April 29, 2011

Playing the electricity “blame game” in Ontario

As the opponents of the unreliable, inefficient and expensive industrial wind power generation business alert the public to the money being wasted by industrial wind power on the windy spring days when demand for power is low, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty employs his usual diffident style to deflect criticism, claiming he’d rather have surpluses than the “blackouts and brownouts” under the former Conservative government.

Fact is, there’s plenty of blame to go around, and Mr McGuinty must think people are swooning from seeing their latest electricity bills and can’t recall the promises he made in his last election campaign.

In their interesting book* Hydro: the decline and fall of Ontario’s electric empire, Jamie Smith and Keith Stewart recall the great blackout of 2003 and the efforts to examine the cause. The most obvious, of course, was deregulation in the U.S. which led to a destabilized grid (and an unscrupulous private power company in Ohio). But Ontario was at fault, too in some ways. The authors write:

Neither the ruling Conservatives nor the Liberals, who were ahead in the polls, wanted to talk about electricity during the campaign of 2003. For the Tories, it was a topic too painful to contemplate. Instead, the [Conservative] government used the time-honoured political dodge, appointing a task force to study the issue. The Electricity Conservation and Supply Task Force, packed with privatization boosters, was co-chaired by Peter Budd, the principal spokesperson for the private power producers in Ontario.

For the Liberals, raising the electricity issue might remind voters of their various policy reversals and embarrassments. They had voted with the government on the Electricity Competition Act and had at one time supported the sale of Hydro One. On the same day that leader Dalton McGuinty was proclaiming his opposition to privatization in a media scrum, the party sent out a fundraising letter to electricity companies saying that only the Liberals could be trusted to follow through on electricity privatization.

The Liberals did make a number of ambitious campaign pledges vis-a-vis the electricity system. Things would be better by the end of a Liberal government’s first term in 2007, they promised. They would shut down the province’s five coal-fired generating stations, reduce electricity consumption 5 per cent, and provide enough “green” power to meet five per cent of the province’s energy needs—all within four years. These clean-air commitments were driven personally by McGuinty, somewhat to the dismay of his advisors. He was knowledgeable about the issue and keen on doing something about climate change. The coal phase-out promised raised the environmental stakes while setting the Liberals apart from the Conservatives.

…Seemingly in keeping with McGuinty’s conversion to public power during the election campaign, the Liberal government would oversee no sale of Ontario Power Generation or Hydro One assets. The publicly owned plants would feed power onto the grid on a “power at cost” basis except that this time the cost would be determined by a stronger and more independent Ontario Energy Board rather than by the government or the utility. The idea was to remove politics from electricity-pricing. [Editor: THAT didn’t happen…]

The future rested in creating ” a climate that welcomes private investment.” New generators would be privately owned and would be able to charge whatever price came out of the interplay of market forces. [Editor: THAT didn’t happen…] To soften the blow, consumers would have the option of payng a fixed rate, set annually by the Ontario Energy Board, or playing the market. In any event, because 70 per cent of the power was being supplied by the public sector at a fixed rate, prices were expected to be less volatile than they were under a completely open market. The old hydro dams that cost about a penny a kilowatt-hour could offset the seven cents per kilowatt-hour being demanded by the private sector as a prerequisite for investment. [Editor: current contracted FiT rates for onshore wind are 13.5 cents per KwH, and for solar 80 cents, to be reduced to 58 cents sometime.]

In many ways, this approach was not that different from the Tory model…the Liberals were simply capping the price beforehand and blending the cheaper “heritage” power from Niagara Falls with the higher priced private power. This was no renewed public power system, but a recipe for slow motion privatization. Many publicly owned generating stations would be phased out by attrition, gradually replaced by private, for-profit stations as coal generators were closed and nuclear plants came to the end of their lives. If the Liberals did manage to shut coal down by the end of their mandate, private operators would be supplying over half of Ontario’s power within four years. … profits from building and operating new plants–whether nuclear or fossil—would be concentrated among a few corporations. [Editor: THAT is happening–natural gas and industrial wind power generators are profiting by the billion.]

In short, the McGuinty government uses power outages—something the average consumer can relate to—to scare voters and to deflect from its real agenda: creating a power boom for a select few corporate entities. But their history of “policy reversals” and “embarrassments” continues.

*The book is interesting for its interpretation of Ontario’s history but falls apart in the last chapter with its slavish devotion to “renewables” especially wind power. The reality of wind power is that it can never replace fossil-fuel power generation (in fact it REQUIRES fossil fuel). It has not in any jurisdiction on earth, and it never will.

April 25, 2011

Thinking of leasing property for wind turbines?

As we’ve said before, one of the interesting features about blog hosting is the ability to track people’s search criteria. One thing that comes up repeatedly is the request for more information on leasing property for turbines.

With the advertising going on paid for by the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), the lobby group for corporate wind developers and their suppliers, it’s easy to see why property owners might be thinking about it.

Our advice? Think a lot.

First, get a lawyer. Do NOT sign any agreement, even an option to lease, without having a lawyer review the document first. We have heard of some wind development companies offering a cheque and demanding a document be signed on the spot or the offer goes away: this is not appropriate business practice. You should always have the opportunity to have legal advice before you do anything.

We would also suggest you visit the Wind Concerns Ontario website at , click on the LEASES tab, and read the documents and view the video there.

And then, read, read, read. Talk to some people already leasing if you can, though be aware that many standard lease agreements require the property owner not talk about the terms of their agreement. So, you might not be getting the whole story.

Many people have been lured into a lease by the promise of steady cash but they haven’t realized the other issues associated with leasing land for industrial wind turbines such as the impact on your neighbours and your community, the impact on your own property, insurance issues, liability issues, and the things you are giving away such as rights to build on your own land, etc. Remember, these are not “wind mills” and a group of them will not be a “wind farm” or a “wind park”…industrial scale wind turbines are power generators…they do make noise and they will change your environment for as long as 20 years.

This is a big commitment: be sure to visit areas where turbines are already working and ask people what the effect has been on their community. The Shelburne/Melancthon area has had turbines for years and there are vacant homes and people with health problems, due to inappropriate siting of these machines. You need to see and hear for yourself (be aware that being close to a turbine is NOT a test of how noisy they can be; standing right underneath one is the quietest place). Seeing a couple of turbines once is not a realistic experience.

Do your homework: the future of your property, your fanily, and your community depends on it.

Wolfe Island Ferry Dock.jpg 

Turbines at the Wolfe Island ferry dock. The island has 86 turbines. Jobs? 3.

April 20, 2011

Ontario’s Green Energy Act: Case for Repeal

It’s all here: the phoney economic forecasts, the effect on property values, the McGuinty government’s betrayal of democracy in this province. Take 14 minutes, and listen.

Ontario’s Green Energy Act: Case for Repeal.

April 19, 2011

Wind power: taking advantage of youthful good intentions

One of the most attractive television commercials being screened currently is for Chevrolet’s Cruze, which is billed as an “eco-friendly” car. They also have an electric car option (the Volt), but the commercial being seen most often is the regular gas-powered Cruze.

The visuals are of young people out and about, enjoying their life in their cars; at one point there is a scene of industrial wind turbines and then later, a shot of a gas pump. The message, we think, is: buy the eco-friendly gas-miserly Cruze, and you can enjoy life without guilt. Want a car? Get one! You won’t need to buy much gas and if you do, don’t worry because clean, green wind power is there for your other needs. Or, for power if you buy the electric Cruze and have to plug it in.

Young people, we believe, want to do the “right thing” but they are being led down a garden path by advertisers such as Chevrolet and worse, by organizations such as Bullfrog Power. Bullfrog provides signage for organizations like the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata, which boast that the power in the lobby is clean and green and provided by Bullfrog Power.

No, it isn’t.

It’s the same power we all use, coming off the same grid. Bullfrog however, is investing in some of the industrial wind turbine projects that are scarring the landscape in Ontario and ruining the health of dozens of people forced to live next to the power generation developments, but the company also buys hydro power from Quebec. Their newest initiative is to provide “green natural gas” which they “inject” into the natural gas transmission system to “displace” dirty fossil fuel gas.

It doesn’t matter what kind of gas you’re burning, whether gas from gas wells or “green natural gas” from biomass and garbage dumps, you’re still burning something. Note too that despite the Ontario government’s spurious claims that thousands of people are dying in this province every year due to pollution from coal-fired power generation plants, the truth is that most of Ontario’s air pollution is from CARS, and also from pollutants coming from industry south of the border.

OK, so you don’t drive a gas-powered car. But, then, if you’re plugging in your virtuous electric car, where is the electric power coming from?

Questions need to be asked. But in the meantime, young people and consumer everywhere, ought to look critically at the messaging.

Chevy Cruze Exterior Go ahead: drive, drive, drive…you’re not hurting anything.

April 7, 2011

A picture of the enemy

A few posts ago, we linked you up with a speech Prince Charles gave to the European Parliament in which he called for massive change to farming methods (today’s highly mechanized industrial farming is very dependent on huge amounts of fossil fuels) and on the world’s companies to look at how else they might change things such as packaging, to reduce waste and preserve the world’s fuel resources, while also not burning fossil fuels.

Here is one company’s answer:

Yup. Pre-cooked rice in a plastic cup, sealed with a plasticized aluminum foil cover, and then presented by two’s in a cardboard container. What is the matter with people? Rice cooks pretty much all by itself in 15-20 minutes for pennies…this must be for all those people living in 400 square foot condos in Toronto, who have maybe two-burner cooktops to prepare meals with.

It gets worse.

| Del Monted

Del Monte is now individually wrapping bananas! As Jon Stewart pointed out on The Daily Show, bananas already come in their own packaging!!!


There’s more: in one of the current TV commercials for Chevrolet’s Cruze, the voiceover talks about the car being fuel-efficient and energy-conscious, while an array of some five to six industrial wind turbines stand in the background. The message to us? It’s OK to drive as much as you want because your car is energy-efficient and you’re plugging your cool electric car into the grid that is fed by “clean” green power sources. Use all you want! You’re “green”!

The result: urban dwellers keep on using up resources without guilt, and Ontario’s rural villages have to become resource plantations to keep them supplied.


To contact the North Gower Wind Action Group, email and follow on Twitter at northgowerwind

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