May 1, 2012
Ontario, Opinions

Ontario farmers don’t support wind energy initiatives

Dan Scharf, Guest column, 1 May 2012

Columnist Owen Roberts, a teacher of agricultural communications at the University of Guelph and the self-titled Urban Cowboy, asserted in his Monday column (Wind Energy Predictions in Ontario Hit New Highs) that the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), the lobby organization representing the interests of the international wind industry in Canada, says that rural Ontario leads the way for new installations.

He omits to state that the Green Energy Act, coupled with targets by Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government, mandates the installation of thousands of 200-metre wind turbines, in our rural communities – explicitly without the approval of those very communities.

Roberts’ column creates the impression that Ontario farmers are welcoming and supportive of CanWEA’s retail operators in droves. This could not be further from the truth.

The vast majority of Ontario farmers have declined to participate in the “free money” program of the wind companies – sometimes on principle, other times after careful consideration of their risks and loss of property rights that are inherent in “leasing” agreements. This negative reaction is reflected in the position of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario.

Roberts cites Robert Hornung as saying that “ … Ontario … has emerged as a highly competitive destination for wind energy investment globally,” while omitting that the basis for this so-called “competitiveness” is that Ontario has offered for the past several years the highest subsidized pricing in the Western world.

He does not describe how the wind industry and its supporting operatives effectively defined the framework for the Green Energy Act after what they self-describe as then Ontario Energy and Infrastructure minister George Smitherman’s “legendary” attendance at a Montreal wind conference in 2009.

Nor does Roberts mention that the so-called “investment” by wind companies in Ontario is backed by fully secured, near zero-risk, transferable 20-year contracts that guarantee a highly profitable return on that “investment.”

Those contracts require the Ontario government to purchase all generated electricity from wind projects regardless of the need for the electricity, the time of day it is generated, or even the technological challenges of accepting intermittent supply into Ontario’s power grid. This “stability” for investors comes at a high price to Ontario citizens.

Roberts doesn’t mention that many “farmers” leasing land to CanWEA companies, are in fact, absent from the land. In many cases, this land is owned by corporations, some foreign owned. In other cases, the land has been purchased from farm families by Toronto businesspeople – rented for crops and “farmed” to friendly wind companies.

He doesn’t mention that if, starting today, we didn’t put up one more wind turbine in Ontario, there would be no negative impact on our power supply, our grid stability, our emissions from energy, or our use of coal. There are those who believe that if we turned off all wind turbines, we could actually completely shut down our remaining coal plants until they were converted to gas and biomass.

Nor does Roberts mention that the estimated $1.1 billion in payments, over the 20-year project lifespan, going to Ontario landowners is fully funded by us – the citizens of Ontario. He hasn’t mentioned that this represents a single digit percentage of the total revenues paid to CanWEA member companies by the same taxpayers.

The majority of that profit leaves our province for the coffers of foreign-owned wind companies such as Samsung, Iberola, NextEra and Vestas. He doesn’t remind us that the huge “contribution” in a climate of economic recovery is a taxable transfer of after-tax income from those who pay for hydro in Ontario to the landowners who lease to CanWEA member companies. Roberts hasn’t highlighted that thousands of those ratepayers are in fact farmers supplying local food to Ontario cities and must significantly increase their prices as a result.

And one last omission in the column. Virtually every economic study conducted by reputable analysts independent of the global wind industry has concluded that green energy programs regardless of how they are structured by their partners in governments are a net loss to the economy.

Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain and Italy are among the countries that are experiencing this simple economic reality today. In Ontario, there is already ample evidence, through bankruptcies, layoffs, relocations, and reduced employment levels, that accelerating rises in energy costs are reducing Ontario’s ability to compete for industry against other jurisdictions. I recommend that Roberts meet with Ross McKittrick, one of his colleagues at the University of Guelph to learn about basic economics.

I suppose that is how we pro-green, pro-economic growth, pro-environmental responsibility, pro-wildlife protection, pro-farming, pro-science, but anti-wind energy groups can counter Roberts’ assertion.

Dan Scharf is director of Wind Concerns Ontario.

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