Opinion: Whither wind energy?
By Jim McPherson, Guest Columnist: The Toronto Sun, October 28, 2017
An incorporated group of citizens in Prince Edward County has applied for a judicial review (JR) of the process by which 60 industrial wind turbine projects have been approved by Ontario’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).
This is a serious action, comprising thousands of pages of testimony in dozens of affidavits, from deponents who live not only in Prince Edward County, but in rural communities across Ontario.
In these already-approved projects, there are at least 1,200 giant wind turbines, of which about 1,000 are already operational.
Many additional wind energy proposals are in the MOECC approval process, awaiting government decisions.
The wind industry today is a multi-billion-dollar business in Ontario.
It will be up to the courts to decide the merits of this citizen-inspired request for a judicial review of the government decision-making process which led to the approval of these wind projects.
But in preparation for the day when the case from Prince Edward County’s incorporated group is completed, there are things people should be thinking about now.
Suppose the court rules in favour of the appellants.
Suppose it finds the process by which these 1,200 wind turbines were approved — with more in the pipeline — was improper?
What will happen to these 1,200 monster machines that already populate rural landscapes across Ontario?
Will they continue to operate? Should they be demolished?
What will be the status of the “feed-in tariff” contracts under which they supply intermittent and heavily-subsidized electricity to the grid?
Who will act as trustees in the event a court ruling forces existing turbine projects into bankruptcy?
What will be the rights of landowners upon whose properties turbines have already been built?
How will the public, municipalities and local businesses be compensated for their losses in terms of health, livelihood, property values, quality of life and economic vitality due to wind turbines?
What will be the future of wind energy in Ontario?
These are complex questions.
For governments, citizens, and multinational wind energy corporations, the issue is huge.
It’s potentially bigger than the Ontario Liberal government’s decision to cancel two natural-gas fired power plants at a cost of $1.1 billion.
It’s potentially bigger than the recent VW Canada payout of $2.1 billion to owners of Audi and Volkswagen vehicles due to the emissions scandal.
Answering these questions will be much more complex than addressing the legality of the processes that led to the approval and construction of wind turbines in Ontario.
For these issues, there are no precedents to provide guidance.
The personal, social, corporate and political consequences could be profound.
The people who caused the proliferation of industrial wind turbines across the province are not only multinational wind power corporations.
The main perpetrator is Ontario’s Liberal government.
It took away the planning rights of municipalities with regard to the location of industrial wind turbines through its 2009 Green Energy Act.
It turned neighbour against neighbour as communities were divided between those who opposed industrial wind farms and landowners who agreed to lease their properties to wind developers.
Whatever the outcome of the judicial review, it is time for Ontario to learn from its sorry past with regard to wind energy.
It is time to prepare an imaginative, productive and socially acceptable way to exploit wind energy, in light of the fact that given our current state of technology, the electricity it generates is today unpredictable, unreliable and expensive.
If these questions can be properly addressed with the skills and imagination that Ontario citizens are capable of mustering, then, perhaps this judicial review could be the needed opportunity, to get Ontario back on the right path to a greener and healthier future.