Cancel County wind project and save $100 million
Ever since the Oakville and Mississauga gas plants scandal, the provincial Liberals have had a severe complex about interfering in wind power contracts under the Green Energy Act. Oakville and Mississauga seems to have sent everlasting terror through the veins of decision-makers at Queen’s Park.
Since then, regulations have been amended to allow consideration of “local” concerns about proposed wind installations. Local means rural Ontario, which offers obvious settings for wind turbines. The amendments have also reduced the price that the province pays for newly contracted wind power. The changes also confirm that decision- making power on these contracts, both old and new, resides with the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO). The idea was to ensure that the provincial government could never again be accused of playing politics with electricity contracts.
Which brings us to Prince Edward County, a rural case study that illustrates the challenges of this new approach. For years, council and local residents have been fighting the industrial wind turbine proposal of a German-owned company, wpd Canada Corporation (wpd). The White Pines Wind Farm would inflict serious and permanent environmental damage on the County’s south shore area; create no permanent jobs; pay almost no municipal taxes; and preclude the south shore from being fully used for the tourism and viticulture pursuits that are a big part of the County’s economic future. So much for giving consideration to local concerns.
It gets worse. Ontario has a substantial surplus of power and does not need wpd’s electricity, especially at the costly rates specified in wpd’s Feed-In Tariff (FIT) contract. It is estimated that, if wpd goes ahead, it will cost electricity ratepayers more than $100,000,000 over the 20-year contract term. And much of the power generated will be “dumped” into New York and Michigan markets. So, should IESO cancel the contract? It would never do so if wpd would succeed in a legal claim for lost profits. No one wants another Mississauga or Oakville in the headlines.
But here is the good news—maybe. wpd’s FIT contract gives IESO the right of termination, now that WPD has run out of time to complete construction. The original contract dates back to June 7, 2010. There were a series of deadlines that together allowed the project 7.5 years to become operational. As of December 7, 2017, the project is not operational, so IESO “may terminate” the contract, without incurring liability.
wpd commenced construction only recently, without the permission of IESO. It must believe that IESO does not have the courage to do what is clearly in the best interests of electricity ratepayers. wpd continues to cut new roads for its project; it continues to excavate and pour concrete for its turbines; it continues to believe that it will make the financial killing that its 20-year deal would give it.
In my opinion, most people in Prince Edward County are both angry and mystified. We do not understand why wpd is being allowed to continue construction following its contractual default. Those familiar with the electricity system know that this project places an unnecessary financial burden on ratepayers. And County residents know that the wpd site is wholly unsuited for industrial wind turbines.
Along with most informed citizens, I believe that it is IESO’s responsibility to act in the best interests of the province and its electricity ratepayers, as well as the future of Prince Edward County. And if IESO refuses to act, it is the provincial government’s responsibility to direct IESO to cancel wpd’s FIT contract. Many of us wonder whether the events in Mississauga and Oakville six years ago have so spooked the Liberals that they are willing to waste $100,000,000 of ratepayers’ money in an attempt to keep their hands clean.
Surely it is time for someone to do the right thing and pull the plug on White Pines.
Bill Roberts, Councillor, Prince Edward County