August 30, 2021
The founder of the Ottawa Renewable Energy Cooperative (OREC) has written a letter to the Globe and Mail calling for an entire grid of renewable energy, such as wind and solar, to replace the current system. An excerpt from the letter by Dick Bakker follows.
The traditional, unidirectional electricity system from big central generation sites, with top-down control, hopefully will be replaced with a new grid of distributed renewable generation, decarbonised and locally controlled. New entrants will bring the advanced technology that the traditional utilities resist and introduce local capital to address community level opportunities.
The regulators, pension funds and unions that have benefited from the past century or more of centralised planning must adapt, as their traditional solutions are simply too expensive and unreliable. Distributed renewables, with battery storage, optimized for the distribution network, and integrated with demand response are simply cheaper and more resilient.
Massive changes are coming to our electricity system; hopefully Canada can leap ahead of where we are today, by localizing most of the benefits.
The problem is, wind power for one is not cheap* and it is certainly not “reliable” as our experiences during the recent heat wave indicate. Ontario went more than eight days with barely a whisper of wind, yet we experienced peak demand periods. And that’s typical of wind power in Ontario: it comes during low demand periods of spring and fall.
As to “local” benefits, Mr. Bakker told participants in an online regional update meeting held by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) last January, that anyone objecting to large-scale wind turbines was a “NIMBY”. They have some valid objections he said but in the main, opposition is “a knee-jerk reaction to industrialization.”
He doesn’t plan to take into account any environmental or financial concerns Ottawa’s rural residents might have. His knee-jerk NIMBY response was in fact an answer to our question about the need for cost-benefit and impact analysis. He doesn’t want that. He won’t care if the people living in Kars, Osgoode, Carp, Dunrobin, KInburn or North Gower have concerns about noise, harm to wildlife, and impacts on our aquifer.
But the prime problem with this letter is that Mr. Bakker’s views ignore the reality of the electricity grid. Baseload power is needed, and wind and solar cannot do that, not can they replace anything. Wind did not replace coal in Ontario; nuclear and natural gas did.
The one word Mr. Bakker will not say is “nuclear” despite the fact that clean, efficient, reliable nuclear is a real answer to the Net Zero goal. Ontario’s power workers recently said, you can’t get to Net Zero without it.
Facts are simply beside the point for those pushing large-scale renewables.
*While wind power developers’ trade association the Canadian Renewable Energy Association or CanREA claims wind power is now inexpensive, they do not present truly levelized costing. Moreover, Eastern ONtario is a low wind resource area. Ottawa’s Pathway Study of Wind Power in Ottawa (2017) acknowledges that there will have to be financial incentives to lure wind power developers to the area.
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Andre Lauzon said:
Does he have an estimate of the cost for “battery storage”? Bakker uses words like a student who has just learned them but who does not really grasp the meaning of the words.
And yet, OREC will be a significant partner in the City of Ottawa’s push for a renewable energy supply locally. No one seems to have read a single thing about the disaster that was the Ontario wind power program. It failed to fulfill every single promise made for it.
Savas Adamantidis said:
I have travelled to many countries outside of North America and in every single one I have not seen the disgrace of wind turbines ‘planted’ in the middle of small residential clusters in rural areas. The majority of wind farms are located on elevated grounds such as hills and small mountains. They go to great lengths to avoid disturbing the lives of rural communities let alone the decline of property values. I believe the proponents of the wind generated electricity will not in a million years reside close to these installations. I acknowledge that the proximity of these proposed farms is solely for the benefit of the companies as the loss of electricity during transmission is lesser if the power is linked to the grid through shorter distances. Profit is essential, however the cost to the quality of human life and wildlife should not be ignored.
Keep the farms away from homes, take less profits and do not try to convince us that renewable energy is cost efficient because we have paid through the nose for such an essential commodity. City of Ottawa, please do not try to ‘prove’ to anyone that you care about the environment at our expense and monetary costs. Being trendy in the eyes of the world is not worth destroying the lives of your citizens.
Stan Thayer said:
Gee, now they, (OREC), are asking us to invest with an almost absolute possibility of failure and as usual they get to keep the down payments.
Decades ago myself and many others were very excited to be in on the ground floor investment opportunity of a new technology that produced fuel from corn. That was about thirty years ago and before we new it the new processing plant was in financial trouble, or so the investors were told, the product was causing all kinds of motor problems, people were staying away from it until government passed legislation to force it to be used as an additive.
A couple decades of data have shown that we were burning about 4 liters of regular diesel to produce 1 liter of biodiesel, not my numbers, Statistics Canada, 2002-2012.
I am a lot older now and most of my investments include some label of Cognac!
The processing plant is still operating on taxpayer handouts and all the investors I know got a 100% financial haircut.
About 2004 we electrical contractors started installing sun and wind powered systems. Nothing much was happening until the McGuinty/Wynne Liberals offered huge taxpayer funded incentives to deep pocket corporations and brought in the 2009 Green Energy Act. The international corporations sucked up the contracts and went to all offshore manufacturing while the Liberal government just sunk their heads into their hands.
Anyone else can invest any way they want but I am passing on this one!