Is Ontario a laggard in Renewable Energy?

Dear Mr. Fuhr,

 

I am responding to some of the remarks you made in your email to Ms. McLean. As background I am retired, having spent most of my career in the Information Technology and consulting business. I have a degree in Electrical Engineering and have been researching electricity systems extensively for about 7 years. My interest in wind power was aroused shortly after my retirement in 2001 when a proposal was made for an industrial wind plant in Prince Edward County where I live, but about 20 km distance from my home. I noted much discourse in local papers which I found to be very emotional, not based on fact, acrimonious and divisive.

 

My focus is on the operational characteristics and value of industrial wind plants and make no strong representations about other matters, such as noise, health, public safety, impact on the local environment including flora and fauna, real estate values, and local economy, all of which have some merit, but in the final analysis are needless given my conclusions about the poor performance of wind plants in reducing CO2 emissions, fossil fuel use and costs. One of my colleagues in opposition to wind plants is Dr. Bob McMurtry (see bio at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_McMurtry ), who is eminently qualified to address the health issues. I can cite other medical professionals in Canada and other countries who have researched this topic extensively. Another is Dr. John Harrison of Queen’s University, who is an expert in acoustic matters.

 

For ease of reference your comments are in bold.

 

Wind developers are hooking their equipment into one of the most antiquated transmission systems in the developed world, and so are generating devices of all kinds, such as coal, nuclear, hydro and etc.  It is the fault of our provincial government that our transmission system has been allowed to be outdated, despite the billions of dollars that have been poured into the grid over the decades.  Some of this investment has been absolutely wasted on such things as drastic cost overruns to build nuclear plants and also millions of dollars to get rid of executives within hydro one and related firms.  Are you pleased to be paying a debt retirement fee on your power bill?  Do you believe that any business should be allowed to make such charges to their customers?  The behemoths known as Hydro One, OPA, OPG and whatever other derivitives the provincial goverment can come up with, are totally dysfunctional organizations in every sense of the word

 

Yes, our grid needs updating and we are not alone in this. Just updating is not sufficient to our needs. We need to migrate to “smart” grids the full nature of which are many years in the future. There are two restraints, one is financial as this will be a costly undertaking, and the other is the need for more research and development than currently exists. There are elements that can be incorporated now, such as smart meters. There is a danger that too early implementation of some elements could be incompatible with the “smart” grid as it emerges. That is not to say that smart meters are not worthwhile today as they will help us better regulate our electricity use. I note your use of terms like “absolutely”, “behemoths” “totally dysfunctional”, which I would recommend guarding against. Have you read the entire OPA Supply Mix Advice, not just the Executive Summary? It is a very comprehensive review of the electricity situation in Ontario with a look at what other jurisdictions are doing. I consider it a basic primer for anyone who wishes to take a position on this subject.

 

Regarding electricity rates, I surely hope you understand that our power bills have been being subsidized by taxpayers for decades now.  Do you believe that the cost to produce electricity is 5.3 cents per killowatt hour?  If you do, try dividing your entire power bill by the number of kilowatt hours that you have purchased, this should be an indication for you of how they hide the actual cost of power.  I believe the actual cost of electricity should be paid up front, and that this actual cost of production is most certainly in excess of 15 cents per kilowatt hour.  Nuclear production of power easily exceeds that cost.  Even solar power, one of the cleanest ways to produce electricity, has been granted a 42 cent per kilowatt hour rate by the Ontario government.  Surely you must be able to deduce that 5.3 cents a kilowatt hour in no way, shape or form, accurately represents the cost of production.

 

You make a good point about the total cost of electricity in Ontario. The fact remains that, despite past errors of any sort, we in Ontario enjoy among the lowest rates in the world. Compare 15 cents per KWh to Denmark at 38 cents and the average EU cost of 23 cents. Some of your other comments about costs are at odds with many sources including the UK Royal Academy of Engineering. In general, in Ontario we have not been paying the full cost of the electricity we have used. We are now doing this to a greater degree. This has led us into wasteful use of this important resource. Our best strategy by far is to put a much stronger emphasis on conservation. Unfortunately we are only too happy to listen to supply-side solutions that do not require involvement on an individua’s part.

 

I have to admit, that I am unaware of any such new coal fired plants being built in Germany and I would ask you to provide me with proof of such, I simply find this difficult to believe.  Is there a reputable website that you can refer me to so that I might research this myself please?  I know that Germany is a world leader in renewable energy, a model that we should be using in my opinion, so I will need to be convinced that this is actually true. If it is, I will surely want to research the reasons why they are doing this, have you done so? 

 

Here is some information about Germany’s plans for coal. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,472786,00.htm

 

Also here is information about the plans to eliminate all nuclear plants in Germany.

http://www.leonardo-energy.org/drupal/node/192/print  German Engineering Association

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,3233166,00.html Need for Germany to get special consideration if it removes its nuclear plants

 

You ask why Germany would do this. One of the main reasons is security of supply. Wind was supposed to help in this but has not done so effectively. In addition the increased presence of wind has caused Germany to import additional gas from Russia, which it is not happy to do. Gas is needed to provide shadowing/balancing backup for wind. Finally the plans to eliminate the nuclear plants would leave a large generation gap. In part the move is to replace some existing plant to improve the emissions characteristics. So there are many reasons. In short they have no choice.

 

What wind proponents do not focus on is the need to decide between the dangers of climate change or the risks involved in continuing with nuclear plants for the next 30 years or so. We cannot have it both ways. New renewables are not equal to the task. Nuclear plants are not long term solutions but an important part of a bridge to future generation and grid technologies that have all the characteristics that we require in terms of quantity of reliable electricity with the absolute minimum of all the environmental impacts.

 

Here is some important information about how Ontario is doing compared to countries that have to focus on industrial wind plants.

 

Percent Electricity for Domestic Use

Ontario 2008

Ontario 2015

Germany recent

Spain recent

Denmark recent

Wind

2

5

5

7

6

All Renewables

23

31

14

19

12

Fossil Fuel

27

14

60

61

77

 

Most people are led to believe that Ontario and Canada are laggards in renewable energy use (Canada is almost 60 per cent renewables) and that the Europeans are leaders, which is not the case. This is the main reason why the Europeans look to wind power in desperation. They have a long way to go to catch us, and despite recent political “pledges” will not successfully close the gap.

 

The renewables and fossil fuel use do not add to 100 per cent because nuclear is not included. In Denmark’s case it is wind exports that are not included.

 

In closing Ms. McLean, I want you to know that my comments here are not directed at you or any specific group.  Rather, this is entirely directed at the Provincial Government.  Successive governments have been irresponsible in matters of power production, transmission and management thereof.  It is time for us to stop downloading our problems onto future generations, it sickens me to think that we cannot as a society, be responsible for our own power needs without leaving a legacy of pollution, debt and perhaps total environmental disasters.  I beg not only you, but all members of the human race to start being responsible for the power that you use, or to stop using power.  Stop wasting it, conserve, educate yourself, commit acts of green.  But above all, please stop the propaganda machine that I believe the wind concerns website represents.  Contact a scientist to get their opinion instead.

 

If Ontario is willing to reach conservation levels of 70 of demand we can eliminate all our nuclear and fossil fuel plants. This can be somewhat offset by importing large quantities of hydro electricity from Quebec and possibly Manitoba. New renewables have a negligible role to play in this. The funding over 20 years of our current commitment to about 5,000 MW of wind by 2027 will be about $25 billon. This number is supported by a recent report by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which projects costs of at least $60 billion over 17 years for 11,000 MW of wind there.

 

You are right. We have to actively conserve. Unfortunately we have to get through the next 20-30 years with the minimum amount of greenhouse gas emissions while we accomplish our conservation goals.

 

I have a website that explores these issues in more detail than can be included here. I invite you to visit it.

http://whitherindustrialwindpower.wordpress.com

 

If you have any questions I would be pleased to try to answer them.

 

Advertisements

Leave a 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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s