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WEEKEND READING

Wind Concerns Ontario

April 2, 2016

We present a collection of stories that review the manner in which strategies that are supposedly positive for the environment have been enacted (usually without any sort of cost-benefit or full impact analysis), and what the results are to date.

From Terence Corcoran’s review in The Financial Post, to a review of German energy policy (this is a sad, sad story worthy of Dickens), an article in Prince Edward County’s Wellington Times (one of the last independent newspapers in Canada) on a wind power developer’s arrogance, and last, an opinion on what the real effect on the local environment green energy policies are in reality, the collection deserves a read … and consideration by the Ontario government.

Will they? In the words of the team of academics lead by the University of Ottawa’s Stewart Fast, writing recently about the disastrous implementation of the Green Energy Act on Ontario communities, “Our recommendations will unfortunately remain unaddressed, without further consideration or assessment of the lessons that could be learned.” [Fast et al. Lessons learned from Ontario wind energy disputes, January, 2016]

Terence Corcoran, The Financial Post, “Clean, green, and catastrophic.” (Note: our Parker Gallant provided some figures for this article.)

Handelsblatt (Global edition) “How to kill an industry”. (Thanks to energy economist Robert Lyman in Ottawa for sending this in.)

Rick Conroy, The Wellington Times, “There’s always a catch.” (“The wolf has been sent to find out what’s killing all the lambs …” Conroy writes.)

Last, this letter to the editor of Ontario Farmer, excerpted here.

“Off-grid will make a bad situation worse for reluctant grid payees”

A farming friend recently took me on a “crop tour” of rural businesses that are partially or fully off-grid. We saw a sawmill, a pressed-steel manufacturer, a maker of wood-burning stoves, a cabinet-maker and an ethanol plant. Finding it progressively more difficult to remain profitable in the agricultural business with skyrocketing electrical costs, my friend is seriously looking at more cost-effective alternatives. If going off-grid works for others, perhaps it will work for him.

“Off-grid” means that these business owners are no longer victims of usurious hydro rates the Ontario Green Energy Act (GEA) has imposed on the vast majority who obtain electricity from Hydro One and other such utility companies. Are these enterprises trailblazers illuminating a path to greater energy independence for other beleaguered hydro ratepayers?

Or are they creating an even greater financial burden for those who remain on the grid?

And what may be the environmental impact if a great many businesses follow suit?

Operating the Ontario power grid has become exorbitantly expensive under the GEA. It is becoming ever more expensive as greater numbers of windmills spring up to further sully our rural landscapes. … Operating costs of a centralized generation and distribution system are borne by all users. The more users there are, the less share of fixed costs each user pays. Businesses fleeing to off-grid energy alternatives leave fewer users on-grid bearing fixed costs; thus, each user pays more. While going off-grid may financially benefit those who do it, greater economic burden falls on those remaining on-grid, and most have no choice.

Fossil fuels are the primary energy source for off-grid users. Electricity to run their businesses must be generated by some sort of power plant, typically an internal combustion engine driving and electrical generator. It’s far removed from the most cost-effective or environmentally friendly way to generate and distribute electricity —the way we used to do it — but the GEA has made grid power so prohibitively expensive off-grid generation has become economically viable for major energy users.

Dave Plumb

Belmont, Ontario

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