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  • Corruption and Mismanagement in Ontario’s Energy Sector

A few months ago, we posed the question “Is a Greener Ontario Worth The Price?”. While initially an exploratory question, it has exploded into overwhelming response from our audience (you may find another example here).  Below we’ve received a lion’s response on behalf of Karen B. of Kincardine, Ontario.

I believe your agency can do more than address, as you put it, “talk about how this can be done in a way that benefits Ontario residents rather than inconvenience them with a mismanaged grid.”

Two recent items have come to my attention that address the issue of generating electricity through the use of industrial wind turbines. The first deals with health, the second with economics. Both are excellent examples confronting all of us with one or the other or both and are not simply resulting in an inconvenience to those affected either by health complications or financial constraints — that cannot be termed as a mere inconvenience.

The AMA letter in reply to their position statement is one of the best examples of how the wind industry and politicians have been deceitful through omission and misinformation. Similar claims or failure to disclose full information, lack of warnings, failure to fully research before release to the public (as perhaps by a pharmaceutical company) or by any other industry would bear investigation for false advertising of
their product.

For instance below is an example of the type of press release by a wind developer and reiterated by the media stating how many homes a given project will power:

_The project north of Goderich will dwarf existing wind farms in the
province, with a capacity of 270 megawatts and 140 giant turbines.
It’s expected to start providing power by the second half of 2015,
enough to meet the energy needs of 100,000 homes._

This presupposes that the energy needs of 100,000 homes will be met and that wind alone will meet these needs – it does not warn that if the wind does not blow this energy need will be met by nuclear, hydro or other baseload support. It does not give full details of or warnings that this may vary according to capacity efficiency — it is implied in these statement that this project will power x number of homes constantly. Other products are made to contain a small print warning clause or disclaimers.

The public is lead to believe that a wind turbine covers only a small amount of land on which it is sited. An astounding figure of land requirement by wind turbines to generate any meaningful CO2 reductions:

_As Mr. Bryce observes, wind turbines generate, on average, one watt of
power per square meter. The land devoted to wind power would have to
grow every year by 375,000 square kilometers—roughly the size of
Germany—simply to replace the average annual increase in CO2 emissions
from hydrocarbons._

Disregarding any emission decrease rationale, the fact that one square meter of land is required to generated one watt of power, the amount ofpower generating capacity in relationship to land requirements is disproportionate in practicality or even measured in the light of “green” sustainability.

Failure to mention is the amount of concrete base which on decommission is not fully removed, nor often steel pilings where necessary driven as much as 40 ft. deep to support a structure which also will never be removed and sometimes disturbs underground aquifers. A recent extreme example was the release of water in the K2 project that has resulted in a lake funneled by groundwater.

Advertised as “clean” energy there is no reference that this applies only to the turbines in operation, not to the possible pollutants to the environment in the manufacturing process nor to the inability of recycling the composite materials of which the blades and other contents are made and as yet disposal solutions are a problem while developers claims all materials are recoverable.

I would be interested to learn of your research of other countries that have successfully installed these programs. My own over the years has not produced what could be termed a successful program. All countries have had to or are revisiting their programs to solve various problems either the economic costs necessitating the lowering or withdrawal of government subsidies, numerous noise complaints along with sleep disturbance, electrical pollution, lack of regulation both safety and environmental or the difficulty in enforcement. To hear someone speak of a successful wind energy installation program reminds me of the story of the surgeon declaring the operation was a success, but sadly the patient died.

As to “…what Ontario’s energy industry has misaddressed or simply failed to address”, this would unfortunately start with the inception of the Green Energy Act. Perhaps before that with the premise of global warming and the assumptions drawn from limited data on which the ICPP based its pronouncements, reinforced by Al Gore’s and other
doomsayers of catastrophic heating of our planet through man’s actions, the rise of CO2 and other GHG emissions all of which was disproportionally enhanced through a cherry picked time period and forcibly renamed climate change in general because their predictions could not over the last 15 years of temperature verifications be substantiated. While the arguments ranged on Ontario politicians initiated and implemented the Green Energy Act. The failures in implementation are clearly stated in the Auditor General Jim McCarter’s report, briefly:

The Auditor General 2011 Report on renewable energy found:

Although the Ministry consulted with stakeholders in developing the supply-mix directives, the LTEP, and the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, billions of dollars were committed to renewable energy without fully evaluating the impact, the trade-offs, and the alternatives through a comprehensive business-case analysis. Specifically, the OPA, the OEB, and the IESO acknowledged that:

  • no independent, objective, expert investigation had been done to examine the potential effects of renewable-energy policies on prices, job creation, and greenhouse gas emissions; and

  • no thorough and professional cost/benefit analysis had been conducted to identify potentially cleaner, more economically productive, and cost-effective alternatives to renewable energy, such as energy imports and increased conservation.

Good decision-making involves, at the very least, adopting criteria by which a policy, project or programme is judged to be ‘good’, and then doing an appraisal of how the alternative options compare. Analysis should begin with a performance matrix (also known as a criteria-alternatives matrix). This provides the basic building block of rational decision-making.

Or more fully reviewed in an editorial in the Toronto Sun, Posted on 12/2011 [1] or in detail Chapter 4, Ministry of Energy, Section 4.03 “Electricity Sector-Renewable Energy Initiatives” and Chapter 3, Section 3.03 on the “Electricity Sector – Renewable Energy Initiatives” Subsequently somewhat milder criticism emanated from other reports, but the fact remains Ontario consumers and those impacted in the environs of wind turbine developments whether by unforeseeable or simply disregarded health impacts or financial consequences, our electricity supply has become a political football which has resulted in dire economic consequences for all Ontarians, shutting out the economic development ability under current liabilities, or allowing improvements of future technology due to financial constraints.

Not that Ontario is the only place where energy in the sense of making our daily tasks in life easier and more affordable is the only place where politics overrule good business sense. But the politicization of electricity supply, something that has an effect on every aspect of daily modern life has had a disastrous effect on the economics of this province, and the costs undoubtedly will affect many programs that could have helped its citizens but will suffer as a result of political preferences over realistic fundamentals.

This is perhaps a simplified overview. Specifically what your agency might examine are those claims appearing in the media, their websites and literature making claims that are ambiguous or misleading. Perhaps
your agency could work towards fuller disclosures as are required by other industries, even examine the methods used in obtaining signed contracts with their attending confidential ‘gag’ clauses. There have been people that at a later time have wished to rescind agreements and have been unable to do so, but I cannot write from personal
experience. Cases are also were some have defied confidentiality clauses, while I know of some who have sought legal advice in an attempt to “get out of a wind contract” after they have realized they signed without getting expert legal advice, or especially in cases where a project has been turned over or sold to another corporation, or simply have come to realize that hosting turbines could possibly affect theirfamily members’ well-being or even have restrictions placed in contracts signing away simple privileges as outlined by these two examples:

“These leases typically prevent a landowner from complaining or taking
action against the wind company because of noise, flicker, visual,
audio, vibrations, air turbulence, electromagnetic, electric and radio
frequency disturbances and other side effects caused by the operation of
the project.” From an article in “Wind watch” publication from a
resident within the Ripley project.

And another from a post in the Observer:

“A copy of a boilerplate easement agreement between a wind farm
developer and a landowner has crossed my desk. Those who have already
seen such contracts have remarked on the irony of landowners defending
their right to do what they want with their own land against the
considerations of their neighbors but signing away that very right to
the wind company.”

“The contract is for 2 years, and then 20 years once a turbine is
installed, with the developer retaining the option to extend it another
30 years after that. Of course, the developer can terminate the deal at
any time. The owner can’t.”

Of course many warnings have been publicly issued about anyone signing contracts that should first seek legal advice. For those who do not it is usually often to their regret, but also then to their unwittingneighbour. If some type of oversight, transparency, or changes can be made to help those who regret signing wind leases and/or to place tighter restrictions on the whole mechanism of how these contracts are handled (no gag clauses) as with other types of open to examination contracts as well as tighter rules on product claims of performance, etc. as in other industries, listing possible side effects as with the pharmaceutical industry it might help to alleviate some of the problems.

When politics and greed overrule science and common sense we need a re-examination of our values and our common sense and most of all the ethics surrounding an issue. In my view there have been some unethical practices and perhaps there are ways and means for us to take steps to alleviate situations where the unwary are hurt in the process. Perhaps your agency can find a way to help the unwary. As it is there are also those of us who are taking our hard earned dollars that could have been spent on our family to life’s better welfare to pay legal processes against a tyranny imposed on us by the machinations of our Province of Ontario government officials’ imposition of an Act based on an ideological concept without due diligence on their part in ascertaining all consequences of their actions.

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