Honesty, virtue and energy policy (3)

The previous two articles in this series pointed out how the mayor of the city of Georgetown, Texas and the former Ontario Liberal government endorsed the use of renewable energy to try to reduce emissions and save money for taxpayers. Led by environmental lobbyists (Pembina, Environmental Defence, David Suzuki, Al Gore and others) and proponents of wind and solar power generation, the politicians laid out the “facts” to persuade the public that doing so would both save money and create jobs.

The problem was, only some of the “facts” were presented and many of them were less than truthful!

Alberta-bound spin

What happened in Georgetown, Texas and Ontario has moved west to Alberta and the execution similarities are remarkable. In an article from the Calgary Herald November 24, 2016 the NDP Environment Minister announced, “We have chosen to incentivize new investment in clean energy and improve Albertans’ health by eliminating dangerous air pollution” and announced an agreement to pay $1.4 billion to shut three coal plants earlier than planned.

A government webpage titled: “Phasing out coal pollution” carries a message similar to what we were virtue signaled by Premier Wynne and her Environment Ministers noting: “Moving to more renewable energy and natural gas will protect the health of Albertans — especially vulnerable groups like children and seniors — and save money in health-care costs and lost productivity.”

Environmental push

Similar to what happened in Ontario in 2005 when a study was released about health costs (Liberal politicians claimed the cost was $4.4 billion annually) related to Ontario’s coal plants, Alberta politicians were handed a similar study. It was produced by Pembina Institute, the Asthma Society of Canada (ASC), Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and the Lung Association, and claimed the use of coal power cost $300 million annually in health costs. Using the 2017 Alberta census population figures for 2017 that works out to about $70 per resident. Using the 2005 census population figures for the Ontario study results in a cost of about $350 per resident. Something seems askew in the two claims, but in both cases, it provides the unverified “facts” politicians require to “virtue signal” and drive up electricity prices.

Political spin supported by wind power proponents                                                                                                                                     Alberta Premier Notley’s decision to phase out coal plants resulted in seeking out “more renewable energy” in the form of 600 MW of wind power generation. When the winning bids to the REP (renewable electricity program) were announced, the Premier was front and centre stating “It’s a new record for renewable energy pricing in Canada — the lowest price Canadians have ever seen, right here in Alberta.” The Premier went on to say in mid-December 2017: “Alberta isn’t only a leader in the [fossil fuel] energy that we are going to get to Tidewater. We are also a leader in renewable energy, and we are going to show our fellow Canadians, and the world, that economic growth and environmental responsibility can, and must, and will go hand-in-hand.”

Well, now it appears Premier Notley’s promise to get “fossil fuel” energy to Tidewater will not happen on her watch so that is just one “fact” she won’t be delivering on before the upcoming provincial election. Premier Notley went on to say: “In fact, our process was so competitive and so many companies wanted to invest, we got a 20-year price of 3.7 cents a kilowatt-hour.”

As one would expect, wind power trade association and lobbyist CanWEA (Canadian Wind Energy Association) was eager to get the word out, couched in language that made the announcement as wonderful as the Premier made it sound. Robert Hornung, CEO of CanWEA made it sound simply spectacular: “By attracting investment in the wind energy projects announced today, Alberta is diversifying its economy, driving economic growth and creating much-needed jobs in multiple sectors such as engineering, construction and local services.”

That sounds similar to what he said three years ago when he claimed: “Ontario’s choice to be the leading wind energy market in Canada has returned many economic benefits,” added Mr. Hornung, “As other jurisdictions consider a greater penetration of wind energy in their electricity systems, ‎this study clearly shows that the economic benefits associated with wind energy development are significant.” Pure fluff for the then Ontario Liberal government.

While the foregoing sounds impressive Premier Notley left out an important fact related to certain bonuses built into those contracts which include (RECs) “renewable energy certificates”.   Specifically, those RECs have a significant value which the recipients will be able to sell for revenue, boosting their income and the cost of electricity delivered to Alberta ratepayers. Those RECs will be tradeable in a market established in California in 2007.

From the Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System: (WREGIS) we would point out the following in a Q & A posting: “WREGIS issues one REC for each MWh of renewable generation. WREGIS accounts are similar to bank accounts; Certificates are deposited and managed within these accounts. Certificates can be transferred, retired, or exported to a Compatible Tracking System at the discretion of the certificate holder.” The value of a REC varies widely but as laws or regulations add such things as “carbon taxes”* to industries, (companies being charged a “carbon tax”) they can instead purchase an REC as an offset to the carbon tax and purchase it for less than the “tax”!

The monies will flow directly to those renewable energy companies.

What the foregoing suggests is the “20-year price of 3.7 cents a kilowatt-hour” may be a lot more as the future value of a “carbon tax” climbs over the $20/50 current cost, making the REC offset much more valuable than in today’s market. In summary, electricity prices will rise!

As politicians keep “virtue signaling” while only releasing selective “facts” we taxpayers/ratepayers must keep a vigilant watch.

PARKER GALLANT

*Current carbon tax in Alberta is $30/tonne and will increase further in 2021 to $40/tonne.

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Author: parkergallantenergyperspectivesblog

Retired international banker.

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