Big Quebec subsidies power Big Wind

Ben Luce

By Peter Hadekel, The Montreal Gazette

“Beware of wind developers making extravagant requests.”

Over the last decade, the wind power industry in Quebec has taken off, thanks to generous support from the provincial government.

Hydro-Quebec has launched major tenders for wind projects, which will bring installed capacity to 4,000 megawatts by the year 2015. But the industry wants more. Wrapping itself in green, the colour of choice for energy development these days, it’s clamouring for 8,000 megawatts of additional construction in Quebec by 2025.

Along with the hype about clean, renewable power, come ambitious claims about economic spinoffs if its plan goes ahead, including: $15 billion in construction spending in Quebec over 10 years, 9,800 construction jobs, and compensation of $1.4 billion paid to landowners and municipalities over a 20-year period.

The numbers come from a study released yesterday by the Canadian Wind Energy Association at its convention in Montreal.

This looks like big money for Quebec, but it’s time to check which way the wind is blowing. Experts are increasingly skeptical about the value of Big Wind in the energy mix.

At least the industry is honest enough about its goal, which is to insure it gets more contracts in Quebec after current jobs are completed in 2015.

“One of our concerns is to see that this industry continues to grow” and that current employment is maintained, says Jean-Francois Nolet of the Wind Energy Association.

Okay, but what’s in it for the rest of us?

The plan calls for far more energy than Quebec requires, given current demand. The current price for wind generation, at 12.5 cents a kilowatt-hour, already represents a subsidy to developers.

“Quebec, in the short term, doesn’t need any more power,” says Pierre-Olivier Pineau, an energy specialist at the HEC Montreal business school.

“There are a lot of new projects already under way in wind and hydro. We have a nuclear energy plant (at Gentilly) that is being refurbished. We could also produce more electricity from natural gas.”

Of course, responding to climate change is one of the stated goals of wind power advocates. Getting off hydrocarbons is often cited as a reason for building wind farms.

But the capacity of wind turbines is usually between 20 and 30 per cent, which is another way of saying that the wind blows only some of the time. While you can add wind to the energy mix, you can’t really replace the need for conventionally generated electricity, at least in the short term.

“By far the most profitable choice for Quebecers would be to invest in energy efficiency,” Pineau says. And one good way to create financial incentives for such conservation is to charge the market price for electricity instead of continuing to sell it below the cost of new production. “If we’re really in favour o sustainable development, we should avoid building new projects which will just add to production capacity” and continue to encourage overconsumption, Pineau says.

With greater efficiency, the real cost of consumption could be reduced well below the 12.5 cents a kilowatt hour the government now offers to wind developers, he notes.

“It makes sense to pursue a winning solution,” Pineau says. Other experts are coming to the same conclusion.

In the state of Vermont, where 10 wind projects are on the drawing board thanks to a tax credit offered to producers, it makes more sense to pursue solar energy instead, says Ben Luce, a professor of physics at Lyndon State College and former co-chairman of the U.S. Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy.

Breakthroughs in photovoltaic technology have dramatically lowered the cost of solar production to the point where solar energy may soon be competitive with other sources of power, he argues.

Installation of solar cells is far less disruptive to the environment than the construction of 500-foot wind turbines, which create visual pollution, hazards for birds and low-frequency noise problems for people living nearby.

Luce says far more energy could be generated in Vermont from solar panels than if every ridgeline in the state was turned over to wind farms.

So beware of wind developers making extravagant requests. What they really want is your money.

8 thoughts on “Big Quebec subsidies power Big Wind

  1. To quote, well, myself:

    “Quebec gets 100% of their electricity from CO2 free sources almost all of which is so called
    “renewable” hydro. She has a CANDU or two but I’m not sure these units are still in operation.

    It matters little. Quebec generates so much power she exports more then 14% of her total generation capacity of over 36,000 megawatts. She does not import any power at all. Ontario on the other hand can import or export 12% of her total capacity, much of this (more then 30%) imported from hydro Quebec! Hydro Quebec is the largest electricity generator in Canada and amongst the largest in the world.

    This means that 100% of her wind capacity (she has over 600 industrial wind turbines) is exported.
    The wind companies receive a subsidy from Quebec residence to the benefit of the importer who only pays market rates. Now where have we heard that before? Could that be not only Denmark but right here in Ontario?

    Now, as CO2 reductions, energy security, environmental impacts, economic development and all the usual fraudulent arguments, could not be used by the wind industry to steal the Quebec ratepayers money, the only route left would be direct bribery of elected officials. I’m guessing this is part of the reason why MacLean’s Magazine chose Quebec as the most corrupt province in Canada! I can’t see how Ontario could be far behind!”

    End of quote…

    Whatever the ignorant, fraudulent, greedy , mendacious and selfish say in support of wind energy, this pretty much says it all:

    On a pound-for-pound basis, nuclear power is about A HUNDRED MILLION TIMES as efficient as wind power. That is using conventional reactor technology. Were we to use Integral Fast Breeder Reactors, nuclear energy would be 100 TIMES ONE HUNDRED MILLON TIMES more efficient then wind!

    Isn’t being “green” supposed to bring about the most efficient use of natural resources?”

    Sean Holt.

  2. Ah shucks Sean, you beat me to it.
    So there you have it. Wind farms have nothing to do with saving the planet. But we all knew that already anyway. Right?

    So what else is going on here besides an unneeded, unwanted industry just trying to lick the tax payers’ “honey pot” clean?

    Agenda 21, Agenda 21, Agenda 21

    “Off the land peasants. Rural living is not sustainable don’t you know”.

  3. “Canada’s export opportunities are
    tremendous.

    In 2008, Canada was the world’s 4th largest exporter of electricity. We sit next door to the world’s largest electricity consumer which has a strong and growing appetite for green power.

    In fact, 25 American states now require a certain
    portion of their electricity to come from renewable sources. These initial efforts will lead to the installation of 61,000 MW of new renewable energy generating capacity. Canada enjoys a long history of energy and electricity trade with the Americans and there are great opportunities to build on this through wind exports.

    For example, Canada’s Atlantic provinces have tremendous wind resources but a relatively
    small demand for electricity. Across the border, however, in the north eastern United States, there is a huge demand for electricity that will be difficult to meet from local renewable sources. Wind power from Atlantic Canada can fill this gap and there are similar opportunities in other parts of Canada
    as well.”

    The quote above is directly from page 12 in CANWEA’s Booklet called WindVision 2025 and explains very clearly what the whole “renewable Energy” plan is for us here in Ontario!

    Ontario has embraced a failed and misguided Wind Turbine Agenda in order to create a market for high priced electricity for sale to the USA.

    In other words, we are becoming a giant generator for the sake of making money of an export of high priced electricity at OUR expense! Loss of Health, Land and Economy in Ontario due to the direct actions of our very own Government must be a criminal act and must be judged as such!

  4. Yup…

    Wind energy isn’t working out real well for the Danes either. Norway, Sweden and parts of Germany sure like Denmark’s cheap wind power though! As does Ontario’s export market, AND
    Quebec’s!

    Sean Holt.

  5. Perhaps IWTs are being installed in Quebec to be used as carbon offsets.

    Quebec wants to participate in Cap & Trade by 2012.

  6. Barbara:

    The only carbon wind is SUPPOSED to be able to offset is that created by electrical generation.
    As I have already stated, 100% of Quebec’s grid is already CO2 free. There is nothing to offset.
    Wind in Quebec is about a blatant a scam as it is possible to perpetrate!

    Carbon trading is currently the most lucrative criminal activity on the planet. Just google it.
    This fits well with Quebec’s current “the most corrupt province in Canada” status.

    Sean Holt.

  7. Sean,

    You are correct. Quebec does not need wind power. So perhaps the IWTs are only being installed to serve the carbon trading market and we know what a scam that is.

    Cap & Trade survived this week’s California election. So it is still a live issue as far as the Western Initative and Ontario & Quebec are concerned.

    Cap & Trade can still be done province by province and state by state. For now it appears to be dead on the U.S federal level but who knows what the 2012 election will bring.

  8. our world needs us to invest and have respectful energy efficiency budgets .
    these kind of blogs help achive this goal.
    all the best

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