A shocking lack of transparency

by Tom Spears, Ottawa Citizen

Excerpt: My next attempt centred on Ontario’s Feed-In Tariff, the system that pays generous subsidies for solar and wind power. Ontario has a good many “micro” generators of solar power; it takes a sunny rooftop and some panels.  They can get up to 80 cents per kilowatt hour they generate. Nuclear stations get about six cents. 

It got me wondering: What if someone just ran a wire from the wall socket in his house back to the grid? What if he sold back to Ontario, for 80 cents, power that he bought from Hydro Ottawa for 13 cents?  My request for documents on potential solar fraud reached the Ontario Power Authority on April 9.  Three months later, they politely told me to get lost. Here, have a look:

While there are no records of actual fraud, they said, “Two records were located that are risk mitigation plan documents prepared by the OPA (documents that identify, assess, and prioritize risks and that identify resources to minimize, monitor, and control the probability of their occurrence and their impact if they occur) …

“The OPA is withholding the two records in their entirety on the basis that, (i) to the extent that they deal with the potential for fraud in solar generation, the records are exempt from release under section 18(1)(d) of the Act, in that their release would facilitate fraud and thus would be harmful to the OPA’s and the electricity ratepayers’ financial interests.” A second part is withheld because it’s irrelevant to my request.

Fine, so there is a potential for fraud. As a consumer, I want to know this. But then the OPA can’t tell me how this works because it would give crooks ideas?

I have news for them. Criminals already know how to be criminals.

Energy analyst Tom Adams finds another irony.

“The OPA administers legislation that causes completely unnecessary economic harm to ratepayers,” he says.

Wind power that was competitively procured in the period 2005-2006 for about 9 cents is now acquired under the non-competitive FIT program for 13.5 cents.

Developers used to pay for grid upgrades, and today consumers pay.

“Now, in responding to a request clearly intended to inform the public about fraud risks, the OPA covers the government’s ass with this reference to the FIPPA legislation (on protecting the financial interests of Ontario).

“Rich.”

He adds: “The risk of solar fraud is real. Other jurisdictions are seeing it. The physical equipment and wiring changes to commit solar fraud are trivially cheap and easy.”

Most reporters will tell you that it’s becoming rare to find out useful information through these access requests. Package after package comes back from governments of all levels with little or nothing in it. It’s as though the access people are sitting in an office asking themselves: How much can we keep secret this time?

Maybe it’s because their bosses take control. My solar power decision was personally made by the CEO of the Ontario Power Authority.

Oh well. I did get a full answer to one request. I asked the National Research Council for e-mails relating to a story I wrote last spring. They sent more than 150 pages – half relating to my request for an interview with the NRC’s new president (unsuccessful) and half analysis of the story afterwards.

If one news story generates 150 pages of analysis, there must be piles of more valuable documents sitting in vaults somewhere, just begging to be released. But I’m not holding my breath. Read entire article

6 thoughts on “A shocking lack of transparency

  1. There are a lot on “non-transparent” things going on… Like Solar Reporting and playing with the rules — see First Solar/ Enbridge for one… why is “the Worlds Largest” Solar facility split into 10MW parcels? Why to get the best subsidies and be “non-reporting” facilities — that get lumped into the GAM… That’s why your Power Bill keeps increasing — all those Hidden power facilities — gotta get those cheques out somehow. Is this the new role of the OPA?

    And there is this…
    http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/regs/english/elaws_regs_090452_e.htm
    How many of you knew about “Greenhouse Gas Reporting”…

    Environmental Protection Act
    Loi sur la protection de l’environnement
    ONTARIO REGULATION 452/09
    GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS REPORTING
    Consolidation Period: From January 1, 2011 to the e-Laws currency date.
    Last amendment: O. Reg. 493/10.
    This Regulation is made in English only.

    That’s why we “need” all those wind turbines — dintchya know?

  2. More transparency from The Liberals….
    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/07/15/ontario-bets-on-solar-powered-photo-ops-to-fuel-election-hopes/

    The industry, and government, insist it’s all good. Of course. By agreeing to pay many times the market rate for power generated by windmill and solar projects, they say, Ontario is planting the seed that will grow to a vast, profitable and self-sustaining new industry down the road.

    The Conservatives just roll their eyes. The “industry” will thrive exactly as long as the province agrees to keep paying a fortune for the result, they say. “If they announce tomorrow that they’re going to pay $7 a dozen for eggs, I suspect a lot of people are going to be investing in laying hens. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be good for the people buying eggs in the supermarket,” said energy critic John Yakabuski.

    Now ain’t that the truth…

    I guess “transparency” means that people can see right through them….

    How about the data on Solar Production! Huh? Can we see how good they are doing? …or aren’t…

  3. Europe has already seen solar fraud and considering the great returns worth the effort. The Liberals would not want any legal action against a company so charges are unlikely. Why stop at solar? Wind is unreliable and variable so electricity production is unreliable and variable. Why not use a few MW from the grid to smooth and improve output? IWT companies fail to state how much power is used by IWTs as they indicated the power is no metered. That would mean there is no way to know how much power is sucked up by IWT developments. The IWT generators require electricity to start up so already hooked up to go.

  4. the fraud is already happened. , the dismantling and deregulation of Ontario Hydro….
    The entire Ontario Liberal electricity direction is less then good for all but a few in Ontario.
    The focus should be ..the SALE of electrcity

  5. This could work well if you had several buildings , one you manufactured out of and the other that had solar on it…you could mask the power drain on building A to feed building B which has solar panels on it..Thus getting subsidized power and making money at the same time.
    Never thought of this scam………………great for grow ops too.
    I wonder why information is not being released about it ????
    Anyway there is no way anyone would do anything to cheat Ontarians so I think this is a waste of time. lets talk hockey.

    • I think the Spanish Scammers approach was better… They simply hooked up diesel generators to the outfeed lines… Much simpler.

      Simpler is always better — and more profitable. Solar cells and IWTs are way too complicated. Hooking diesel generators to the outfeed of their empty shells and fake fronts could generate far more attractive profits. ..and equally green. Think about it.

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