“The Green Energy Act is toast,” he added. “But the act is a very large, far-reaching piece legislation. It’s not just about some wind and solar generation. It has huge impacts on the administration of the electricity system.”
Post-election analysis: Five key local issues to watch
From deeply divisive wind energy projects, to school closings and transportation, five issues loomed large in the London region during the Ontario election.
GREEN ENERGY: ‘The pigs are not going to fly’
The London Free Press
Despite Doug Ford’s commitment to tear apart Ontario’s energy system, consumers shouldn’t expect to see much change in their electricity bills, says an energy analyst and researcher.
“Don’t expect your rates to go down. The overall cost of power is likely to rise over the next four years. The power system will look a lot like it does today,” Tom Adams said.
What will likely be gone: The Liberals’ $600-million conservation fund that paid homeowners for installing energy efficiency upgrades.
But even that won’t come without strong opposition, said Adams, author of several academic papers on energy and a consultant for consumer organizations.
Ford has promised to scrap the controversial Green Energy Act, the legislation that led to costly wind turbine projects across Southwestern Ontario – often over the objection of municipalities stripped of control over the location of energy projects.
The legislation became the flashpoint for anger over rising energy bills, which were caused only in part by sweetheart contracts with green energy suppliers.
Energy consumption is a driver of economic growth. Policymakers in Ontario have made poor policy decisions, resulting in rising electricity costs, lower employment, and lower competitiveness, while achieving minimal environmental benefits. This publication presents a series of collected essays that critique the reasoning behind Ontario’s electricity policy changes and spell out the long term consequences.
Ontario’s main policy shift began around 2005 when the government made a decision to begin phasing out coal. The next major step occurred in 2009 when the government launched its Green Energy Act (GEA). The centerpiece of the GEA was a Feed-In-Tariff program, which provides long-term guaranteed contracts to generators with renewable sources (wind, solar, etc.) at a fixed price above market rates. In order to fund these commitments, as well as the cost of conservation programs, Ontario levied a non-market surcharge on electricity called the Global Adjustment (GA). Between 2008 and 2016, the GA grew more than 70 percent, causing a drastic increase in electricity prices. The high cost associated with aggressively promoting renewable sources is particularly troubling given the relatively small amount of electricity generated by these sources. In 2016, renewable sources generated less than 7 percent of electricity in Ontario while accounting for almost 30 percent of the GA.
Ontario’s decision to phase out coal contributed to rising electricity costs in the province, a decision justified at the time with claims that it would yield large environmental and health benefits. The subsequent research showed that shuttering these power plants had very little effect on air pollution. Had the province simply continued with retrofits to the coal plants then underway, the environmental benefits of the shift to renewables could have been achieved at one-tenth the cost.
The issue of rising electricity costs in Ontario can be partly attributed to the imbalances between supply and demand of electricity. Between 2005 and 2015, the province decided to increase its renewable capacity to facilitate the coal phase-out. However, since renewable sources are not as reliable as traditional sources, the government contracted for more natural gas capacity as a back-up. Meanwhile, the demand for electricity declined, partly due to rising electricity costs. The increase in the total installed capacity, coupled with lower electricity demand, has resulted in excess production being exported to other jurisdiction at a significant loss.
As a result of these structural shifts and poor governance, electricity costs have risen substantially in Ontario. Ontario now has the fastest growing electricity costs in the country and among the highest in North America. Between 2008 and 2016, Ontario’s residential electricity costs increased by 71 percent, far outpacing the 34 percent average growth in electricity prices across Canada. In 2016, Toronto residents paid $60 more per month than the average Canadian for electricity.
Ontario’s skyrocketing electricity rates also apply to the province’s industrial sector. Between 2010 and 2016, large industrial users in Toronto and Ottawa experienced cost spikes of 53 percent and 46 percent, respectively, while the average increase in electric costs for the rest of Canada was only 14 percent. In 2016, large industrial users paid almost three times more than consumers in Montreal and Calgary and almost twice the prices paid by large consumers in Vancouver. Some select large industrial consumers were granted rate reductions but still paid higher rates compared to large electricity users in Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia.
Soaring electricity costs in Ontario have placed a significant financial burden on the manufacturing sector and hampered its competitiveness. Compared to multiple comparable American and Canadian jurisdictions, Ontario has exhibited the most substantial decline in its manufacturing sector over the past decade. Overall, Ontario’s high electricity prices are responsible for approximately 75,000 job losses in the manufacturing sector from 2008 to 2015.
Given the critically important role that affordable energy plays in economic growth and prosperity, the authors urge the Ontario government to pursue meaningful policy reforms aimed at lowering electricity costs for all Ontarians.
Elmira Aliakbari;Kenneth P. Green;Ross McKitrick;Ashley Stedman
Canada Pension Plan’s investment in part of a wind-solar power portfolio seems to ignore a lot of negatives, including the energy poverty rising in Ontario due to electricity bills
Canada Pension Plan contribution rates are rising again, as reported by the Financial Post December 14, 2017: “the contribution rate (i.e., the CPP tax) has increased from 3.6 per cent when the CPP was launched in 1966 to its current rate of 9.9 per cent. It will increase further to 11.9 per cent beginning in 2019.”
The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) is an active investor, looking for good rates of return without taking “excessive risk.” So they either searched for assets that pay guaranteed above market rates, or were approached by U.S. Power giant NextEra who sold them their Ontario portfolio of 396 MW of wind and solar contracts. CPPIB paid $1.871 million per MW for a total of $741 million CAD and also assumed the debt (US$689 million) attached to the NextEra portfolio. The press release associated with the acquisition had this quote from Bruce Hogg, Managing Director, Head of Power and Renewables: “As power demand grows worldwide and with a focus on accelerating the energy transition, we will continue to seek opportunities to expand our power and renewables portfolio globally.”
Perhaps Mr. Hogg was unaware “power demand” in Ontario has actually fallen from 153.4 TWh in 2004 to 132.1 TWh in 2017 despite an increase in our population of approximately 450,000. He may also be unaware industrial wind turbines create health problems, cause property values to drop and kill birds and bats including those on the endangered species list.
What the CPP acquisition means is Ontario ratepayers will be indirectly contributing additional funds to the CPP without the benefit of reducing either their annual tax burden or increasing their future pension benefits. A “win, win” for CPP and a “lose, lose” for Ontario’s taxpayers. The sole redeeming feature is that the money will stay in Canada instead of flowing elsewhere.
Ironically, the CPP by acquiring and holding those assets will also be showing their support for energy poverty. The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) in their December 2014 report noted: “Using LIM* as a measuring tool, and relying on Statistics Canada household data, Ontario has 713,300 low-income households.” At that point in time the 713,300 households represented almost 16% of residential ratepayers in the province and one should suspect that number has increased over the past three years.
So, one should also wonder why NextEra, headquartered in Florida, sold those assets and their above market returns? The press related to their announcement of the sale speaks volumes: “As discussed during our earnings call in January, we expect the sale of the Canadian portfolio to enable us to recycle capital back into U.S. assets, which benefit from a longer federal income tax shield and a lower effective corporate tax rate, allowing NextEra Energy Partners to retain more CAFD** in the future for every $1 invested.”
No doubt the NextEra sale may be a sign of the future as the Canadian economy has shown serious signs of slowing as taxes rise and foreign investment falls. The bulk of the investment in the renewable energy sector in Ontario came from offshore companies who rushed to take advantage of the above market rates and guaranteed prices offered under the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) program available under the Green Energy Act.
Those investors will look to cash in on the sale of those assets, so we should expect to see more public and private Canadian pension funds stepping up to purchase them.
*Statistics Canada’s Low-Income Measure is simply defined as half of the median adjusted economic family income.
“Starting in 2010, Nova Scotia taxpayers pumped $56 million into the operation via provincial loans and grants before the government called a $32-million loan in February 2016, pushing the manufacturing plant into receivership.”
Time and money running out on sale of idle wind turbine plant
DSME Trenton plant placed into receivership in 2016 after the province called a $32M loan
After two years and no takers, Nova Scotia is poised to end its efforts to sell an idle wind turbine manufacturing plant in Pictou County, bringing to a close another failed government-backed industrial enterprise.
“At $150,000 per month to keep the operation at status quo, we want this to happen, we want to find a viable operator. But the clock is ticking,” Business Minister Geoff MacLellan said Thursday, after touring the mothballed DSME Trenton plant.
That money goes toward keeping the facility in a sellable state.
Reading an article recently about Greenpeace trying (apparently unsuccessfully) to create a solar-powered town in India several years ago reminded me of a project in the GTA proposing to use “zoo poo” to create a 500-kW biogas plant.
The project is a co-op known as Zoo Share Biogas Co-operative and plans to use methane from animal waste to produce electricity in a biogas plant. The chatter about this project goes back to June 3, 2011 and those behind the project applied for a contract with the OPA (since merged with IESO).
So where is it now? A visit to the website shows the OPA advised them early July 2013 they were granted the contract. A PDF file titled “Construction Plan Report” on the site reveals “Construction of the facility is scheduled for summer 2014 with completion and grid connection expected in the fall of 2014.”
Needless to say, the plant is still not functioning but nevertheless has taxpayer support and some $4 million raised from individuals and others who purchased bonds that carry a 7% coupon on a project estimated originally to cost $4.8 million.
Curiosity further led me to look at the members of the Co-op’s Board of Directors and I noted Chris Benedetti was a Board member. Benedetti is a principal with the Sussex Strategy Group and the head of its Energy and Environment Practice. Some will recall Mr. Benedetti was involved in a major fundraising event for the Ontario Liberal Party as reported in an article in the Globe and Mail in March 2016 headlined: “For $6,000, donors get face time with Kathleen Wynne and Bob Chiarelli”.
That article contained the following attributed to Mr Benedetti: “The evening is being promoted by Sussex Strategy Group, one of the country’s top lobbying firms. In an e-mail encouraging energy industry insiders to attend, Sussex principal Chris Benedetti wrote that the soirée will be a ‘small event with a limited number of tickets,’ giving all attendees face time with Ms. Wynne and Mr. Chiarelli.”
Previously, the Sussex Strategy Group’s name was connected with what the Toronto Star noted in a November 2010 headline as: “Group plans to ‘dupe’ public about green energy costs: Tories”. The article also noted: “The Oct. 18 document, drafted by consulting firm Sussex Strategy Group, lays out a plan — complete with a $300,000 initial budget — to change the channel on the current green energy debate, which is largely focused on cost.”
The Benedetti/Sussex connection led me to visit the Sussex website; the page titled “Our People” shows Kim Warren’s name and picture of Kim Warren under Sussex’s “Affiliates.”. Mr. Warren was, until January 1, 2017, the COO of IESO; if you check the “Sunshine List” for the 2015 year you will note he was paid $577,000.04 — not too shabby for a public servant! When he was employed at IESO he spoke about integrating renewable energy. Due to his positive tone the short video of his speech was posted on the CanWEA website; he was clearly supportive and claimed wind energy “was a big part” of shutting down coal. (Many grid operators around the world would dispute his claim.)
Searching on Google again using Mr. Warren’s name and his IESO affiliation turns up other relationships. One that pops up is NRStor: a press release dated June 20, 2017 announces he is the newest addition to NRStor’s Board as a Director and states: “The insights and experience Kim Warren brings to our board as previous COO of the IESO is significant,” said Annette Verschuren, NRStor’s Chair and CEO. “He is a world expert on power systems and his extensive understanding of the electricity market will help NRStor grow and develop our energy storage business.”
Coincidentially, NRStor has been awarded contracts by IESO with the first one on July 22, 2014 announced by then Energy Minister, Bob Chiarelli: “Today, the Minister of Energy, the Honourable Bob Chiarelli, announced the commencement of commercial operations for NRStor Incorporated’s (NRStor) 2 megawatt (MW) Temporal Power Limited (Temporal Power) flywheel energy storage facility in Harriston, Ontario.” Now assuming the 2MW of storage was called on to replace Ontario’s generated power it would be capable of supplying demand for half a second, or less.
The second contract awarded to NRStor by IESO noted: “NRStor will build a fuel-free compressed air energy storage facility that will provide 7 MWh of storage capacity to the IESO.”
For those who wonder who is NRStor, the following comes from their website: “NRStor is a market leader in understanding energy storage technologies, their costs, and the benefits they can provide customers across the energy supply chain. As a project developer, we develop, own and operate industry-leading energy storage projects in partnership with progressive stakeholders and leading technology providers.”
NRStor was founded by Ms. Annette Verschuren, former CEO of Home Depot. Ms. Verschuren spoke to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs May 19, 2015 in respect to Bill 91, Building Ontario Up Act. One of the notable comments she made was,“We are a developer of energy storage technology, so we build projects. We are working on about 20 projects at the moment and we see the introduction of energy storage really making a big difference in terms of how we get electricity to market in a cheaper way. NRStor recently announced a partnership with the Tesla Powerwall, which is very exciting, to be introduced. We want to start in Ontario. We see that movement towards, again, using excess energy to improve costs and make it easier for customers.”
Ms. Verschuren also offered her “Congratulations to the Ontario government for its announcement on cap-and-trade policy.” and: “The privatization of Hydro One is also something that I’m very supportive of.”
While Ms. Verchuren is very accomplished and informed, from my perspective, she has missed the effects on hundreds of thousands of Ontario ratepayers/taxpayers from the Green Energy Act, and the “cap and trade” tax. Ontario’s “excess energy,” as she puts it, represent a huge cost to ratepayers, which seems to have escaped her thinking.
The conflict in Ms Verchuren’s testimony is exacerbated by adding Kim Warren as a Director of NRStor. The fact that NRStor has benefited from IESO’s contract awards should have triggered the question of how the media and public would view his appointment. As a director he would be required to be a shareholder in NRStor which seems to fly in the face of IESO’s “Post-Service Restrictions” contained in their Code of Conductwhich states: “It is expected that the restriction against purchasing or holding any Prohibited Financial Interests continues until 6 months following the end of your employment or association with the IESO.”
Worth noting is Ms. Verchuren is registered as a lobbyist with the Office of the Integrity Commissioner as is Chris Benedetti (lobbyist for NRStor and 55 other companies), but Kim Warren is not.
The Ontario Ministry of Energy seems to have created a tangled web that benefits select companies and individuals.
A recent Rutland Herald editorial, entitled “Powering up,” concluded that we need to move with urgency toward the renewable power of the future. While that is correct, the editorial goes on to complain that “old ways” of thinking dominate the discussion in Vermont. At issue: the editorial then proceeds to propose “old ways” to move us forward.
When it comes to energy development in Vermont, the industrial wind industry leads the “old way” pack. Wind operators and developers have been living off federal subsidies since the early 1990s and have been wreaking havoc in Vermont for just as long. It’s time to boot them out of the state and employ creative Vermontsized energy solutions.
The editorial employs the “old way” strawman tactic when citing the arguments of industrial wind opponents. Legitimate concerns of Vermonters are minimized when the only argument acknowledged against ridgeline destruction is to mock “the exquisite timidity of those who grieve over birds killed by wind turbines.” It’s a cheap shot that does nothing to advance the conversation.
We should instead be talking about the entire range of problems industrial wind development brings to Vermont: mountaintop dynamiting, destruction of intact eco-systems, stormwater runoff, habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation, noise and health impacts to neighbors and wildlife, safety risks, community division, aesthetic degradation, tourism, property devaluation, and, yes, impacts on birds, bats, and even bears.
We should also talk about what does and doesn’t work. As environmentalist Suzanna Jones recently told us, “Despite the platitudes of its corporate and government backers, industrial wind has not reduced Vermont’s carbon emissions. Its intermittent nature makes it dependent on gas-fired power plants that inefficiently ramp up and down with the vicissitudes of the wind. Worse, it has been exposed as a renewable energy credit shell game that disguises and enables the burning of fossil fuels elsewhere.”
The editorial expresses concern about mass extinction facing numerous species around the globe. Bravo! Then let’s protect the ecosystems that will enable those species to migrate, adapt and survive and abandon the “old way” of thinking that allows our ridgelines and forest habitat to be destroyed by energy developers and their energy sprawl. As wildlife biologist Sue Morse tells us: “New England’s ridgelines will play an increasing and integral role as global climate change forces countless species of plant and animals to seek new habitats in which to adapt and survive.”
The editorial call for an improved large-scale infrastructure capable of transmitting intermittent power from remote, industrial-scale wind plants is another “old way” solution; rural areas are sacrificed to enable our unsustainable wastefulness. Treasured areas like the former Champion Lands, once valued for their ecological significance, become collateral damage. Large-scale transmission from rural to urban areas is a misguided “old way” use of our resources.
There is both wind and sun in our urban areas (Lake Champlain Wind Park, www.champlainwindpark.com) anyone?). We should be supporting renewable development in already-developed areas while protecting undeveloped areas.
We should also be emphasizing community scale generation facilities sited in the communities that they serve. This would reduce energy loss over lengthy transmission lines, improve system reliability, and preserve our vital wildlife habitat. This is the Vermont-scale approach that is in tune with Vermont values.
Some view turbines on distant ridgelines as a visible sign of our commitment to climate action. They’re wrong. A closer look shows that those turbines are exacerbating the very climate impacts that we wish to avoid. Industrial wind plants are putting money in the pockets of investors, developers and a few landowners, but they’re not addressing the very real and pressing problem of climate change.
The industrial wind lobby is fond of saying say we need to make sacrifices. We do. But where those sacrifices come from, whether or not they’re effective and, most certainly, who profits and who loses from them should shape our solutions. We need to change the way we live, we need to stop being so wasteful, and we need to support solutions that actually work. We need to invest in unsexy work of weatherization, efficiency and demand reduction. We should support renewable development in already-developed areas and prevent new development in resource rich areas. We should be focusing on the least destructive renewable technologies and develop microgrids around community scale generation.
Yes, we need to sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean sacrificing our natural resources. It means changing the way we live and protecting the earth. All of it.
Noreen Hession is a retired engineer, community organizer and environmental activist who lives in the Northeast Kingdom.
The date is September 28, 2008 newly minted Ontario Minister of Energy and Infrastructure George Smitherman gushes over a vision of the future for green-energy in Ontario. In 2009 the Green Energy Act passes and is rapidly followed by 1 000s upon 1000s of industrial wind turbines erected. Ontario bowed to political push back by pausing installation of wind turbines in the Great Lakes. Today an offshore demonstration project looms with a build date of 2018. The project proposed in Lake Erie off Ohio’s shores.
From visions of green energy to build out of wind projects. What do you see?
The wind at his back
By TYLER HAMILTONClimate and Economy Reporter
Sat., Sept. 27, 2008
NIAGARA FALLS–In just nine weeks George Smitherman has likely learned more about the green-energy industry than any energy minister before him, and then some.
Sitting in a meeting room at the Sheraton Fallsview Hotel in Niagara Falls, just minutes after giving his first major speech since being appointed energy and infrastructure minister in June, Smitherman enthuses like a kid who has just returned from Euro Disney.
He recounts his visit to a small community in Denmark that powers and heats itself with straw, municipal waste and geothermal energy. Then there was the neighbourhood in Freiburg, Germany, powered by rooftop solar panels atop high-efficiency homes. In Spain, he saw how the local electricity operator manages the country’s 15,000 megawatts of wind turbines and a world-class stable of solar farms.
His travels also took him to California, where he learned how the world’s fifth-largest economy used innovative conservation programs and energy-efficiency mandates to keep per-capita electricity consumption flat for the last three decades.
“Imagine a world where we could emulate their success?” asks an animated Smitherman, 44, who later turns to Amy Tang, an adviser sitting across the table. “Sorry, now I’m getting all worked up. Am I frothing at the mouth?”
The trips didn’t end there. On his home turf, he has already visited the massive Prince Wind Farm in Sault St. Marie, the Atikokan coal-fired generating station near Thunder Bay, the province’s three nuclear power stations, the massive Nanticoke coal-fired station, Hydro One’s grid control centre in Barrie, and has been inside the Niagara Falls water tunnel currently being excavated by Big Becky.
“I call it sponging. I just went out there to try and learn as much as I possibly could,” he says. “Everything I do, I learn something that’s one more piece of, let’s face it, a complex puzzle.”
Smitherman says he’s “jazzed” about his new job, a fresh change after five years as health minister. Premier Dalton McGuinty made it a promotion, insiders say, by merging the energy and infrastructure portfolios into a super-ministry.
Sir: Chatham-Kent municipal Corporation continues to make taxpayer funded investments that continue to end in taxpayer liability, when continually given evidence not to.
Municipalities should not be in the investment business. They are hired by taxpayers to prudently manage to create dividends, not to mismanage to create liability. The Bradley Centre, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in net annual losses; the Industrial Park, which accumulated a $20 million total to date loss; the Capital Theatre, having a total provincial and municipal gross loss of about many millions, not the skimpy losses generally reported; Kingston Park with a $2 million overrun in costs; taxpayer funded annual municipal wage and pension payout of about $138M, with only about $146 million in general annual revenues.
If I understood the recent clouded, scattered and incomplete municipal budget correctly, C-K has nearly $40 million in interest payments on such capital projects. Canada-wide, taxpayers are paying about $62 billion and $11 billion annually just to service the debt of Canada and Ontario respectively. All of day-to-day cash of government operations come from the private sector, you and I, but yet, governments continue to financially rape their only source of income by introducing about 120 taxes on everything we do, on every nickel we earn, and continue to make irresponsible and fool hardy investments that never comes out of their pocket book, only ours.
The Provincial Green Energy Act, paving the way for wind turbines, created a 70-per-cent hike in electricity costs, costs consumers an extra $37 billion, and under the Auditors report will cost us an additional $133 billion by 2032.
The auditor’s report confirms for each wind energy job created, three Ontario jobs are lost. The mayor supports wind turbines, and his short sighted thinking makes Chatham-Kent nickels and dimes, while the province is losing billions, whereby billions have to be made up by taxing us more to make up the losses.
Recently, C-K council approved an $8-million investment in wind turbines, cited by the mayor to give us an $11-million profit after 20 years, which will keep taxes down. This thinking is worse than a migraine and mirrors how the province manages tax dollars. More specific to the wind turbine investment. C-K will become “common” shareholders in 15 per cent of a foreign company, meaning if the company dissolves or liquidates or reconstructs itself we as “common” shareholders lose all to preferred stock holders, bond holders, creditors, etc., not to mention if no profits are realized due to provincial or legal intervention. $8 million from reserves invested with compounding interest could give us up to $15M after 20 years without risk. Taking money from reserves means we have to replenish it, either by cashing in bonds, creating higher taxes, reducing infrastructure investment or by other means.
We have reserves for good reason.
If any dividends were realized from the turbine investment taxpayers won’t see a dime nor will any reduction in taxes be apparent. C-K will create a separate corporation, under the Business Corporations Act, RSO- 1990 for this manoeuvre, transferring same to Entegrus, which disallows taxpayers, although it’s all your money, to not know what’s going on, unless Entegrus/Corix wishes you to.
Additionally, Entegrus is courting to grab up to $30 million more from Chatham-Kent taxpayers for future investments with private companies.
Companies like Entegrus are more inclined to use investment income as an indirect way to feed their own wages, pensions, travel, perks and allowances, office upgrades, company vehicles etc., before any benefit is given to the taxpayer.
Furthermore, having Chatham-Kent a wind turbine investor, how the hell can council and our municipality speak against the turbine company respecting any legal action, public safety liability or other?