Northern neighbors’ green-energy blues bad omen for Vermont

Wikimedia Commons/David Monniaux

COST TOO MUCH: Solar and wind power have been heavily subsidized in Ontario, and the result is a new premier for the province whom voters elected to change course.

A common mantra among green-energy advocates is that alternative power prices are falling and economies thrive when a commitment is made to renewable energy. That mantra has suddenly gone silent for Vermont’s northern neighbors in Ontario.

According to a Fraser Institute report released in April, Ontario’s residential electricity costs have risen 71 percent between 2008 and 2016, more than double the 34 percent average increase for the rest of Canada.

Ontario accounts for over 90 percent of the country’s solar power. That trend could change under new leadership.

“Ontario has just elected, with a majority, Doug Ford, our new premier, who has enormous power. It is his mandate from the voters to clean up the energy mess here,” Sherri Lange, CEO of North American Platform Against Wind Power, told True North in an email.

Doug Ford

Doug Ford is the current premier of Ontario. He took office June 29, 2018.

“The high cost of power has driven manufacturing jobs out and away and down by 300,000 in 15 years or less. Ontario, in short, should be a cautionary tale for Vermont and everywhere — a complete disaster,” Lange said.

According to Green Tech Media, Ford put the brakes on 758 clean energy contracts earlier this month, promising to save Ontario ratepayers $790 million.

In a letter to voters, Ford, who became premier on June 29, outlined his stance against further green energy investments.

“The Liberals’ disastrous energy policy, the Green Energy Act, and the lucrative subsidies given to ‘renewables’ — especially inefficient wind energy — have cost our province dearly,” he wrote. “Thanks to heavily-subsidized and over-priced wind power that we do not need, electricity rates have skyrocketed. People across our province are faced with the highest electricity prices in North America. This is killing our economy and crippling the hard-working people of rural Ontario.”

Ford also details how the construction of large turbines in places like Chatham Kent has interfered with the bedrock, resulting in a black sludge of shale particles in residential well water.

Well-water is only one concern. According to Vermonters for a Clean Environment, industrial-scale turbines have a handful of other negative environmental impacts, including sound and vibrations, which affect humans and wildlife. Large mountaintop turbines require heavy ridgeline destruction which can affect water runoff and local ecosystems.

Lange said to be economical, Ontario should pay no more than 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour.

“Hydro and gas provide these clear and safe rates, which to some may appear higher than normal already,” she said.

When the Green Energy Act was passed into law, the province made a sweetheart deal with Korea and wind developers to pay 14.5 cents per kilowatt hour for wind on land, and 18.5 cents per kilowatt hour offshore, in Lake Ontario.

“Horrible idea all around. Solar was offered 80 cents — yes, you read that right — per kilowatt hour, and then that was reduced to 50 cents … still ridiculous,” Lange said.

She said these high costs drive away business, since a company spends about 30 percent of its operating costs on electric power.

According to Lange, the intermittent nature of renewables not only hurts Canadians, but the problem spills over into the United States in the form of excess electricity, which is sold at high rates to American utilities.

The slowdown for green energy investments for Ontario began before Ford was elected. According to Manan Parikh of GTM Research, the province’s 2.31 gigawatts of capacity in 2016 grew to just 2.44 gigawatts by mid-2018. Only 350 new megawatts are planned through 2019.

Grasshopper, a Canadian solar company which saw 30 projects halted under Ford’s cancelations, is taking a “wait and see” approach, according to Chris Jodhan, their general counsel.

This is not unlike prominent Vermont renewable developer All Earth Renewables, which told WCAX in March that the renewable industry is “being slowed down due to the rules and the present administration that wants to see that some things don’t happen.”

The trend of renewables not paying off is happening elsewhere in the world. In 2016, the Danish government put a halt to the construction of five wind farms because costs were overbearing.

“The private sector and households are paying far too much; Denmark’s renewable policy has turned out to be too expensive,” Denmark’s Climate Minister Lars Christian Lilleholt said.

In Vermont, major utility Green Mountain Power recently announced a 5 percent rate hike. A company spokesperson told the House Energy and Technology Committee that renewable energy is having “a tangible impact” on ratepayers.

Vermont’s renewable energy standard has set lofty requirements for the state’s utilities, including 75 percent renewable energy use by 2032 and 90 percent renewable by 2050.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/David Monniaux and Doug Ford
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5 thoughts on “Northern neighbors’ green-energy blues bad omen for Vermont

  1. If government sets goals like 90% renewable and sustainable by 2050 like Vermont has done, that would be ok as long as our leaders insist that it be developed in the free market and be able to compete without the use of subsidy. Anything subsidized has the potential to cause great harm to the people and great opportunity for special interest, as demonstrated. It is unfortunate that our leaders are so naïve as to allow this to happen, where are there priorities, certainly not with the people of our State!

  2. 100 years ago hydropower ran sawmills,
    woolen mills, and ground the grain. Then ran generators and could today with fish ladders. 24hr a day 7 a week unlike solar that doesn’t work at night or when panels are covered in snow and after passing a bill board law covering fields with unsightly panels and wind that kills birds and doesn’t work when the wind isn’t blowing. I myself have cought two 22lb and two 6lb salmon after they climbed two dams on the Columbia River in OR. One was a 90ft climb.

  3. In the seventies we were threatened with near term depletion of petroleum as an energy source, a threat used to justify government subsidies for renewable energy resources. And fifty five mile per hour speed limits. And CAFE, eliminating the big station wagons and creating a booming demand for their replacement, the SUV which was not classified as a car. We now have, owing to technological advances in the field, by some estimates a six hundred year reserve of low polluting natural gas. Taxpayers are still subsidizing alternate energy production and consumers are paying for it. And some areas are suffering from an inadequate supply (Los Angeles in recent reports – “turn off your lights”). When thinking about depletion of our reserves, keep in mind that a couple centuries ago our ships were driven by the wind and horses provided the motive power for transportation. A century and a half ago we had steamboats and railroads – and engines fueled by wood, later by coal until mid twentieth century. We now have nuclear power (although part of LA’s problem is that they shut down their plant). In a century or two will petroleum even be needed for heat and power? Your home may even have its own as yet unthought of generating plant instead of an oil furnace.

  4. Bring on the sun and bring on the wind then hold on for the ride and hide your wallet. AND take away subsides and let the free market take over. You guess what will happen, puff all gone.

  5. Shortcomings of Wind And Solar

    Variable and intermittent wind and solar electricity cannot exist on any electric grid without the traditional, dispatchable generators performing the peaking, filling-in and balancing. Battery systems could be used, but the cost would be well in excess of $400 per kilowatt-hour delivered as AC to the high voltage grid. See Note.

    NOTE: Wind and solar (before and after the meter) were 2.7 and 1.97 percent of all electricity on the NE grid in 2017, per ISO-NE. Total RE electricity was 10.17 percent (including before and after the meter solar), after about 20 years of subsidies. It should be obvious, past RE development was very slow, and future development likely will be just as slow.

    Wind and Solar as Dominant Electricity Sources Would be Too Expensive

    Very High Capital Costs for Wind and Solar: New Englanders will need traditional generators for at least several decades while RE would become the major energy source of the NE grid.

    The current plan is to increase solar from 2390.5 MW to 5832.9 MW by 2027, which would cost about (5832.9 – 2390.5) x $3.5 million/MW + 10% for transmission = $13.2 billion.

    The current plan is to increase wind from 1279 MW to 8493 MW by about 2035, which would cost about $36.2 billion.

    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/new-england-will-need-traditional-generators-for-decades
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/a-likely-scenario-during-a-future-winter-in-new-england

    Very High Electricity Costs for Wind and Solar: Renewable energy proponents want to close down existing coal, gas, oil and nuclear plants; all produce electricity at less than 5 cent per kilowatt-hour. They continue to obstruct increased, domestic, low-cost natural gas supply via pipelines and increased storage caapcity.

    NOTE: According to her press release: Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey concluded in 2016 “no new pipelines are needed” and that we “can maintain electric reliability through 2030 even without additional new natural gas pipelines”. See Appendix.

    The prices of heavily subsidized wind and solar paid by NE utilities to producers are much higher than in the rest of the US, because of New England’s mediocre wind and solar conditions.

    Onshore/ridge line wind about 9.5 cent per kilowatt-hour
    Offshore wind at least 18 cent
    Large-scale, field-mounted solar about 13 cent, competitively bid.
    Residential, rooftop solar about 18 cent

    The above prices would be about 30% to 50% higher without the subsidies, and even higher without cost shifting to ratepayers and taxpayers, such as for:

    1) The filling-in, peaking and balancing, due to wind and solar variability/intermittency;
    2) Grid-related, such as grid extensions and augmentations to connect and deal with wind and solar;
    3) Utility-scale energy storage, which is presently provided by the world’s fuel supply system.

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