Recently, I took the trouble to travel four hours to attend a government sponsored-Toronto "workshop" on the Green Energy Act. It was an exercise in futility.
The Green Energy Act (proposed in Bill 150) will allow the Ontario Government to push through the installation of thousands of industrial wind turbines across the province without going through the time-honoured environmental assessment process. Because the wind turbines have to be backed up with fossil-fuelled generation they are not even particularly green.
Already-installed commercial wind energy in Europe has not saved any CO2 emissions. More coal is now being burned to produce electricity in Denmark since wind was added to the grid. Similarly, gas consumption for electricity generation has increased drastically in Germany(which now has 20,000 wind turbines) and in the UK. This is because Europeans have found that wind is intermittent and unpredictable. You have to keep the fossil fuel plants running on standby to prevent destabilization of the grid and blackouts.
In Ontario the cost of gas back-up will be added to our hydro bills, not charged to the for-profit wind energy producing corporations installing the wind turbines. Additional transmission lines will cost 5 billion dollars. One MPP estimates this alone will add 30 per cent to everyone's electricity bill. This is expensive for the false illusion that you are saving the planet! But it's a sweet deal for the big oil and gas multinationals many of whom are putting up the turbines and collecting big taxpayer subsidies and tax benefits.
At the Toronto workshop, a medical doctor (and former University Dean of Medicine) begged the government to protect the health of rural residents by making adequate set-back regulations. Already in Ontario, he has been investigating a rash of serious health problems associated with the noise from these giant industrial machines: everything from chronic insomnia and cardiovascular problems to ceaseless ringing in the ears and the effects of stray voltage. Yet Premier McGuinty and his deputy seem to believe the thousands of complaints they are receiving about Bill 150 can be ignored. Doesn't it matter to them that the bill allows the World Biosphere Niagara Escarpment to be devastated by infrastructure development, or that our precious natural heritage systems will no longer be protected from the well-documented degradation caused by wind energy developments?
The proposed act, which is already at the committee stage, also contains serious threats to our rights as citizens. It takes away the power of local municipalities to make their own planning decisions. It removes the right of conservation authorities to stop infrastructure projects on their lands. Many local health authorities (including Grey-Bruce) are asking the government to stop wind turbine development until it has completed health studies for the dozens of Ontario's rural residents who are already suffering.
Other people have demanded realistic studies of the true cost of adding commercial wind energy to the grid. But the government seems determined to invest our money in a flawed energy scheme in the name of creating "green jobs." A new study on the Spanish experience of wind turbines from a Madrid university warns that industry flees when electricity prices skyrocket and that the "green jobs" have proved wishful thinking. Without meaningful public discussion or citizen consultation, the Ontario Government is basing its policy on corporate lobbying. It's time we all spoke up!
McGuinty and his colleagues owe their position to us. They are our representatives.