wind-andre-fullBy Andre Den Tandt

Just this past week a brand-new facility opened in Harriston - a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art high-tech operation, using flywheels to store energy ready for release onto the electricity grid. Good news, even great news, right?

Well, no, except perhaps for the few jobs in Harriston while it was being built. It will be run from elsewhere, quite literally. There was no reference in the news item to itscapacity over time, to the cost, to who is paying for it (you and me), or to the real nature of
the service it renders. Missing also was any reference to its cost effectiveness, that is, the price paid for that service.

The answer to all this is complex, but one thing we can say for certain: It stores relatively little energy, at a horrendous cost, to protect the stability of the grid whenever the latter is made unstable by the unpredictability of the renewable energy now being fed into it. This did not stop a wind-turbine promoter on the Bruce Peninsula from claiming it was the big breakthrough for which we have all been waiting. Suddenly green energy is economical, competitively priced and ready for prime time!

If that were true, the world would be beating a path to Harriston wider than the one to Warren Buffet's door. Truth is, a similar facility in the United States went broke recently when its subsidy was withdrawn. The Harriston facility appears to have been funded with part of a $10-million grant from the IESO, the Ontario government's electricity regulator. It undoubtedly serves a purpose, which is to insulate the grid from the shock when large quantities of
electricity are suddenly added or subtracted.

But take away the renewable energy, and this facility would already be a white elephant. The Liberal government, if it remains in power, will simply add the cost to the enormous electricity bills we are already paying, and which will be much higher yet within the next three years. In fact, this is the only thing Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli has said that I can accept without reservation.

This brings us to a more important aspect of the Green Energy rollout; the colossal incompetence of this government. How does one manage to throw away
$100-billion on a project that does not work? Quite simply, by not doing due diligence, by not doing a cost-benefit analysis, by not doing one's homework.
When Chiarelli was recently asked why the government has not cancelled the entire project, given all the negative data, he replied that doing so would trigger the same fiasco as the cancellation of the gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville.

The minister did not say, "because the Green Energy Act is working so well." Several other ministers and premier Kathleen Wynne herself have given a virtually identical reply to the same question. The real answer, by the way, is this: Governments in many other places have found plenty of
ways to stop the bleeding, mostly by torquing down the feed-in-tariff rate, as economist Don Drummond suggested in 2012 in his report to then-premier Dalton McGuinty. (The FIT rate is the price per kilowatt delivered to the grid. It must always be paid even when there is a surplus of electricity.)

Why has the GEA been such an abject failure? Mainly, because it does not reduce the production of CO2, which was the principal motive for the entire enterprise. Nor, by extension, does it reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. Australia recently halted its green energy program. The German "energie wende" (energy revolution) is becoming a laughing-stock on German TV, and the country is putting 23 new coal-burning generating stations on-line.

So, if this entire project is proving to be such a disaster, why did it get so far, and why is it still in place here in Ontario? The answer is two-fold. We are all easily swayed by a story of impending catastrophe, which can be averted if only we change our ways. It's the story of the fall and redemption, really. Our better angels make us want to help in avoiding a disastrous fate.

But there is a more pernicious reason, a clever political game being played out especially well in Ontario. It is the spending of money as orchestrated by the government and not paid for through taxes, but rather through vast increases in the electricity bills of ratepayers. Let's call it "the third rail." It does not appear in the budget, is not spent by a ministry, does not routinely come up for debate: It's spending by contract. Most of us (and governments as well), either spend money we have on hand (the 1st rail) or money we can count on making, debt really (the second rail). But by signing contracts that will bind
ratepayers, our children, for the next twenty years, the government in effect "primes the pump." of economic activity, rewards its friends, makes deals with the unions, promoters, financiers and assorted other beneficiaries. All this to the tune of $100-billion and for virtually no benefit, as governments elsewhere (Australia, Germany, Spain) have by now discovered.

So, Mr. Chiarelli, if it's your opinion that breaking contracts would be too expensive, Stop signing new ones.

Andre Den Tandt lives in Sydenham Township in Grey County, in the municipality of Meaford. He is a retired teacher, landowner, and frequent contributor to local media about energy-related issues.


CopyRight ©2015, ©2016, ©2017 of Hub Content
is held by content creators