NORTH BAY – Leaders Ledger – By now, even the most optimistic folks have realized Ontario’s Green Energy Act is a complete bust.
Communities have been forced to accept wind and solar farms, which are paid some of the highest subsidies in the world, to generate power the province simply doesn’t need. Then we pay the U.S. and Quebec hundreds of millions of dollars to take our excess power. So energy prices skyrocket and force companies to close or move. The more companies move away, the less demand we have, and the more surplus energy we pay to export. And the endless downward spiral continues.
If you’re asking yourself how we got into this mess, you’re not alone!
Dalton McGuinty created the Green Energy Act with the stated purpose being to ‘green’ Ontario’s energy through conservation and renewable generation. To achieve this, the government removed all local municipal planning powers over development of renewable projects. When you neutralize the municipality (the public’s only forum to fight a rezoning), and put a ‘green’ label on it (which minimizes opposition), you’ve got the perfect storm for procedural abuses, failed fiscal oversight, and gross misuse of taxpayer dollars.
The Liberals introduced the FIT subsidy, which pays unbelievably high fees to wind and solar producers. But the Liberals also granted wind and solar producers guaranteed access to the electrical grid. That’s where the real problems started.
To accept that energy, the government stops making some of our traditional energy. They allow water to spill over Niagara Falls without capturing its power. They also abruptly shut down nuclear plants and allow the steam to vent outside instead of powering a turbine. So they’re spilling water, venting steam, and draining jobs!
These are very costly solutions to accommodate wind and solar. Spilling water (the cleanest, greenest, most reliable renewable) costs ratepayers $300 million a year. Nuclear plants are not designed to accommodate variable wind generation. When you shut a plant down, it takes 2 to 3 days to return to service.
The Auditor General says the FIT program loses 2 to 4 manufacturing jobs for every green job created. Wind generators operate at 28 per cent capacity and wind often blows at night when we don’t need extra power. Solar generators operate at just 13 per cent capacity. With the FIT Program, your electricity costs rose 26 per cent from 2008-2010 and are projected to rise another 46 per cent by 2015.
The Auditor General is not alone in his concerns. Here are some recent worldwide headlines: Italy Cuts Solar Subsidy; Dutch Pull Plug on Wind Subsidies; UK Solar Subsidies Slashed; Germany Slashes FIT; and Spain Halts Renewable Subsidies to Curb $31 Billion of Debts.
So far, the wind and solar gold rush accounts for 1,700 MW of power, and the target is to produce 10,700 MW by 2018. The very problem that has sent your hydro bills skyrocketing and gutted our manufacturing sector is about to get 6 times bigger!
This week’s retreat by the Energy Minister to reduce FIT subsidies and give token input to municipalities is an admission their energy plan is a failed social experiment. But reducing the subsidies will NOT solve the problem. The Liberals will still be spilling water, venting steam, and racking up hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.
Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak’s call for the immediate cancellation of the FIT Program is the clear solution to kick-start job creation and attract new investment.
Victor Fedeli is a former advertising executive, two-term Mayor of North Bay, and current MPP for Nipissing and PC Energy Critic.