Fifty-one Ontario municipalities are endorsing a resolution recently passed by the Township of Wainfleet Council that calls on the government of Ontario to stop awarding feed-in tariff (FIT) contracts for power generation from wind.
The resolution, passed in January, was based on December’s auditor general report that claimed Ontario has a surplus of power generation capacity and, under existing contracts, is paying double what other jurisdictions are paying for wind power, explains the Township of Wainfleet.
Thus, adding more surplus generation capacity would add to the already high costs of disposing of surplus electricity, says the township, which adds that the cost of electricity is a key concern for many Ontario residents.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has also reported the impact of high electricity costs on their members’ ability to grow their businesses and create jobs in Ontario. Thus, says Wainfleet, this suggests the need for a full, cost-benefit review of the renewable energy program before committing Ontario electricity users to even more surplus power.
According to Wind Concerns Ontario, the resolution also calls attention to the fact that wind power projects cause damage to the environment by killing wildlife.
April Jeffs, mayor of the Township of Wainfleet, is pleased with the support that her council’s resolution is receiving from across the province: “This quick response from other municipalities to the circulation of the resolution indicates that wind turbines are still front and center as an important issue in rural Ontario,” she says.
According to the township, Jeffs reports that at least one of the two projects in the area is the cause of citizen reports of deteriorating health. She is particularly concerned about the second project currently under development in her area – which involves 77 3.0-MW turbines in Wainfleet, West Lincoln and eastern Haldimand County.
The township says the more powerful turbines are located in areas with a sizeable residential population with an estimated 2,000 households living within 2 kilometers of the towers. The project will operate under one of the older, expensive FIT contracts criticized by the auditor general; the Wainfleet resolution asks the government to review options under the contract to cancel the project.
Now that coal-fired power plants have closed, says Wainfleet, the government should have met its carbon-reduction goals for the electrical power system in Ontario – which is now largely based on carbon-free hydroelectricity and nuclear power. This gives the province an opportunity to assess renewable generation alternatives that have less impact on the host communities, according to the township.
In addition, clauses in the 2015 RFP documents issued by the Independent Electricity System Operator do not commit the government to issue any wind contracts, so the government is protected against lawsuits from the bidders should it change course at this time, Wainfleet adds.
“Wind power is produced out of phase with demand in Ontario,” says Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario. “According to the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, that can mean more greenhouse gas emissions, not less, because of the need for backup by natural gas power plants. Everyone wants to help the environment, but utility-scale wind power is not the answer.”
Brandy Giannetta, the Canadian Wind Energy Association’s (CanWEA) regional director for Ontario, calls the resolution a “political statement at the municipal level.”
Although it’s “unfortunate that it’s out there,” Giannetta tells NAW, she notes the importance of the province’s Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) process in showing the cost-competitiveness of wind power. The process calls for the procurement of utility-scale renewables projects; specifically, the LRP I requested up to 300 MW of wind.
The LRP, led by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), aims to “strike a balance between early community engagement and achieving value for ratepayers,” according to the IESO. Giannetta says the LRP contracts will be awarded as soon as this week.
In March 2015, when the first request for proposals under the LRP was issued, Robert Hornung, president of CanWEA, said, “An important part of the RFP process will be early and meaningful community engagement. Effective community engagement is fundamental to the success of wind energy projects, and the wind industry values the right of individuals to have an important role in discussions about developments in their community.”
A full list of the municipalities supporting the resolution can be found here.