Canadian wind power lobbyist CanWEA makes claims that don’t stand up to scrutiny. Boasting that wind power is “low cost” has nothing to do with what Ontario electricity customers pay…
October 8, 2018
The same day (September 20, 2018) the Government of Ontario announced the introduction of legislation to repeal the “Green Energy Act”, Robert Hornung, President of CanWEA (Canadian Wind Energy Association) issued a press release claiming “the Government of Ontario has made inaccurate statements and misleading characterizations about the wind energy industry in the province.”
Needless to say, the Government’s announcement received wide media attention whereas the CanWEA press release received virtually none. The lack of attention to the CanWEA press release should be perceived as a strong signal mainstream media has become educated on the devasting effect of industrial wind developments in Ontario and the many erroneous claims made by CanWEA over the years.
What else did CanWEA claim in that press release?
Claim # 1
“Wind energy is not the reason for high electricity bills or a significant electricity supply surplus in Ontario.”
This claim is partly right: solar panels and generation from that source also helped to drive up costs, but a quick look at wind power generation for just 2017 will show what wind has done. In 2017, grid-connected industrial wind turbines generated 9.2 TWh (terawatt hours) and had 3.3 TWh of potential generation curtailed (not added to the grid). Ontario’s ratepayers picked up the bill for both and that alone added at least $1.540 billion to electricity bills. As is the case for wind power generation 65% of the time, its generation was out of sync with demand due to its intermittent nature. Added to that cost, we should also include both the spilling of hydro (6 TWh) and steamed-off nuclear (1 TWh) which together added another $350 million to ratepayer costs. The foregoing alone raises the per kWh cost of IWT generation to 20.3 cents. Include gas plant generation of 5.9 TWh (backing up IWT) and you can add another $450 million resulting in a cost of over 25 cents/kWh! This is the “reason for high electricity bills”!
Claim # 2
“In reality, wind energy projects are making significant contributions to Ontario’s economy across the province and are providing long-term, stable pricing for Ontario ratepayers. They are providing sustained revenue, as well as benefits agreements and green jobs that are helping rural and Indigenous communities thrive”.
Examining this claim highlights actual contributions of renewable energy.
The Concerned Manufacturers of Ontario is described by the CBC in March 2017 as “A group that represents hundreds of small to medium sized manufacturers across the province is urging the Ontario government to lower hydro fees for industrial users, or face the prospect of some factories packing up and moving to other jurisdictions where electricity is cheaper.”
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business with 42,000 members in Ontario was featured in a Globe and Mail article from December 2016 which contained a few member stories. Here’s one: “Tor Krueger has big plans for Udder Way Artisan Cheese Co., which sells handmade goat cheese in Stoney Creek, Ont. But crushing hydro bills are hurting the artisan cheese maker’s plans to modernize his facility so he can get federal certification and sell his cheeses across the country.” Mr. Kruger went on to note, “After payroll, hydro is consistently one of my top three operating expenses”.
Another association Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters sent a message to Premier Wynne in March 2017 that stated: “We need to reduce the barriers that are holding us back, particularly high electricity prices and the costs associated with cap & trade.”
The Ontario chamber of Commence in a Globe and Mail article in July 2015 had similar comments noting “This week, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce released a survey that suggested as many as one in 20 business are worried about their survival because of high electricity costs.”
Now, if one accepts the fact that the above mentioned four associations represent the vast majority of businesses in Ontario, it seems obvious the cost of electricity has caused job losses in the province. That observation clearly flies in the face of the claim by CanWEA’s President who stated “wind energy projects are making significant contributions to Ontario’s economy across the province and are providing long-term, stable pricing for Ontario ratepayers.” In 2017 nuclear and hydro generated over 97% of grid-connected Ontario demand at prices of less than 7 cents/kWh for nuclear and 5 cents for hydro. So, shouldn’t CanWEA realize the remaining 3% came from all of the other generating sources including wind at costs as noted above under “Claim # 1”!
Claim # 3
“As the lowest cost source of electricity available in Canada today, wind energy is the best choice for new electricity generation when it is needed in the future and can help the Ontario Government meet its objective of an affordable and reliable electricity system that benefits Ontarians.”
Mr. Hornung’s claim that wind energy is the “lowest cost source of electricity” doesn’t specify what he is referring to! One should suspect the reference is to either the LOCE (levelized cost of electricity)* or the cost of fuel (wind is free) but in either case his claim has nothing to do with what Ontario ratepayers pay for the intermittent and unreliable nature of the actual wind power generation. That annually averages only 29/30% of its capacity and is out of sync with actual demand 65% of the time.
Claim # 4
“… the report provides no consideration for the value returned by the province’s strategic investment in renewable energy, most notably its role in eliminating smog days”
That claim from a CanWEA press release just over a week later (October 4, 2018) had Mr. Hornung responding to a report released by the Fraser Institute which suggested the Doug Ford-led government should cancel contracts because “According to our study, cancelling the subsidized contracts would reduce the GA charge by almost 40 per cent, thereby reducing residential electricity prices by, again, roughly 24 per cent.”
CanWEA’s response reiterated much of what they claimed in their earlier press release including the suggestion cancelling the contracts would undermine “investor confidence” and the one above noted as “Claim # 4”.
What is interesting about this latter claim is that the Fraser Institute back in January 2017 in another report stated: “The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change undertook a special analysis of the role of U.S. emissions in Ontario air quality in 2005, which showed that a majority of O3 (ground level ozone) and PM2.5 (particulate matter) was due to U.S.-based emissions and would not be reduced by cutting emissions in Ontario.”
As the backlash over the cost of renewable energy, along with its other failings, is finally being discovered by politicians around the world and now includes Ontario, it is obvious CanWEA’s concern is that it will affect the targeted provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta where they have signaled they want more wind power generation. The revelations emanating from Ontario may well impact those current deliberations and slow or stop the IWT march affecting CanWEA’s members!
One can almost see the tears in Robert Hornung’s eyes!
*Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) is often cited as a convenient summary measure of the overall competiveness of different generating technologies. It represents the per-megawatt hour cost (in discounted real dollars) of building and operating a generating plant over an assumed financial life and duty cycle. 4 Key inputs to calculating LCOE include capital costs, fuel costs, fixed and variable operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, financing costs, and an assumed utilization rate for each plant type.”