Wind’s Political Trouble in Ontario (Secretive Samsung deal, power rates at issue)
[Editor note: This press release from Toronto Wind Action and Great Lakes Wind Truth (Canada) was released yesterday. Press reaction and key facts are presented at the end. Also see Ms. Lange's previous post, Ontario Update: Offshore Wind Moratorium Decision Hangs Tough, Onshore BAU Targeted (April 8).]
“After being challenged by the Ontario Liberals for the past six months to “show us your plan,” Tim Hudak, leader of the Ontario Conservative party, did just that on Tuesday. In a speech that outlined what could well become the defining issue of the coming Ontario election, Mr. Hudak promised to take down the key elements of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s green energy program.”
- Parker Gallant, “Ontario’s Power Trip: The End of FIT,” Financial Times, May 10, 2011.
Ontario received an early Christmas present yesterday with the announcement by Progressive Conservative Opposition Leader Tim Hudak that if elected, his government will cancel the $7 billion Samsung deal (Canadian) and revisit hydro deals. Such would negate the FIT (Feed In Tariff) programs that fill the coffers of developers at the expense of power users, large and small.
Hudak is electable, and his green-reform initiative follows on the heels of the strong victory by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose Tory Party now has full control of the House of Commons. Ontario’s rebellion against Big Wind should hearten the sister grassroots rebellion in the United States–and scare the super-lobby American Wind Energy Association.
The Samsung deal, in particular, was privately honed and constructed to give Korean business opportunities a fine edge in getting power to the grid, as well as more business incentives in construction for solar and wind turbines.
It is time to return to fair power rates for Ontario. “This (Samsung) deal is a rip-off…we’ve got to cut our losses,” Hudak said today. Quoting “odious deal,” Hudak implied that when new governments must govern with previously deadly or economically unfair deals, it obviously cannot be shackled and have government business paralyzed with that unfairness. It was clear that Hudak, if elected Premier, would not be tied and bound by the widely despised secret Samsung deal, spawned by former Minister of Energy George Smitherman.
Sherri Lange, Founding Director of Toronto Wind Action and Executive Director, Canada, Great Lakes Wind Truth, praised the announcement. For years, her grass roots groups and others have been educating government leaders, calling for and obtaining moratorium votes, such as the boat turning Toronto and Region Conservation Authority Moratorium for offshore wind turbines. “From a “talk to the hand” kind of arrogance at Queens Park to finally getting a substantial reversal of turbine woes in the province from Mr. Hudak, feels like a breath of air,” Lange said today. “There are seven families we know of who have had to abandon or leave their homes due to ill health. There are likely many more who have not self-reported and who are living in cottages or family homes.
There are over 100 more people who have reported serious health concerns. This expansion of business in the province (and if that business is economically viable is highly questionable), over human health and environmental concerns is not acceptable.”
More to Do
Lange also expressed the hope that Mr. Hudak will expand on his energy platform in the days to come. She hoped today that victims of wind will have compensation for suffering and be allowed to have full restitution. She expressed the hopes of many Ontarians that the Green Energy Act will be repealed, and that the legislation (GEA) that can modify or supersede other Provincial laws designed to protect nature and habitats, such as the Endangered Species Act and the Conservation Authorities Act, will be declared unreasonable and cast into the history books as an ugly footnote.
Lange cited a request from the EBR (Environmental Review) 011-3181 of today’s date, May 10th, 2011, that asks (actually listed as an “information item”) for a permit to be granted, or having been granted, “to allow Gilead Power Corporation to kill, harm and harass Blanding’s Turtle and Whip-poor-will as well as damage and destroy the habitat of Whip-poor-will for the purpose of the development and operation of Ostrander Point Wind Energy Park in the Township of South Marysburgh, Prince Edward County .”
This kind of cynical and self-serving override to existing and carefully protective legislation, Lange said, does not reflect anything “Green” at all, and only creates more reason to question the legislation introduced by the Liberals which provides in her view “some very serious errors in fiscal, social, community, and environmental planning in the province. It shows a leadership that is completely out of touch with the basic value system of the people of Ontario.”
Growing Wind Opposition
Today’s announcement puts the Opposition Party in a philosophical line with the 70 plus communities and agencies, cities and towns that have called for Moratoriums on wind power in the province. The first step towards energy sanity is to examine the chaos that has been produced by legislation (Green Energy Act) that has virtually sidelined democracy in the province. “The virus of bad decisions and broken communities has spread to families, communities and an incredibly dangerous economic future,” Lange said. She cited that Spain’s Green revolution has led to record unemployment, and job loses that are reportedly 2.2 or even 5.4 jobs lost for each so called green job created.
Lange also pointed out that on top of the incredible personal losses of incomes and homes and personal peace of mind that arrived with turbine construction in the province, the 700 plus turbines and the now vaulting ambition for 5000 more in places of respite, agriculture, beauty, recreation, we have the “angst of families and groups who have a few family or community members who have chosen to participate in the FITs and incentives and this has created remarkable breakdowns in relationships and community health. We have First Nations peoples in consternation with their own networks, and some who resist the urge and cherish the natural relationships with water, air, wildlife.
Part of Larger Rethink
“We have Ontario in a ‘fit’ of madness with itself.” But even stronger than the breakdowns are the grassroots community actions that have propelled out of the misconceptions and continued to educate and extend their turbine communications truly globally.
Lange pointed to the strength of the Six Nations recently in turning down a wind project for Haldimand and Fifth Line, Six Nations, when Chief Bill Montour indicated that the 140 MW wind and 120 MW solar deal broke down because of the perceived secrecy of the Samsung group, which is not used to being so open with public interests. Lange quoted Councillor Helen Miller who was also engaged in the negotiations, “We were going to be partners, but they were throwing us crumbs.”
Ontario’s Bottom Offers Upside
Lange went on to describe that Ontario’s energy waste is of such a scale that “ordinary Ontarians have no understanding of the numbers.” Lange indicated that Ontario’s ratepayers were outraged again this weekend before last when they provided $4,171,090 to subsidize the excess production of electricity from wind. She added:
There has been a litany of turbine criticisms even this past two weeks, from costly gear box repairs (and an internationally unlocateable ball bearing), at the symbolic CNE turbine, which cost $800,000 to build and which has not been seen as anything but a vapid and expensive experiment in turbine pop psychology, to a National Post article that “Ontarians will pay dearly for McGuinty’s energy fantasy.
Lange said this announcement is fresh and new because we have been “waiting for the bad dream to be over. Perhaps this is the start of a return to older values when dollar for dollar people can understand the democratic principles they reside under, they can appreciate where their energy dollars are going, and they feel they have a personal and economic future that is not flopping in the wind.”
Sherri Lange is the founding director of Toronto Wind Action; executive director of Great Lakes Wind Truth (Canada); and member, Save the Eagles International. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Even Dalton McGuinty says the largest contributing factor to rising hydro bills over the next several years will be his FIT and Samsung projects. Instead of engaging in social engineering and expensive experiments, I will integrate renewable energy sources at prices families can afford.”
–Tim Hudak, Ontario PC Leader
“I believe that competition, transparency and affordability are the best means of delivering value to families who pay the bills, and to the industry itself that deserves a predictable and open partner at Queen’s Park.”
–Tim Hudak, Ontario PC Leader
“Tim Hudak’s announcement will go a long way to depoliticizing the energy sector in Ontario and save ratepayers billions in future billings.”
–Parker Gallant, National Post columnist
- Those who have invested in the FIT projects under the current rules can count on an Ontario PC government to honour those contracts.
- Dalton McGuinty signed the sole-sourced $7-billion Samsung deal in January 2010. He still refuses to tell Ontario families, or even key decision makers in the energy sector, what he committed Ontario to. To date, the Samsung deal has not produced a single megawatt of electricity.
- Subsidies in Dalton McGuinty’s FIT program pay as much as 80 cents per kilowatt-hour, about 20 times the going rate for power. Much like the secret Samsung deal, there was never any transparency in how these FIT prices were set in the first place.