Michael Trebilcock calls Ontario’s wind energy policy “one of the biggest boondoggles in the history of the province” that seriously affects the economy, the environment and employment.
“It raises the electricity rates dramatically, defiles some of the most beautiful countryside and kills jobs,” Trebilcock told a more than 300 people who packed the Meaford Hall opera house on Saturday.
He is the chair of law and economics at the University of Toronto and one of the speakers at a weekend symposium organized by Wind Concerns Meaford.
Under the provincial government’s feed-in-tariff policy wind energy developers are paid 80 cents a kilowatt hour for energy produced by wind turbines whether there is need for the electricity at the time or not. That compares to six cents a kilowatt hour that consumers pay for electricity.
Trebilcock predicts that over the next five years hydro rates will climb by 7.9% annually. An average hydro bill of $1,700 in 2010 will soar to $2,800 in 2015 and $4,100 in 2030.
He disputes claims that wind energy reduces carbon dioxide emissions. He says most wind turbines produce only about 25% of the amount of energy they are supposedly capable of ; It requires massive numbers of turbines to produce very little electricity
“It displaces low cost hydro, nuclear power with no effect on lowering carbon dioxide emissions,” Trebilcock said.
Trebicock said in 2010 energy minister Brad Duguid said the set back for wind turbines in Lake Ontario should be 5 kilometres because if they were any closer it would spoil the view of home owners along the Scarborough Bluffs while the set backs for wind turbines on land is only 550 metres.
“Duguid should explain why we should be more tolerant,” Trebilcock said to a round of cheers and applause by an appreciative audience.
Trebilcock said the wind energy industry won’t come close to creating the 50,000 green jobs as promised by the former energy minister George Smitherman when he introduced wind energy to the province.
Instead Trebilcock says skyrocketing hydro promises make small businesses uncompetitive and while it may create a few jobs it will kill many more.
“Why have these policies been inflicted upon us,” Trebilcock said.
In his opinion it’s a combination of two forms of greed – the environmental ideologues who say cut CO2 at any cost whether it kills the economy and defiles the environment.
The second is the greedy wind developers who have created a feeding frenzy over the guaranteed 20-year contracts that pay huge subsidized rates.
That says Trebilcock “represent two greeds in an unholy alliance.”
Trebilcock says it’s a truism that government doesn’t know how to pick winners but losers sure know how to pick governments.
During the upcoming provincial election in October, Trebilcock says the rallying cry should be,” tell the losers to get their hands our of pockets and their footprints out of landscape.”
Tom Adams, an independent energy and environmental advisor and former director of Energy Probe from 1996-2007, said wind energy is unreliable as an energy source. It’s too variable throughout the day and during the various seasons of the year. It’s expensive to get rid of when there is a surplus of power being produced by other producers and it’s not there when you need it.
Adams said attempts at deregulating the energy market haven’t been successful and getting the economics to work smoothly has been a problem with the consumers ending up suffering the most from constantly rising prices and political interference.
His suggestion is to put the customers back at the top of the pyramid, create an effective costing formula that would simplify things a whole lot,” and get the politics out of it,” he said.
Grey County realtor Mike McMurray said the effect of wind turbines on land prices depends on where they are located.
If they are on large tracts of farmland used for cash cropping where the houses are few and far between the farmers will be happy for the added revenue and there will be few complaints. But in residential areas or recreational lands their presence can depress property values anywhere from 20-40% on properties up to two miles away. In some cases where homes are located very close to wind turbines here is a total loss of value.
Just the threat of possible wind energy development can depress land values.
He predicts the long-term effect will be to destroy rural residential areas and drive away potential buyers. As well, the threat of development pits neighbours against each other.
McMurray defended people who don’t want to see wind turbines in their own backyards as being justifiably in favour of nimbyism.
“When someone accuses you of nimbyism tell them it also means Next In Your Back Yard.”
Ian Hanna, a Prince Edward County wine merchant, filed an application in October 2009 for a judicial review of four sections of the Green Energy Act specifically those that deal with setbacks of industrial turbines. He was represented by lawyer Eric Gillespie. The case was heard in January 2011 and a decision handed down about a month ago.
Although the judge ruled against Hanna and referred the question of setbacks to the Environmental Review Tribunal, Hanna said the decision opened the door to other challenges to the Green Energy Act which was seen as challenge proof because of a clause that was included saying it could not be questioned by the courts.
“Our application was dismissed. We did lose the case but a number of things did happen as a result of the decision that seem like victories. Rather than the judges ruling on the 550 metres setback, they gave it to Environmental Review Tribunal and we believe that’s good for us because the ERT has the ability to look at more evidence and more detail and not less,” said Hanna.
He argues that the environment ministry in drawing up the Green Energy Act did not follow the precautionary approach which says that where there is scientific evidence that an action could cause serious harm, then the burden of proof goes on the proponent. He says the government didn’t consult widely enough to ensure that wind turbines would not cause health effects.
Hanna and his lawyer are seeking leave to appeal the ruling of the Divisional Court claiming that the minister of the environment provided no evidence that it consulted any medical experts on the effects of wind turbines on human health.
“They went to planners, they went to accousticians, they went to engineers but they never consulted a doctor or medical professional and were talking about health problems. We’re asking the court of appeal to rule on that,” said Hanna.
Hanna’s lawyer Eric Gillespie was unable to attend due to a last-minute illness in the family.
Hanna asked for donations to help fund the legal challenge underway in Chatham Kent where an appeal has been made to the Environmental Review Tribunal which questions the 550-metre setback claiming serious harm to human health from low frequency sound.
He said a compelling and unprecedented witness list has been assembled on all sides including the MOE ,the developer Suncor Energy Inc. and the appellant.
“Most of the witnesses for my case plus a whole bunch more from all over the world were brought in for this ERT hearing. All of the evidence is now in and there will be summations at the end of May and then the ERT will make a ruling,” Hanna said.
Later this summer Wind Concerns Meaford will screen the documentary film Windfall.
“It’s about a community in New York State that’s going through the same struggle that we are and they were able to stop the development compared to another community which embraced it and 50 turbines turned into I believe 200 turbines. It will be a preview of what may be coming here,” said Jim Brunow, a spokesperson for Wind Concerns Meaford, the group that organized Saturday’s symposium.
The movie will be screened Saturday, June 25 at Meaford Hall starting at 3 p.m.