Wind Power “Investors” and Retailers – Enter Contracts at your own RISK

panicked crowd

Wind Industry hits the panic button.

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With the Coalition’s RET Review Panel sharpening their axes the wind industry and its parasites have descended into a disorderly state of panic.

For the very first time the industry’s wild and unsubstantiated claims about CO2 emissions reductions; its ludicrous claims about being “competitive” with conventional generation sources; and nonsensical claims about having minimal impact on power prices come under the microscope.

Faced with imminent obliteration, the industry’s chief spin doctors – the Clean Energy Council – has been working overtime in the last few weeks pumping press releases to print journos and doing the rounds on radio and TV. Mind you, it’s only the “friendlies” in the green-left dominated Fairfax/ABC outlets that are still naive and gullible enough to suck-up the CEC’s twaddle about the “wonders” of wind power – in the same way that kiddies hang on to their belief in Father Christmas – long after they’ve worked out the bloke on the red suit is really uncle Ted.

The CEC’s spin masters have been pleading for mercy – pressing for the retention of the current 41,000 GW/h annual mandatory target.

Central to its case is the claim that the “uncertainty” created by the RET review has choked off investment by creating “sovereign risk”.

The industry – and the CEC that spruiks for it – seem to think that the words “sovereign risk” are some kind of magic spell and a complete defence against regulatory change.

From their point of view, government (read taxpayer and power consumer) largesse can only ever be a one-way street. Once the gravy train rolls, it would be a manifest injustice to those on board to ever bring it to a halt.

Here’s a great little piece from the Financial Post to the contrary.

Lawrence Solomon: North America slow to reverse renewables projects, but its turn will come soon
Financial Post
4 April 2014

Europe taught us to spare no expense in supporting wind and solar projects, the better to help the planet survive. Now Europe is teaching us how to tear down those same projects, the better to help ratepayers, and politicians, survive.

UK Prime Minister “David Cameron wants to go into the next election pledging to ‘rid’ the countryside of onshore wind farms,” the London Telegraph announced this week. He intends “to toughen planning laws and tear up subsidy rules to make current turbines financially unviable – allowing the government to ‘eradicate’ turbines,” the goal being to “encourage developers to start ‘dismantling’ turbines built in recent years.”

Cameron will have no shortage of methods in taking down the now-unpopular wind turbines — in recent years countries throughout Europe, realizing that renewables delivered none of their environmental promises, have been systematically cutting their losses by ditching their renewable commitments. Here’s Spain, unilaterally rewriting renewable energy contracts to save its treasury. And France, slashing by 20% the “guaranteed” rate offered solar producers. And Belgium, where producers saw their revenues slashed by as much as 79%. And Italy and others, which clawed back through taxes the gross profits that renewables companies large and small were raking in at the expense of average citizens and the economy as a whole.

North America has been slow in systematically recognizing the damage wrought by renewable megaprojects but its turn will come soon enough, possibly among the 30 U.S. states with onerous renewable mandates, possibly among the Canadian provinces. No citizenry would more benefit from reversing the wind and solar gravy train than Ontario’s: Its developers have received up to 20 times the market rate of power, leading to a tripling of power rates and a gutting of the province’s industrial base, and helping to turn Ontario into a have-not province.

North America’s politicians have at their disposal all the methods employed in Europe to undo the odious arrangements voters find themselves in. Those squeamish about the optics of unilaterally ripping up a contract with the private sector can consider more genteel methods of skinning the cats.

Ontario’s property tax system, for example, allows for numerous residential and industrial tax classes, among them farms, forests, and pipelines. The provincial government could add wind and solar to the list, and then let local governments set whatever tax rates the local councillors, in fulfillment of the democratic will of their constituents, deem just. Given the view of many rural residents toward their windfarm neighbours, councillors will swiftly ensure a just end, sometimes by deterring new installations, sometimes by speeding their dismantling, sometimes by using the extra revenues to compensate victims.

Penalties also provide a mechanism for clawbacks. When Syncrude Canada’s lack of foresight led to the death of 1600 birds, it was fined $3-million, or $1875 per bird. Wind turbines kill birds in large numbers — according to a study in Biological Conservation, between 140,000 and 328,000 per year in the U.S. At $1875 per bird, the fine would be between $262.5-million and $615-million per year.

But governments need not feel squeamish about forthrightly shredding deals they enter into with private sector companies. Contracts are sacred when inked between private parties — if one party transgresses, the other has recourse to the law. But only those in fantasyland should expect a contract to be sacrosanct when one party to the transaction makes the law.

The Ontario Court of Appeal said as much when a major wind developer, Trillium Power Wind Corporation, objected when the provincial Liberals, to win some seats in the last election, abruptly changed the rules of the game. Trillium sued for $2.25-billion in damages on numerous grounds. According to an analysis by the law firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, the Appeal Court all but laughed Trillium out of court.

The Appeal Court noted “that not only was it ‘plain and obvious’ but ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ that Trillium could not succeed in its claims based on breach of contract, unjust enrichment, expropriation, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, and intentional infliction of economic harm,” Osler stated. The only part of Trillium`s claim that could proceed was based upon misfeasance in public office, which would require proving that a public official knowingly acted unlawfully to harm Trillium.

Can the government break a contract for political purposes? Yes, says Osler. The Appeal Court, in fact, “made it clear that proponents who choose to participate in discretionary government programs, such as Ontario’s renewable energy program, do so primarily at their own risk. Governments may alter the policies that underlie a program, and may even alter or cancel such programs, in a manner that may be fully lawful and immune from civil suit.”

Renewable developers take note: Governments are entirely within their rights in going back on a deal. In a democracy, when the deals are not only inspired by rank politics but are also so odious as to outrage the voters, developers should expect nothing less.

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe.
Financial Post

When a system or policy is unsustainable it will inevitably fail or be scrapped.

In the current climate the wind industry can expect no sympathy from a Coalition government which has, quite rightly, signalled its intention to make businesses stand on their own 2 feet.

The Coalition’s response to pleading from the motor manufacturers, Ford and Holden, for yet more $billions in taxpayer subsidies – a firm and decisive “NO” – Coca-Cola got the same treatment in its efforts to secure a fat pile of taxpayers’ cash to compensate it for its mismanagement of the SPC Ardmona fruit cannery – gives a pretty fair indication of its attitude to rent seekers.

And that’s what the wind industry has been reduced to – rent seekers – well, OK, that’s all they’ve ever been.

Having already pocketed more than $8 billion in RECs – a Federal Tax on all Australian electricity consumers and a direct subsidy to wind power generators – these boys have the audacity to plead a “special case” to maintain the current RET in order to receive a further $50 billion plus worth of RECs over the next 17 years.

But the real risk attached to the mandatory RET is to the Australian economy as a whole. In recent memory Australia enjoyed the lowest electricity prices in the world – now it suffers the highest.

Manufacturers, industry and mineral processors have closed their doors as input costs – particularly electricity – have soared in the last decade.

The unemployment figures released this week saw significant improvements in all of the mainland states, except South Australia – where unemployment rose from 6.7% to 7.1% – giving it the highest level of unemployment among the mainland states by a substantial margin (Western Australia’s rate is 4.9% – down from 5.9%).

Thanks to the fact that around 40% of SA’s (notional) generating capacity is in wind power, South Australian households and businesses are paying the highest power prices in Australia, if not the world (see the league table at page 11 here: FINAL-INTERNATIONAL-PRICE-COMPARISON-FOR-PUBLIC-RELEASE-19-MARCH-2012 – the figures are from 2011 and SA has seen prices jump since then). As to why SA pays the highest power prices in the world see our posts here and here.

Once upon a time SA enjoyed cheap reliable sparks and manufacturing and industry flourished there (see our post here). Now – with already crippling and escalating power costs – it’s a case of the last man out please turn out the lights.

None of these matters will be lost on the team hand-picked by Tony Abbott for the RET review.

If the motor manufacturing industry – directly employing around 4,000 with thousands more in the component making sector got short shrift from the Coalition – the wind industry – employing a handful and costing power consumers $billions in subsidies annually – is unlikely to find much sympathy from either the RET review panel or the Coalition.

In the current climate, anyone looking to do business with wind industry rent seekers – bankers or retailers, say – ought to heed the old buyer’s warning: caveat emptor.

Danger-Enter-At-Your-Own-Risk-Sign

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. That’s a good analysis of “sovereign risk” from Terry Conn. Thanks for laying it out so clearly. It puts me in mind of another term Infigen are waving about: “force majeure” with which they are hoping to terrify hosts whose contracts have expired and who now no longer wish to be part of the wind farm (in this case Flyers Creek, but I’m sure it’s being used elsewhere). Hollow men all. It’s time to call the bluff(s).

  2. moving van morrison says:

    The Healing has Begun…

  3. Terry Conn says:

    We need to be very clear about ‘sovereign risk’ — essentially it applies when a government breaks a contract or goes bankrupt. ‘Sovereign risk’ should not be confused with ‘policy risk’ or ‘regulatory risk’. None of these actually apply to Australia and wind farms because the legislation has built into it a ‘review’ every two years and the government has no ‘contracts’ with wind developers. There is ‘legislated’ uncertainty and all wind developers in this country have known this from the start. The public record demonstrates that AGL was talking ‘sovereign risk’ as far back as 2009, but it is total nonsense. It is inconceivable that any court in this country would hold the government liable for ‘sovereign risk’ given the legislation. AGL and the others have always known they were ‘gambling’ but are trying to spook everybody with talk about ‘sovereign risk’. Proponents bullied the last government into the LRES 41,000 gw compulsory RET but knew it could and probably would change. They have no claim for ‘policy’ risk either given the terms of the legislation. Also, note proponents contracts with host landholders generally allow them to ‘terminate’ early (without giving any reasons). I have been unable to source a ‘wind farm’ power purchase agreement but strongly suspect the ‘policy’ risk situation is covered because it was so obvious. If anyone can source such an agreement please let’s have a look at it, but in any event it changes nothing, talk of ‘sovereign risk ‘ for wind farm developers in this country is another wind industry beat up we should all jump on.

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