Red Flag: Ontario’s Green Energy Debacle

Babatunde Williams writes at Spiked Ontario’s green-energy catastrophe.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds

A transition to renewables sent energy prices soaring, pushed thousands into poverty and fueled a populist backlash.

In February 2009, Ontario passed its Green Energy Act (GEA). It was signed a week after Obama’s Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act in the US, following several months of slow and arduous negotiations. It also had grand plans to start a ‘green’ recovery following the financial crash – although on a more modest scale.

This was the plan: increased integration of wind and solar energy into Ontario’s electricity grid would shut down coal plants and create 50,000 green jobs in the first three years alone.

Additionally, First Nations communities would manage their own electricity supply and distribution – what observers would later call the ‘decolonisation’ of energy – empowering Canada’s indigenous communities who had been disenfranchised by historical trauma. Lawmakers promised that clean and sustainable energy provided by renewables would also reduce costs for poorer citizens. This won an endorsement from Ontario’s Low Income Energy Network – a group which campaigns for universal access to affordable energy.

But on 1 January, 2019, Ontario repealed the GEA, one month before its 10th anniversary. The 50,000 guaranteed jobs never materialised. The ‘decolonisation’ of energy didn’t work out, either. A third of indigenous Ontarians now live in energy poverty. Ontarians watched in dismay as their electricity bills more than doubled during the life of the GEA. Their electricity costs are now among the highest in North America.

To understand how the GEA went irreparably wrong, we must look at Ontario’s contracts with its green-energy suppliers. Today, Ontario’s contracts guarantee to electricity suppliers that they ‘will be paid for each kWh of electricity generated from the renewable energy project’, regardless of whether this electricity is consumed. As preposterous as this may seem, it’s actually an improvement on many of the original contracts the Ontario government locked itself into.

Earlier contracts guaranteed payments that benchmarked close to 100 per cent of the supplier’s capacity, rather than the electricity generated. So if a participating producer supplied only 33 per cent of its capacity in a given year, the state would still pay it as if it had produced 100 per cent.

This was especially alarming in context, as 97 per cent of the applicants to the GEA programme were using wind or solar energy. These are both intermittent forms of energy. In an hour, day or month with little wind or sun, wind and solar farms can’t supply the grid with electricity, and other sources are needed for back-up. As a result, wind and solar electricity providers can only supplement the grid but cannot replace consistently reliable power plants like gas or nuclear.

Many governments, including other Canadian provinces, have used subsidies of all hues to incentivise renewables. But Ontario put this strategy on steroids. For example, the Council for Clean and Reliable Energy found that ‘in 2015, Ontario’s wind farms operated at less than one-third capacity more than half (58 per cent) the time’. Regardless, Ontarians paid multiple contracts as if wind farms had operated at full capacity all year round. To add insult to injury, Ontario’s GEA contracts guaranteed exorbitant prices for renewable energy – often at up to 40 times the cost of conventional power for 20 years.

By 2015, Ontario’s auditor general, Bonnie Lysyk, concluded that citizens had paid ‘a total of $37 billion’ above the market rate for energy. They were even ‘expected to pay another $133 billion from 2015 to 2032’, again, ‘on top of market valuations’. (One steelmaker has taken the Ontarian government to court for these exorbitant energy costs.)

Today, this problem persists.  Furthermore, electricity demand from ratepayers declined between 2011 and 2015, and has continued to fall. Ontarians were forced to pay higher prices for new electricity capacity, even as their consumption was going down.

Ontario’s auditor general in 2015 stated that: ‘The implied cost of using non-hydro renewables to reduce carbon emissions in the electricity sector was quite high: approximately $257 million [£150million] for each megatonne of emissions reduced.’ Per tonne of carbon reduced, the Ontario scheme has cost 48 per cent more than Sweden’s carbon tax – the most expensive carbon tax in the world.

Clearly, bad policy has led to exorbitant waste. This wasn’t the result of corruption or conspiracy – it was sheer incompetence. It’s a meandering story of confusion and gross policy blunders that will fuel energy poverty in Ontario for at least another decade.

As democracies across the West respond to the coronavirus crisis with hastily prepared financial packages for a ‘green recovery’, they should consider the cautionary tale of Ontario.

The GEA’s stubborn defenders refuse to recognise that poor policy, even with the best intentions, discredits future efforts at cutting emissions. ‘Green New Deals’ for the post-pandemic recovery in the US and Europe should learn from the GEA. Clean energy at any cost will be rightfully short-lived and repealed, and its supporters will be unceremoniously booted out of power.

See Also:  Electrical Madness in Green Ontario

 

6 comments

  1. Mark · September 21, 2020

    Well, on the bright side, at least Ontario isn’t doubling down, Like California: https://dailyenergyinsider.com/news/27165-california-gov-newsom-pushes-for-greener-energy-amid-record-wildfires/?amp

    Like

    • Ron Clutz · September 21, 2020

      Yeah, at least Ontario voters rose up to throw the alarmists out. Outlook for Cal: Waiting for a cold day in Hell.

      Like

  2. Ray · September 23, 2020

    Hi Ron
    I just started to creat this animated video for my CO2 charts …

    Like

    • Ron Clutz · September 23, 2020

      Thanks for showing that Raymond. I like the frame and the visuals and music. I assume you will include more slides. One point concerning slide #1. The %s add to more than 100. The problem is that Ar and the other trace gases are % of dry air. The wikipedia source suggests that H2O is variable 0 to 3%. To forestall any dismissive criticism on this detail, how about using 1.5% rather than 2.5%, and note that the other %s are of dry air.

      Like

      • Ray · September 24, 2020

        Hi Ron
        I was thinking that this might be a point of misunderstanding for some. I’ll take it into review when I do the next update. I’m still feeling my way around with the animation and timing, it’s a lot of info that’s moving around visually, a challenge to say the least. Cheers R

        Like

    • Ron Clutz · September 24, 2020

      Raymond, using Wikipedia’s numbers and converting from dry air to moist air, I calculate the following %s:

      Like

Leave a Reply to Mark Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s