitted by rural residents of Ontario living within close proximity. Those complaints were submitted to the MOECC (now the MECP) in 2017. The report titled: “Response to Wind Turbine Noise Complaints” analyzed 674 complaints made during 2017. The shocking issue revealed is: “Only nine of the 674 complaints, or 1.3% of total records, indicated there was a field response” [from the MOECC]. What that suggests is the MECP’s field offices are either not equipped to deal with complaints or believe the IWT-contracted parties will somehow resolve them. In excess of 5,200 complaints have been logged by WCO since IWT first started to appear in the province and most of them were related to audible and inaudible (infrasound) noise levels. Other complaints have been associated with aquifer (water) contamination, shadow flicker, ice throws, etc.
Approximately 15% of the population will experience negative health effects from the proximity of IWTs, a similar percentage to those who suffer from motion sickness [on a ship or vehicle]. The effects of audible and infrasound noise will produce nausea, headaches, anxiety, ringing ears, feeling of exhaustion, etc. Those individuals will naturally contact their doctors or other health care professionals for treatment, adding to the cost of Ontario’s health care system. Those costs are not attributed to the cause, which are the IWTs!
Let’s summarize the visible and invisible costs of IWT:
Increased electricity costs due to the need for duplicate power sources such as gas plants.
Increased surplus power which must be curtailed or sold for pennies on the dollar.
Increased costs due to IWT inability to generate power when actually needed.
Increased surplus power from IWT often means other clean sources must either spill (hydro) or steam off (nuclear) power which adds costs to our electricity bills.
IWT kill birds and bats, many of whom are “species at risk” meaning insects, damaging to crops, are not eaten and farmers must spray their crops with insecticides adding costs to produce.
IWT may affect tourism areas driving away tourists and thereby affect income to those regions.
IWT cause various health problems requiring our health system to respond to individuals affected, thereby adding to health care costs.
IWT cause property values to fall affecting the realty tax base where they operate and the value of the property should the occupants try to sell after the installation of those IWT has occurred.
IWT lifespan is relatively short (20 years at most) compared to traditional sources of electricity generation and when unable to perform, create costs of remediation and disposal of recyclable and non-recyclable materials they consumed when built and erected.
*This is provided for information purposes only and does not represent Wind Concerns Ontario policy; the views and opinions are the author’s.
Recent news from New York State and Arizona indicate a disturbing trend in the United States. With the awareness of negative impacts on the environment and human health from industrial-scale or grid-scale wind turbines rising (together with discontent over rising electricity costs), opposition to wind power projects has become vocal and powerful.
Legislate their approval no matter what and obliterate the possibility of any opposition from communities.
Quoted in an article in today’s Post-Journal, NY Senator George Borrello said the move to fast-track wind power projects by Governor Cuomo is clearly aimed at “crushing” any citizen opposition. Borrello said:
“The governor’s 30-day amendment to accelerate renewable energy projects is a maneuver designed to bypass Article 10, which established a siting process for these projects that, appropriately, included local input. Now, in order to advance an extreme environmental agenda, he is proposing to eliminate home rule in order to force these renewable energy projects on communities. This is bypassing local zoning and crushing any opposition. In order to meet his environmental targets, these projects will need to be constructed on a massive scale and with a density that will literally change the face of upstate New York, transforming it into a barren industrial wasteland. Countless acres of farmland will need to be blanketed with solar farms. Our beautiful shorelines will be marred by the sight of massive mechanical wind turbines towering over the water.”
Ontario’s Green Energy Act passed in 2009 by the government under Dalton McGuinty, did much the same thing, removing all local land-use planning powers with regard to renewable energy projects. The current Ontario government returned those powers but few municipal governments have followed through on the opportunity to protect their citizens from negative impacts of potential wind power developments by enacting protective zoning bylaws.
The democracy-killing trend is not unanimous, however: In Ohio, the state government is considering legislation that will allow communities to hold a referendum for a proposed renewable energy project.
“No one should underestimate the influence of the well-funded wind power lobby,” says Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson.
CanWEA, the Canadian wind lobbyist, has been approved for Intervenor status in the court action over the revoking of the Renewable Energy Approval for the Nation Rise wind power project. The Ontario environment minister said in a letter to the community group which had appealed the approval that the power from the project wasn’t needed, and proceeding on it was not worth the environmental risks.
“a particular focus on larger gas, wind and solar…”
November 8, 2019
Ontario energy minister Greg Rickford and associate energy minister Bill Walker have announced a Minister’s Directive to retain an “independent party” to conduct a review of the province’s power generation contracts, to reveal cost-saving opportunities.
The Order-In-Council specifically says [emphasis ours]:
Therefore, in accordance with my authority under subsection 25.32(5) of the Act, I hereby direct (IESO) as follows:
To retain the services of an independent third party with relevant qualifications, experience and expertise to undertake a targeted review of existing generation contracts to identify opportunities to lower electricity costs within such generation contracts.
The review referred to in paragraph 1 shall:
identify measures or adjustments that could result in reduced costs for Ontario consumers;
place a particular focus on larger gas, wind and solar contracts that expire in the next ten years, including portfolios of contracts held by the same proponent and any other areas where IESO or the third party determine that there is the potential for cost savings; and
take into consideration system reliability and potential impacts to Indigenous, municipal, and local partnerships.
The review shall not consider the Bruce Power Refurbishment Agreement or contracts related to conservation and demand-management initiatives.
IESO shall provide the third-party report containing its key findings and recommendations, along with IESO’s assessment of the findings, to the Ministry by no later than February 28, 2020.
The statement that “impacts to … municipal and local partnerships” is interesting: it may mean that citizen reports of excessive noise/vibration and water well disturbance (to name a few negative impacts of grid-scale wind power development) may also be considered in the review.
It is also a positive move in that the review will include “system reliability”: many analysts and stakeholder groups such as Ontario’s professional engineers have repeatedly demonstrated that wind power is variable, unreliable, and produces power out-of-phase with demand, which means much of it is constrained (operators are paid not to have power added to the grid) or sold on the open electricity market at a loss.
“Wind Concerns Ontario welcomes this review,” says president Jane Wilson. “For too long wind power has skated by common sense and basic economic principles on the ideology that it is ‘good’ for the environment. We know from multiple environmental impacts such as the thousands of citizen reports of excessive noise and vibration from wind turbines, with accompanying adverse health effects, that wind power is high impact on the environment for little or no benefit.
We look forward to a comprehensive review that takes all these factors into account.”
Many people will have missed this interview with MPP Vic Fedeli, as it was published in the West Nipissing community newspaper, but the comments from Mr. Fedeli on a recent report from the Fraser Institute are definitely worth a look.
Especially this week, as the wind power industry trade association and lobbyist CanWEA is in Ottawa, trying to persuade Ontario municipalities that wind power is a cost-effective way to generate electrical power that also brings jobs and prosperity to communities.
Not so, says former finance minister and nor Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade for Ontario. Wind and solar are among the most expensive ways to generate electricity, he told My West Nipissing News.
Wind power contracts were a waste of money because they produced power that Ontario didn’t need, and the surplus power is sold off, often at a loss, to competing jurisdictions in the U.S., Fedeli said. “We make about 30,000 megawatts of power a day but only need about 20,000,” Fedeli said. “So we end up paying the United States and Quebec every single night to take our surplus power. And it’s billions of dollars every year that we’re paying those competitors of ours.”
Referring to a recent Auditor General’s report, Fedeli says the AG identified that the solar and wind projects of the previous government resulted in “spending $37-billion in wasted money”. He added that former Premiers Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne pursued the wind and solar projects solely for ideological reasons and photo ops.
“The Auditor-General has proven it certainly wasn’t anything in terms of bringing relief for families,” Fedeli said.
The Fraser Institute report noted that solar and wind are intended to displace emission-producing forms of power generation, but also that many provinces in Canada get much of their power from nuclear plants or hydroelectric dams, neither of which energy sources produce greenhouse gas emissions.
Fedeli said Ontario gets 60 percent of its power from nuclear and additional power from its huge hydroelectric projects like Niagara Falls.
“We have clean energy from water and nuclear,” he said.
What Mr. Fedeli didn’t mention in referring to the Auditor General reports over the last 15 years was that the former McGuinty and Wynne governments never did any kind of cost-benefit or impact analysis for their wind power program which was essentially forced industrialization for rural communities. Impacts such as environmental noise leading to health problems and property value loss were never examined. The report from the Fraser Institute alleges the wind power lobby purposely ignores the consequences of wind power development, and the operation of wind power facilities.
New from the Fraser Institute is a report on renewable energy and the consequences of political encouragement of variable power sources.
The abstract is below but be sure to read the full report. A paragraph of page 6 is particularly damning of Ontario’s energy policy:
” … proponents of wind and solar power intentionally misrepresent the advantages of these technologies by focussing attention solely on the costs and benefits obtained whenever electricity is being generated. The costs of wind and solar power are considerably higher and the environmental benefits much lower when account is taken of the impact these technologies have on an entire electricity system. Ultimately, consumers do not pay for electricity generated using wind and sunlight but for electricity that is delivered to them continuously by the electricity system as a whole. Therefore, when VRE is introduced into an electricity system, ratepayers are interested in its system-wide impact, not just the cost of the wind and solar power entering the grid. The additional conventional generating capacity required to provide back-up electricity supply when VRE capacity is not generating electricity because of a lack of wind or sunshine is a significant incremental cost to the system.”
Generating Electricity in Canada from Wind and Sunlight: Is Getting Less for More Better than Getting More for Less?
Using wind and sunlight to generate electricity is controversial. Advocates urge increased reliance on these variable renewable energy (VRE) sources because they are seen as a low-cost way of mitigating a looming climate-change crisis. Critics take the opposite stance, claiming wind and solar power are costly, and the environmental benefits negligible at best. Some Canadian provinces have gone to considerable lengths to encourage adoption of these technologies, but the results have been mixed.
This study shows that both positions contain elements of truth. Electricity generated using wind and sunshine is relatively inexpensive. However, once the capacity is in place, it is only available at certain times of the day and/or when the weather cooperates. But consumers require a reliable electricity supply and integrating VRE into existing electricity systems while maintaining a continuous and reliable supply is complicated and costly, both financially and environmentally. Electricity consumers and taxpayers are interested primarily in the financial burden that results from efforts to increase electricity generating capacity using VRE sources. This includes the costs wind and solar power impose on the electricity system as a whole, not just the cost of the VRE-generated electricity supplied to the grid.
The incremental financial costs to the system fall into three basic categories: first, augmenting existing conventional generating capacity so that it is able to compensate for the unreliable supply of wind and solar power. Second, ensuring that the necessary investment in conventional generating capacity is forthcoming although the VRE in the system makes it impossible to use this capacity efficiently. This requirement is usually satisfied either with a capacity market or contracts with suppliers of conventional generating capacity. Third, adding transmission grid capacity and the configuration of grid services required to integrate VRE into the electricity system. Each category has repercussions for the environment. Cheap electricity from wind turbines and solar panels paradoxically results in larger bills for electricity users and taxpayers. Higher utility rates for businesses and households and higher taxes and cutbacks to public services dampen economic activity and reduce living standards.
Compared to conventional power sources, small and variable amounts of electricity are generated when wind and solar energy are captured and transformed by a dispersed array of VRE installations. Large areas of land, often in remote locations, are required. This inevitably results in significant additional costs in terms of delivery infrastructure (for example, high-voltage power lines) and back-up power generation (for example, natural-gas-powered turbines) that would not otherwise be incurred. The first part of this study examines how electricity systems work in order to evaluate the contradictory claims made about VRE. Whether or not wind and solar power are clean and cheap depends on how the evaluation is framed. Critics point out that the economic and environmental costs of the electricity generated using wind and solar technologies can be quite different from the impact of this source of electricity on a system-wide basis.
The second part of the study shows how the system-wide costs and benefits of adding wind and solar power to an existing electricity system are affected by the policies of provincial governments, the cost of electricity, the conventional generating assets already in place, and the structure of the electricity system. Comparing experiences with VRE in different provinces illustrates the importance of these factors.
Cross-Canada comparisons show that electricity utilities themselves are usually best placed to determine whether or not the system-wide cost of these technologies is justified. Prior to 2015, Alberta demonstrated how a competitive wholesale market for electricity determined the extent to which wind and solar energy is economically feasible. Neither is the involvement of provincial governments necessarily a bad thing. Prince Edward Island has successfully integrated a substantial amount of wind power into its electricity system under unique circumstances: a provincial Crown corporation operates several wind farms but the rest of the electricity system is privately or municipally owned. Problems arise when dramatic increases in wind and solar power receive political sanction and the economic consequences are underestimated or ignored. A bold initiative to increase wind and solar generating capacity in the Ontario electricity system backfired badly, leading to soaring electricity rates for both consumers and manufacturers. Between 2015 and 2019, the Alberta government worked towards installing even more wind and solar capacity than had proved politically and economically unsustainable in Ontario, but the electorate allowed that government only a single term in office.
A policy should be judged by whether or not the chosen means have delivered the promised ends. Our review of Canadian wind and solar energy policy shows that they led to consequences consistent with those in other jurisdictions: ramping up electricity production using these power sources results in increased costs for taxpayers and consumers when account is taken of the impact these technologies have on the electricity system as a whole and, when done on any significant scale, generally negative and unnecessary environmental consequences.