The CBC featured an article on March 20th stating how the Ford Government’s new budget was expected to allocate more than $6 billion in subsidizing our hydro bills. This is one of the single biggest line items in the Ontario budget. I imagine that this will create much controversy on why such a subsidy is required to shield the electorate from paying for the actual cost for electricity that has been allowed to increase dramatically over the past decade.
If you look back over the last ten years, you will realize that this subsidy was mainly created by the ‘sweetheart’ contracts that resulted from the Green Energy Act of 2009. This Act was created by the Ontario Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty, and ultimately resulted in one of Ontario’s poorest moves in dealing with our electricity supply. Kathleen Wynn carried on implementing it over the coming years resulting in major increases in our utility bills without providing any real net environmental benefit from the supply of this renewable wind energy.
The problem was that the Liberal government employed the use of a ‘Feed-In-Tarriff’ model in allocating contacts for the installation and operation of ‘wind farms’ using giant wind turbines to initiate renewable energy into the electricity supply mix in Ontario. They offered twenty-year locked in contracts that guaranteed a premium high price (well over current rates) for wind energy. They also offered these companies preferential access to the electrical grid. (This often resulted in Ontario dumping off excess power generated by wind to Michigan and New York at a loss.) Thus, companies like NextEra Energy (a huge American energy company), Enbridge, Suncor, etc, were attracted to this bidding process like bees to honey. Supported by well-funded lobbyists and environmental groups always pushing for more, Ontario continued to plaster these wind turbines across rural Ontario. The result of all of this was a significant increase in utility bills with a limited increase in efficient electricity supply. The policies regarding solar power were also not very effective and just added to the cost burden.
It must be remembered that wind and solar required base load power, mainly gas generated, to make up for the variance in output due to fluctuations in the wind or weather. Also, it turned out that there were many undesirable side effects to being in close proximity to the huge wind turbines and this has haunted these installations throughout Ontario. All of this increased cost to the ratepayer.
Consider that the expected life of all these wind turbines is only twenty years, maybe twenty-five if they are maintained properly. Bear in mind that many of the wind farms are approaching their tenth anniversary, or more. So, what happens as the twenty year ‘sweetheart’ contracts expire and the turbine infrastructure requires replacement or reconstruction? Whatever the answer is to that question, you can bet that the ratepayers will pay for it one way or the other.
The PC Ford government repealed the Green Energy Act and put the brakes on wind development despite the constant pressure from the wind lobby, but is now having to deal with the push to electrify everything. This poses quite a challenge in how to provide economical electrical power for the future when on one hand we want affordable electricity at the flip of a switch, while on the other hand the environmentalists go crazy if fossil fuels enter the equation.
The Green Energy Act and the actions of the previous Liberal government may not be the total reason for this $6 billion subsidy referred to above, but they are the root cause and the major component of the issue. No matter how you look at it, there is no easy painless answer. I personally believe there is much to be said for nuclear power generation.
Roy Merkley was part of a citizen group that opposed installation of wind turbines in Lambton County.
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