From all-candidates’ meetings to the response from citizens when canvassers go door-to-door, and columns and letters in the media, one of the key concerns in the Ontario election is energy—what has happened in how the government managed power generation in Ontario over the last 10 plus years, and specifically, the reasons behind the government’s rush to wind power.
Former CEO of the Ontario Power Authority Jan Carr wrote recently in The Financial Post that the “power industry was aghast” at the government’s awarding of the sole source power generation contract to Samsung, as it was a company, Carr said, with “no demonstrated expertise in either wind or solar” and the contract was awarded without competition. To this day, Carr wrote, the Samsung contract stands as an example of government procurement at its absolute worst.
So, what else went on? (Is going on…)
For one thing, as the Auditor-General said in his report in 2011, the government never did a cost-benefit analysis of its use of renewable sources of power generation—and it’s sure not going to do one now. Instead, it used devices like the “Clean Air Benefit” to hide the expenses of its policies. And the policy is now costing everyone: electricity bills are rising dramatically, causing problems for consumers and business alike.
The government maintains the fiction that people were dying from pollution from the use of coal plants to produce power, when in fact Ontario’s air quality has improved steadily, and what remains is due to transportation, and pollution from south of the border. (It also said that closing the coalpower plants would save $4.4 billion a year in health care costs, begging the question of where that money is now.)
The government maintains the fiction that wind power is a less expensive, cleaner form of power generation, when the truth is, there are many costs to large-scale wind power that have been hidden, such as the need for backup power generation because wind power is intermittent, and produced out-of-phase with demand, and the fact that some producers are now being paid not to produce power (struggling little firms like Enbridge, TransAlta, Brookfield, and GDF-Suez), which is costing ratepayers in Ontario millions.
The government maintains the fiction that there are no health problems resulting from the noise and vibration (infrasound, low frequency noise) produced by the wind power generators, despite the precautionary principle in public health of taking no action if there is any question of harm to health, and hundreds upon hundreds of complaints of excessive noise. The government’s own lawyer, speaking at the Ostrander Point appeal in January, actually told the court that, “a few people may get headaches” and a few animals and birds may be killed, but that wind power was such an important public infrastructure that these things don’t matter.
The government maintains the fiction that property values are not affected when communities are invaded and transformed by huge power projects, in spite of numerous studies by practitioners of real property valuation (Lansink, Luxemburger) that show significant property value loss. Even the study done by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation or MPAC, which professed to show no loss in assessed values, actually showed a 25 percent loss, in its deliberately selected data.
Several of the writers featured in Dirty Business detailed all these concerns:
Michael Trebilcock, professor of Law and Economics, University of Toronto: “This combination of irresponsibility and venality has produced a lethal brew of policies.”
Ross McKitrick, professor of economics, University of Guelph: “If the goal [for the Green Energy Act] was to promote industry and create jobs, it is guaranteed to fail.”
Tom Adams, energy analyst: “Urban Ontario, including city-bound journalists, are largely unaware of the corrosive effects some wind developments are having on communities, neighbourhoods, even families. This is expropriation without compensation.”
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