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  • OEG Consumer Watch Responds – Corruption and Mismanagement in Ontario

Last week we posted an extended by response by reader Karen B. regarding the state of Ontario’s energy woes. This response was a reply to our article “Is A Green Ontario Worth The Price?” We felt it was among the most well thought out and researched of positions, and our eyes have been opened to the corruption and mismanagement that have faced Ontario over the last few years.

Regardless, we felt a position needed to be made, if not for the execution of the Green Energy Act’s policies, but for what they intend. Our reply was as follows


Dear Karen,

Thank you so much for writing back to us. We’d like to address what you’ve said directly in order to establish our stance on the issue, as well as offer you an open request to allow us to use your reply as part of our ongoing commentary surrounding wind power, the GEA, and the economic and political ramifications surrounding their relationship.

As you may have gleaned from some of our most recent postings surround the subjects (which we’ve linked below this paragraph), we do maintain a staunch commitment to the development of renewable initiatives in Ontario. However, where we differ is in the development and implementation vis à vis how they’ve been applied haphazardly, against even the recommendations of wind energy experts, and largely at the expense of residents.

That being said, the thesis of what we’ve said and what we will continue to say is as thus:

We do not believe renewables can the only solution to our fossil fuel dependency. We believe it can supplement a long-term solution to transition to a nuclear energy model.
That’s why we feel that the current pro-green stance of environmentalists butting heads incessantly with residents that have legitimate complaints is fruitless, counterproductive, and we dare say a useless stance for them to take. In fact, we believe that the greenest solution is to delay development on wind and solar technologies until consensus can be made that these technologies can be made efficient and amenable to residents.

As an example, We’d like to point to the relative failure of Germany in trying to force renewables through without an economic system to support them other than through feeding tariffs through to development firms. This had led Germany to seem, on paper, a Green nation, yet with a majority of their energy coming through fossil fuels and some of the highest energy rates in the world.
The problem with Ontario wind developers, we feel, is that wind providing a baseline energy source is not plausible, and that type of support will be provided, as you say, by nuclear and hydro instead. In a Stanford Environmental Engineering study from 2007, it’s been demonstrated that interconnecting multiple (this report states ten) wind farms in tandem allows them to provide around 33% of generation as a baseload source. So while achieving a baseload from wind is possible, it can be very difficult.

In terms of production capacity, wind definitively lags behind nuclear for a number of reasons, and slow winds are certainly one of them. An IPCC study conducted in 2005 placed the approximate (they can be highly variable) capacity rating of wind as anywhere between 25% to 59%, with hydroelectric averaging higher but peaking lower, with an average of 44% capacity worldwide.


Despite wind and solar being prominent in the news, they aren't the big spenders in Ontario

Despite wind and solar being prominent in the news, they aren’t the big spenders in Ontario. Click to enlarge

As a supplemental system of power, we can’t refute that the potential for wind power to accommodate a niche role in supplementing a grid at a long-term low cost is definitely significant. However, we must concede the upfront and short term development costs can be significant, especially in lieu of the GEA’s overly generous contributions to the pockets of wind developers – a proposition that we feel is patently unfair.

To address the land concern raised by Mr. Bryce, we’d like to look at a somewhat interesting post made Chris Goodall, a carbon commentator. In his appraisal, he shows that 10% of Japan’s landmass would conceivably support a fully wind powered system, assuming the farms were spaced a kilometer apart (offshore style) to maximize efficiency. In reality, only a fraction of that land is even in direct use and may also be used viable for farms and cattle. Given that a fully wind system would be implausible, this is an unrealistic proposition alone.

Regarding the environmental impact of producing a wind turbine: typically turbines are able to create a carbon neutrality in as little as 8-9 months. Hydro dams take significantly longer, and oil/gas plants simply create continuous greenhouse gas emissions. And given the currently inefficient technology photovoltaic cells are using, they certainly can’t be given the label of environmentally friendly quite yet.

As for nations that have had success with green programs, we will have to concede one point that’s very crucial: total economic success has not been demonstrated in any country. However, we would argue that cannot be the sole metric with by countries measure success with renewable programs. The alternative, in the face of new research involving climate change, suggest that the long term benefits veer strongly in what you yourself called “catastrophic”.

What we measure as success would fall somewhere between economic feasibility and direct implementation. To those successes, we would cite Denmark as among the biggest of examples for a successful wind energy system, with a slated 50% of their grid to be provided by off-shore wind generators (the off-shore model is one that we would be excited to see Canada explore, as it is far more reliable with less inconvenience and damage to residents).

France maintains a mixed energy grid similar to Ontario's aspirations - and they have one of the most successful energy systems in the world.

France maintains a mixed energy grid similar to Ontario’s aspirations – and they have one of the most successful energy systems in the world.

However, we would probably cite France as one of the most successful models of an integrated energy model, and one that follows what Ontario could model itself after given the right positioning. With a heavy reliance on nuclear power with renewables to supplement, France’s success hasn’t stemmed from haphazard and zealous wind development (which we believe is the issue in Ontario), but a gradual development along a profitable model that helps supplement an already robust system. It follows along our initials thesis that green development can only occur on top of an already cheap model, and nuclear is a great platform for it.

That brings us back to the Green Energy Act, which we fully agree is a faulty and mismanaged model that has promoted corruption, opaque practice, and runaway spending. However, we still wish to defend the principle of wind farms in part due to their successes in other countries as supplementary models, and not brazen replacement models as we’ve seen here and in Germany.

What do you feel about Ontario’s Green Energy Act? Are we on the right path? Are our objectives aligned with international demand for greener alternatives? And what can we ultimately do as citizens to get us where we need to be?

We want to hear from you, please Contact Us.  The dialogue is open, now more than ever, for change and restructuring of our energy policy.


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