Is McGuinty’s green-energy answer just blowin’ in the wind?

by ADAM RADWANSKI, Globe and Mail

In court, Dalton McGuinty’s government is defending its authority to put up wind turbines around Ontario.

At Queen’s Park, it’s under pressure to release financial details of its controversial multibillion-dollar agreement with South Korea’s Samsung Group to develop wind and solar power.

And across the province, the green-energy strategy that was supposed to be a feel-good centrepiece of Mr. McGuinty’s second term is getting a decidedly mixed reaction.

Provincial Liberals still contend it will be a positive for them in next fall’s election. But if they could go back in time, they’d probably do a few things differently:

1. Make the case

There appeared to be an assumption that the benefits of spending billions of dollars harnessing wind and solar – job creation and sustainable power – were self-evident. This was particularly apparent in George Smitherman, the former energy minister who embraced alternative power with missionary zeal.

As a result, the Liberals didn’t condition the public for their Green Energy Act as much as they could have. And they seemed caught off guard by the ensuing backlash, caused by rising energy bills and what would be pejoratively referred to as NIMBYism.

2. Move more slowly

The Green Energy Act was largely uncharted territory, so it was inevitable some adjustments would have to be made along the way. But there was a franticness that contributed to mistakes.

Had the legislation been written more tightly, more dubious applicants for lucrative energy contracts might have been ruled out sooner. Instead, some were allowed to proceed further than they should have, with bad planning and poor communications creating lingering unease in affected communities.

Meanwhile, the premium paid for placing solar panels on rural properties was initially set at a jaw-dropping 80.2 cents per kilowatt hour. Recognizing too many farmers were taking them up on it, the Liberals tried last summer to lower it to 58.8 cents – still about four times higher than what’s paid for wind energy. But after an outcry, the government compromised on a rate of 64.2 cents and grandfathered the original rate for anyone who had already submitted a bid.

3. Don’t make victims of municipalities

The most contentious aspect of the GEA removes municipalities from the process of deciding where wind turbines go up. Government and industry insiders argue that was actually welcomed by municipal politicians, who are absolved of responsibility. But those politicians have not conveyed that impression publicly.

To some extent, the Liberals needed to expedite the process. But by appearing uninterested in the views of local governments, they encouraged opposition in places it might not otherwise have existed.

4. Don’t encourage conspiracy theories

The rationale behind the Samsung agreement remains a mystery. The government undercut its own “feed-in-tariff” program, which hands out relatively small contracts to domestic companies, by signing a very large one with a foreign company. That created resentment within the industry, partly because it used up a chunk of available transmission capacity.

Most likely, Mr. Smitherman wanted a big deliverable before he left provincial politics. But why the Premier’s office went ahead with it, amid objections from cabinet, has never been fully explained. And the government’s reluctance to release the terms of the agreement has fuelled speculation about what kind of sweetheart deal it offered.

5. Put the costs in perspective

Liberals grumble about the misconception that green energy has been behind all the spikes in energy prices in recent years. In reality, many of those were caused by upgrades to long-neglected infrastructure. But until recently, the government didn’t properly explain that.

A little honesty about what green energy would cost also might have helped. Mr. Smitherman insisted the GEA would increase the average bill by only 1 per cent annually – a forecast ridiculed when the government conceded late last year that green energy would account for the bulk of a projected 46-per-cent increase in prices (offset by a 10-per-cent rebate) over the next five years.

Brad Duguid, the current energy minister, is now making a noble effort to justify cost increases in layman’s terms. But he needn’t be facing quite so much of an uphill battle.

10 thoughts on “Is McGuinty’s green-energy answer just blowin’ in the wind?

  1. “bad planning and poor communications ” Has McGuinty written all over the GEA.
    A responsible government would care about the health of its citizens first and foremost.

  2. Uh Adam; are you on drugs?

    “In court, Dalton McGuinty’s government is defending its authority to put up wind turbines around Ontario.”

    By a ruling of the Supreme Court, governments MUST perform due diligence and act in the best interests of the people. With no green energy mandate from the people, Dalton’s government doesn’t actually have this authority. Obviously if they had this authority, they wouldn’t be defending it [repeatedly] in court and so far, there has not been a constitutional challenge – yet!

    “There appeared to be an assumption that the benefits of spending billions of dollars harnessing wind and solar – job creation and sustainable power – were self-evident.”

    “Assumption” is correct.

    This is an absolute myth which was already exposed as such by the University of Madrid based on Spain’s own miserably failed green energy debacle. This study was published in 2006, three years before the GEA. Also and less well known, Norway undertook a study of Danish wind energy in 1998 and reached many of the same conclusions.

    Obviously Adam, you are making these same unsubstantiated assumptions or you could not have written this piece.

    “The Green Energy Act was largely uncharted territory”

    Uh, NO, very well charted actually!

    Largely copied and pasted from pre-existing legislation in several countries in the EU, most notably Denmark, Germany and Spain. Curious George Smitherman doesn’t have the intellect to conjure up such fantasy as the GEA. It was handed to him lock, stock and barrel courtesy of The Green Energy Act Alliance! Of course, by the time the GEA was introduced in the legislature all of these other jurisdictions were cutting back both subsidies and contract approvals and are continuing to do so.

    “The rationale behind the Samsung agreement remains a mystery. The government undercut its own “feed-in-tariff” program”

    Seems you have answered your own question here Adam. This is precisely what happened.

    The green energy programs in place before the GEA were actually sensible, if it were possible to say such a thing about Industrial green energy. Unfortunately it is not.

    There is absolutely NO economic or environmental case that can be made in support of industrial green energy for these reasons: Abysmal reliability, energy density and subsidies required for it to even exist. Unless the dismal amount of energy produced is heavily subsidized, this technology is essentially useless on an industrial scale.

    Astonishingly, Brad DuGuid eludes that; Ontario will become a center of excellence for green energy technology that other jurisdictions like the USA can use.

    OK: Ontario currently has 700 industrial wind turbines. The USA currently has around 70,000! Pretty sure NONE of them employ Ontario technology! Oh, and BTW Denmark had more then 70 wind powered electrical generators way back in 1908 and the first “wind farms” were built in California 30 YEARS AGO!

    Ontario is a very, very late comer to wind energy.

    Center of excellence indeed!

    All of this information is available in the public domain not only to you Adam but to the Ontario Government as well.

    It is to the detriment of us all and to our future prosperity that both they and you have chosen to ignore it!


  3. OMG! I just watched CHCH do a segment on the Smithville meeting and no more than 5 min later I see an ad for the Green Energy Act with nothing but fake pictures of Industrial Wind Turbines; paid for by the “Ontario Government”, or us.
    McGuinty, pay for your propaganda campaign yourself!
    I am suspect of any organization who promotes this form of electrical production.

  4. Mike, Steve and Olivia Chow are Green, and though didn’t mention Industrial Wind Turbines, they appear to be promoting them.

  5. Scotiabank sponsoring that ad? I think they need a letter of complaint or 2.

  6. “As a result, the Liberals didn’t condition the public for their Green Energy Act as much as they could have. And they seemed caught off guard by the ensuing backlash, caused by rising energy bills and what would be pejoratively referred to as NIMBYism”.

    What PR initiative could possibly explain that industrial turbines do not work, cannot work and can never make an economic, or even ecological contribution to Ont’s energy supply. Industrial turbines are powered not by wind, but by lavish government subsidies. With all the evidence available from Denmark, Spain and the US, as to the efficiency of turbines, it is negligence bordering on criminal for McGuinty to persist in his wind induced fantasy.

  7. Sent as letter to the editor at Globe and Mail:

    Adam Radwanski speaks as though he knows why there is such a backlash from the Green Energy Act [GEA].

    Your condescending attitude wins you no friends in rural Ontario, Adam. We may not be a majority as urban/rural voter ratio goes, but we count and we are strong.

    We do not need to be ‘conditioned’ to accept wind turbines out here in the countryside. Honestly, that you would even put a phrase like that into print is abhorrent to me.
    We do not need a provincial government using a dictatorial GEA and a Provincial Planning Policy like a battering ram, forcing residents and municipalities to allow 49 story industrial wind projects to surround our family homes and schools.
    We do not need a 45% increase in our electricity bills so McGuinty can look ‘green’ out here in the ‘boonies’ either.

    And, as seems typical of major media, you completely ignore the issue that most in rural Ontario speak of first. Instead you dwell on the money you increasingly have to fork over to pay for this foolish liberal government’s unsustainable energy nightmare.

    We rural folk have something far more important to lose than money to another of McGuinty’s follies.

    If you were ever to travel beyond the city limits and ask those who face placement of turbines near their homes, they will tell you, almost to a person, that they are most afraid of losing their health because of the insanely inadequate setback distance of turbine to home, created by wind industry and government.

    People will tell you about families who have abandoned toxic homes, families trying to manage upkeep of a safe house to go to, people who are now on prescription drugs to try to sleep over the noise and infrasound from turbines at night. They will tell you about homes that have been bought out by the wind company, some bulldozed, some sitting empty.

    Many are also talking about the horrendous lack of social justice for all who have been forced into this position by an uncaring and ignorant government and society. This is felt with only 700 turbines up and running so far. The liberal government is planning to jam thousands more turbines next to people out here. And articles like your nearsighted and stunted piece do not serve any of us justice.


  8. People should have been conditioned like dogs so “green” energy could be put upon them.

  9. Great letter, Lorrie. I also find the term ‘conditioned’ to be abhorent. We are not lab rats out here.

  10. Delingpole says it all…


    “f Goldacre really wants to stick his neck out, why doesn’t he try arguing against a rich, powerful, bullying Climate-Change establishment which includes all three British main political parties, the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, the Prince of Wales, the Prime Minister, the President of the USA, the EU, the UN, most schools and universities, the BBC, most of the print media, the Australian Government, the New Zealand Government, CNBC, ABC, the New York Times, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, most of the rest of the City, the wind farm industry, all the Big Oil companies, any number of rich charitable foundations, the Church of England and so on?

    I do, almost every day. Not because it makes me money or gets me lots of high-fives from right-on Guardian fans. But because I believe in the truth.”

    Definitely sounds like the Ontario Wind Turbine Debate! BUT!!!! He left out our Fearless Leader… Someone bring McGuinty to his attention please!

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