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A summary of Michael Trebilcock’s “Speaking Truth to Wind Power”

Michael Trebilcock, a Law and Economics Professor at the University of Toronto, recently studied the effects of Ontario renewable energy policies in regard to economic, environmental, and employment concerns. His findings conclude a re-propositioning of policies based on evidence in support of the energy consumer and taxpayer, and to avoid policy-making based on “political expediency or personal hubris” (Michael Trebilcock).

Several issues have formed as a response to the Ontario government’s hurried and reckless decision making to subsidize renewable energy sources. To avoid continued losses for energy consumers and taxpayers, Trebilcock claims a re-evaluation of current policies is necessary.

Trebilcock’s study focuses on the renewable energy of wind turbines – the same area of focus of the government. He analyzes Ontario wind turbine (and other renewable energy) policies in relation to what is referred to as “The Three E’s”: economic effects, environmental effects, and employment effects.

Based on Trebilcock’s findings, he poses three main claims. Of his first, Trebilcock predicts that the next two decades will see increased electricity rates for all sectors – industrial, commercial, and residential.

Taking cues from Parker Gallant and Glen Fox of the Energy Probe Research Foundation, Trebilcock states that the Ontario government under estimates the limit electricity costs can reach over the next twenty years. For instance, according to Gallant and Fox, Ontario residential electricity prices may increase about 65 percent by the year 2015, and more than 141 percent by the year 2030.

Trebilcock also claims that the impact of wind turbines to reduce CO2 emissions will be insignificant in comparison to the environmental footprint required by wind turbines and other forms of renewable energy. He states that in order for wind power to produce a relevant amount of energy, an extensive number of wind turbines must be established. Additionally, because of their dependency on uncontrollable climate aspects such as wind, the turbines require back up generation, meaning the construction of fossil fuel plants.

Lastly, Trebilcock states that renewable energy policies will inhibit rather than encourage job growth.

His claim is backed by studies performed in Germany, Denmark, and Spain, where higher energy costs were found to be destroying jobs as opposed to creating them. Specifically, Spain saw that for every new job established, two were lost. Furthermore, a study by the C.D. Howe Institute and former Ontario Power Authority CEO, Jan Carr, further proves Trebilcock’s notions regarding employment. The study found that the government’s estimate of 50,000 new jobs would include public subsidies of $179,000 per job, per year.

Considering his findings, Trebilcock suggests all sources of electricity should be priced in regard to environmental costs via carbon taxes, capital cost, and trade regimes, after which consumer decisions and subsidies can be subsequently made.

Trebilcock urges a turn towards evidence-based policy-making, as opposed to the current focus of political gain and pride. He warns that the combination of environmental fundamentalists and renewable energy project developers, presently informing Ontario government’s renewable energy policies, “has produced a lethal brew of policies” (Michael Trebilcock).

For more on Michael Trebilcock and Speaking Truth to Wind Power, click here to read the original study.