Part 1 of an analysis of the lobbyist’s claims for low power prices and good times ahead
Since the new Government of Ontario announced it would repeal the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA), the wind power trade association and lobbyist CanWEA, together with the Ontario NDP, Ontario Green Party and numerous environmental groups such as Environmental Defence, Greenpeace Canada, etc., have been throwing temper tantrums.
The consistent claim was “it will have a chilling effect on job creation and investors in the clean economy.” CanWEA have been one of the most outspoken complainers issuing several press releases with spurious claims about wind power.
One blog post, on October 11, 2018, was the most blatant of the propaganda campaign. It was titled “Five reasons why wind energy is Ontario’s best option for new electricity supply” and, then, in case you missed it, or to support a new PR onslaught in Ontario, it was reposted via their Facebook page March 31, 2019. The post references selected CanWEA and AWEA claims, including some prepared by others but paid for by CanWEA.
Let’s examine their claimed “five reasons” to choose wind power, starting with two
- CanWEA claim: “Wind energy is now the lowest-cost new electricity source” and note: “Alberta recently agreed to procure power from four wind generation projects at an average contract price of 3.7 cents per kilowatt hour – a price that is considerably below the cost of power generation in Ontario today.”
CanWEA fails to disclose that for each MWh of power, wind generators are given a REC (renewable energy certificate) which can be sold to anyone required to either reduce their emissions or purchase a carbon credit/REC. Valuations vary with demand but RECs generally have a value of $15/50 MWh or 1.5/5.0 cents/KWh. If the value of that REC was included in the CanWEA claim, they would have to say the “average contract price” was from 5.2 cents/kWh to 8.7 cents/kWh. Wind power generation in Alberta, as in Ontario, gets “first to the grid rights” meaning whatever is produced, no matter the need, must be accepted by the Alberta Electric System Operator/AESO.
If the wind power isn’t needed, AESO disperses other generation, which they presumably pay for, adding electricity generation costs to ratepayer bills. To make that clearer — In Alberta the AESO in a report notes wind generation negatively impacts pricing. A chart of wind’s capacity factor during “AIL (Alberta Internal Load) peak demand” (in the report) in 2017 shows wind reflected at 6% of its capacity!
That is a clear message that wind cannot be counted on to deliver power when needed.
Those same issues/problems are found in Ontario (wind rated at 12% of capacity) and most other regions around the world where industrial wind turbines represent a minor or major part of grid-connected capacity.
2.CanWEA claim: “Wind energy provides significant economic benefits” and states: “Ontario leads Canada in wind energy operations and wind energy supplies almost 8 per cent of the province’s electricity demand.”
One assumes the 8% refers to 2017, as 2018 results for Ontario were unknown at the time of the CanWEA post in October 2018. Total grid-connected generation, including gross exports in 2017, were 151.2 TWh. Wind accepted generation was 9.2 TWh which represents 6.1% of total demand.
If you include the 3.3 TWh of curtailed wind the wind power owners were paid for, the percentage rises to 8.1% .
That makes the delivered price for grid-accepted wind 17.8 cents/kWh.
And, that 17.8 cents/kWh doesn’t include the 6 TWh of spilled hydro or the 1 TWh of steamed-off nuclear, or the costs of idling gas plants (for when the wind doesn’t blow) which would add another $860 million more driving wind costs to ratepayers to over 27 cents/kWh.
CanWEA’s claim includes several other assertions.
“Thousands of well paying, much-needed jobs in manufacturing, construction and local services” and provides a link to a report commissioned by CanWEA by Compass Renewable Energy Consulting Inc. In the Compass report, a chart indicates the economic benefits the 5,552 MW of industrial wind turbines in the province will create. Over the years (2006-2030) “Direct and Indirect Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) [of] 64,500”. They define FTEs as: “Full Time Equivalents refers to full time employment for one year. One FTE = 2,080 hours.” If one calculates the annual jobs the forecast of 64,500 FTE over 20 years (normal FIT contract terms) for 5,552 MW of wind power results in an average of 322.5 jobs annually. This is hardly something to be bragging about.
“A stable source of income for landowners” which fails to mention the landowner is committed to a “non-disclosure agreement” meaning if adverse effects occur such as health problems experienced by the landowner families or animals, they can say nothing. Also, if the developer has incurred debt to erect the turbines, the lender will frequently register a lien on the property which may affect the ability of the landowner to borrow funds using the property as security. The landowner is also usually committed to extend the terms of the lease via the agreement for further periods of time in the event the developers contract may be extended.
“Property tax revenue for municipalities” which is true, but … the revenue is nominal as the wind turbines are subject to industrial rates that have no connection to their capital costs (approximately $1.5 million per megawatt [MW]) whereas all other industry in a municipality, pay taxes on the full value of their invested capital. This means the decree by former Minister of Finance, Dwight Duncan to MPAC to assess IWT at only $40K per MW is still enforced with only minor adjustments. The “tax revenue” to municipalities is often much less due to the declined values of households affected by the closeness of those turbines. It frequently causes a net tax loss to municipalities.
“Funding for community-based initiatives” is something that was forced on wind developers as many communities wanted to fight back, but were thwarted in Ontario by the GEA. They tried using existing by-laws under their control but usually lost. In order for the developers to proceed with limited objection they proffered “community funding”! The funding was normally less than one half a percent (0.5%) of anticipated revenue so many municipalities accepted the tokenism.
“New and sustainable revenue for Indigenous partners” which the Ontario Liberal Government built into the FIT program presumably to suggest support for First Nations by offering higher subsidies if some ownership was held by them. This allowed the developers to negotiate use of First Nations land for the erection of those IWT similar to the “Funding for community-based initiatives”.
Last, this assertion.
“Ontario’s wind energy industry is at the heart of a growing wind turbine operations and maintenance business for Canada’s 6400+ wind turbines”. This claim came about because CanWEA established an O & M (operations and maintenance)“ program to bring together stakeholders to address key challenges facing Canadian wind farm operators. Its key areas of focus are determined by program participants, and include benchmarking data, health and safety best practices, improved networking, and information sharing on critical issues like wildlife and the environment.” Why CanWEA brags about normal maintenance issues is beyond the pale, but claiming “improved networking and information sharing” should be read as their ability to lobby hard for the developers in respect to those “critical issues” that actually connect with the public like noise emissions and health problems, and the killing of birds and bats.
Soon: Part 2 in this series will deal with the remaining three claims made by CanWEA