Unravelling

by Rick Conroy, Wellington Times
It was another tough week for Dalton McGuinty on the energy file. First the European Union jumped on board the effort to force the Ontario government to open its renewable energy market to international suppliers. McGuinty understood all along that if his dream of wind turbines on every horizon and solar panels on every pasture was to take root, he needed to promise jobs. Lots of jobs. He would call them green jobs.

He understood as well that these jobs had to be more than just a few weeks of bolting together components manufactured somewhere else. So he tried to kickstart a provincial wind and solar component sector. He did this by restricting the amount of foreign content (both goods and services) that could go into projects under his government’s FIT (feed-in tariff) program. Under his decree 60 per cent of the content of a solar project must be made up of domestic products and services by next year—50 per cent for wind projects.

These restrictions were in direct violation of world trade organization (WTO) rules, and McGuinty knew it. But he gambled that by the time the court heard any appeal a homegrown industry would have developed— ready to compete toe to toe with the world.

It didn’t happen. Nervous about shifting ground rules and manic management of the energy file in general, investment capital largely stayed away. Frustrated by the lack of action McGuinty jumped into bed with Korean industrial giant Samsung—promising billions of taxpayer dollars if they would please, please build windmills and solar panels in Ontario.

Desperate people make bad deals. It will take hundreds of millions of dollars for the next government to unwind the province from this arrangement.

In the meantime, first Japan and now the EU have launched appeals to overturn McGuinty’s indefensible protectionist tactics. Appeals they will win. McGuinty is running out of time. This folly too, and the cost of defending it, will end up on your electricity bill.

But matters got worse last week in an Ontario Energy Board hearing when Hydro One asked the regulator for a six-month exemption from meeting deadlines for assessing and connecting small renewable-energy projects. Nearly all of these are small solar home and farm-based projects.

Currently the province has received nearly 35,000 applications for small renewable projects (10 kilowatts or less)—22,821 have received conditional offers. But only 6,780, or less than a third, have executed contracts—meaning they are generating electricity into the grid and earning revenue. Tens of thousands of folks have been left hanging. Many have spent $100,000 or more on solar panel installations believing they had a deal. But with each delay their prospects of ever getting connected to the grid grow dimmer.

They should not have been surprised.

The fundamental hurdle with solar and wind energy is that it is intermittent and cannot be harnessed. It is a supply source that cannot be turned up or down to match demand. Electricity cannot be stored in grid scale amounts—so it must be produced when it is needed.

Nothing in our 60-year-old electricity grid is designed or equipped to manage generating sources that are pumping out electricity at 100 per cent one moment, zero another and 33 per cent the next. It is a physical and technical hurdle that had to be addressed first—before we squandered families” nest eggs and added billions of wasted dollars onto our electricity bills.

Then this week we learned that McGuinty knew all along that the noise from industrial wind turbines would have adverse effects on residents nearby— even those 550 metres away as prescribed by the Green Energy Act. This fact was revealed in a memo between Ministry of Environment officials last spring (See page 14). The document only came to light as a result of a freedom of information request.

Bit by bit the blind ambition McGuinty brought to the energy file is unravelling at his feet. The bureaucrats who once acquiesced to the premier’s wishes despite their better judgment—are now sitting on their hands. They are waiting for the self-destruction to be complete—waiting for the electorate to deal with the McGuinty government in October.

The wacky decision-making may end in October but the bills for nearly a decade of mismanagement of Ontario’s electricity grid will pile up for years to come. McGuinty’s enduring legacy.

rick@wellingtontimes.ca

31 thoughts on “Unravelling

  1. Good Story!
    Yup! …….that about sums it up!
    Go Away! – McGuinty Liberals – NOW!

  2. Excellent synopsis of the whole Green Energy mess created by McGuinty, Rick Conroy!
    Desperate people make bad DEALS and bad DECISIONS.
    Out with the Liberals on Oct. 6.
    I am sooooo tired of the the sneaky, secretive and dishonest actions surrounding this issue it makes me want to hurl.
    We need accountability and transparency and we are NOT getting that.
    We deserve better.

  3. Industrial wind turbines, solar panels will be McGuinty’s and his Liberals “monuments of stupidity” for every one to see for the next 20 or more years. Nice.

  4. I woke up this morning, I had dreamt that I had read the newspapers

    – Judge visits abandon homes, orders class action lawsuit to proceed
    -Charges brought against Premier of Ontario while in office over GEA
    – McGuinty’s fraud trial continues into 2 week in Superior Court
    – Local residents groups file class action lawsuit against Dalton McGuinty
    – McGuinty stripped of Premier duties while investigation continues over OPA
    – Several Counties file unprecedented charges against Premier over Green Energy Act
    – McGuinty loses all faith from Ontarians as charges brought against him and his polices
    – Disgraced Premier resigns following the truth about turbines

    • All you lawyers out there, is there such a thing as a class action suit from the people of this province against the leadership which brought this mess upon us? (Like impeachment in the US) They deserve to be put in jail for a very long time.

    • dreams can be a bit foggy sometimes… you may have also dreamt that before his throwing in the towel, McGuinty tries to ‘woo’ Ontarians about lowering taxes for sure this time, and to vote for him again on another term… ahhhh…what a nightmare!

      • Navid,
        For some Ontario citizens – the fog is beginning “to clear”
        – they can see the lights of the train coming!
        – they keep looking @ their electricity bill and rubbing their eyes –

  5. I hope everyone remembers this article come election day..

  6. I love this guy.
    He has looked into it and has understood this business con game.

  7. So he knowingly broke the WTO free trade agreement rules and exposed all Canadian taxpayers to financial penalties????? How can a provincial premier break international trade agreements and face not consequences from the federal government? The feds should have some responsibility to protect the taxpayers from rogue politicians.

  8. This is a good article. Rick has missed an important detail that all this money is being spent for no electricity gain. Industrial wind and solar are not feasible and will never have the working capacity to make a difference in providing electricity to the grid. If money is to be spent a priority should be set to first compensate those affected who have made an effort to identify they have a problem with wind, next put money to decommission all the ineffective wind turbines (if analyzed would be all of them). Anyone who did not research enough about operating industrial solar in our northern climate (Canada is in the North) or put an effort to understanding details of connecting to the grid (i.e. those that bought into the renewable sales pitch) should not get handouts. What has happened is nothing different than making a bad business decision. The Government most likely knew there was limited transmission capacity, but promoted projects to provide a display of industrializing solar. Anyone researching grid capacity would have known that. Too bad industrial solar is just a show, even if they were working. There is no way of knowing without close monitoring whether or not a solar array is working. Industrial wind is no different.

    • Brilliant observation!
      Government Cronyism collapsing our electricity system from within.
      But why!
      OPA is an agency like no other!

  9. Well — OPG can be worse…

    See this report they commissioned… Page 63 (Labeled page 51 — the third point of the conclusions…

    http://www.opg.com/power/thermal/Pembina%20Biomass%20Sustainability%20Analysis%20Final%20Rev%2015%20April%202011.pdf
    In Ontario, there is a sustainable long-term flow of 2.9M ODT at existing harvest rates in the Boreal and GLSL forest regions (Figure 44). Further, an additional but declining tonnage of biomass is available in the short term (2015 to 2060), at harvest rates of 20.1 Mm3/year (Figure 59).

    How thoughtful — the Pembina Institute of Alberta seems to be recommending that we burn our Boreal Forest for Electricitry supply….

    See appendix A…

    Purpose:
    To convene a small group of experts (~8 people) to support the direction, development and provide input on key issues related to sustainability analysis of electricity generation using renewable biomass for the four coal power plants in Ontario (Atikokan, Thunder Bay, Lambton and Nanticoke).

    As a return favor, may I recommend that Alberta sell it’s white Pine forests to Japan to produce paper? Oh, they are doing that already? Well practice makes perfect…

    • David,

      I believe that they plan on burning the leftover waste from the harvesting operations in the Boreal Forest … not necessarily a bad idea as long as they leave some wood debris for decomposition to maintain the duff layer.
      And, I think you mean Ponderosa Pine … as far as I know, there is no White Pine in Alberta.

      Delta Ottawa eh? … must be nice!!!

      • Gord:

        I did some work for the fellow who arranged the fiber sale. Yes I do know Ponderosa Pine quite well — it is a rangeland pine. Very thick bark that protects against forest fires. I have fondled many a tree of that type.

        Burning waste is part of the plan yes. The plan is based on economic recovery and the forest industry and related manufacturing recovery. They also plan to do some whole tree harvest. Note the quantities. (note that is DRY weight Oven Dried Tons… (ODT) That’s a lot of wood…

        Assume there is no recovery. Assume they convert the Power Plants anyway — what would they burn? Uh-huh…

        They need a “win” for renewables since solar and wind have proved to be useless — look for this one to go ahead so they can claim renewables are a success story!

        The Delta Ottawa is OK as standard hotel rooms go. I would not call it great. Watching the Solar Meter was a treat though!

    • I guess it was a waste of time mentioning this — I found the following showing that this is a done deal.

      See here: http://www.opg.com/power/thermal/repowering/

      Note the letter of union support. Note that if you push on the Atikokan link you can see the details. The directive was issued in March. The intent all along was to develop their own cut (harvest) and burn the wood directly… See section 6 of the report.

      From Section 6:
      In considering the biomass sector as a generator of jobs and economic output it is important to consider the following:

      The size and scale of the biomass sector assumed in this analysis is tied to the size and scale of the traditional forest products industry. If a biomass sector develops in Ontario, opportunities to decouple this sector from the forest industry will be important for the long-term viability of this sector.

      Due to data availability and time constraints this analysis was not able to explore the opportunity to source biomass from private and municipal woodlots. These sources of biomass present an opportunity to de-couple the biomass sector from the traditional forest industry.

      “Decouple this sector”: Means they will develop their own harvest… Chop down directly and heave the wood in the burners…

      I guess they knew that opposition could only be maintained on so many fronts. BUT Is it worth burning down our Boreal Forest to shut down the coal stations?

      Maybe they are doing this so they can strip the land bare for wind turbines everywhere. Who knows..

      Maybe we should change our license plate motto to: Ontario the strip-mined!

      It seems most appropriate.

      • Dave,

        Through the smoky haze of the biomass fires your point is becoming clearer.

        However, I couldn’t find a reference to the actual type of wood that they were cutting specifically for fuel. Generally speaking, I suspect that they would be harvesting various species of fast-growing poplar and non-commercial conifers (balsam fir) … pulpwood.

        If that is the case, there may be some merit to this pursuit, though some may argue that pulpwood has more value as newspaper stock … a hot commodity in the new “paperless society” of the electronic age.

        Not a windy subject, but interesting nontheless.

      • Again, UN definition of renewable energy sources to be used. Use what the UN says you can use as energy sources for power generation. Are Canadians running the country or is the UN running the country?

      • As it turn out, this is a done deal. They need a success to show off — then they will declare all renewables viable… Wind Turbines, Solar, BioMass — all a success.

        http://www.opg.com/power/thermal/repowering/

        Read the details at the links on the right, also click on Atikokan on the left.

        It looks like they will get their own cut allowance (well already have I believe) and will simply take what they wish. Like wind turbines, they did it relatively quietly and without a lot of public scrutiny. So yeah, fir, pine, spruce, poplar, northern birch… whatever…

        They have sold this based on social and economic gain and jobs — even though their own report says the returns will be minimal. Sound like the wind turbine deal?

        Like wind turbines this was done to give us gains over coal — but will it? Their own numbers say gains will be minimal — if… but — it’s a model. There are no real world numbers — just assumptions and models. SO it looks like large sums of money to do the changeover — and virtually no operational gain — churning cash. In private companies you get fired for this — or worse.

        Again — their “successes” in pulling off the IWT program are being applied elsewhere.

        The only hope for a rational approach is a complete change in government and a cleaning out of environment and energy ministries.

      • Goes to show people just how dumb some local councils and chambers of commerce really are. All this is government moving money around in the economy with no gains.
        In the case of local councils money is being transfered from urban Hydo bills to rural areas. Recycling money scheme.

  10. Everything is unraveling…
    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/08/20/rex-murphy-global-warming-runs-out-of-gas/
    Rex Murphy in his inimitable style…

    Some five or so years later, not a little of Stephen Harper’s success in gaining a majority government came from refusing to engage, in any serious and convincing manner, with the politics of the planet-savers.

    [and…]
    For that, Mr. Gore himself has a lot of blame to carry. His own “sputtering righteousness” and his adolescent barks of “bulls–t” to his critics may be a reverse of the Obama declaration. Gore’s meltdown might just be the moment when the people of the planet saw the carney show for what it was.

  11. Maybe McGuinty is unraveling — all he can do is fear-monger…
    Read the comments on this story. Better than the story!
    http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1043089–cuts-loom-if-tories-win-mcguinty-warns-mayors?bn=1#article

    “LONDON—Premier Dalton McGuinty warned Ontario mayors that if Tory Leader Tim Hudak gets to power on Oct. 6, municipalities will find themselves back in the Mike Harris days of cost cutting and downloading.”

    Maybe they can cut the plan to “cut the Boreal Forest” — see above. Maybe it’s time we quite following the plans of the Pembina Institute to make Ontario a Serfdom of Alberta!

  12. it’s the Star….their home editors don’t let us voice our interests and concerns….

  13. While not quite yet definitive…
    http://www.thegwpf.org/science-news/3699-cern-experiment-confirms-cosmic-rays-influence-climate-change.html

    Long-anticipated results of the CLOUD experiment at CERN in Geneva appear in tomorrow’s issue of the journal Nature (25 August). The Director General of CERN stirred controversy last month, by saying that the CLOUD team’s report should be politically correct about climate change (see my 17 July post below). The implication was that they should on no account endorse the Danish heresy – Henrik Svensmark’s hypothesis that most of the global warming of the 20th Century can be explained by the reduction in cosmic rays due to livelier solar activity, resulting in less low cloud cover and warmer surface temperatures.

    This work seriously calls into question the “urgent” need for renewable energy.

    McGuinty is unraveling indeed… and so is a lot of other bad science and worse politics.

  14. There are many ways to unravel — some are more taxing than others…
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/bc-politics/bc-rejects-hst-in-landmark-referendum/article2143576/

    The ballot question read: Are you in favour of extinguishing the HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) and reinstating the PST (Provincial Sales Tax) in conjunction with the GST (Goods and Services Tax)? (Yes/No) In effect, voters had to vote Yes to get rid of the tax and No to save it.

    The ballot backlash is bad news for Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, whose Liberals adopted an HST in December, 2009 over strenuous opposition – and face an election in October.

Comments are closed.