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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Wind power: separating truth from spin

The quote “A lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth” is attributed to Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945.

Ontarians have been lied to by politicians (although none has held the title “Minister of Propaganda”) particularly related to electricity. Here are some examples.

Job creation                                                                                                                                           Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy and Infrastructure George Smitherman, in a speech to the Toronto Board of Trade February 20, 2009 at the launch of the Green Energy Act had this gem: “Mimicking the impressive employment growth in various European jurisdictions, economic modeling projects that the GEA will create more than 50,000 jobs in the next three years.”

Those jobs never materialized despite repeating that claim (lie?). Instead as electricity costs climbed many good manufacturing jobs were actually lost inOntario.

Low cost renewables                                                                                                                                           Smitherman also made an interesting claim to the Ontario Standing Committee on Estimates on May 27, 2009.  He said: “Through our projected investments and expenditures as part of the Green Energy Act, electricity prices are expected to rise approximately 1% annually, on average, over the next 15 years for ratepayers.”

Wow, 1% annually over the next 15 years! What really happened was that at the end of 2008, electricity prices were 5.2 cents/kWh, and by the end of 2017 they were 11.55 cents/kWh for an increase of 122% for residential ratepayers over the nine years. Not quite the 9% increase Smitherman promised (under oath) to the Committee. Needless to say, those claims were repeated over and over again to presumably make us believe it was the truth.

CanWEA’s role                                                                                                                                                                         One can only assume fabrications like these were developed as part of a communications strategy either by politicians or by stakeholders who stood to reap financial benefits from the passage of the Green Energy Act. The spin by lobbyist and trade association the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) and by “environmentalists” has been constant in order to get buy-in from gullible politicians! The spin has been highlighted in the past by many including me. A couple of examples are:

  1. A 2016 Pan Canadian Wind Integration Study (partially funded with tax dollars) in an article titled: Wind power industry claims Canada needs more wind power–with a hefty price tag for electricity customers and more recently another
  2. One titled Wind Power in Panic Mode as a new Ontario Government signaled the end of lucrative wind energy contracts and another more recent one titled
  3. CanWEA makes promises it can’t keep which suggested Canada could get one third of its power from industrial wind turbines (IWT)

Still spinning

CanWEA’s spin hasn’t stopped as their President Robert Hornung once again is singing the praises of that biased Pan Canadian Study in a recent posting on their website titled: Wind Energy: A Reliable Part of Today’s Energy Mix. Hornung’s article on wind power has Hornung describing it as “low-cost” twice, as “reliable” eight times and he even makes the claim that wind turbines would “help grid operators maintain reliability in the case of system imbalances or emergencies – services wind energy can often supply to the grid more quickly and cost-effectively than conventional generation.”

As if that wasn’t enough of a blatant distortion of reality, Hornung suggests the Pan Canadian “study found that if Alberta increased its wind energy capacity from 1,500 MW to 17,700 MW, reserves would need to increase by only 430 MW or 2.4 per cent of total wind energy capacity. In most of the rest of Canada the percentage would be even lower.”

What he doesn’t mention in the same context is the billions and billions of dollars needed to augment the grid via transmission spending for the many times wind turbines simply don’t generate sufficient power. The net result would mean Alberta and “most of Canada” would need to depend on neighbours to supply them with electricity should the wind be dormant—that would require those major transmission enhancements. As an alternative wind power could be backed up with gas plants as we do in Ontario and as elsewhere around the world.

It certainly appears CanWEA is hoping to convince Premier Notley or her successor that Alberta should believe his spin just as the Ontario government did under former Premiers McGuinty and Wynne. As if Alberta (and Canada) is not suffering enough due to the restricted ability for the province to build even one to pipeline to get a natural resource (oil) to a competitive market.

“Politics preys on people’s naivete,” wrote Bangambiki Habyarimana, in his book Pearls of Eternity.

Many people have taken advantage of Ontarians’ wish to do what’s right for the environment by using “feel good” promises and claims for power and profit.

In the future it is likely those who were preyed upon will realize the benefits promised by wind power proponents was simply “spin” meant to capitalize on their naivete.

PARKER GALLANT

Canada’s wind power lobbyist re-energizes its spin


September 3, 2018

The Comber wind power project in Ontario: intermittent, unreliable power. Alberta, are you watching?

A recent posting by Robert Hornung, President of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), occurred shortly after the Ontario government passed an Act to terminate the White Pines wind power project.

Mr. Hornung’s post on the CanWEA website contained these statements.

“Maintaining investor confidence in the Ontario marketplace is important for Ontario’s short- and long-term economic prosperity. The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) shares the Ontario Government’s commitment to an affordable and reliable electricity system that benefits Ontarians. CanWEA notes that wind energy projects in Ontario are an important source of sustained revenue for municipal and Indigenous partners. Ontario’s wind energy projects are providing long-term, stable pricing for Ontario ratepayers. Wind energy is now the lowest-cost option for new electricity supply in Ontario, across Canada, and throughout much of the world.”

It is ironic that Mr. Hornung, on behalf of CanWEA’s members, would claim they share the “commitment to an affordable and reliable electricity system” while suggesting “Maintaining investor confidence in the Ontario marketplace is important”.

Is he unaware Ontario has lost many good manufacturing and processing jobs due to the high cost of electricity, or has he simply chosen to continue to spin the fallacious claim that wind power projects have not played a role in driving up the operating costs (electricity rates) of the numerous large and small manufacturing and processing plants that have either closed or moved to other jurisdictions?

CanWEA, leaving behind its effect on Ontario’s economic well-being, appears to be moving on to greener pastures, promoting the same spin to politicians who buy into their claims. Now that they have sucked Ontario dry, they are headed to Alberta where Premier Notley has signaled her plan to close the 6,300 MW of coal plants and replace two-thirds of them with 5,000 MW of renewable energy, including 4,500 MW of industrial wind turbines (IWT).

CanWEA in yet another post on its website seems excited at the new prospects and boasts: “Wind energy developments are making positive and lasting social and economic contributions in communities across Alberta.”

With that in mind, it is ironic that at 11 AM on August 20, 2018, the 1,491 MW of wind turbines in Alberta delivered just 5 MWh* of power to the grid — that’s about 0.33% of their capacity.

Needless to say, similar occurrences have been seen in Ontario and many other places around the world where wind turbines have been constructed. This clearly demonstrates power generation from wind is both intermittent and unreliable, and must be backed up with reliable generation in the form of hydro or fossil fuel generation.

CanWEA buttresses their claims with promises of jobs and prosperity in yet another recent posting on their website. “Wind energy will also generate jobs and other benefits for Albertans, as a recent Delphi Group report demonstrates. And it can be an important part of a broader economic diversification strategy for the province, with the total potential for local project development and construction spending alone reaching $3.6 billion by 2030.”

If you actually read that report, you’ll find it suggests most of the estimated $8.3 billion spending ($1.8 million per MW) will actually occur elsewhere. Alberta produces very little of the materials required to erect wind turbines so the local jobs created will be temporary, in the planning and construction phase. In fact, the report suggests only 15,000 person-years of employment will be created for the $3.6 billion planned to be spent on planning and construction. The report also suggests 714 jobs may be permanent during the O&M (operations and maintenance) phase; however, even that seems optimistic as that would suggest one permanent job for every six MW which at a 2-MW average would represent only three turbines. In fact,the standard is one technician per ten turbines.

With the recent negative Superior Court ruling on the Trans Mountain pipeline build, and Premier Notley’s plea for action by the federal government, it is obvious her government will soon experience a lack of anticipated revenue to execute both her social programs and the provincial climate plan. The slowdown in royalty revenues will push Alberta into further debt. For that reason, it is not enough that she has pulled out of the federal climate plan and should, if logic prevailed, also cancel the provincial climate plan.

I found it stupefying that Premier Notley said “The time for Canadian niceties is over. We are letting other countries control our economic destiny. We can’t stand for it.” Is she suggesting the National Energy Board and the Superior Court are controlled by “other countries”?

Premier Notley should have cancelled the provincial climate plan including replacing coal generation plants with unreliable wind and solar power generation if she really wants to make her point, instead of blaming others.

The time has come, alright: time for Canada’s politicians to stop believing the spin from lobbyist CanWEA, and instead act in the best interests of Canada’s ratepayers/taxpayers. Politicians need to show us they aren’t controlled by those foreign-controlled entities granted contracts to erect symbolic industrial wind turbines.

PARKER GALLANT

*Thanks to Steve Aplin who posted this info on his twitter account: https://twitter.com/SteveAplin