Global Wind Day is coming: should you cheer or cry?

Canada’s wind power lobby says wind power is not only cheap, it is dependable enough to supply one-third of our power needs. Is this true? (No.)

Celebrate? Maybe not… [SmallSteps photo]
CanWEA (Canadian Wind Energy Association) recently posted an article about an upcoming event they seem quite excited about.  Apparently, “Every year, June 15 is Global Wind Day, a day to celebrate the incredible momentum of wind energy.”

CanWEA goes on to make extraordinary claims and these two top the list: “Costs have also dropped significantly in Canada, and a power auction in Alberta, in 2017, established wind energy as the most cost-competitive source of new electricity generation in Canada” and “… it could supply more than one-third of the country’s electricity without compromising grid reliability.”

Well, I just had to look into that, especially after Ontario’s experience with wind power. Thanks to Scott Luft’s data gathering from IESO and his ability to organize it nicely, it’s an easy task to see how wind performed in Ontario over the past three years.

As we are five months into 2019 let’s look back at that same period over the last three years and review wind’s performance. It is important to understand that wind generation, for some reason, gets “first-to-the -grid” rights and are also paid handsomely ($120/MWh) for curtailing their generation.

The meaning of ‘curtailment’                                                                                                                                   Starting with wind capacity*, which at the start of 2017 was about 4,460 MW with 570 MW of that embedded. At the beginning of 2018, capacity had increased to 4,900 MW with 580 MW of that embedded; at the start of 2019 we had 5,090 MW with 590 MW embedded. Wind’s capacity increased over those three years to the point where it represents over 10% of capacity.

Once industrial wind turbines represented a significant amount of capacity in Ontario, reality dawned: wind is unable to deliver generation when actually needed. This raised concerns with the grid operator, the Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO. As this situation constituted a possibility of lack of grid control, the deal struck with the wind generators was to get them to curtail their generation, when asked, in exchange for a significant payment.

When this agreement was reached, IESO began to curtail wind on a regular basis, particularly during Ontario’s low demand periods which occur during the Spring and Fall. That’s also exactly when wind generates power at its highest levels in Ontario. So, for 2017 wind developers curtailed 1,420.6 million MWh in the five months which earned them $170.5; in 2018 they curtailed 1,019.6 million MWh earning $120 million; and in 2019 curtailed 786,900 MWh which earned them $94.8 million.

Ontario’s ratepayers generously picked up the bill of almost $400 million for that curtailed generation for the first five months of each year since 2017.

Wind power generation                                                                                                                                       Power generation from wind in the first five months of 2017 (either grid-accepted or distributor-accepted) was 7,080.8 million MWh; in 2018 it declined slightly to 7,027.6 million MWh. For the first five months of 2019 it increased to 7,211.7 million MWh (up 2.6%). The cost of the generation (at $135/MWh) brought costs to ratepayer of $955.9 million for 2017, $948.7 for 2018 and $973.4 for 2019.

That represents a total cost to Ontario’s ratepayers of $2.878 billion for the 21.3 TWh (terawatts) either grid- or distributor-accepted.

The total cost of wind: more than you think

So now, let’s check to see if the costs of power generation from wind are falling as claimed by CanWEA. To do that, we must add the cost of curtailed wind to the cost of what was delivered.

That cost was $3.278 billion!

Looking at 2017, the math on what it cost ratepayers for the period of the first five months of each of the last three years works out to $159.10/MWH and for 2018 slightly lower at $152.40/MWh and for 2019 it fell slightly again to $150.00/MWh.

It appears, on its own, wind generation costs in Ontario fell from 15.9 cents/kWh in 2017 to 15.0 cents/kWh in 2019.

However, not accounted for is the annual “cost of living”** increase granted to wind power operators in their contracts. Also not accounted for is the cost of back-up generation (principally gas generation paid to idle) for when the wind isn’t blowing. And other unaccounted for cost is what wind does when delivering generation out of sync with demand! It drives down the market price (HOEP) and our exported power is sold for cents on the dollar and Ontario ratepayers pick up the losses on those sales.

On top of all those other costs, excess wind power generation out of sync with demand causes hydro spillage and nuclear steam off — both of which are paid for by ratepayers!

Clearly, this demonstrates that CanWEA’s claim that wind power is cost competitive is fictitious — it isn’t!

And the other claim – that wind could supply one-third of the country’s electricity needs — is also bogus. As a recent IESO report notes, “The transmission-connected supply mix has shifted from only synchronous generation facilities to more inverter-based generation facilities (e.g., wind and solar). This change has lowered system inertia, which is a critical element that supports the secure operation of the ICG, [IESO Controlled Grid] especially during light demand conditions.” Translation: Adding more intermittent and unreliable wind power to the grid severely impacts grid stability, particularly in the spring and fall when demand (in Ontario) can fall to almost 50% of the peak demand which occurs on hot summer days or very cold winter days.

In short, “Global Wind Day” is no reason to celebrate.

PARKER GALLANT

*rounded                                                                                                                                           **wind turbine contracts also included a cost of living annual increase to a maximum of 20% of the original contracted amount

#GlobalWindDay

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“Quebec Inc” scoops up Ontario renewable energy projects

Valuable contracts with above-market rates for wind and solar power are attracting investor attention

Perhaps unbeknownst to many, Ontario’s electricity ratepayers are accumulating debt in the electricity file (Fair Hydro Plan or FHP); that debt will reappear in future years to ensure electricity rate increases exceed inflation by a wide margin.

The cause of the FHP debt can be traced to the Green Energy Act (GEA) and the FIT and MicroFIT contracts handed out by the Ontario Liberal Government under Premiers McGuinty and Wynne.  Those lucrative above-market (confirmed by the Auditor General) contracts were granted to mainly foreign-owned companies. The companies rushed to Ontario to take advantage of the above-market rates offered for renewable energy of the wind and solar variety.

Many of those foreign-owned companies are now leaving Ontario, cashing out on the lucrative contracts by selling them to willing buyers. Our provincial neighbour “Quebec Inc.”, with its cheap electricity prices, is rushing in to scoop up many of those contracts along with others like the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB). The latter purchased NextEra’s portfolio (Head Office Florida) of 396 MW of wind and solar contracts, paying $1.871 million per MW for a total of $741 million CAD and assuming the debt (US $689 million).

“Quebec Inc’s” acquisitions are more “under the radar” and most costs are unknown, but some of the bigger investment players with Quebec headquarters are very active.

The one recent acquisition from “Quebec Inc.” caught the attention of many in Eastern Ontario was the purchase of a controlling interest in the unbuilt 100-MW Nation Rise wind power project in North Stormont, south of Ottawa. When newly elected Premier Ford’s government announced they were cancelling 758 renewable wind and solar energy projects, most Ontarians thought Nation Rise would be one of: it wasn’t. Somehow the bureaucrats in the former Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change managed to issue the REA (renewable energy approval) just a few days before the election writ was dropped despite wind power and this project in particular being a prominent election issue.

To top things off, the IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) were satisfied that EDPR had met their “key development milestones” and issued the NTP (Notice to Proceed) on June 13, 2019, days after the election and weeks before the Ford government announced the new cabinet.

When the approval became public, community group Concerned Citizens of North Stormont, stepped up their fight to stop the power project.

Project developer EDPR then sold off controlling interest in the Nation Rise project along with other existing operating projects. Before that happened however, EDPR submitted an application dated October 11, 2018 to the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) for a electricity generation licence. Question 13 of the application asks the question; “Has the applicant secured financing?”

EDPR ticked the NO box.

The OEB appears to have overlooked the lack of secured financing (based on the application) and granted the licence December 20, 2018 without comment.

EDPR is a subsidiary of EDP a global energy company with its headquarters in Portugal and with significant renewable energy assets in North and South America. With 2,300 industrial wind turbines in the USA, EDP rank third in installations.

EDP has been a takeover target for several years by Three Gorges, a Chinese state-owned company who are already a significant shareholder. Because of the Chinese state ownership the US government expressed concerns with the possible purchase by Three Gorges. The principal concern is the volatility of US electricity grids and security issues surrounding them. Other EU countries with EDP electricity generation assets are also concerned with grid security issues in the event of a takeover by Three Gorges.

In the midst of takeover buzz, EDPR suddenly sold off controlling interest in some of their North American generation assets to a Quebec-based company, Axium Infrastructure Inc. Eight days after the OEB blessed the EDPR licence application for Nation Rise, Axium issued a press release announcing they had closed an agreement to acquire an 80-percent interest in three wind power projects, totaling 499 MW in the U.S. and Canada from EDPR.

Nation Rise was one of those acquired.

A month and a half earlier, Axium was the lead investor in the purchase from U.S.-based Pattern Energy Group of a 90-MW minority interest in the 270 MW K2* wind generation project. The purchase price was CAD $216 million.

Following OEB’s approval of the EDPR Nation Rise generation licence, Axium Infrastructure submitted an application to the OEB dated January 14, 2019 seeking approval of their majority (80 percent) acquisition. The application form asks no questions about financing, nor does it ask questions about bankruptcy or criminal issues for either the company or individual officers, unlike the “generation licence” application format.

The application to the OEB indicated Axium held investments in seven of Ontario’s wind turbine developments and 19 solar projects. It also included the following: “After completion of the Proposed Transaction and the Project, Axium and its affiliates will have a generation capacity of 1,050 MW** on a gross basis and 563 MW on a net basis within the Province of Ontario.”

On February 28, 2019 Axium issued a further press release reporting they acquired a 50-percent interest in a 101-MW solar portfolio in Ontario from Mitsubishi Corporation.

In short, Axium has been very aggressive in acquiring Ontario’s foreign-owned wind and solar projects and Ontario’s regulator, the OEB, have blessed everything Axium has done.

That’s obvious if one reads the short letter dated February 14, 2019 from the OEB notifying  Axium about their Nation Rise acquisition: “the OEB does not intend to issue a notice of review of the proposal.”  Was this due diligence?

Tomorrow, in Part 2 of my look at the “Quebec Inc” acquisition spree, I will attempt to explore who is behind Axium Infrastructure, the interaction with the Ontario Energy Board and how the latter executes its Vision: “The OEB supports and guides the continuing evolution of the Ontario energy sector by promoting outcomes and innovation that deliver value for all Ontario energy consumers.”

PARKER GALLANT

 

*K2 was a Samsung project commissioned in September 2015 so has about 17 years left in its contract and if it operated at 30% of capacity would generate approximately $540 million in gross revenue over the remaining term of its contract for the 90 MW of capacity now owned by the Axium consortium.                                                                                                                                 **That amount of renewable generation would represent approximately 14% of all current operating renewable wind and solar in Ontario.

 

 

 

Another spring day, more big bucks for wind power operators

Mild spring weather, breezy days are money-making combo for wind power corporations

Wind turbine beside MIlford, in Prince Edward County: wind power not needed to meet demand

As very recently pointed out, utility-scale wind power operators love the spring because it brings nice breezes that result in lots of generation for which they are paid.  The bad news for Ontario electricity customers is that the power produced is generally not needed, but due to the wind power industry’s negotiated “first-to-the grid” rights, they must be paid regardless.

That was the case on May 8 and again the following day.

May 9 was another low demand day in Ontario as reported by IESO with only 337,700 MWh required to supply all of the province’s needs for electricity.  IESO’s forecast for power generation from wind was about 79,400 MWh, which would have represented 23.5 % of total demand.  However, a large part of it was forecast for low demand hours; no doubt that meant power from other relatively cheap sources of generation were dispatched off.

Low demand on a low demand day caused IESO to curtail 29,400 MWh (37.1%) of the forecast output and to sell off surplus generation to our grid-connected neighbours in New York, Michigan, Quebec, etc. The net exports of 41,600 MWh (rounded) sold to those buyers represented 83% of the accepted “output” of wind power.

In other words, Ontario didn’t really need any wind power!

The net exports were worth $3.70 per MWh (average of the Hourly Ontario Electricity Price or HOEP for the day) meaning they produced total revenue for Ontario of approximately $154,000.

So, you might ask, how much wind generation cost Ontario ratepayers for the day?

The 29,400 curtailed MWh at the $120/MWh IWT operators get paid was $3.528,000 and adding in the cost of the 50,000 MWh actually accepted at $135/MWh adds another $6,750,000 to the cost of wind. That brings the total cost of wind for that spring day to $10,124,000 if we deduct the $154,000 generated by the sales of our net exports.

Ten million paid, $150,000 recouped–makes sense doesn’t it?

So, wind power on May 9 cost Ontario ratepayers $202.48/MWh or 20.2 cents/kWh. That doesn’t include any of the other costs its generation may have caused such as spilling cheap hydro or steaming off cheap nuclear. To top it off, most of the day’s wind power generation, if exported, at an average price of $3.70/MWh means a loss of $198.78 for every megawatt hour sold.

The “average” Ontario ratepayer would love to be able to buy the 9 MWh they consume in a year at those bargain basement prices of $3.70/MWh. Imagine: it would cost them $33.30 for a full year’s electricity needs.  I’m confident our small and medium-sized businesses would also love the opportunity to pick up some of that cheap electricity, instead of being forced to pay for expensive, intermittent and unreliable wind and solar generation!

It’s time to sort out the mess created by the McGuinty/Wynne governments in respect to the electricity file.

If it isn’t, Ontario will continue to be stuck with climbing above-market electricity prices until the wind and solar contracts finally end.

PARKER GALLANT

Wind power operators love spring! Here’s why

Wind power operators don’t need flowers: they get money

Most Canadians love Spring simply because the snow is melting and that signals the summer is coming.

Ontario’s wind power developers love Spring, too! They know the wind will blow much stronger than in the hot summer weather and that means, their generation output will climb.

The fact the wind power lobby negotiated “first to the grid” rights with the Ontario government under Premier Dalton McGuinty means most of them will be paid 13.5 cents/kWh for whatever they produce, whether it is needed or not.

For example, May 8 was a day when the breezes were brisk throughout Ontario and the industrial-scale or utility-scale wind turbines were busy generating lots of power. The IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) reports hourly on both the forecast for wind generation, as well as the actual output. That day, wind could have provided as much as 26% of total Ontario demand for power.  But here’s the important fact:  the total Ontario demand on an early May spring day is not what it is in the heat of summer or the cold of winter and that was the case on May 8.  Total Ontario demand was only 322,000 MWh for the day.

Money for nothing

Because of the low demand, about 36% (30,400 MWh) of IESO’s forecast for wind power generation looks as though it was probably curtailed (paid for but not used) and the wind power operators were paid $120/MWh. That means, Ontario’s electricity ratepayers paid almost $3.7 million for nothing. Zero.

The output actually accepted into the grid was just over 54,000 MWh, which cost ratepayers about $7.3 million. Coupled with the curtailment costs, that meant each kWh of wind “grid-accepted” cost 20.3 cents/kWh.

We should also assume that Ontario was probably spilling hydro or steaming off nuclear due to low demand, which would further drive up that price.

As if this information isn’t enough of a downer on a nice spring day, the HOEP (Hourly Ontario Energy Price), or what is referred to as the “market price,” was noted in their daily summary at an average of $1.75/MWh.

And the very next day …

Ontario’s demand was so low so we didn’t need any wind generation May 9, so IESO had to sell it off at the market price to U.S. and other grid-connected operators. The surplus demand of just under 44,000 MWh (81% of grid-accepted wind generation) was sold at $1.75/MWh generating total revenue of $77,000 but cost ratepayers in the order of $6 million.

This all simply demonstrates why the Global Adjustment charge keeps climbing. If the loss of $6 million daily for just the cost of exporting our surplus energy occurred every day of the year, it would represent in excess of $2.1 billion annually as a cost to Ontario ratepayers.

The time has come to fix this weird situation created by the former Ontario government.

PARKER GALLANT

5 reasons not to believe wind power lobby spin-Part 2

CanWEA points to Denmark as a fine example of “affordable” wind power — great if you think 47 cents a kWh is affordable [Photo Pioneer Institute]
In Part 1 of this series, I dealt with two of the five claims CanWEA makes for industrial-scale wind power development in its October 11, 2018 blog post, “Five reasons why wind energy is Ontario’s best option for new electricity supply”.

Refuting those two claims for omission of facts was relatively easy.

Here are the details on the remaining three.

3. CanWEA claim: “Wind energy will be necessary if Ontario is to keep Ontario’s electricity supply reliable through the next decade.”

CanWEA says the IESO “forecast a need for significant new electricity generation, especially from 2023 onwards, as the Pickering Nuclear station shuts down, other nuclear units are being refurbished, and generation contracts expire.”   Well, that is true as IESO did suggest a shortfall, but here are the facts: the forecast shortfall is 1,400 MW. The OPG Lennox generation station with 2,100 MW has a contract expiring that year. So the question is, will the contract be extended? I was recently taken on a tour of the Lennox facility where I observed they were in the process of refurbishing one of the four 525-MW units which suggests they anticipate a renewal of the contract. With the anticipated renewal the “need for significant new electricity generation” is simply a figment of CanWEA’s imagination.

This claim goes on to suggest: “New wind energy would help keep Ontario’s electricity supply reliable, as well as more affordable.” And, “Other jurisdictions around the world are proving this – for example, Denmark now produces more than 44 per cent of its electricity from wind turbines on an annual basis.” The Denmark example ignores the cost of residential electricity on Danish households which is the highest in Europe. Denmark’s household electricity price is 312.60 Euro/MWh or $471.10 CAD/MWh, based on current exchange rates.

Is CanWEA suggesting is that if Ontario’s ratepayers were paying 47.1 cents/kWh it would be affordable? That seems like a big stretch and would push many more households into energy poverty!

The same applies to the claim of it being “reliable.” As noted in a June 2017 peer-reviewed report by Marc Brouillette, wind generation in Ontario presented itself when needed only 35% of the time. If one considers that wind’s annual generation averages about 30% of capacity, it is therefore “reliable” about 10.5% of the time it’s actually needed. (Note: IESO values wind generation at 12% in their forecasts)

4. This CanWEA claim suggests: “Wind energy provides many services to system operators to keep electricity supply flexible.” Their view of “flexible” fails to align with what the grid operator IESO would consider flexible. As Marc Brouillette’s report noted, “… wind output over any three-day period can vary between almost zero and 90 per cent of capacity.” That variance often requires clean hydro spillage or nuclear steam-off or the export of surplus capacity or full curtailment.

All of those actions cost ratepayers considerable money. Wind is unable to ramp up if demand increases and is the reason Ontario has over 10,000 MW of gas/oil plant capacity, with much of it idling in case the wind stops blowing or clouds prevent solar from generating. CanWEA needs to review the definition of “flexible.”

Another amusing statement under this claim is that: “Wind energy can also provide a suite of electricity grid services, often more nimbly and more cost effectively than conventional sources, helping to ensure reliable and flexible electricity supply. These services include: operating reserve, regulation, reactive support, voltage control, primary frequency response, load following, and inertia and fast frequency response.”   The bulk of those “suite of electricity grid services” are requirements for any generators on the grid. The ones suggesting operating reserve, reactive support, load following and fast frequency support are really referencing the curtailment of wind generation as noted in the preceding paragraph.

5. CanWEA’s final claim is:Wind energy is essential to reducing greenhouse gas emissions” and goes on to suggest: “Ontario has achieved a 90 per cent reduction in electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions over the past 15 years, and wind energy has been an important contributor. Wind turbines do not emit greenhouse gases, just as they do not pollute the air.” If CanWEA bothered to be truthful, the trade association would not claim “wind energy has been an important contributor” in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.   If you review year-end data as supplied by IESO for the year 2004 and compare it to the data for 2018, you are obliged to reach the conclusion that wind generation played absolutely no role in the “90% reduction in the electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions.”

Ontario demand in 2004 was 153.4 TWh (terawatt hours) and in 2018 was 137.4 TWh representing a drop in demand of 16 TWh. Nuclear generation in 2004 was 77 TWh and in 2018 was 90.1 TWh for an increase in generation of 13.1 TWh. The drop in demand of 16 TWh, plus the increased nuclear  generation of 13.1 TWh, equals 29.1 TWh. Those 29.1 TWh easily displaced the 2004 coal generation of 26.8 TWh!

Ontario didn’t need any wind turbines to achieve the 90 per cent reduction in emissions by closing the coal plants, and CanWEA was totally wrong to suggest wind generation played anything more than a very small role.

As the saying goes, “there are always two sides to every story” but if it doesn’t fit the message you wish to convey, you simply ignore the other side! CanWEA has done that consistently while ignoring the negative impacts of industrial wind turbines.

Here are just five:

1.Providing intermittent and unreliable generation,

2. Causing health problems due to audible and inaudible noise emissions,

3. Driving up electricity costs,

4. Killing birds and bats (all essential parts of the eco-system), and

5. Possible link to contamination of water wells.

I could list other negative impacts, but I would first invite CanWEA to attempt to dispel those five.

Needless to say, the anticipated response will be “crickets”!

PARKER GALLANT

Ontario’s ECO says It’s the end of the world!

Cooked! says the enviro commissioner in her last, histrionic report

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO), Dianne Saxe, released what appears to be her final “independent”* report on March 27, 2019 — it was full of hyperbole!  A CTV article issued after her news conference at Queens Park about the report carried this quote from her:  “If the world can’t hold together on the Paris Agreement we are toasted, roasted and grilled.”

The Saxe quote immediately reminded me of a very humourous Beyond the Fringe video from 1961 titled “The End of the World”. The cast: Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett are seated, huddled, on the top of a mountain waiting for The End of the World. Needless to say, the “End of the World” didn’t arrive so they agreed to meet “the same time tomorrow” in case it did.

End-of-the-world claims are common these days, it seems: in 2009, Al Gore claimed the Polar Ice Cap would be entirely melted in five to seven years. Turns out to be another wrong prediction, but the humour was missing, much as it is missing from the ECO’s remarks to the media and in her report.

Ms. Saxe’s lead in to the report is titled “FOSSIL FUEL CONSERVATION WOULD FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE WHILE SAVING ONTARIANS BILLIONS” and the report itself is titled: “A Healthy, Happy, Prosperous Ontario 2019 Energy Conservation Progress Report, Why we need more energy conservation”.

We heard very many similar stories in the past about how Ontarians could “save billions!“

If one looks back to an article from October 29, 2004 Dwight Duncan, then Ontario Minister of Energy, was defending the $2.3 billion cost of smart meter installations. In a media report “Duncan wants the meters installed so residents and businesses can save money by using electricity in off-peak hours. He says Italy saved so much money that consumers there did not have to pay for the meters. But he doesn’t know if Ontario electricity users will be that lucky.”

Needless to say, we weren’t that lucky!

Several years later when George Smitherman held the post of Energy Minister he testified April 9, 2009 before the Standing Committee on General Government in respect to the Green Energy and Green Economy Act. One of his offerings to the Committee was the big promise: “We anticipate about 1% per year of additional rate increase associated with the bill’s implementation over the next 15 years. Our estimate of cost increases is based upon the way that we actually amortize costs in the energy sector. The research contracted by the official opposition does not. Their report apportions capital costs without consideration of the life of the asset, or, put another way, they didn’t amortize those costs. Their report counts the costs for conservation programs without providing any benefit for reduced consumption by the consumer.”

The new ECO report is 268 pages reiterating these same messages we ratepayers and taxpayers have been hearing, over and over again, for the past 15 years. Is Ms. Saxe unaware the Ontario voters reduced legislative seats held by Liberal MPPs to seven and the principal reason behind their fall from grace was the energy/electricity file? In searching the report, the words “electricity conservation” garners 175 hits and the word “electricity” generates 799 findings. The word “renewables” provides 66 hits and the word “billion” is used 53 times.

Ms. Saxe sincerely believes the world will come to an end unless Ontario’s ratepayers and taxpayers freeze in the dark or pay dearly for any energy consumed!

Ontario’s ECO wants Ontario’s ratepayers and taxpayers to reduce their fossil fuel consumption** while China’s power industry has called for hundreds of new coal power plants to be built by 2030. They have asked the government to allow for the development of between 300 and 500 new coal power plants by 2030 in a move that could single-handedly jeopardize global climate change targets.

That puts a damper on what Ontario might hope to achieve to prevent being “toasted, roasted and grilled”. Perhaps if each of the taxpayers of the province were paid the $207,676.40, the “Sunshine List” disclosed Ms. Saxe was paid in 2018 as the ECO, we would be happy to absorb higher prices for electricity or could buy an expensive EV to reduce our fossil fuel consumption. Until that happens, Ms. Saxe should tone down her expectations!

Ms. Saxe should realize if we are freezing in the dark it is difficult to be “happy, healthy and prosperous”!

Until then, let’s meet “same time tomorrow.”

PARKER GALLANT

*The Premier Ford led government has decreed the ECO should in the future report directly to the Auditor General.

**Fossil fuel consumption in Ontario in 2015 was (petroleum products and natural gas) 2,269 pj (petajoule) with a value of $16.8 billion according to the report and Ontario generated GDP (gross domestic product) of $618 billion meaning fossil fuels contributed only 2.7% of our GDP.

Bugs, biomass and carbon tax: the confusing world of climate initiatives

Did this guy wreck our forest carbon sink? Tax it! [Photo: Purdue University]
Trying to understand the various issues surrounding “climate change” and the upcoming federal carbon/pollution tax or provincial cap and trade programs can be confusing when trying to research why they are being imposed.

It gets more confusing when you try to figure out, are Canada’s forests, a carbon sink or a carbon emitter?

A CBC article from a few years ago claimed forests absorb a third (2.4 billion tonnes a year) of the world’s C02 emissions. The CBC reported the study was “by an international team of government and university researchers published Wednesday in Science” and quoted a scientist “with  Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Forest Service” who co-authored the paper. The article said “the study found that the amount of carbon absorbed annually by Canadian forests from 2000 to 2007 was about half the amount they absorbed annually from 1990 to 1999.” That was because trees killed by forest fires and by insects such as mountain pine beetle were no longer taking in carbon.

Fast forward to a recent CBC article which had this to say: “When you add up both the absorption and emissions, Canada’s forests haven’t been a net carbon sink since 2001.” The article goes on to claim our “managed forests” do absorb some emissions but: “our forestry practices would only negate roughly three to four per cent of our greenhouse-gas output each year.” And,  “In 2015, largely due to raging wildfires, these forests kicked a whopping 237 more megatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than they absorbed. But when you exclude natural disturbances like fires and insect infestations and look only at the areas directly impacted by human forestry activity, the picture changes.”  The picture, as far as this article suggests, changes slightly suggesting we “have been a net sink of roughly 26 megatonnes annually since 2001.”

Pretty small potatoes considering Canada possesses about 12.5% of the world’s forests, second to Russia with 20%.  Russia claims its forests are a carbon sink, absorbing between 300 to 600 million tonnes of emissions annually. Russia has not signed on to the Paris Agreement so it’s not obligated to do what the UNFCCC tells them they should do, unlike Canada!

An interesting aspect of forests affected by the mountain pine beetle and other invasive species is related to those dead or dying trees. Those dead or dying trees are used to make wood pellets or biomass. Much of the manufactured biomass is exported to countries around the world and used for home heating and/or for generating electricity. Wood pellet exports from Canada and the U.S. for 2018 were projected to reach 2.4 million tonnes from Canada and 6.2 million tonnes from the U.S., as noted by Canadian Biomass, the media partner of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada.  The industrial pelletizing process uses energy to create the end product by using: a grinder, a rotary drum dryer, a magnetic separator, a ring die pellet maker and finally a counter flow cooler.  Needless to say, these actions create greenhouse gas emissions and are (or will become) subject to a “pollution tax.” The wood pellets are then transported by cargo ships burning diesel oil to destinations across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

For importers, the pellets reaching their destination oftentimes translate to ROCs (Renewable Obligation Certificates) or “carbon credits” as they do for the Drax Power Station in the U.K.  Reference to Drax and those ROCs can be found in an article by the writer where Drax is described as:  “It has a capacity of 3,906 megawatts (MW) and produces around 20 terawatt-hours (TWh) of power a year, 65% or more using compressed wood pellets, a form of sustainably sourced biomass.” Drax receives an ROC for each MWh (megawatt hour) it generates using those imported wood pellets which they can then sell to “carbon emitters.”

Needless to say, those ROCs generate considerable income for Drax while we here in Canada pay for the emissions created by those wood pellets manufactured in Canada.

Are you confused yet? There’s more.

The energy created using biomass emits 150% the CO2 of coal, and 300 to 400% the CO2 of natural gas, per unit of energy produced.  Apparently that concept is blessed by the UNIPCC: “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also says that biomass can only be considered carbon neutral if all land use impacts have been considered first.”  It is noteworthy that “Around half of the EU’s target for providing 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020 will be made up by biomass energy from sources such as wood, waste and agricultural crops and residues, according to EU member states’ national action plans.” The article goes on to state: “Wood makes up the bulk of this target and is counted by the EU as ‘carbon neutral’, giving it access to subsidies, feed-in tariffs and electricity premiums at national level.”

An opinion by the European Environment Agency’s Scientific Committee  argued that “legislation that encourages substitution of fossil fuels by bioenergy, irrespective of the biomass source, may even result in increased carbon emissions – thereby accelerating global warming.”

So, bearing the above in mind, why do our politicians, ENGOs, and the UNIPCC want to tax us Canadians when others are receiving “emission credits” for using our deadwood?

Clean Energy BC in a posting on their website says: “Biomass generation, pursued on a sustainable basis, is endorsed by Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and the David Suzuki Foundation.”  Hmm, one wonders if it occurred to these ENGO that supporting biomass might actually accelerate global warming? Would they also endorse the use of “dung” as an energy source?  An article on “energypedia” claimed “More than 2 billion people across the planet burn dried animal dung for energy.”  Is that where our politicians and those ENGOs such as Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and the David Suzuki Foundation want to take us?

Perhaps our politicians can examine how they could tax the “lighting storms” causing the forest fires, the wood boring pine beetle, the emerald ash borer and the fungus responsible for Dutch elm disease instead of us environmentally aware taxpayers!  That might (temporarily) get us off the path to energy regression they and their supporters seem determined to put us on.

PARKER GALLANT