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  • Opposition To The Green Energy Act – What Can We Do?

Last week we posed an open question to our readers about how they feel the Green Energy Act has served them and the province as a whole. This week, Ontario Energy Group Consumer Watch would like to respond to some of these concerns and craft something of a narrative. Renewable initiatives have worked quite well in countries such as Germany and Denmark, and have even made headway in the traditionally oil-loving Alberta. So what has the Green Energy Act failed to address here in Ontario?

We would like to begin by presenting some of the feedback we’ve received from our readers, released with permission.

“The Green Energy Act was poorly conceived and inadequately researched.

It has forced a grossly inefficient and expensive means of generating electricity on Ontarians without considering the resulting health effects, property devaluation and blight on the landscape caused by industrial wind turbines. The only benefit is to the foreign wind companies reaping profits from subsidies. As a result of the artificially high electricity prices, Ontario is losing industry it badly needs.”

John B. Ontario

ontario solar

Aerial photo courtesy of Enbridge Media Center.

John puts it quite succinctly when he identifies some of the core issues that residents, and in particular Rural Ontario residents, are having with the GEA. The core issues that our readers have shared with us are roughly as follows:

  • Health Effects of Wind Turbines (Covered in another article, here)
  • Devaluation of Property
  • High Electricity Prices
  • Wind/Solar’s Role in Ontario Energy Production

Devaluation of Property

This is perhaps, whether or not most people will admit it, one of the most prevalent yet underlooked aspects of wind development that the GEA is failing to address. While leasing out land for a wind farm can be financially a huge help to farming operations or large acre landowners, there’s little talk of compensation for nearly residents who have had difficulty putting their homes on the market.

While MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corp.) asserts that there are no statistically significant drops in property value among homes near wind farms, an independent report done on behalf of an Arizona firm showed that value drops can be as high as 4%. However, this doesn’t take into account properties taken off the market due to a lack of business. It’s a similar phenomenon to claiming unemployment is going down because individuals have given up on looking for work.

You can learn more about how to fight for compensation for wind turbines by following this link.

High Electricity Prices

There’s no doubt: Ontario has some of the most blatantly overinflated energy costs in North America. As reader Marianne K. (of which we responded to in a separate article) notes:

“There is also a chart in the Fraser Institute’s report on the average price of electricity for large consumers (all our manufacturing) in Ontario vs New York state. On Page 28, it shows how the price since 2008 in Ontario has risen over 30% while in New York state the price has gone down 23% – that’s over a 50% difference in market price for large consumers.”

Marianne K. Ontario

(You may read the report she mentions here)

New York is one of the many states Ontario exports its excess energy to, at a severe loss (to the tune of losing the province over $1 billion in 2013 alone). While not offering price protection to Ontario residents, as well as by overproducing energy, Ontario has created a feed-in tariff (FIT) program that has generally failed in its mission.

Though we would like to point out that wind and solar aren’t necessarily to blame for all this, rather it’s a symptom of a failure to properly construct a proper FIT program that plans for lowered prices.

Through our research, we’ve looked at case studies in Europe and the US when it comes to constructing a FIT program that actually saves consumers money.

And they do exist. In 2012, Germany saw a 40% reduction in peak-hour costs for energy as a result of smart wind and solar generation that was able to lessen the slack on fossil fuel generators when that power would be best used. In addition, this reduction in peak energy provided by fossil sources saw the closing of coal and oil fired plants, which helped ease Germany off fuel dependence. Similar efforts have been seen in Spain and Denmark as well, to great effect.

The core success stems from a FIT program that provided for R&D costs, rather than as an economic incentive for wind and solar developers. In Ontario, the focus of FIT programs are for economic gain for corporations, which have arrived at the severe cost of consumer price protection.

Wind/Solar’s Role in Ontario Energy Production

“While I do believe there is some climate change, the solutions should not “harm” people, wildlife, environment or diminish democratic rights. And the Green Energy Act allows just this while allowing corps to make immense amounts of money on the backs of Ontarians. Very soon it will come to be a choice for many, between paying electricity bills or buying food, if it’s not happening right now.”

Lynn A. West Grey, Ontario

wind-turbine-federal-tax-credit-2012-537x407Currently, wind and solar energy combined make up about 5% of Ontario’s energy needs, with about 75% between hydro and nuclear, that makes Ontario a province that provides 80% in renewable energy. That’s something to be proud of, to be sure. And the value of going full renewable cannot be stated enough.

But are wind and solar taking too much of the share? It’s certainly possible, but it may not be the scope but the speed at which we’re developing wind and solar energy that could be the problem. European models of success have been investing in renewables since the 1970s, and Ontario will have a hard time playing catch up.

But this speed, coupled with a pro-corporation legislation, has damaged relations between the renewable community and Ontario residents. Wind farms may provide a necessary aid to our energy woes, but not “at any cost”, like proponents of the GEA believe.

What Can We Do?

The GEA is in dire need of reform. While we believe the GEA has failed residents in a number of ways, it may also be costly and damaging to axe the concept entirely. That’s why we would like our readers, and the Ontario community on a whole to voice their concerns on behalf of two core causes:

  • Fight For better compensation and increased settlement distances for Wind Turbines in our communities
  • Fight for a FIT program that promises on behalf of energy consumers, not energy producers.

We would also like to thank each and every one of our readers who responded to us with their thoughts. It’s certainly not a simple issue to tackle, but it’s one that affects each and every energy consumer in Ontario. We need it to be heard that the Ontario energy authorities work for us, not for corporations.

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