If legislation is a work in progress, Ontario’s Green Energy Act is increasingly an exercise in futility. Launched in 2009 with great fanfare by then premier Dalton McGuinty, this head-first dive into responsible energy production was to place Ontario on the leading edge of a modern industry bursting with potential.
Ontario would attract wind and solar power developers with lucrative contracts. They would develop all kinds of clean power to replace that from Ontario’s cancelled coal plants, leading the way in Canada’s climate change efforts. Developers would agree to manufacture components in Ontario. There would be 50,000 new jobs by the end of 2012, McGuinty said, and untold economic benefits throughout the province.
Who could argue with that?
A good many people, it turns out.
The contracts were so rich, the terms had to be changed to appease a public angered at learning it was paying considerably more for power from free sun and wind than from costly conventional sources.
While Ontario was among the North American leaders in moving toward green energy, Europe had been at it for years and while thriving in some jurisdictions, others were moving away from it.
Wind power was generating widespread complaints about annoying sound and flicker effects from monstrous spinning blades and related health effects were and are being investigated.
The Green Energy Act removed local control which meant developers could build solar and wind farms in places where people and municipalities didn’t want them. Thunder Bay has learned this hard lesson, forced to agree to wind turbines on top of a scenic mountain range hugging its southern edge and losing an argument over specific siting to a lawsuit filed, then withdrawn by Horizon Wind Inc.
Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli announced changes to local participation this week, but municipalities mainly get to partner in developments and share their earnings. Any existing agreements, like Thunder Bay’s, can’t be changed.
As for that economic development, a World Trade Organization challenge means Ontario must no longer require local content in wind and solar farms.
Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter reported in his 2011 review of McGuinty’s renewable energy policies that “no independent, objective, expert investigation had been done to examine the potential effects of renewable energy policies on prices, job creation, and greenhouse gas emissions.”
And those 50,000 jobs? McCarter concluded: “A majority of the jobs will be temporary.” In other jurisdictions, there was actually an offsetting loss of jobs as a result of the impact of higher renewable energy electricity prices on business, industry and consumers.
Oh well, it sure sounded good.
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