Keith Stelling – 2.0: Economic, social, and scientific considerations
R2.0 Economic, social, and scientific considerations.
Under the Environmental Bill of Rights, Ministry decision-making must include “social, economic and scientific considerations”.
2.1 Economic cost of wind turbines
While the government and proponents continue to claim that wind turbines create jobs and contribute to the growth of the provincial economy, this contention is contradicted by Ontario’s
experience. From records that have become available over the last year, it is now apparent that the economic impact of The Green Energy and Economy Act (GEA) on the Ontario economy has been a negative one. Most of the jobs predicted by the GEA have failed to materialize. Wind turbine installations have
required only small numbers of temporary construction workers. With the international trade ruling against Ontario manufactured components, future profitability looks bleak for wind turbine
manufacturing. Skyrocketing electricity rates are forcing manufacturers and high electricity consumption businesses to leave the province, taking jobs with them. The Ontario Auditor General’s 2011 Report on Renewable Energy Initiatives noted that uncalculated costs were adding to energy bills with the consequent negative effect on industry, employment and
the economy. He cited the millions it is costing electricity ratepayers to export wind energy more (5) often than not produced during times it can not be used on the grid (86% in 2010). “From 2005 to the end of our audit in 2011, Ontario received $1.8 billion less for its electricity exports than what it actually cost electricity ratepayers of Ontario”1
EXAMPLE OF COSTS:
Operators of a wind development of 60 MW (slightly smaller than the one proposed for Amherst Island) are guaranteed $21 million per year.2 5045 MW of wind turbines are now3 in various stages of approval. This implies a committed charge to be borne by consumers of $1.76 billion per year, or over $336 per residential consumer on average. Even if an individual’s consumption falls, this committed expenditure must be recovered, so that would just result in an increase in rates to pay the
commitment. Storage options being discussed will more than double this committed cost. Most of the $1.76 billion will go offshore to big multinational energy corporations.
The construction of a 75-megawatt wind power facility on privately owned land on Amherst Island, in Loyalist Township, County of Lennox & Addington will not be of economic or social benefit to the Province.
2.2 The fallacy of CO2 savings
When the argument is made that without wind turbines there will be devastating global warming caused by galloping CO2 emissions and that neither birds and bats nor humans will survive is
fallacious because it assumes that industrial wind turbines when added to electricity grids reduce green house gas emissions. This is not true. CO2 emissions continue to rise in all countries that have installed wind turbines. (1) Auditor General’s 2011 Report on Renewable Energy Initiatives (Chapter 3 “Ministry of Energy: Electricity Sector—Renewable Energy Initiatives”), p. 112. (2) Based on an anticipated capacity factor of 30% and the feed in tariff guaranteed contract payment
of $135 per MWH, whether the energy is needed or not. (3) Identified by the OPA, IESO, and Environmental Registry.
It is also claimed that wind turbines are necessary to shut down coal generation. However wind cannot shut down coal because it is not a base line energy source. Its intermittency and
unpredictability require fossil-fuelled back up operating inefficiently 24/7.4 The Ontario Auditor General noted that the government was warned in 2007 that new wind power would create higher green house gas emissions.
5 Wind is not effective for displacing coal because wind energy availability is mismatched to demand. Much of the time in Ontario, both on a seasonal and a daily basis, wind is not available when needed. This is why wind energy introduces serious grid-management issues. Adding intermittent wind
output increases CO2 emissions. Experience gained with operating the existing wind turbines shows that in reality wind turbines are forcing non-carbon emitting generating sources to be less efficient, thereby unnecessarily increasing the warming of the atmosphere, discharging steam without generating electricity; or spilling water, while actually requiring on line excess capability of coal-fired and natural gas generators to be connected to the grid to provide back up for when the wind
generators drop in output.
This is happening with the current wind turbine penetration of 1726 MW on the IESO monitored system and 2015 MW in commercial operation (as identified by the Ontario Power Authority). A
further 3776 MW already under OPA contract is yet to be added to the system. When this magnitude of wind generation is added, either more base load nuclear units will be forced off line (as is already
4 In fact, coal generation is being increased in Germany as a result of the need to back up wind
5 A Multi-municipal Wind Turbine Working Group letter to the Minister of Energy (and copied to the Minister of Natural Resources) dated 15 March, 2013, provided data showing that “coal generation dropped from 40 TWh in 2003 to 4 TWh in 2012, not because of a new policy of “expanding
renewable sources of energy,” but as a result of:
the restart of nuclear units that was already in progress in 2003 and improved performance
of other nuclear units, (~ 20 TWh increase in nuclear output from 2003 to 2012);
the addition of natural gas fired generators (~ 10 TWh increase from 2003 to 2012);
and a reduction in the Ontario demand of about 15 TWh due to the economic setback since 2006.
happening), which will require carbon emitting gas fired units to take up the slack when wind output falls, as it invariably does; or the wind generators will be paid to shut down (which also is already happening). The IESO has estimated this will cost consumers an additional $200 million a year. Thereis no rational economic or environmental basis for continuing to add more wind to the Ontario system.
2.3 Social issues
In the words of an article in Municipal and Planning Law Reports:
“Industrial wind farms have generated wide-spread controversy, focusing on potential adverse
human health effects and ecosystem harm within the context of the precautionary principle, and
more particularly on the threat to bats and birds which are most vulnerable during migration. . . . narrow appeal right to the Environmental Review Tribunal has replaced both the appeal process under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 and pre-GEA opportunities to challenge approvals under municipal and provincial political and planning structures. The resulting loss of local authority and input has generated significant, organized public outcry. At present, Ontario’s permitting scheme for renewable energy undertakings is being challenged on issues of legal validity,
questions of best planning practices, and the role of local community consultation and participation”. There is widespread public outcry from conservationists and rural residents at the fact that that the
Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources is doing nothing to defend sensitive environments from electricity generation industrialization. In every case it is left to private initiatives to mount a defence for sensitive wildlife habitats against what should never have been allowed under Ontario’s environmental legislation or Provincial Policy Statement in the first place.
6 Marguerite Moore. “THROWing the PreCAUTIONary Principle TO THE WIND: The Green Energy Act,
a Permitting Process in Search of the Precautionary Principle and the Principle of Subsidiarity”.
Municipal and Planning Law Reports (Articles). 4th series, 2010.
Citizens are increasingly expressing their anger and resentment at the Green Energy Act’s unrealistic and prejudicial reversal of onus clause which requires residents to prove harm to health and the environment before a development has even been constructed. Because the appeal must be submitted within 15 days of the project’s approval it is not easy to engage a lawyer or for him or her to prepare a case in time. This makes it virtually impossible to win an appeal. Tribunals have even adjusted hearing dates so that appellants’ lawyers were unable to present their cases because of previous commitments about which they had already informed the Tribunal.
The growing number of approvals requiring citizen appeals through Environmental Review Tribunals is placing a huge additional financial burden upon rural residents. This process takes private citizen funding out of the community– money which could be more beneficially used for local needs. Rural citizens are forced to raise the funds for these courtroom contests, heavily weighted in favour of deep pocketed developers supported by teams of expensive lawyers. They also face a team of government lawyers opposing them—lawyers they themselves are paying through their taxes. The unfair appeals process itself is a source of growing frustration and bitterness for country residents. Energy poverty, however, is a social issue that extends also to the urban population. It is resulting from the relentless increase in electricity rates caused by the reckless and uncalculated government contract commitments for renewable energy. It is especially vexatious for households where a wage earner is unemployed, for low income families and the elderly on fixed incomes. The green association with skyrocketing electricity rates has already been responsible for the fall of at least one European government.
The government’s ill-considered inflexibility insists that there are no adverse health effects from industrial wind turbines on the basis of the report by the Chief Medical Officer of Health—a report discredited by international medical professionals as flawed and based on an earlier industry-produced document. Those who are experiencing distress from turbines operating too close to their homes are outraged at repeated use of this report to dismiss their sufferings. They point out that it failed to consider all of the available research or even consult with actual persons living near the turbines. This ultimately untenable position has caused even more indignation now that a review by Grey-Bruce Medical Officer of Health, Hazel Lynne using more recent documents, has found 18 peer reviewed studies that found evidence of an association between wind turbines and distress among some people who live near them and three which indicated distress was dose related. Every time another turbine development is approved, public outrage in rural Ontario becomes stronger.
Scores of municipalities have now indicated that they are not willing hosts to wind turbines. This is a huge social issue which, along with growing urban dissatisfaction at skyrocketing electricity costs and government waste through gas plant and other scandals is destined to have considerable repercussions in the near future.