Wind Power Costs Catch Canadians Napping


Ontario wakes up to an energy policy debacle.

Here’s on the case.

Ontario tilts against wind turbines as costs spiral
Ontario, Opinions
Martin Regg Cohn
10 December 2013

Who would have imagined Ontario as Ground Zero for the global anti-wind movement, pitting people power against wind power? Instead of a low-carbon environment, the governing Liberals generated a highly toxic political environment.

Yet it is economics, more than politics, that is causing the greatest drag on wind power today. Diminishing returns have prompted the Liberals to tilt against wind turbines.

The pace of future wind expansion will be scaled back over the next 20 years, according to the Long Term Energy Plan released this month by the government. The latest plan is a belated admission that previous energy plans were off target.

To understand how much the Liberals miscalculated, it’s worth looking at another report that preceded this one. Prepared for influential clients in the energy industry by global consulting firm IHS-CERA, the title of this private study says it all: “Too Much, Too Fast — The Pace of Greening the Ontario Power System.”

It treats our wind turbines as a case study on how greening the power system can plunge it into the red. A cautionary tale for international clients, the report would have been essential reading for provincial energy planners as they looked for the light at the end of our wind tunnel:

“What happened in Ontario … provide(s) universal lessons regarding how a simple, appealing, but unrealistic idea can intersect with the political process and set in motion environmental policies that run counter to the underlying costs and complexity of the electric power sector.”

Over the past decade, the government rapidly signed contracts for 10,000 megawatts of wind and solar — exceeding the coal capacity it had targeted for elimination. Yet dirty coal and clean wind are not interchangeable, despite the equivalency implied in the Liberals’ successful campaign pitches.

You can burn coal (or natural gas) when needed. But you can’t make the wind blow on demand.

In Ontario, “wind conditions tend to produce power least when consumers want power most.” Additional wind capacity requires more standby power from natural gas — which explains why the Liberals had to build (and in two cases, cancel) so many gas-fired power plants.

“This back-up requirement meant that as a source of new power supply, the integration of wind by natural gas-fired technologies was 30 per cent more expensive” than by gas alone.

Another problem: You can’t make the wind stop blowing.

“Wind conditions tend to produce power most when consumers need power least … Overgeneration creates an operational problem that requires reducing output from hydro, nuclear, and/or wind generators.”

Unfortunately, most of that unneeded wind power didn’t displace dirty coal, but forced costly cuts in clean hydro and emissions-free nuclear power. Ramping down hydro is hard, given natural water flows. Nuclear shutdowns are expensive, given the hefty restart costs.

Why did the Liberals sell a mismatched green vision, and why did voters (mostly in urban areas) buy into it? The study’s authors appear puzzled by the lack of government foresight and the electorate’s lack of oversight.

“Looking back … too many people believed that renewable power was a direct substitute for conventional power plants, including coal-fired,” they conclude. “The simple idea to replace coal-fired power plants with wind turbines went unchallenged in Ontario and made the green vision appear plausible.”

Resistance to wind turbines emanated mostly from rural residents and was quickly exploited by opposition politicians eager to steal Liberal seats. While the NIMBYists beat their breasts, the bean counters took their eyes off the turbines. Politics trumped economics.

Ontario’s latest long-term plan reads like a disguised damage control strategy that takes its cue from the private consultant’s report quoted here. Others in the global energy industry who read the IHS-CERA report effectively had a sneak peak:

“Lessons from the Ontario power system provide valuable insights,” the consultants write. “Trying to do too much too fast will inevitably result in cost escalation that … drives monthly power bills beyond politically acceptable levels. The unintended consequence is political backlash.”

And double jeopardy: Not just NIMBYism, but billion-dollar boondoggles.

“NIMBY” is just a convenient put down levelled by ecofascists hell-bent on profiting from the misery of others.

STT has been banging on about the total costs of wind power for nearly a year now.  While we report on the human impact of incessant low-frequency noise and infrasound from giant fans from time to time it’s not based on a pitch of “Not In My Backyard” – it’s on the basis that these things should not be lobbed ‘In Anyone’s Backyard”.

We see health impacts and social division in once tight-knit, hard working rural communities as just another cost to be added to insane levels of subsidy (read RECs and unsecured (virtually) interest free loans from the CEFC, for example).

When it is understood that those costs (as negative externalities) should simply be added to the obvious financial costs, the observations made in the piece above about “economics being trumped by politics” take on additional meaning.

For any enterprise to last it must pass the economics “scratch and sniff test” – the benefits obtained should at least equal the costs incurred (or better still surpass those costs).

Wind power simply fails that very simple test.

The financial costs will never exceed the “benefits” as the costs are fixed (the ONLY technical improvement “won” is to make fans bigger – but even that “advance” has physical and engineering limits).

The true cost of “delivering” wind power has to include the costs of having close to 100% of every MW of wind power “nameplate” capacity “backed up” – that is IMMEDIATELY available from either “spinning reserve” – and peaking plants (OCGTs and, believe it or not, banks of diesel generators.

Once the true costs are totalled (including damaged and divided rural communities) then stack them up against the “benefits” and the result is an economic “no brainer”.

The claimed “benefit” was supposed to be the reduction of CO2 emissions “won” from wonderful, clean, green “renewable” wind power.

But there is NO evidence that wind power has “won” – or is even capable of ever “winning” – ANY such reduction.  On the contrary, there is ample evidence to show that connecting fans to a grid designed to supply power to punters 24 x 365 results in INCREASED CO2 emissions.  See our posts here and here and here.

So with the full costs unaccounted for (or hidden) and NO measurable benefit in return – wind power fails the fundamental economic rule.

It is simply UNSUSTAINABLE – no amount of hectoring from hack bloggers paid to spruik for wind weasels – like Infigen’s Rogan Joshi – or former tobacco advertising gurus – can alter that inescapable FACT.

This is not “industry” this is a government sponsored wealth transfer from the poorest and most vulnerable in the community to some of the richest and least deserving.  Ever wondered why people like Greg Combet, Bernie Fraser and CEFC head, Oliver Yates push the wind industry barrow so hard?

Well, now you know.


Why do we do it? Because we can.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. Jackie Rovenksy says:

    The cost of this insidious industry has not yet been fully determined. While health impacts are stated, the actual cost to people and society as a whole has not been fully calculated.

    There’s the loss of personal productivity due to illness associated with lack of sleep and associated health issues; the cost of poor performance in schools by affected children, and then add to that the problems those children will have finding work if their education has suffered; then of course there’s the cost of constant visits to doctors and medication prescribed to try and counter the health impacts; there’s the rapid ageing of people suffering stress; the possible occurrence of life threatening illnesses such as cancer and other major health concerns caused by undue stress; then there’s the cost of motor vehicle accidents when people suffering from prolonged lack of sleep, including people not directly affected by turbines who become victims.

    Hopefully politicians are beginning to understand how inadequately they have been advised and how it is their duty to make immediate amends for their lack of resolve to ‘check before buying’ into this fraudulent ideology.

    Quite simply those in powerful positions that have supported this industry should hang their heads in shame at how easily they have been deceived by money-hungry, despicable people who have no concern for anything but how many $’s they can squeeze out of governments and the people while ignoring the damage they leave in their wake.

    A NEW YEAR APPROACHES and we can only hope that 2014 will bring with it a resolve to stop this industry in its tracks, and a determination to ensure those affected are quickly relieved of their suffering.

  2. Terry Conn says:

    The ‘NIMBY’ is a much maligned creature. There is nothing like being personally affected to focus the mind on the details of an issue. If ever you need to get to the heart of things quickly then ask a ‘nimby’. Getting anyone else to listen is the problem. My sympathy for those suffering the impacts of these giant monsters inspires me to post comments in support at every opportunity in the written press. One day the truth of this madness (as described above) will become known to the ‘greater public’ and those suffering will be compensated. In the meantime I encourage all ‘nimbys’ to keep up the fight.

  3. As a citizen of rural Ontario, I can tell you, that the newspaper that printed that column, is a left-leaning paper. That’s why they spout the nonsense about Nimby’s, and the opposiition party. It is not true. The NDP, (or labour party), loves turbines, because the unions are heavily invested, and the Conservatives know the truth about the strife in their rural constituencies, and the ridiculous costs, to ratepayers. That paper would be afraid to admit to the truth, because of the damage it will do to their favourite party, the Liberals. The Liberals are corrupt, and in collusion with the wind industry. Many have personal funds invested in wind, so they will fight to cover up the truth.

  4. David Mortimer says:

    Share the Joy!
    Why let rural land holders have all the perks? How about we put a few wind farms around all our big towns at say 1km from the outskirts and pay the residents pro-rata (should amount to a hundred dollars or so each) and apply the usual gag clause of course and see how many Nocebo Nimbys we can create?

    The urbanites like to call us impacted ones Nimbys so let us not be so protective of our joy of living near wind farms and give the urbanites a bit of pleasure too.

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