STANDING COMMITTEE ON GENERAL GOVERNMENT
COMITÉ PERMANENT DES AFFAIRES GOUVERNEMENTALES
Wednesday 15 April 2009 Mercredi 15 avril 2009
Consideration of Bill 150, An Act to enact the Green Energy Act, 2009 and to build a green economy, to repeal the Energy Conservation Leadership Act, 2006 and the Energy Efficiency Act and to amend other statutes / Projet de loi 150, Loi édictant la Loi de 2009 sur l’énergie verte et visant à développer une économie verte, abrogeant la Loi de 2006 sur le leadership en matière de conservation de l’énergie et la Loi sur le rendement énergétique et modifiant d’autres lois.
We have quite a few presentations, so we’ll need to keep to the time as best possible. Members will have five minutes for questions for each presenter. Again, just a reminder, that’s about a minute and a half or thereabouts. If you choose to use your time to make a statement on the record, that’s fine, but presenters may not have the opportunity to respond, should you do so. I want to caution you upfront on that before we begin today because we have a very, very long list of presenters.
Good morning, sir, and welcome to the standing committee. You have 10 minutes for your presentation and five minutes for questions. Just state your name for the purposes of our recording Hansard and you can begin your presentation when you like.
Mr. Glen Estill: Thank you very much for having me. My name is Glen Estill. I’m the founder of Sky Generation, which is a small wind development company. I’m a one-person company, so our entire staff is here speaking with you today.
My firm is a private firm. I have raised capital from 16 investors and of course have major bank debt to support the projects that I’ve built. So far, my firm has built a five-megawatt, three-turbine project on the Bruce Peninsula and a six-turbine, 9.9-megawatt project near Ravenswood, which is between Grand Bend and Forest on southern Lake Huron.
I sell about half of the power to Bullfrog Power, which sells to the voluntary green market, and the other half is sold to the Ontario Power Authority. Because I’ve actually built projects, I thought it might be useful for me to get in front of you and give the perspective of a small-scale developer. I only have one main point and two recommendations around the Green Energy Act.
I guess what I want to say is, building a wind farm is not an easy thing; in fact, it’s really hard. For me, the easy part was raising the capital, and even lining up turbines, although more difficult, was achievable. Construction contracts were not terribly difficult, but the really hard part of it is getting the permits in place to allow you to go ahead and build it. I’ll just run through a list of some of the permits that you need to get. I’m pretty sure it’s not exhaustive. I just scribbled this down this morning.
You need to get NAV Canada and Transport Canada approval for radiuses around airports and for aeronautic lighting. You need to consult with Health Canada; the CBC; the RCMP; Fisheries and Oceans, if you come anywhere near any kind of a stream; Canadian Wildlife Services on birds, bats and other issues; and First Nations, of course.
At the provincial level, you have an environmental impact statement, which is quite a massive undertaking. You have a certificate of approval for sound from the Ministry of the Environment. If you’re on a provincial highway, you need to have Ministry of Transportation approval and of course you need Ministry of Transportation approval for moving heavy equipment on provincial highways.
At the municipal level, you need an official plan amendment in many cases—not always, but sometimes that’s already in place. You need zoning amendments. You need site plan approval. You need building permits, and every step of the way along that there’s the opportunity today for Ontario Municipal Board appeals. It doesn’t matter where they live. In one case, an objector lived 17 kilometres away from a proposed wind farm in Ontario and they were able to launch an OMB appeal, which delays the process of building a wind farm by at least six months, more likely nine, and all they do is pay a $150 fee to launch that appeal.
I haven’t even gotten to the electrical issues. We have Hydro One who, in my case, approved a connection for 10 megawatts for one project and then unilaterally changed that to 6.6 megawatts because someone at head office had said, “We’re changing our rules on how much you can connect to the grid.”
You have the Electrical Safety Authority, who approves the project. The same guy who does approvals on new homes and so on comes out and approves your wind farm for connection. He only comes to the area once a week, so you can have $25 million in assets sitting there waiting for the Electrical Safety Authority guy to show up.
The current proposal in the Green Energy Act talking about a one-window permit process is something that is very much and sorely needed. As important is the renewable energy office that is going to keep its finger on the approvals issues around the province. Of the two recommendations I have, one is, I would suggest that part of the act require the renewable energy office to present a report to a committee of the Legislature so that the Legislature can have their finger on the pulse of what’s going on with permitting issues around the province.
Permitting issues change over time and new things creep in, and I think it’s important that the electricity bodies—the OEB, the OPA, the IESO, Hydro One, etc.—are held accountable to the Legislature. I think the proper way is to do that through committee work like yours, to hear what the latest is and see if there are any additional actions required by the Legislature.
The second recommendation has to do with the appeals process. Right now, there do not appear to be any limits on what can happen with respect to appeals in the process. There are no limits on the time required or whether an appeal is dismissed before having to go to a hearing etc., no assessment as to whether or not it’s a legitimate appeal or just a request for delay of a project on principle because “I don’t want any project anywhere in the province.”
I’m sure the committee is aware of the forces of the status quo. Those are people who are opposed to wind in principle anywhere in the province. I’m sure you’ve heard from some of them, and if you haven’t, you’re going to be hearing from some of them. What you have to make sure doesn’t happen is that you set in place a process that allows the forces of the status quo to use the process to block good projects. That’s why the recommendation on the appeals process is so important.
In closing, every few days another shipload of coal arrives at the Nanticoke plant, and we take that coal, we put it into the coal plant and we burn it. We know what it does: It causes carbon dioxide emissions, smog, acid rain and mercury depositions. It’s something that we know is not really very good for us. There’s no environmental impact statement, there are no municipal approvals, there’s no consultation with First Nations or neighbours; it just happens as a matter of course. Our whole system is set up to support the status quo, and any change to the status quo is fundamentally difficult. That’s what the Green Energy Act, in my opinion, at least as far as the renewable energy portions of it, is all about. Certainly, in terms of the permits and approvals process, I think the act is on the right track, and with a couple of small tweaks, it could be a very useful thing at moving us forward in what I would call a sane and future-looking way on our electricity supply in the province. That’s it.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much, Glen, for joining us this morning. Welcome to the world of trying to get something done in Ontario. I can tell you that the cement industry tried for almost eight years to get an approval for an alternative fuel to fire their kilns. It took six months to get an approval in the province of Quebec; seven years and no approval in the province of Ontario. We live in a different world here when it comes to the ability for things to be held up.
However, we’re going to hear from people today—and we’ve heard from some people in the depositions previous to yours—who have concerns about the possible adverse effects. I’m not a doctor and I’m not a scientist, so I can’t comment on them personally, but there will be people who will say that we need to have the ability to question whether or not a wind turbine project can go in this particular spot or not because we have evidence that shows that they have adverse effects. I think wind developers like yourself are going to be very pleased with the Green Energy Act and the changes that are in it, but there will be some people who will obviously object to that. That’s why we’re having these hearings.
But the other thing you talked about, getting us off coal, if for every megawatt of wind we have in the system, we’re going to need that we can dispatch when that wind isn’t blowing, sort of the default one that we’re talking about is natural gas for peaking plants and that. We still have greenhouse gas emissions from those. We’re not going to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by running natural gas plants, so I’m just not sure whether you approve of that as a backup source or what you feel about what we should be doing.
Mr. Glen Estill: Natural gas has half the carbon dioxide emissions of our current coal, which is old coal, and has substantially less NOx and SOx emissions. So when choosing your poisons, natural gas is the better option.
We principally rely on hydro for handling our peaking in this province. We’ll have several thousand megawatts of swing each day as we gear up, so the hydroelectric resources are actually the best match with other sources of renewable energy. The other thing we have not utilized: The city of Peterborough and the city of Guelph used to have a system where they could shut off hot water heaters for a period of time and stop using power. They were doing that because transmission systems were overloaded. There’s no reason you couldn’t put in place a whole bunch of technologies like that, store heat for a period of time and use that to balance some of the loads—
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Glen, thanks for coming down and making the presentation. It’s a useful one. We’ve had a number of people speak to us in these hearings about setting the feed-in tariff so that it reflects resource intensity, so that we have a broader range of installations rather than having them narrowly focused in some of the richest wind areas. What perspective do you have, as a wind developer, on that approach?
Mr. Glen Estill: I think it’s a very powerful tool to actually increase the number of opportunities while, at the same time, protecting ratepayers, because what you will have a tendency to do, if you set “one price fits all,” is set a price that means that the guy who’s in the really good wind resource is making lots of money. If you set something that’s variable, then you can set it so that, if you have a really good wind resource, you pay him less per kilowatt hour. He may still make more money if you have a well-designed system. He’ll make a better return on investment than the guy in the lower wind resource, but at least the person in the lower wind resource will also be able to build. So you spread out the developments, probably allow more, smaller developments and not necessarily big, monster projects that have the economies of scale. I think it would dramatically increase the uptake of wind energy in particular.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: Thanks for coming in today, Glen, and for your presentation. I want to pick up on the point that you were making with respect to the appeal process and just ask whether you’ve given any thought to how you would see your proposed new appeal process flowing. We have heard submissions at committee in previous hearing days with respect to a level of assessment to be undertaken by someone in a position to undertake that assessment and determine whether that appeal should go forward, not unlike a bump-up process in an EA. But others have suggested that that process is too close to home for us within the government, because it’s a single decision-maker. So I’m just wondering, from someone in your position, whether you’ve given thought to how you would see that appeal window not being as wide open as you suggest it might be, but still allowing a voice for the community.
Mr. Glen Estill: I guess the one thing is, you have to assess the voice for the community. A big part of the voice for the community is figuring out a way not to use as much coal and natural gas and fossil fuel. So there’s that community that also needs to be considered in the overall thing, which I think is part of the reason the Green Energy Act has been introduced.
You want an appeal process to block a bad project, one that has undue impact on a community. A lot of that should be determined by the general approval rules that are in place in the first place. The Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Health have experts who can assess true health risks and come up with guidelines that would allow for protection on health-related issues. I think the Canadian Wildlife Service, the Ministry of Natural Resources and wildlife biologists can do the same on biology.
The impact of wind turbines is probably a little bit understated by the industry. The principal impacts are sound and visual—you can see them. I’m not sure that the visual argument in particular trumps my right to clean air and a climate that isn’t changing.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Our next presenter is Countryside Energy Co-operative, Mr. Fyfe. Good morning, and welcome to the committee. You have 10 minutes for your presentation and five minutes for questions among members. Just state your name for the purposes of the recording Hansard and you can begin your presentation when you like.
Countryside Energy Co-op was established in August 2005 with a mandate to create renewable energy wind farms at the community level, using the well-proven and tested European model. We have gone into a partnership with the WindShare co-operative in Toronto. In their earliest life they put up the turbine at Exhibition Place in Toronto. Between the two of us, we have a development entity called Lakewind Power Co-operative. That’s how we’re going to develop the wind farms on a joint basis.
We started developing the Bervie wind farm. We engaged in discussions with Hydro One about three years ago and in August, three years ago, we got our connection impact assessment agreement, which allowed us to proceed to the system impact assessment. Then, the Ontario Power Authority, which we have to sell the power to under the old RESOP program, introduced an orange zone in that area, and that basically stalled our project. We were working on limited finances, being two co-operatives, so we had to suspend our activities, other than lobbying for change.
I’m pleased to say that Bill 150, the proposed Green Energy Act, is going to make great changes for Ontario, for the ratepayers, for the electricity consumer and for job opportunities. It’s landmark legislation in North America, emulating the best that Europe can offer, and Countryside Energy Co-op applauds the Legislature for bringing that in.
I’ve got two concerns with the regulations that are being drafted at the moment, from the feed-in tariffs program rules with Ontario Power Authority. One is item 24 in the rules, “community group,” and the other is item 52, “eligible community project.” At the moment, the draft rules are restricting a community group to being a group where the members of that group either live in a county or regional authority, or own property in a county or regional authority. At the moment, Countryside Energy Co-operative has 107 members from all over southwest Ontario and some even from eastern Ontario. They are keen to be part of our project. Some of them are from the southwest Ontario area who have moved away and have heard about our co-op.
Our first project near Bervie is in Bruce county. We’ve got about 30 members of our 107 in Bruce county. We are hoping to develop a wind farm site just outside Milverton in Perth county; we’ve got about 50 members there. We’ve got another site near Goderich, in Huron county; we’ve got about 25 members there. The rest are in other parts, as I say, of southwest Ontario.
Our co-operative at the moment, with the existing membership—we couldn’t develop the wind farm because not everyone is located in Bruce county, and that is a showstopper unless that rule gets changed. We’re a co-operative registered in Ontario and therefore conform to the Ontario Co-operative Corporations Act. That is a community in itself. Because the Ontario co-operatives act is a very well-defined act, Countryside Energy Co-op is looking at a co-operative being a community in its own right and should transcend any regional or county boundaries.
The other matter with “eligible community project” is that the Ontario Power Authority is wanting endorsement from upper- and lower-tier municipalities, such as county and township levels, to define the project as a worthy community endeavour. I just wonder why they want that. At the moment, we’ve got to apply for permitting, as Glen mentioned earlier on, through the municipalities. That may change as a result of the Green Energy Act, but there are going to be processes in place that look on projects for siting purposes, and I wonder why the OPA is actually putting in a constraint on that because if you do get a municipality that doesn’t understand it or is confused by it, they effectively could block a project.
The other thing I’d like to say is that the electric utilities have got to be accountable to the Legislature. When our project was stalled by the orange zone, we had some meetings with Hydro One and the Ontario Power Authority, and it was very clear that they just weren’t interested in listening to us. They gave us the courtesy of some meetings, but there were no follow-ups after that, so we just had to sit and grin and bear it. There was a strong perception—and I have to say this because this is the way we all felt in various community groups—that they just hoped that we’d go away. But we haven’t gone away. We want to go forward. This Green Energy Act is a result of lobbying, plus people using their initiative in the Legislature to help it go ahead. These MPPs and their staff have to be applauded for that, and the Minister of Energy and Infrastructure as well. It is an enormous step forward and brings Ontario to the forefront of sustainable energy generation in the world.
It also is a great opportunity for new and sustainable jobs in Ontario, especially rural Ontario. Two of the world’s leading wind turbine manufacturers, Enercon of Germany and Vestas of Denmark, who have got turbines running already in Ontario, were very interested in setting up manufacturing in Ontario, partly out of environmental considerations. They were saying, “Why should we manufacture them in our countries and bring them across the Atlantic in smelly diesel ships?” They would like to develop manufacturing plants here. They put their plans on hold because they didn’t see a market, because the orange zone in the windiest part of southern Ontario was stalling just about everything. They are still interested in developing, and it could create many thousands of jobs, probably 3,000 or 4,000 in the first few years and maybe many more. These would be sustainable jobs, because it’s sustainable energy we’re looking at. They could export outside of the province and into the USA if necessary.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: It’s useful to have this perspective brought before the committee. My hope is that the government will speak to why these restrictions are in the legislation. My guess is that there is an interest in having a group rooted in a community as a way of dealing with—a rejection that this is an initiative from someone outside a community. But the government can speak to that.
If, in fact, the government doesn’t go for your first recommendation as written, is there a compromise that would require that at least some significant portion of an energy co-operative be based in the community in which the turbine is located?
Mr. Doug Fyfe: I still think that would cause some problems, because in rural areas the population base is not sufficient to generate the revenue. We’re looking at having about 2,000 members of our co-op—in our catchment area, we’re looking at most of southwest Ontario. In Bruce county, the population base isn’t there for sufficient members to join to raise upwards of $23 million to $25 million for a 10-megawatt community wind farm. We already have members, as I say, all over the place. We’d be disenfranchising them. I suppose one option could be to split up the co-op. That would be expensive. We just would not be able to get the membership necessary to generate a community wind farm in any of the rural counties or regions in southwest Ontario. The population just can’t afford that, especially given the economic times at the moment
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: On that same point, are there any European models that are established based on co-operatives where the funding comes from some members and the local support comes from other members? Are there any sort of bifurcated models that could be examined?
Mr. Doug Fyfe: Yes, in Denmark especially and parts of Germany, there are farmer-owned co-ops, which tend to be in small, centralized areas, but some of them do transcend their own county boundaries, so to speak. These are usually fairly philanthropic farmers who can afford to build them. They’re much smaller wind farms than what is in the legislation you’re offering. They’re developing less than a megawatt or maybe two or three megawatts.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: How do you get over the issue that Mr. Tabuns raised with respect to the members of the co-operative not living in the community? How is it really any different than a wind farm that’s a for-profit, for example, where the dollars are coming from elsewhere? The community-driven initiative is one that we’ve heard is very important for local acceptance. If you have a co-op and all of the members are from Toronto, and you’re trying to put it in Mrs. Mitchell’s riding, how is that any different than some of the concerns raised with for-profit?
Mr. Doug Fyfe: That is a valid point. It depends on how you define “community.” “Community” is very easily defined by a tight geographic boundary. To take the greater Toronto area, you’ve got upwards of almost four million people, so you’ve got a phenomenal base for people wanting to have a wind farm. In practice, you cannot develop a wind farm in a city area because of inefficiencies due to turbulence around buildings, proximity to buildings and what have you. So even in a city area, people are very much constrained.
The existing commercial wind farms are not community-based, per se. Most of them are outside of the province so all the profits are going out of the province. We want to keep the profits within the province and within our community, which we are defining as the co-operative members in Ontario who wish to join us under the Co-operative Corporations Act. We’re using the co-op model itself to help draw membership, and people are willingly joining us from well outside our local area.
You mentioned about being in the consumers’ best interests. When I talk to a lot of people, particularly low-income families and/or low-income seniors, one of the biggest concerns they have is escalating hydro costs. How do you deal with that when all of the evidence suggests, in spite of what the minister might try to have us believe, that the more power you put into a system at a higher cost, the higher the average price of electricity goes?
And do you support, without reservation, the removal of the municipal power to determine whether or not they accept a development of any kind, but particularly in this case, in Bill 150, the development of a renewable energy project in their community?
Mr. Doug Fyfe: As far as the costs go, yes, I can understand that people think, “Oh, an increase in cost; that’s going to hit me in the pocket.” At the moment, sustainable energy developments account for a very small proportion of the cost of electricity, so it wouldn’t really be that noticeable, but you do have to get these projects off the ground. I mean, every development that has taken stages forward in the developed world has taken a bit of cost at the beginning to get going, and then it balances out. Interestingly, the way the equivalent of the Green Energy Act has worked in Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany is at the cost of their renewable power, because a lot of the initial debts have been paid off. There’s not much different from the traditional base.
But the traditional power base has got to be looked at as well, because what actually are the running costs? It’s known that they are subsidized, so if there’s a level playing field, it would be interesting to see how that would work.
For example, we are bearing the full cost of installing the power generation equipment, whereas the Ontario taxpayer is paying for upgrades to existing power stations. The reflection in the hydro bill—it isn’t in there for these things, so, again, there’s not a level playing field. So it’s very difficult to give a straight answer to that, but I think you can see how the balance goes there.
As far as removing municipal power, I’m not in favour of all powers being removed. I attended one of the environment workshops three weeks ago in Toronto, and there were some cases made by some municipal leaders—mayors and planning officers. Our office is actually located in the township of Perth East’s municipal office. They rent a room to us, which is very good, and I’ve spoken to the county planning people quite a lot, and I strongly believe that the county and the lower-tier authorities should still have a say in the development of wind farms—or anything, for that matter, not just wind farms—
Mr. Doug Fyfe: —because there’s some local knowledge that could be very specific to an area or just a few areas that might not be covered by the blanket process. But, again, a bit of what Glen said: We’ve got to make sure that there’s no—
Good morning, sir. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. You have 10 minutes for your presentation and five minutes for questions from members of the committee. Just state your name for the purposes of the recording Hansard, and you can begin your presentation when you like.
Farmers for Economic Opportunity had its start in a tobacco farmer lobby group, Tobacco Farmers in Crisis, in 2006. Some of TFIC’s members realized that renewable energy presented an opportunity to bolster sagging farm income on traditional crops, as well as to develop transitional crops on former tobacco lands. In less than a year, our concept of community-based development had attracted over 80 members, representing in excess of 13,000 acres in Haldimand, Norfolk, Brant, Oxford and Elgin counties, traditional tobacco counties—not Haldimand; no tobacco there. And we have a lot of farmers. It’s not just tobacco farmers—less than half.
Currently, we are in the early stages of a 10-megawatt wind development and are planting demonstration and propagation plots of miscanthus and switchgrass. We believe purpose-grown biomass energy crops to be the biggest opportunity for most of our members and farmers in general. OPA has indicated that coal-fired plants in Ontario could be converted to biomass fuels. FEO believes that this is a tremendous opportunity for our members and a sustainable, safe and carbon-neutral alternative for future base load generation. This alternative fuel production system will create more jobs and wealth for Ontarians than the more expensive nuclear option.
We have identified several areas of concern for sustainable and renewable energy development. We commend the authors of the act in addressing many of the issues and challenges today. The issues we feel are very important are:
—that agricultural and community-based initiatives be given priority access to the grid. I don’t have it in here, but one of the ways of accomplishing that is just what this gentleman brought up, which was variable feed-in tariffs: very important for success;
—that funding mechanisms be developed for assisting small generators with seed money for initial soft costs to get projects through early development, which is a very difficult time for any community or small generation project;
—that establishment grants for purpose-grown biomass crops must be instituted immediately, as they have been in the USA and the European Union. I have attached notes regarding both areas where the biomass is getting planted. In England now, over 200,000 acres, I believe, have been planted;
Mrs. Carol Mitchell: Thank you very much, and thank you for your presentation, Jon. I just want to give you an opportunity to expand on the agricultural and community-based initiatives and what you feel the challenges are in moving that forward. You’ve also asked for funding, if I go on into your presentation, but I want to give you the opportunity to expand on that. In moving the agricultural community, if I could use tobacco as an example, away from tobacco into biomass production, what do you feel needs to be available in order to enhance the footprint for the agricultural community?
Mr. Jon Lechowicz: One of the main things that we see in the public realm as farmers is that people are very concerned about food for fuel. Food for fuel is a non-entity in the southern, southwestern province, the tobacco sand plains, because we’ve got approximately 200,000 acres that was designated tobacco land, which is sort of right now floating between vegetables and potatoes and people going in and out.
The other thing is, you can’t—I don’t know how familiar you are; I’m sure you’re very familiar. OPA has done test burns at Nanticoke, and there’s an opportunity there for over 200,000 acres to supply those. And it has to be close. Nanticoke’s a big operation and it has to be close. We’re close, but people can’t look at a crop that costs $2,000—switchgrass is an annual, so it’s a little different, but miscanthus we’ve identified as the best to date because of the production capacity. But the production costs to develop it are upwards of $2,000 an acre, which right now I’m pulling out of my pocket. I don’t mind, but I can’t see people going for it unless there’s a kick. The kick has got to be an establishment grant and the OPA to commit to buy it. It’s there; it’s all there. We’ve just got to take advantage of the opportunity. You don’t need to tear that place down, and we can set a standard for the world right here in Ontario.
Mr. Jon Lechowicz: Oh, pelletization. Yes. I think there are some opportunities for pelletization. I think those are retail. Honestly, I don’t know how much you’re aware of how coal is burned, but it’s actually hammer milled; it’s dust blown up. We could actually do that. That’s the right way to do it. Pelletization seems to be something everyone’s hung up on, at a cost of $50 a tonne. We should concentrate more on changing that system, because you can burn it a different way.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much, Jon, for joining us this morning. A couple of things you mentioned: People have been mentioning quite a bit, actually, about variable feed-in tariffs with respect to the people who got the first choice. It was sort of like when the settlers first came, the farmer got the good land and then somebody else got the bad land, you know?
The other thing I wanted to ask you about is the feed-in tariff rate on biomass. One significant advantage that biomass has over wind is that if it’s burning in a plant, it’s dispatchable. We can control it and we can ramp it up or ramp it down. We’re not relying on nature to determine how much we’re going to have in the system at any given time. Given that biomass has that inherent advantage because it’s a fuel that you burn, 12.2 cents versus the feed-in tariff for wind: How do you feel about that as being fair, given what you have to do to produce that power?
Mr. Jon Lechowicz: I believe it is, very much, at 12.2; I very much do. Now, that said, I do not think that 12.2 is a correct price. This is where variable tariffs come in again. If you’re talking about areas where they have a lot of livestock waste, deadstock, vegetable waste, processing waste and stuff like that as well as animal waste, I think that that feed-in tariff presently for on-farm biodigesters needs to be looked at and looked at hard, because that’s a tremendous opportunity—
Mr. Jon Lechowicz: Yes, biogas specifically. I think that’s a little low. Everyone I’ve talked to in the business—I know the guys related to the biggest ones so far in Ontario, and they’re fighting with that number. And they’re big.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Fair enough. The other question, though: In order to grow any crop, you need inputs. You have to have the energy that goes into the harvesting machinery. You have to have the energy that goes to cutting, drying and so on. How much energy comes out of the product, as compared to the amount of energy that’s put in to grow it and move it in the first place?
Mr. Jon Lechowicz: It’s a crop that’s good in the ground for probably 15 years. It’s been in the ground at the University of Illinois now for 15 years. There’s no planting cost; there’s nothing. It grows, you harvest it, you take it to market.
Good morning, sir. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. You have 10 minutes for your presentation and five minutes for questions among members. Just state your name for the purposes of the recording Hansard, and you can begin your presentation.
Mr. Tim Matheson: Good morning, committee and Chair. Thank you very much for hearing me. My name is Tim Matheson and I appear before you this morning as a representative of many of the landowners, business people and residents of the Bruce Peninsula.
We’re a little corner of the world about three hours north of here. We are technically considered part of southwestern Ontario and geographically we may appear so. Practically speaking, we share many similarities with northern Ontario: We’re surrounded on three sides by water; we have a very small population base; most of our industry is agricultural in the central part of the Bruce Peninsula, in some cleared lands there, and is, to a large degree, beef farming. There are resort and cottage areas of the Bruce Peninsula, mostly along the shorelines.
In the early years of my life, my family lived on the Bruce Peninsula. I then spent my formative years in Oxford county on dairy farms and I’m a graduate of the University of Guelph. For the last 25 years, however, I’ve been a resident of the Bruce Peninsula. I’ve raised my three sons there and I’ve conducted business there operating a large residential children’s camp on the Bruce Peninsula.
My lands are not likely to be considered for any wind project which eventually may come to the Bruce Peninsula, nor am I being paid to be here. I am here representing a group of landowners, business people and other residents that have gotten together to discuss a potential wind development which may or may not be coming our way on the Bruce Peninsula.
I’m here to tell you a story of what’s going on in our little part of Ontario. Some time ago the IPSP document in our province identified the Bruce Peninsula as a possible location for an enabler line to connect an as yet undeveloped wind resource to our grid. Several companies read that paragraph or two in that rather bulky document and identified an opportunity to come and start knocking on our doors and amassing lands, should and if such a project ever become a reality. I identified that as an interesting development and one that potentially could be a good thing or a bad thing for our community. I wanted our landowners to get together and understand what they were getting into with respect to a future wind development, to explore all the possibilities of what that could mean to them socio-economically and as a legacy to where these second-, third- and sometimes fourth-generation farmers are living.
We organized ourselves, then, to come together as a community. We recognized the uniqueness of the opportunity that was coming our way. In the last few months, we’ve negotiated with several wind developers and one in particular. If the wind development were to be successful, we’ve tried to arrange it and have foresight to make sure that landowners, small business people, our school system, our health care’s small hospital, and recreational and environmental initiatives that exist in our community would ultimately benefit.
The Bruce Peninsula wind project, if following the model we’ve negotiated, would be the largest community-owned portion of a wind project of anything now existing in Canada. That’s a big “if.” We also feel it would be a new standard and a new way of doing business with communities from developers, especially dealing in rural areas of our province.
Perhaps the largest hurdle in a development there would be the construction of this enabler line. In other words, we need connection to the new, as yet unbuilt Bruce-to-Milton line. Our connection to that line is vital. We have a wind resource. We have landowners who are educated in the nuances of hosting turbines on their property. In fact, we have a very small wind farm already operating in our community, and the acceptance level and the understanding of what that means is already very strong within our small part of the world.
As I said, we’ve structured a deal that will ensure broad-based community benefits in our area. We just need the connection. We need the Bruce Peninsula enabler line to become a reality, and we hope that the Ontario public will see the value in this and find a way to help us do that. The Green Energy Act, if enacted, therefore would be an important piece of legislation to us and other people in our position.
I’ve been coaching teams for 25 years: basketball, volleyball, hockey, soccer, baseball. I’ve coached probably 35 different groups of young people over the years. We have declining enrolment in our school. We have rural depopulation. We have talked about amalgamating with the town of Wiarton to the south of us so that we can keep our arena afloat and have hockey teams and so on. The permanent family-supporting types of jobs associated with this type of wind development could reenergize our declining enrolment in our little K-to-12 school. It could invigorate the minor sports associations that I’ve dealt with extensively. Our municipal tax base, of course, would benefit. Our health care, senior citizens’ care—those facilities would be more sustainable. Our kids would perhaps have career opportunities in their own community that have been unknown until now. I speak on behalf of people who want this to happen.
I didn’t understand until today—and I’ve listened to a few presentations—how much of this you must hear over and over again, so I apologize for what might seem like rhetoric. However, we do need your help. I remember a long time ago, one of the best ways in the children’s camping business—someone told me when I was a young counsellor that the best way to get someone to like you is to ask them to help you. It’s something that I’ve found to be true over the course of my life. I’m here on behalf of people who are asking for your help as legislators, as decision-makers. We want to make sure that we leave a legacy of improved social, economic and environmentally responsible conditions where we live, and we need your help to do this. We need your help to help us do what we think is the right thing. I bet that lost sometimes in the details of what you hear on a day-to-day basis in these hearings—some of the minutiae must really cloud one of the larger truths, and that is ultimately, I think we all know, that this is about doing the right thing. This is about making up for some of the mistakes that have been made in the industrial age, about reducing greenhouse emissions and finding a way to do the right thing. We, as a society, really resist change, don’t we? To change requires courage; it requires vision. Decision-makers have the tough job of separating the wheat from the chaff, as it were; to have the ability to hear the truth in these presentations and understand that the misinformation and half-truths and innuendo that you sometimes hear is fuelled by this resistance to change and this fear, and not from a lack of understanding of what ultimately needs to be done.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much, Tim, for joining us this morning. I was surprised that you didn’t mention Wiarton Willie in your preamble. You did mention Wiarton at one point, but it was in a negative way: having to amalgamate to keep the arena open.
Anyway, you did talk about jobs. I visited some of the wind developments, like the one at Shelburne, which used to be called Melancthon—now I think it’s called Amaranth—when it was a single development. They employed about six people full-time. It was basically 100 megawatts of wind capacity. I’m just wondering, after the development is built, what kind of sustainable jobs do you expect from developments up in the Bruce Peninsula and what size of developments are we talking about here?
I don’t take issue with the number of six jobs per 100 megawatts. I think the industry standard is kind of between six and eight jobs per 100 megawatts, so that sounds about right. I want to put it in perspective, however. Twelve to 15 family-supporting jobs in our community, if you take the national average of two-point-something children per family, means 30 kids, maybe 40 kids, if there are that many jobs. Our high school has 120 children in it. That’s 30% of the high school population. It’s substantial. Living where we live, it’s substantial. I realize it may not be in a larger population base.
Again, I’m not talking about transient jobs. I’m not talking about construction-phase jobs. I’m talking about the kind that would be career-supporting and family-supporting jobs. But I think the number six, from my information, might not be far off for a 100-megawatt project.
Mr. Tim Matheson: We had two different wind development companies knocking on our door, and when we got together as a community, realizing that this was probably a one-shot deal for us—our land base does not permit us, being surrounded by the Great Lakes, to do another one somewhere down the road—and being good businessmen and good farmers, we didn’t take the first offer that came our way. If you go to buy a new combine, you don’t always pay the sticker price. You might want to negotiate a little bit down. On that simple premise, we decided to negotiate for what we felt were stronger and more forward-looking terms for not only the landowners living there now, but their progeny, their heirs and their offspring.
Ironically, through this process, we were contacted by yet another company, a third company, and we were able to negotiate with them a business plan which is unlike those of currently operating wind farms in Canada. It’s more of a European model, and it allows for a large percentage of the ownership to be local. I understand issues that you had with the last presenter about what is local and what isn’t; our intention is that up to 30% of this project could be owned by landowners and residents. Not just landowners, but residents of the Bruce Peninsula. So a substantial financial interest; not a co-op model, as an earlier presenter talked about, but an actual equity investment into the resource that is being farmed, if you will, on our own properties.
Mrs. Carol Mitchell: Thank you, Tim, for your presentation today. And I do know where the Bruce Peninsula is. I want to thank you for taking the time to make the presentation. I wanted to give you the opportunity to speak specifically to the community impact so we can get a better sense of it. What agreement model did you use and what did it include? Do you feel that is something that should be part of the whole development, how the community is impacted, and what responsibility the developer has to give to the community?
Mr. Tim Matheson: Yes, thank you. I’ve already spoken a little bit about what the socio-economic impact of it may be in terms of permanent family-supporting jobs. Our early estimates range anywhere from $4 million to $6 million a year being injected into the community through lease payments, equity participation, tax base as well as the employment stuff. We’ve also negotiated a substantial community fund, the mandate of which would be for environmental initiatives in our community, recreational opportunities, health care, including care for the aged, sustainability and educational opportunities, including scholarships to those people from our two high schools in the area to pursue post-secondary opportunities in renewable energy fields.
Mr. Tim Matheson: It is. The terms of it are still undefined because the project is still undefined, based on our lack of connectivity right now, but it is our understanding that this fund would not be an accruing fund. It would be one that within, let’s say, a year or two years of receiving the funds, it needed to be spent, it needed to be used, directed by members of the community, but used for these initiatives that I’ve outlined.
Mr. Mayor, welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. You have 10 minutes for your presentation and five minutes for questions. Whoever will be speaking, or if a number of you will be speaking, please state your name before answering any questions or making your presentation. You can begin when you like.
Mr. Michael Schnare: Good morning. My name is Michael Schnare. I’m the administrator-clerk for the township of Dawn-Euphemia. With me today are our members of council: Mayor Bill Bilton, Deputy Mayor Lesley Williams and Councillor Emery Huszka. I believe one of our other councillors, Councillor Harold Gray, is in the audience.
Thank you very much for giving the township an opportunity to address you today on the Green Energy and Green Economy Act. The remarks that we’re going to be making today really revolve around the matter of wind turbines, wind-generated energy.
For the past six months, the township of Dawn-Euphemia council has been considering official plan and zoning amendment applications submitted by IPC Energy for the development of a wind farm comprising 35 wind turbines. During that period, resident opposition to the proposed project has grown substantially, with many residents of the municipality expressing serious concerns about the potential human health effects from wind turbines and the need to determine and apply appropriate setbacks from all sensitive land uses.
These concerns are based on emerging health issues from other areas of the province, particularly the Ripley area in Bruce county, and we believe more recently in the Shelburne area, those areas where wind turbines are presently operating, as well as some recent research that is being done in the disciplines of infrasound and electromagnetic fields by Dr. Nina Pierpont and Dr. Magda Havas. In fact, Dr. Havas appeared before our council and made a presentation on the matter of the impacts of electromagnetic fields.
Drs. Pierpont and Havas have called for a minimum separation distance of two kilometres between wind turbines and residential dwellings. While other municipalities, I know, have been looking at setbacks that are as low as 400 to 450 metres separation, given the inconsistency of setbacks and the requirements for setbacks that are being applied, many citizens have requested township council to have an independent health study undertaken prior to making a decision on these planning applications. In response to these community concerns, council passed the following resolution at their regular meeting on December 1, 2008:
The council hereby calls on Premier Dalton McGuinty to direct the current government to initiate a thorough health study based on current scientific data and provincial experience to provide leadership in the province;
The resolution was sent to the Premier on December 3, 2008, and the Premier’s office subsequently forwarded the resolution to Minister Smitherman for his consideration. To date, the municipality has not received any feedback from Minister Smitherman’s office on this particular resolution.
What council would like to stress is that the township’s resolution was not based on NIMBY concerns, but rather legitimate health and safety concerns based on actual documented instances of human health impacts, recent research as well as volumes of conflicting literature on the health effects of stray voltage or dirty electricity and infrasound. Council has concerns that the existing transmission distribution grid in the municipality is also inadequate for accommodating the additional power proposed to be generated by the wind turbines.
Council is very concerned that the province’s response to their concerns and similar concerns expressed by many other rural municipalities in Ontario has been to release legislation that totally removes local municipal planning approval authority for alternative energy facilities and projects. The removal of municipalities from the official plan, zoning bylaw and site plan approval processes and the elimination of citizen appeal avenues under the Planning Act in our view are inappropriate measures. Council views these measures as an unprecedented erosion of local municipal planning authority. As such, this legislation does not support the principles of sound land use planning based on local public participation, and thus, the proposed Planning Act amendments are not supported by the council of the township of Dawn-Euphemia. Council does endorse the position put forward by the Ontario Professional Planners Institute in their submission dated March 26, 2009.
Given the significant dependence of Bill 150 on the development of subsequent regulations to implement the legislation, rural municipalities are left wondering how the province intends to ensure that municipal and public interests of the host municipalities will be appropriately addressed by the province and the proponents of alternative energy generation facilities and projects. Council is very concerned with the fact that legislative details are being left to regulations which will be developed after Bill 150 becomes law.
In addition to the earlier noted human health concerns and the need for safe setbacks from sensitive land uses, which remain of paramount interest to council, there are a number of other issues that council believes need to be properly addressed in the legislation. These issues relate to the need for the following:
—an operational management plan, construction management plan, emergency response plans, post-construction avian monitoring protocol, a noise complaint protocol, and detailed, registered site plans that give certainty to the location of approved wind turbines that minimize impact on adjacent properties and address applicable site plan matters provided for by subsection 41(7) of the Planning Act.
In conclusion, council would like to make it very clear that while they support green energy initiatives in principle, they do not wish to see them implemented through a process that will in any way compromise the health and safety of persons and communities in rural Ontario.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Thank you for taking the time to put together the presentation and come to speak to us today. The conditions that you’ve set out for the wind turbine towers that you think should be recognized in the act: Have you put in place any similar requirements for radio towers or cellphone towers in your jurisdiction?
Mr. Michael Schnare: In terms of sheer numbers, it may not impact the same number of individuals, but they’re just as important if there are serious health effects associated with the generation of the electricity that could be mitigated by imposing appropriate setbacks, and the municipality would like to see those addressed.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: You yourself in your presentation made comment with respect to different municipalities reaching different conclusions with respect to the appropriate setback. One of the comments that we’ve heard over a number of years is that as a result of those different setbacks and the municipalities seeing that the province needed to take a leadership role in helping examine the science, pull that information together and set a standardized setback for across the province to create strong, uniform standards, that was really incumbent upon the province. Do you agree that the province needs to assist in the establishment of what the appropriate setbacks would be?
Mr. Michael Schnare: That’s exactly what council is looking to the province for leadership in. They do not feel that they have the expertise or knowledge to accurately determine what is an appropriate setback or not, and we believe sincerely that a health study that could look at what impacts have been generated to date would help assist in formulating standards that would clearly be safe standards. We don’t know whether it’s two kilometres or 450 metres, but what we do know is that perhaps somewhere in there, there is a number that will ensure that the communities and the residents that will be impacted by these will have those impacts mitigated by the appropriate setback.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much for joining us today. I just want to touch on what Mr. Tabuns said. Almost all of the polluting gases from coal can be mitigated by current technology, and I think that we should be aware of that. CO2 is not a polluting gas; it’s a warming gas.
I do want to ask you about the fact that the minister has not responded to your resolution. When he speaks publicly, he speaks about saying, “I’m interested in looking at the health objections raised.” I’m not a scientist or a doctor, so I can’t speak to whether those are real or not, but I think it would behoove us to find out if they’re real, and the minister seems to just dismiss it as being the vision of people who don’t understand or something like that. When he speaks publicly, there are all these messages saying, “We’d like to look into that,” but so far nothing has been done. Your resolution has not been responded to in any shape or form?
Mr. Michael Schnare: That is correct. We have not had a direct response. We had originally scheduled to meet with the minister at the recent ROMA conference and at the last minute I believe he cancelled all of his potential delegations, so we did not have an opportunity to raise the issue with him directly, which we had hoped we would.
Mr. John Yakabuski: I’ve just got one more question. On the issue of municipal authority, some municipalities have said that they see this as the thin edge of the wedge, where you’ll have your powers usurped with regard to the right to determine whether or not someone can develop a renewable energy project in your community and, further down the road, municipalities will lose much more of their authority as a result of provincial government decisions. Would you care to comment on that?
Mr. Michael Schnare: I believe that’s a fair comment. I’m speaking for council here, but we have had several discussions on the matter, and I believe that there is a concern that this could be the thin edge of the wedge and lead to further erosion of local planning authority or local approval authority on matters, be it wind generation or power or other forms of electrical generation or land use considerations.
Good morning, and welcome. If you’re all going to be speaking, if you could state your names, the individuals who are speaking, before you begin and whom you’re speaking for. When you begin, you’ll have 10 minutes, with five minutes for questions. Welcome.
Mr. Grant Hopcroft: Thank you. I’m Grant Hopcroft, director of intergovernmental and community liaison for the city of London. I’m joined today by Jay Stanford, director of environmental programs; Gregg Barrett, manager of land use policy; and Terry Grawey, senior planner for the city of London.
To begin, the comments that we’ll be making this morning were endorsed by our city council on March 30, and they have been registered on the EBR. We’ve recently, as a city, received applications for renewable energy projects, particularly bio-energy generation facilities, and we anticipate that there will be a significantly higher level of interest in developing new facilities over the next several years, in no small measure due to the stimulus that this piece of legislation will provide.
We support the general intent of the legislative changes that will facilitate development of renewable energy projects by providing new economic incentives to produce and feed energy into the grid and by streamlining the approvals process for renewable energy projects. We understand that you will be receiving—I believe it’s tomorrow—a submission from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and we want to indicate that we support the recommendations in AMO’s submission and we concur with the comments they’ll be making.
We also support efforts that will remove constraints on alternative energy generation facilities and projects and will provide for expanded capacity and facilitate access to the grid. We also support the use of feed-in tariffs to encourage the installation of renewable energy systems. We support new standards that are being proposed to improve the energy efficiency of consumer products. The city supports initiatives that will encourage improved energy efficiency in older, inefficient building stock, and the review of the building code at regular intervals to ensure that new buildings incorporate energy-saving features. We also support the simplification of the grid connection systems for renewable energy generation systems to London Hydro’s local distribution system. We further support the proposed requirement to construct new public facilities to meet the LEED silver rating, recognizing that higher upfront capital costs associated with the standard will be offset by annual utilities savings and productivity improvements. Those are the positive points.
We’d like to also raise some concerns with respect to the proposed legislation. First of all, it is unclear whether the proposed right-to-connect provisions will affect the current OPA-imposed transmission constraints—something with which, I’m sure, Ms. Mitchell is very familiar and has spoken to before—and, in particular, the orange zones and yellow zones in this area. The transmission system within these zones has limited or no ability to accept new generation from major renewable projects, and proponents willing to install renewable generation facilities within the London area using the new FIT program are restricted to microgeneration projects. If the new feed-in tariff is to have any effect on renewable power generation in southwestern Ontario in these constrained zones, the transmission system constraints must be addressed.
With respect to the proposed streamlining of approvals, if the province must be clearly defined in the legislation as the approval authority for the Planning Act, regulations should clearly identify provisions to ensure that municipal interests will be protected. Particularly, we need to be consulted further as regulations are unfolded that include but are not limited to servicing capacity improvements, required servicing easements, road access improvements and road widening dedications, protection of significant natural and cultural heritage features, site design elements and building orientation, hosting of security for the works that are to be undertaken, and parkland dedication requirements. We need to be satisfied that there’s some mechanism in place to address these matters, and you’ll be hearing from AMO that an administrative permit system needs to be established at the municipal level to ensure that these matters are addressed and that they are a condition of developments proceeding. Clarification is also required in the regulations on the requirements for giving of public notice and provisions relating to appeals of decisions by the approval authority.
In conclusion, we concur with the recommendations you’ll be hearing from AMO. We support the measures in the legislation relating to energy conservation and efficiency, alternative energy generation and right-to-connect provisions. We have concerns with the streamlining of approvals for energy projects, and we recommend that the regulations provide for a specific mechanism such as an administrative permit system to ensure that municipal infrastructure, site standards and security requirements will be addressed, and that municipalities be consulted further prior to final adoption of any regulations.
I’m wondering whether or not, in developing the submissions that you’ve put before us today, council members or others had an opportunity to engage with their constituents and whether that was the basis for the reflection of the submissions and the details being advanced by the city of London.
Mr. Terry Grawey: We had brought this forward to our planning committee at a public meeting for the committee’s consideration and endorsement. The politicians, I think, in all fairness, didn’t have an opportunity to go back and consult with the residents, but they did bring forward some of the concerns that they felt, which is what we reflected in the submission that was brought here today.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: Over the years, the city of London and the residents of London have really taken a leadership role with respect to environmental issues, so I certainly commend the community on that. The opportunities that I’ve had to be in this community, we’ve certainly heard from individuals wanting to be part of green energy solutions, and we thank you for your very detailed submissions.
You spoke briefly about the transmission constraints and the right to connect. So your concern is—you can elaborate on that, but I see it as being that if you’re already under a stressed transmission system, it’s pretty hard to ensure that any development will have a right to connect unless that transmission system is upgraded first. So you’re at a disadvantage, then, with establishing projects within that zone, vis-à-vis someone who doesn’t have the same constraints. Is that correct?
Mr. Grant Hopcroft: We’re at a disadvantage now, because that transmission capacity does not exist and we know there are major projects that have not gone forward because of that lack of capacity. So if the legislation is to have the desired impact, that transmission capacity issue needs to be addressed, and addressed in the very near future.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Another thing that I didn’t catch you commenting on in your presentation—I apologize if I didn’t hear—is the home energy audits. You’re maybe not definitive as to how you feel about them one way or the other, but if it has an impact—and we’re hearing from real estate people that it could have a significant impact on real estate sales because of the confrontational nature of the negotiations should a mandatory home energy audit turn negotiations sideways. If it affects the real estate market, it’s certainly going to affect the economy of a city like London. Have you got any comments, any feelings on that?
Mr. Jay Stanford: If I may, it’s a very important program. In fact, London has probably had upwards of 7,000 audits done to the end of 2008, and the average homeowner would have saved about 34% on their energy bill associated with that. That savings is quite amazing. It’s probably $1,000—
Mr. Jay Stanford: We have not done a complete assessment, but right now we’re currently reviewing between three and five applications. The constraints to do with the yellow and orange zones are probably the number one impediment to those moving forward. Our city has become extremely active in our whole green development strategy. We see our location in southwestern Ontario as a bit of a hub, if not the hub, for green energy for southwestern Ontario. We’re ideally located.
Mr. Grant Hopcroft: Our London Economic Development Corp. will be making some written submissions before the consultations are concluded. The short answer to that is that there has been a determined focus to try and bring more of that kind of development to the city. We see great benefit to it. We think we’re well located strategically, in terms of the agricultural assets in the area, for that to occur in the future.
Good morning and welcome. You have 10 minutes to speak. If you’re all going to speak, if you could give us your names for Hansard before you begin. Once you begin, you’ll have 10 minutes, and we’ll be five minutes for questioning.
Mr. Randy Hope: First, let me introduce myself. I’m the mayor of the municipality of Chatham-Kent. Unlike London, we are the hub of the alternative energy source within Ontario, and especially in southwestern Ontario. We want to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today and commend this government for its foresight and determination in the movement towards a greener, cleaner and more sustainable energy product and supply management.
The municipality of Chatham-Kent is a progressive advocate of alternative energy solutions. It has chosen to be on the leading edge of the new, sustainable next generation of energy technologies and has incorporated them into its strategic goals in the municipality. Chatham-Kent has a strong wind regime, and understands the growing national and international needs to develop green, sustainable solutions to our energy production and supply management.
Our actions reinforce this intent. Chatham-Kent is currently hosting seven approved projects, resulting in 124 turbines and a combined nameplate capacity of 250 megawatts of power. We have approval of two solar projects with a combined nameplate capacity of approximately 15 megawatts. These projects are in various stages of completion.
Our experience has allowed us to refine the local process and establish the best practices in this field. We have developed a trust relationship with the stakeholders and practical tools to address public interest. We urge you strongly to consider our recommendations and adopt our recommendations.
Today I’m accompanied by Ralph Pugliese, the director of planning services of the municipality of Chatham-Kent, and Tom Storey, principal of Storey Samways Planning, who will provide more detailed comments on the recommendations.
Mr. Tom Storey: Thank you, Your Worship. It has been the experience of Chatham-Kent that the approval processes presently required under the Planning Act for renewable energy projects and, in particular, wind energy system projects can be effectively dovetailed with the environmental assessment process to provide a land use planning outcome more acceptable to the community and the proponent. This occurs in three ways: First, there are issues not addressed adequately in the EA process which are given the study necessary under the Planning Act; secondly, there are important issues not addressed at all in the EA process which are covered under the Planning Act; and lastly, the Planning Act process acts as a safety net for issues which may inadvertently be missed in the EA process. We’ve had significant experience with all three of those conditions.
Appendix B, which is attached to the document which we’ve circulated, provides a summary of those issues falling under one of those three categories described above. There are 17 in total. All of those issues listed are important to Chatham-Kent; however, the first four listed are fundamental in nature, and I want to talk a little bit more about those.
First of all, there’s a cumulative effect that’s noted in the introduction. We know that Chatham-Kent will be home to 124 turbines as a certainty, with another 165 turbines being proposed by three major wind farm developers and very likely to proceed. I would add on top of that, in appendix A, you will note that there’s a total of 600 turbines representing 1,100 megawatts on the books at some stage of the pipeline in Chatham-Kent, which represent 20% or more of the green energy requirements outlined by the OPA for this province.
In our review of other studies, it is apparent that the question of how many is too many has never been asked or answered. Is there a tipping point beyond which further development will seriously impact public health, migratory or nesting bird behaviour or some other issue which we haven’t even yet discovered?
Secondly, growth management: It is generally accepted that wind turbines, through repowering, will last for 40 years. Boundaries around our settlement areas, whether they are our large primary urban centres or our smaller rural centres, are based on 20-year growth projections. The placement of turbines around—that is, within one kilometre of—these settlement areas will affect both the ability to grow and the direction of growth. It’s important that municipalities be involved at the earliest stages of turbine siting to note where turbines may impact long-term growth of settlement areas. Furthermore, it’s important that municipalities retain the approval authority, at least in our case, they now have under the Planning Act to ensure that official plan policies directing wind energy system proponents to the most logical location for their development are in place.
Municipal expense: At present, resources expended by Chatham-Kent necessary to appropriately review a wind farm proposal are covered adequately by the zoning application fee, which, of course, is authorized under the Planning Act. Without funding to properly assess wind farm proposals, which appears to be the case under the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, the municipality will not be able to interact, at least to the level that we’d like, with new approval processes, reducing the possibility of a favourable planning outcome.
Lastly, and most importantly to us, without question, is appropriate public and stakeholder consultation. This issue is easily the most important one. Quite simply, the best land use planning outcomes are a function of good processes. The best process is one which identifies all stakeholders—NGOs, government agencies, other wind farm developers, the general public, local communities, etc.—and provides forums for timely input. The EA consultation component, while effective to a certain point, is not nearly as rigorous as it should be.
The provision of a public sector meeting forum before council, as opposed to the one-on-one approach of public open houses used in the EA process, gives individuals the opportunity to present their concerns to their peers in an open forum and to have answers provided to those concerns.
This approach reduces uncertainty, and while the decision of council may not be to everyone’s liking, at least they know that council was fully informed prior to making that decision. There’s an appendix C attached which shows the typical issues list raised by various stakeholders for a wind farm project and how they were responded to. There are 19 items which we’ve had to address over time on that list. All of this information is made available to the public and council.
It should also be noted in issue 2, in appendix C, that council went to the extent of commissioning a report from our local acting medical officer of health to address alleged health concerns raised during the consultation. It should also be noted that issues 5 to 17 in appendix B were, in fact, identified and addressed through the consultation process we established under the authority of the Planning Act.
Our main issue focuses on the provision of the proposed bill which exempts green energy projects and facilities as defined in the Planning Act and related processes. As the legislation is currently designed, the exemption effectively removes the ability of local government to have any meaningful and direct influence over the placement of green energy facilities within their respective jurisdictions. The only recourse left available to municipalities will be an arm’s-length reaction to proposals in a process that is yet undefined. Citizens will look to local councils for leadership in protecting them from any real or perceived negative impacts resulting from the proposed green energy developments. This places municipalities in a reactionary position rather than a proactive one, easily resulting in an adversarial and less productive relationship between two levels of government.
Exemptions of green energy projects from the Planning Act approvals process will also eliminate any benefits currently being experienced. I’ve listed those in the brief. I won’t go over them, but ask you to look at them.
For these reasons, the legislative framework and related regulations must be designed in a manner as to effectively enable authorities to investigate and evaluate the impacts and merits of proposed developments in an unfettered and inclusive public environment at the local level, where the impacts will be most felt. This allows for the resolution of issues in a manner that is sensitive to local conditions and circumstances. This is the philosophy that has been applied to Chatham-Kent and it has been successful.
Our first preference is that Bill 150 proceed as proposed, with the exception of the provision which exempts green energy projects and facilities from the Ontario Planning Act, and, concurrently, the province offer assistance to municipalities struggling with the introduction of green energy facilities in their respective jurisdictions. The current process has worked well in many municipalities across the province, as it has in Chatham-Kent. We believe it can work for those municipalities that are currently resisting the introduction of these types of facilities.
This alternative, however, will have a better chance of success with provincial involvement in promoting a clear understanding of the reasoning behind this provincial direction, along with a level of technical support that will assist stakeholders in understanding the technologies, impacts, legislation and processes associated with these types of proposals.
Alternatively, Bill 150 should proceed as proposed, with added provisions that would allow the province to delegate approval authority to a local municipality which has met a predetermined set of criteria that demonstrates its commitment to green energy initiatives and its ability to deal with such proposals in an objective and comprehensive manner similar to current provisions found in the act.
Mr. Ralph Pugliese: All right. We urge this committee to look at these recommendations. Exemption will marginalize municipal and community involvement. I think it is very important in a decision-making process for significant and imposing land uses that will impact neighbouring activity, enjoyment of property, personal space and community at large.
The clear and better alternative for all concerned is to continue to allow municipalities to remain a significant part of the approvals process under the act, in combination with the environmental screening process.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Gentlemen, thank you very much for the presentation—thoughtful. Have you had an opportunity in the past to talk to the minister about these issues and the proposals that you’ve brought forward?
Mr. Randy Hope: Yes, actually. We were involved in a pre-consultation with the minister and a number of different ministries through a conference call. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make it to Toronto. We were involved in pre-consultation with the minister’s office, along with the Ministry of the Environment and a few other ministries that were involved. I can’t remember all of them, but there was a large group of ministry folks who had pre-consultation with us on the issue of green energy and wind turbines in our community.
Mr. Randy Hope: Basically we haven’t forwarded the arguments. Since the release of the act, we were trying to make sure that we had our stuff together while we’re still dealing with current wind initiatives. We waited. We knew that the legislation would have to go before a committee of the Legislature and that’s why we’re here today to highlight some of the issues that we believe are very significant and important.
Maybe it might have been an oversight. We’re hoping that was the case because Chatham-Kent, if you clearly look at the direction we’re going—wind alternatives, solar alternatives—is the leading force and we are listening to the public. Not everybody’s going to agree with what we do, but the important thing is that we are listening to the general public. We’re closest to the source.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: I don’t know if you’re aware, but Dr. Hermann Scheer, who pioneered the feed-in tariffs in Germany, supports your position. In his book, Energy Autonomy, he sets out the need to maintain municipal input and control at the local level, and you might cite that in your further discussions of this matter.
Mr. Randy Hope: We’ve had some people from New York state come and visit us because they were caught in that dilemma where there are upper governments making decisions and, as a local council, they have no authority. So they actually came to visit me and meet our planning department to get a better understanding of where we’re going and how we’re handling the matter.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed presentation. I’m taking a look at the appendix C that you’ve provided to us, which is the matrix of the list of issues. As I review this list, I see that there is, in my view, a strong role for the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Health to help municipalities manage a number of these issues in terms of the ability of an upper level of government to collect information, manage scientific data. And that is what we have heard over the years from municipalities that they did with respect to a patchwork on setbacks or examination of the studies on shadow flicker or a variety of issues.
Mr. Randy Hope: The key word that I believe you touched on is “assist,” not take over. I’ll let Ralph talk more about the matrix that we have in front of you, but I think our emphasis is that we’re looking for support, not to be taking over a jurisdiction of ours or a responsibility of ours; to allow the people of our community to speak very openly and to make sure that we’re trying to address the issues, because it is important. We must make sure we’re dealing with the health issues.
Mr. Ralph Pugliese: I concur. That’s very true. Our experience has been that people are searching for information. This is not a perfect science. There is not an answer to everything. So we do what we can at the local level to get the information. As Tom mentioned in his presentation, we’ve gone so far as to have our medical officer of health involved. However, your observations are true to form because assistance from the Ministry of the Environment, and perhaps a more rigorous approach from the Ministry of the Environment in that respect, as well as the Ministry of Health, would help us.
Mr. Ralph Pugliese: That is part of the problem, and that’s what we’re trying to present in our brief—that many don’t. We at Chatham-Kent get calls to assist and it’s from municipalities that perhaps would like to have more information and more of this type of support.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you, gentlemen, for your submission. I apologize: I had to step out, so I’m not going to ask any questions because I didn’t get to hear the brief. I will read your submission and if we have any questions, perhaps we could contact you directly at a later time. We do appreciate you joining us this morning.
Mr. Randy Hope: Most definitely. We’re here to work with the committee and work with the government of the day. Mr. Crozier is well aware of it, as he’s just down the street from me. I think it’s very important that we’ve had support and we want to continue that working relationship—alternative energies in our communities.
The one other thing which I wanted to do—unfortunately a number of our corporations, especially Chatham-Kent Energy, were not able to be before the committee, but I have a presentation as Chatham-Kent Energy. The municipality is a major shareholder in that corporation, and I do have a submission which I wish to present to the clerk on behalf of Chatham-Kent Energy, which is a subsidiary of ours. We want to make sure that we present this to the committee on their findings to show the level of support that Chatham-Kent Energy has towards the green act and making sure that we can move Ontario forward. I’d like to present this to the clerk for the committee’s reference and also ministry staff’s perusal to make sure of the recommendations that are coming forward.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): You have, as you know, 10 minutes for your presentation. There will be five minutes for questions from members of the committee. Anyone who will be speaking or responding to a question, perhaps, please state your name for the recording purposes of Hansard so that we have a record of that. You can start by stating your name and begin when you’re ready.
It is our impression that the Green Energy Act, as it’s currently proposed, has some aspects to it that threaten the preservation of land, threaten our agricultural livelihoods and encourage technologies that put health and communities at risk.
This is just an opening statement. We hope that the committee can be open-minded and take this information very seriously. It’s our opinion that few things are as frightening as governments that don’t want to be confused by the facts because their minds are already made up. We’re really hopeful that the committee and our provincial government can set aside any preconceived notions of renewable industrial energy projects and listen to the residents of rural Ontario regarding some of the impacts.
We are not NIMBYs. We’re here before you because we want to preserve our livelihoods, and our livelihoods are producing food for Ontario. The Green Energy Act, as it currently stands, has the potential to impede our ability to produce food due to some of the impacts on human and animal health, land use and the cost of production that we will incur as a result. May you be reminded, please, that only 7% of all of Canada’s land is suitable for agriculture. Over half of the class 1 agricultural land in Canada is located right here in Ontario. We need to keep in mind that we need to keep this land for agriculture.
It’s not just the footprint that industrial energy projects produce; lands are expropriated for roadways, associated equipment and structures and transmission lines. The reality is that large tracts of lands will not be returned for agricultural use in reasonable amounts of time, if ever, and the future use for livestock operations may also be impacted, depending on the locations of these projects.
There are some misconceptions. Some people do contend that the Green Energy Act, as it currently stands, is good for farmers, but we would like to offer another view on that. We feel that that view is very short-sighted. The reality is that there’s no guarantee for farmers when it comes to their own projects to improve their own operations. The industrial projects are taking the potential grid connections, and most of the local initiatives that have been proposed have been redlined because of the dominance of industrial wind taking the available space on the grid.
Turbine placement on lot lines might seem like a good idea, but it infringes on neighbours’ rights and potential agricultural development. One of the things we would also like to follow up on with the previous speakers is the fact that removing local planning from the process could be a very dangerous situation. Who will ensure the protection of prime agricultural land, our specialty crop areas and local environmentally sensitive areas?
Adverse effects are being seen on animals. Some of you may be familiar with some of these families. Here’s an example right here of a family right in the Huron-Bruce area who have been driven out of their agricultural operation of beef farming due to some of the effects of the wind energy project that was located close to their farm. Effects in dairy cattle are well documented—and I’ll talk more about electrical pollution issues in a moment. Effects have been seen in other animals as well, horses. These are real effects that threaten our livelihood of livestock production.
Electrical pollution is real; it’s not a myth. Some people refer to it as stray voltage. These issues affect rural residents and their animals daily. Historically, there has been no adequate response from the government or the Electrical Safety Authority. Instead, projects are being encouraged which compound the problems in a situation where our grid is not equipped to handle the current issues.
One of the reports that has been provided to you as part of the documentation that was given is from Kinectrics. Kinectrics is a group that has expertise in electrical transmission. It was spun off from Ontario Hydro. These are scientific, engineering and research-and-development-qualified individuals. This report was directed specifically at stray voltage, dairy farms and wind generators. The recommendation was to use a five-wire distribution system, to redo the entire distribution system in rural Ontario.
Our question is, who will pay for this? The Green Energy Act, as it stands now, will defer costs to ratepayers that have previously been incurred by energy companies. Who is going to pay for this? How will it affect us as farm families? In addition to the FIT cost of 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour, these are going to have significant impact on our financial viability.
The Green Energy Act does not address any of the issues that are currently occurring with respect to electrical pollution. Barns and livestock need to be considered sensitive receptors, and electrical pollution needs to be included as an exposure of concern in any of these projects. There are effects. There are effects on health, health of people, and on technical farm equipment. This isn’t a case of electrical problems just affecting a microwave or a fridge; these are dairy farms with highly technical computerized equipment. They could ultimately affect production quotas and our marketable products: milk, eggs and meat. Quality of soil can be impacted by some of these projects with compaction issues. Manufacturing equipment can also be damaged. Who is going to be responsible and accountable when significant health and financial losses occur?
I’m an epidemiologist, and I’m very concerned also about public health issues and community health. My post-graduate education is the same as the medical officers of health in this province. Public health principles dictate that if there is a reasonable apprehension that the public may suffer adverse health effects from an industrial activity, then steps should be taken to avoid it. The same principle applies in approving and zoning development under the Planning Act.
Studies have been requested. At this point, they’ve been denied. We’ve asked on many occasions for studies to be conducted. The government has been reluctant. Literature reviews, like the one conducted in the Chatham-Kent area, are certainly not enough. As an epidemiologist, if you called me in to look at an outbreak of disease like in Walkerton, you wouldn’t want me to sit there with books and review literature; you would want me to look at the real people and what’s really happening. Why is this not happening our province right now? Those requests have been ignored.
Instead, the government and the proponents are too busy claiming there is no peer-reviewed documentation. Let me take you through an example of peer review. The definition of peer review is a professional evaluation of a colleague’s work. People are very quick to discount Dr. Nina Pierpont. She’s one of several who have expressed concerns. Peer review for Dr. Nina Pierpont has been done by several epidemiologists and specialists in ear, nose and throat disorders, neurology and pediatrics. Why are people saying that there’s no peer review? That’s an absolute lie. It’s just not true.
Where is the peer-reviewed medical research confirming that wind turbines do not cause health problems? We haven’t found that yet. Literature reviews are not going to suffice. We need some action to happen to protect our public health.
The public health unit of Grey and Bruce counties has actually written a letter to Stephen Harper supporting some of the initiatives that have been suggested by other municipalities and endorsing a resolution of Prince Edward county. We need proper health studies to be done before these projects proceed.
What is a proper study? Why are some of the acoustical consultants indicating that there are no problems causing health effects? Dr. Leventhall, for example, is not a medical doctor. How are these individuals qualified to assess human health?
Here’s an example of some of the problems that exist in our current system: When we asked the Ministry of the Environment what the requirements are for someone doing a noise assessment, asking if it’s a professional engineer who’s required, they said, “No, they need to be prepared by qualified acoustical consultants.” So we asked, “What is a qualified acoustical consultant?” They said, “There is no professional organization to our knowledge that qualifies an acoustical consultant.” Now it’s assumed that if an individual or company designates themselves as a qualified consultant, we accept the designation. These are people who are supposed to be protecting our health and our environment, and that’s very concerning.
Why are government agencies not investigating, why are they not informing themselves regarding these health effects and why is the government knowingly placing rural Ontario residents in harm’s way? Until these issues are resolved, why are we proceeding so quickly with this Green Energy Act in its current state, which does not address the current problems and does nothing to promise addressing them in the future? As it stands, it does not protect our agricultural land or our livelihoods. Industrial wind projects are threatening agricultural communities and our health—and the health of our animals. How can you and how will you, as individuals, impact on Bill 150 in order to protect Ontario citizens and our agricultural communities? Thank you.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Thanks very much for coming this morning. Thanks for making the presentation. Is your concern primarily with wind turbines, or do you feel the same health concerns around biogas, solar—technologies along those lines?
Ms. Joan Morris: I’m not qualified to talk too much beyond what I’ve researched in terms of wind turbines. I think, as an agricultural community, we would also be concerned about projects such as solar taking up our land mass. So certainly making sure that those are appropriately situated so that they don’t jeopardize agricultural operations would be a consideration. As far as any health impacts, I’m not aware of any reported issues with those, so from the health perspective, there are no concerns agriculturally.
I think one of the things that we also want to indicate is that we’re not against small projects. We will be very supportive of small projects that would help individual farmers to produce their own electricity. It’s unfortunate that the Green Energy Act, in its current state, doesn’t give the edge to those farmers. We don’t feel that they’ve been given enough of an advantage to make that a viable option. We’re afraid that that’s not something that will be realized.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: In your presentation, I would assume that you believe that the province is in a better position than local municipalities to assess some of the larger-scale studies and scientific analysis. Do you think that there’s a role for the province to upload that responsibility and undertake analysis with respect to setbacks and things that the Ministry of Health and Ministry of the Environment could look at?
Ms. Joan Morris: I agree that there are aspects that probably should be uploaded in terms of proper guidelines and regulations, but as I noted to you towards the end of that presentation, the current guidelines and regulations don’t appear to be sufficient. We have people giving approvals for noise, for example, who may or may not be qualified. The current system is not working from the uploading standpoint, and so if the government were to put in place proper assessments based on health, based on all of the existing information that’s available and based on proper studies, then that might be reasonable, but I don’t think that we’ve done that yet.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: Okay. Are you familiar with the extensive studies that have been undertaken that analyze the negative health effects of coal use and air pollution, and the negative effects of that air pollution to our agricultural lands and to crop yield? Have you looked at that body of work?
Ms. Joan Morris: That’s not an area of work that I have looked at, no—not personally. I am aware, however, that the impact of coal-generated electricity and other fossil fuel generating is actually not the largest component of our air quality issues and some of the impacts that are being imposed on our environment. Many of those impacts that we see in Ontario are not necessarily from Ontario, so I think we need to be realistic. That’s my personal opinion: I think we need to be realistic about what this is going to do for us.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much for your presentation. I really appreciate that. Just into Ms. Broten’s point, I don’t think anybody has any expectation that wind is going to replace coal. We’ve got 6,500 megawatts of coal. We might be getting off coal, but wind’s not going to replace it. At a 20% reliability factor, which is the best you’re going to get, you’d need over 30,000 megawatts of wind installed in Ontario to replace coal. So I think that that’s a moot argument.
I do want to ask you, when she talked about the provincial over the local, why would we expect that if the province, which would have the authority to do some epidemiological studies and has been encouraged to do so by you people and people like you—as I say, I have no ability to make a judgment on that, because I don’t have the scientific background. But when this message is being driven to the government over and over again and the minister gets up and says, “There are no peer reviews,” and there’s this, there’s not that, they seem to be dismissive when it comes to it.
I often hear the NDP talk about the precautionary principle when they’re talking about nuclear or anything else. Would the precautionary principle not apply here, that if you do have a concern, maybe we should be looking at that and at least get some answers? Because I can’t give you the answers.
Ms. Joan Morris: Well, we’ve asked every MPP in this province to try and help us out in making that happen, but so far it seems to be a difficult struggle. I’m really concerned. It’s not just my family; it’s a community health issue. It definitely is.
Good morning, and welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. You have 10 minutes for your presentation and five minutes for questions from members of the committee. Just state your name for the purposes of recording Hansard, and you can start when you like.
I would like to talk about health and our rights. Bill 150 is encouraging the placement of industrial wind turbines anywhere in the province without involvement of local municipalities. The provincial government would establish the rules, and no local municipality would be able to stop the progress.
I want to talk about democracy first. Municipalities, communities or individuals often resist industrial wind power installations for many reasons: health and safety concerns, noise, disrupting wildlife, migratory routes and disrupting pristine woodlands, or for the simple reason that they upset the beauty of the landscape with very little ecological gain.
Be it rural Ontario or our great forests in northern Ontario, no matter where we live, most of us love and are proud of the natural beauty of our province. When I think about the environment, I think about my environment in Ontario. I think responsible stewardship means protecting what is lovely and natural. It seems perverse to ruin the landscape in the name of preserving the environment. Bill 150 is detrimental to our environment.
The issue is, how much do we improve the environment by producing some 2% less carbon using 25,000 megawatts of wind turbines? This, compared to the reduction to the environment where people live. By putting wind turbines too close to people so that they can no longer live in their houses, have to vacate them and move into new homes in the city, my guess is that the balance shows very little gain from wind turbines and a very real loss to the rural people.
I resist this Bill 150. To deal with this resistance, the Green Energy Act proposes streamlined regulatory and approval processes that enable the rapid but prudent development of green energy projects across the province, reducing uncertainty in transaction costs to all involved. In simple terms, this means we no longer have a voice.
It’s important to realize that local scrutiny is often the only scrutiny that a wind project gets. Unless the public complains, no one ever looks at the environmental screening report of the wind company.
To meet the goals set out by the Green Energy Act, Ontario will have to build tens of thousands of these massive turbines, linked by a vast network of electrical transmission wires. Visualize the prominence of thousands of wind turbine structures put up all across Ontario without any scrutiny by local planners. Visualize the vast network of electrical transmission wires strung all over the province without any local scrutiny.
I live in the municipality of Kincardine, where the Enbridge industrial wind turbine development is located. We live on a 100-acre farm. The wind development has 115 massive industrial turbines all around my home and my community. We are also neighbours with the Huron-Kinloss municipality, which has a substantial Suncor industrial wind turbine development.
I was opposed to the Enbridge 115-industrial-wind-turbine development for many reasons: health, safety, noise, wildlife, migratory routes, the use of agricultural land for industry, as well as the simple reason that they ruin the beauty of the landscape.
The municipality of Kincardine supported the wind turbine development, and the municipality played a role in the planning process with Enbridge. In this new bill, the municipalities will not have a say as to the placement of wind turbines.
A group of concerned citizens in our area raised money for a planner, a meteorologist and an acoustical engineer, and had an OMB hearing to appeal the Enbridge project, providing rationale and facts as to why we did not think the project should be allowed to proceed.
The sad thing was that the OMB chair could not make a decision, so he deferred to the MOE. The MOE guidelines were insufficient and resulted in turbines too close to people’s homes. Worse, the MOE permitted turbines at a greater density than their guidelines would permit, because they allowed the company to go around the MOE guidelines.
Did you know that there are 29 municipalities, including five complete counties, in Ontario that have a moratorium on future industrial wind developments? The list is long and growing, and I actually had to update it again this morning. It will be provided to you as a handout, at the back of your document.
These 29 municipalities and counties are requesting the provincial government to conduct health studies regarding the safety of living close to turbines, in order to determine the long-term noise and health effects. They are also requesting tougher standards for noise measurements from wind turbines. I think that speaks a lot for what the people of Ontario think of Bill 150, as well as the importance of health and safety studies that are now being requested from the government by these forward-thinking municipalities.
Very disturbing is the fact that our people in Ontario who live close to wind turbines are experiencing health issues. In the municipality of Kincardine, where I live, at the Enbridge wind project, 115 wind turbines have been in operation for about four to five months. The residents are already experiencing sleep deprivation, loud noise in and outside of their homes from the gigantic blades constantly swooshing, headaches, anxiety, ringing in the ears, and a lack of peace and tranquility that they had once enjoyed on their own property.
In Huron-Kinloss, the Suncor wind project has been in operation for about 15 months. The people there are having severe health concerns. Many letters to identify these health concerns were written to our government with no response in five months. People are experiencing sleep disturbances, sleep deprivation, the sensation of their skin crawling, humming in their head by their ears, ringing in their ears, headaches, loud noises—again, in and outside of their home with the gigantic blades constantly swooshing—heart palpitations, digestive problems, nosebleeds and an increasing severity of not feeling well. After five months of severe symptoms, these people, our folks who live right here in Ontario, begged for sleep and were billeted at a hotel in the town of Kincardine at Suncor’s expense. Are these the kinds of solutions that rural Ontarians can expect from a government who has forced these unacceptable living conditions on innocent taxpayers?
In the Shelburne wind turbine development, people are also suffering with health concerns—sleep disturbances, sleep deprivation, again the loud noises with the constant blade-swooshing, headaches, anxiety—and a loss in property value. Real estate has told them that their home and property is worth nothing; nobody would want to live there. These are real people and these real people live right here in Ontario. The Green Energy Act will further compromise the health and safety of the people of Ontario.
The 29 concerned municipalities and counties in Ontario adopted a resolution that requests federal and provincial support to look into the potential ill effects on people living near wind turbines. This resolution specifically requests necessary resources for scientific research into low-frequency noise and electromagnetic disturbances created by the wind turbines and asks government to create a set of guidelines to regulate wind energy developers who are interested in setting up in Ontario. The resolution has been distributed to the Ontario ministries of health, the environment and energy, and to Environment Canada, Health Canada and all provincial and federal politicians.
We now ask for health studies, but why are these industrial wind turbines exempt from full environmental assessments? Who is protecting our right to live safely on our own property? It’s certainly not those who continue to support no environmental assessments for alternative energy projects within this bill. I recommend that we continue to allow municipalities self-governance over local planning issues. They are our immediate elected officials and they should be responsible for project decisions affecting local residents. Such heavy and weighty decisions should keep our local government in the loop and in control. After all, the projects will affect local people.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: Well, first of all, Patti, thanks for your presentation. One of our presenters earlier today talked about the importance of negotiating benefits for the local community to facilitate the acceptance and the willingness of a community to host a wind farm. Have you observed, in the work that you’re doing in your community, any differential response or level of concern associated with those who are receiving direct benefit from having entered into or negotiated independently a contract, as opposed to those individuals who do not have a contract for the placement of a wind turbine on their land? Have you observed any differential perspective in terms of that acceptance or benefit?
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: Well, somewhat. My question is about the importance, I think, of submissions that we heard earlier with respect to when communities host a wind farm, for example, they want to see some local benefits in their community, whether it’s a rec centre or something like that. Has that been an issue in your community?
I think it’s a fair question: Would the Minister of Energy want all these massive powers he has under this bill if he ever thought there was going to be a—it’s okay when you’re going to put the turbine somewhere else. We all know that there will never be a wind turbine built in Rosedale.
But I want to ask a what-if question. Again, I always have to preface this by making it clear that I have no training whatsoever to be able to make any determinations as to the health concerns or lack thereof of wind turbines. I would never pretend to have that background. But let’s just say, “What if?” and hypothesize for a moment. Let’s just say that four years from now—five, whatever—it was determined that there are proven adverse health effects if these turbines are within distance X and it was ruled that they had to cease functioning. That wouldn’t make a very good investment, if you had been the people who built those turbines. It would make for a very poor investment, so you would think that proper planning would want you to make those determinations ahead of time to be sure that that could never come back on you. Don’t you think that would make sense?
Mr. John Yakabuski: Why wouldn’t the government, if it wanted to plan this in the most efficient way possible, eliminate this as an issue before proceeding? Have you gotten any response from the government on that kind of thought?
Ms. Patti Hutton: No, and personally, we have provided the government with a lot of information from European countries as far as the efficiency in shutting down coal. Shutting down coal has not happened in Denmark, for example—
Ms. Patti Hutton: Yes. Germany has 20,000 windmills and they are building more coal. So if eliminating carbon emissions is part of this bill, that is not true; that will not happen. We should be putting scrubbers on the coal plants, because the coal plants are going to continue to run.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): I’m sorry; there was a question from Mr. Tabuns. Just before Mr. Tabuns continues—Mr. Tabuns, just a moment, please—we’re happy to have audience clapping or applause perhaps at the end of the presentation. I’m going to mention this because in the middle of questions, when people are giving answers or questions are being asked, if you’re clapping, Hansard is not picking up what is being said, so it’s not being recorded officially and it’s problematic for the record. So we want your information and we want to hear it. I would just ask that you perhaps wait until the end of the presentation to give your applause.
Patti, thanks for your presentation today and thanks for all the work that you’ve done pulling things together. One question I had: You refer to electromagnetic disturbances created by the wind turbines. Could you tell me, are you proposing that these are unique to wind turbines?
Good morning. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. You have 10 minutes for your presentation and five minutes for questions among members. Whoever will be speaking, or if you’re responding to questions, please state your name for the purposes of Hansard, and you can begin when you like.
Ms. Linda Laepple: Thank you for the opportunity to present and comment on the proposed Bill 150, the Green Energy and Green Economy Act. My name is Linda Laepple. I am a full-time farmer and co-founder and current president of Local Initiative for Future Energy Co-op. With me is our co-chair, Yvonne Zyma.
We are a community-based renewable energy co-operative located in Wilmot township in the region of Waterloo. LIFE Co-op’s mandate is to foster community investment in sustainable resources to reduce our environmental footprint. Our membership consists of local farmers, landowners, business people and members of the community. We started out five years ago and came together to find win-win situations in sustainable energy development. All management and day-to-day operating tasks within the co-op have been done so far by members and board members on a volunteer basis.
LIFE Co-op is in the feasibility stage of two renewable energy projects: wind and biogas. For our wind project, we are considering a Canadian-made turbine that will be manufactured locally. Our feasibility study recently received funding from the Community Power Fund, founded by the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association. We have also developed a unique co-operative ownership and management model for biogas projects which will connect urban and rural stakeholders.
With my roots in Germany, I have quite a bit of experience with what standard offer contracts do to an industry like the biogas industry and also with the wind projects. The standard offer contract here gave us encouragement and hope; however, we met with barriers and frustration at every stage of the development. In an attempt to raise funds for our project, we had filed an offering statement one and a half years ago, and it was not approved by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, partly due to the fact that we are a renewable energy co-operative. We are very glad that the Green Energy Act has addressed this issue. We sincerely hope that the Green Energy Act will remove barriers to community-owned renewable energy projects such as ours.
LIFE Co-op’s main barriers were and still are financeing and capacity building, zoning and permits, and feed-in tariffs. With this in mind, there are several key points we would like to comment on in the proposed Green Energy Act.
Financing and capacity building: We would encourage the funding of organizations to assist start-up, community-based renewable energy projects—community-based because we are sensitive to the concerns of our communities. Simplified access to low-cost funding sources is necessary for projects such as ours to move forward.
Zoning and permits: We would recommend the introduction of a streamlined application approval system for small renewable energy projects. Regional official plans might include pre-approved areas where community-owned projects are welcome. In the region where I came from in Germany, near Stuttgart, they have pre-approved areas where the developers know, or the community knows, they can put up a wind turbine without any hassles. Local distribution companies should also be required to publish available capacity and preferred connection points, and provide simplified interconnections.
Feed-in tariffs: We support the recommendation by the Green Energy Act Alliance that the Green Energy Act must be accompanied by regulations and directions that fulfill the bill’s promise. In their analysis of Bill 150, they state:
As an example, a tariff of 80.3 cents per kilowatt for solar is proposed but limited to 10 kilowatts per home in urban areas. They should be extended to 30 kilowatts in all areas, but rooftop only, so schools and town halls could be included and to make it worthwhile for community groups to invest in it.
Livestock farmers, who are generally heavy electricity users, particularly during peak demand times for barn cooling purposes, should be able to connect up to 50 kilowatts solar and benefit from the same tariffs as urban dwellers.
Renewable power on farms would reduce the risk of loss of animals during power outages and stabilize the grid in rural areas. On a hot summer day, it’s usually 50,000 broilers that are in one barn. If the power is out, they can all be gone, and it happens every year.
To summarize, communities and farmers have to be able to come together to find win-win situations. To write policies and sound tariffs will allow whole communities to succeed in renewable energy development. When non-renewable energy sources are exhausted, we’ll still be able to farm and feed ourselves.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much for joining us today. There’s no question that anybody who’s going to have the possibility of having a renewable energy project on their farm could benefit by it, because they could be selling the power.
One of the things that we’re all concerned about, too, is the price of power. I know anybody who has a solar project would like to be getting 80.2 cents, but, as a consumer, they wouldn’t want to be paying 80.2 cents. We know that’s not going to happen because we know it’s going to be limited, but the price of power does matter to people and the amount that we put in at higher prices than what we generate today will affect them. Do you have any comments on that?
Ms. Linda Laepple: The price of power is high in general during peak demand. I don’t know what OPA has to pay for the power that is imported during peak demand. It would level that out, and the solar power would only be a very small fraction of the overall power in general. So it would not impact very much the overall price.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Thanks very much for the presentation and for taking the time to come to speak here today. This is an issue that came up in Sault Ste. Marie, and I’d like your commentary on it. You suggest that the price for rooftop-generated solar power continue to be higher than power generated at ground level. We had a solar developer yesterday talk about the need to have a higher price at ground level because he said in fact it’s more expensive for us because we have to put in footings, metal framing, whereas with roofs, we can line them on the roof. Can you tell me why you think there should be a differentiation between the two prices?
Ms. Linda Laepple: It’s a matter of land use. The roofs are there anyway, but you should not use up land to put solar projects on. This is what my experience is. In February I was in Germany. There’s hardly any south-facing barn roof left any more. They have companies that trade solar roofs or people can post if they have a roof available for lease and people can look where there is. For 80 people posting their roof, there were 1,500 investors wanting to lease barn roofs.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: Thanks for your presentation. I want to focus in on the issue with respect to the reference you make to the new German renewable energy act and the ability to use the electricity in priority. Is that what the act establishes, that if you have solar panels on your barn, you have access to that electricity? What you don’t use, you sell into the grid and you continue to have priority access to that electricity if the grid goes down. Is that, in a nutshell, what you’re saying?
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: And does that reduce the price per kilowatt paid under the feed-in tariff so that you have priority access? Is there sort of a premium if you’re willing to put it all in and less of a premium if you want to take it for yourself as a priority?
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: Okay. So we’ll have to see how it plays out in terms of a community perspective of paying a high price, but then the individual who has it getting first priority to it may ultimately have some concerns.
Good morning. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. You have 10 minutes for your presentation and five minutes for questions among members. Just state your name for the purposes of recording Hansard, and you can begin your presentation when you like.
Mr. Nicolas Muszynski: Perfect. As was announced, my name is Nicolas Muszynski. I work for a company called Renewable Energy Systems Canada, or RES Canada. We’re both a developer and a contractor for wind farm projects in general. We also work in a number of other renewable energy systems, but as the wind industry has been the most prominent in the last few years, that’s been our main focus over the last years. We’ve been in the renewable business for the last 20 years and are currently working on two projects that were successful, the most current one in the Ridgetown area in Chatham-Kent and another one up in Thunder Bay, or just maybe an hour north of Thunder Bay in the municipality of Dorion.
I wanted to just start by thanking you all for the opportunity to present here. I personally, and also our company, obviously think that the Green Energy Act is a much-needed step in the preservation of our planet, and also to stimulate the economy of Ontario. We think it’s an extremely important step.
The way we see it, there are three important parts to the Green Energy and Green Economy Act. The first one is to potentially change and improve the way that we produce energy; to change the way that we use that energy and distribute—and when I say “distribute,” I don’t necessarily mean distribute in the sense of the distribution system but distribute it and bring it from the producer to the consumer; and understanding that in the process of changing the way that we use and produce that energy, we stimulate the Ontario economy.
In order to promote the production of renewable sources, which I think are much needed to steer away from conventional greenhouse-emitting sources, there’s one extremely important point that needs to be maintained, and the Green Energy Act is a very positive step in that direction. This is policy stability in terms of energy policy. A renewable project can take from two to five years to develop before it actually starts being built. We’ve seen, in the past, some of the energy policies in Ontario last two to three years, so by the time you actually start the development of a project based on one policy, you can get to the end of it and be in a completely different framework. We’ve seen that in some of the RESOP projects and RES III projects for renewable energy—so, with the RFP projects, the larger-scale projects, where companies have been developing for many years, now there’s a change of paradigm, albeit positive in this case. This constant change of policy does not necessarily promote a major influx in investment in development.
From my understanding, part of the objective of the Green Energy Act is to promote, or to encourage, the potential manufacturing of renewable systems in Ontario. If the development of one single project can take three to five years, the way that we’ve been seeing it, obviously the implementation of manufacturing can become a much longer process and require that initial interest in the development of projects. There has to be that longer-term policy, and the Green Energy Act is an extremely good initial move toward that.
I think that the secret is going to be in the details of how all these programs are implemented. I know that there is extensive stakeholder consultation through the OPA for the FIT program. My understanding is that all the other aspects of the Green Energy Act are going to be implemented, and it seems to be on a very good track. I think we need to continue on that course if the bill is passed, which we obviously hope it will.
There’s another point that I would like to touch on, on policy. This is obviously not Ontario’s sector, necessarily, but there’s a very important part of the federal policy that needs to follow the Green Energy Act. We’ve seen in the new budget that they’ve removed the eco-energy, and the definition of who is eligible for accelerated amortization of capital costs has changed and is quite limited. Especially in partnerships where only one of the partners is not eligible, it means that everybody else is not eligible. This is a serious problem for smaller companies, for co-operatives, which means that only a small handful of companies are actually eligible for that accelerated amortization. That’s a very important part. Especially when we’re seeing the policy in the US going toward renewable systems, there’s going to be a huge drain of capital for the investments in the projects as well as equipment supply. If the federal government doesn’t follow suit with what Ontario is doing, even if the program in Ontario is perfect, it will be very difficult for Ontario to attract that development and that required economic stimulus that Ontario is looking for.
The other important part of the Green Energy Act that I’d like to touch on, and I have unfortunately not heard a lot of talk of this, is this concept of the smart grid. What I think is going to limit the development of renewables in the medium term, and in the much longer term, is the access to transmission. A lot of the projects that have already been developed, and that are basically ready to go, are going to jump on the available transmission and distribution. Those projects are going to be built. But in reality, those are not necessarily completely new investments in Ontario, in the sense that they’ve been developing these projects for the last couple of years.
This concept of the smart grid and the reinforcing of transmission is extremely important in the Green Energy Act. This comes to the way that we use energy. Obviously, a smart grid is only as smart as we make it, and we can make it extremely smart, to the extent that there are people proposing to be able to monitor people’s fridges, and if there’s a certain demand somewhere, we can shut down 100,000 fridges for an hour and transfer that load somewhere else. Now, that’s a little bit extreme, but to be able to have that level of control on the grid would allow us to include a lot more non-dispatchable energy, which a lot of the renewable energy is, and would also allow us to use and distribute our energy in a much more efficient way, thus reaching the conservation objectives of the Green Energy Act.
Ultimately, this smart grid is, in the longer term, probably a greater source of jobs, of manufacturing and of general economic stimulus, because it’s a sector that’s not really developed anywhere in the world, and a lot of jurisdictions are starting to talk about it, without anybody actually moving it forward. This is control systems, this is new jobs. It’s a completely new way of looking at the way that we distribute and use power.
Ultimately, down the road—and this is obviously not for next year—the smart grid is basically the cornerstone of using the electric car and having all our cars connected to this smart grid. I’m not talking tomorrow morning, obviously, but this is something that Ontario, with the Green Energy Act, if this smart grid and this new grid is really taken seriously, can explode into a completely new market, which I think is greatly needed all across the world in order to use the power that we need in a more efficient and smart manner. Thank you.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Thank you very much for the presentation. Has your organization taken a look at the job creation potential we’re looking at for large-scale renewable energy development here in Ontario?
Mr. Nicolas Muszynski: We obviously haven’t looked at it in a large economic study, but there are different steps to that job creation. There’s the individual project, which obviously will create jobs, depending on the size of the project, but a larger project will create a large number of jobs. We’re talking 250 to 300 jobs per 100 megawatts for wind power. I’m not sure of the numbers for solar. Those are obviously for the duration of the project and then there are between five and 10 long-term jobs for the operations. That’s just when we’re talking about one single, specific project.
My understanding is that the objective of the Green Energy Act is to encourage manufacturing in Ontario and that’s really where you’ll get much more long-term, stable jobs. By encouraging the production, the massive influx of renewable energies in Ontario, that manufacturing base can be built up. But to create those manufacturing jobs, it takes a very aggressive, long-term stance on what those renewable targets are going to be and how much renewable energy is going to be produced.
If you look at the example of our neighbours in Quebec, they had a massive RFP where they were calling for 1,000 megawatts the first time, then 2,000 megawatts, with a total of 5,000 megawatts over five to seven years. They also launched these RFPs in a bit of a lull in the market, where there wasn’t this massive competition from the United States. So to create all these manufacturing jobs, it would be necessary to have a very aggressive target in terms of quantity of renewables. But the reality is that even the construction of those projects does stimulate jobs within the area, hopefully, when the project is being built.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: In light of the comments and focus on renewable energy now in the US, just as you’re talking about when Quebec launched their RFP when we weren’t seeing that activity in the US, how important are policies being put in place like in the Green Energy Act to have us in a competitive space against the US, which is moving aggressively on a smart grid and which is talking much more about renewable energy, if we seek to see North American manufacturing come into Ontario? Can you quantify, as someone in this field, how important it is that we’re seen as being right at the lead of the pack?
Mr. Nicolas Muszynski: I think it’s extremely important. I can’t quantify it in terms of percentages or numbers, but to give the example of Quebec, in the first call for tenders in Quebec, it was for 1,000 megawatts, and there was pretty massive interest from manufacturers for the first tender. This was in the very beginning of the wind energy sector, where manufacturing companies were actually financing projects so that they could sell turbines. This is obviously not the case anymore.
In the second tender, the market had shifted and there was great interest in the United States and very little interest from manufacturers. Basically, the manufacturers presented themselves a month before the actual due date when the whole process was about two years, whereas in the first tender, it was much more up front. So even in that shift, we saw in Quebec that it was very, very difficult to even attract manufacturers to come because of the competition in the United States. That was only a few years apart, but because they had these 2,000 megawatts on the table, it was clear that that was going to be built and the policy was sort of a long-term policy, it worked, and they were able to attract two new manufacturers. So there are currently three manufacturers that have set up shop in Quebec.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you for joining us this morning for your presentation. A couple of questions: You talked about stimulating the economy and the jobs. Last week we had the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association present before the committee. They employ 80,000 people in the province of Ontario and use about 10% of the electricity produced in this province, about $700 million to $800 million a year—big customer. They have the opposite concern, as opposed to what you see as happening. They see the possibility of the Green Energy Act actually costing jobs because our hydro rates could move in the directions of those in European countries, such as Denmark and Germany, which have significantly higher power rates than we do. Their concern was that it’s actually going to have the opposite effect: For every job that is created in the renewable power sector, there could be even more jobs lost in the broader sector, and the report released by London Economics International last week supports that. There’s also a report that was released by Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid that spoke to the Spanish experience of 2.2 jobs lost for every job created in renewable energy.
I don’t think we can ignore those kinds of things. Those are not my studies, but I don’t think it’s simply a matter of saying, “This is going to be an economic boon,” because if the price of power goes up, as the studies indicate that it will, there could also be some negative effects. I’d just like to get your response to that as well.
Mr. Nicolas Muszynski: Yes, except that if the grid is properly distributed and that renewable energy is properly distributed across the province, you actually don’t have to back it up as much as you would today, in the sense that if you have two or three wind farms—we did a study of wind patterns across a large area. I did this specifically for Quebec, but across large areas and because the winds are not blowing in Kingston like they are in Thunder Bay, if your renewable production is distributed enough, you actually don’t have that many lulls in the full system. But that’s maybe not the question.
Mr. Nicolas Muszynski: No, absolutely. But I’m not just talking about wind; I’m talking about a grid that reacts in a lot different way than the grid currently in Germany and the grid that’s currently in Ontario.
Good morning, sir. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. You have 10 minutes for your presentation and five minutes for questions from committee members. Just state your name for the purposes of Hansard and you can begin your presentation when you like.
I’d first like to take this opportunity to thank the members of committee for taking time to hear my submission and to hopefully read some of the notes I’ve attached to the copies I’ve given to you. It’s not often that you get a chance to actually directly express one’s opinion to the people who are going to vote on a piece of legislation.
Before I get into the body of the presentation, I’d like to provide a brief overview of the organization I represent. We were established in 2006, and we’re located in the former village of Brussels, in Huron county. The Centre for Applied Renewable Energy, or CfARE, is an incorporated non-profit environmental organization established through the Huron Business Development Corporation and supported by Employment Ontario and the Ontario Trillium Foundation as well as others. We conduct research, and provide on-the-job training opportunities with the support of Employment Ontario, and information outreach services to the public in southwestern Ontario. We work with numerous public and private partners to promote renewable energy strategies, and we have a special emphasis on using these technologies to promote rural economic development. Through a range of past and present collaborations with organizations and businesses as diverse as the Huron Business Development Corp., Elora Environmental Centre, Lambton College and KW Power Logic, the centre engages in its mission to mobilize rural communities to achieve sustainability through adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency.
By now I’m sure the committee and their staff have heard hours of testimony and received studies and reports. I’m sure you’ve been told in detail about how this act will contribute to the fight against global warming. That’s true, and that’s a good thing. I’m sure you’ve been told in detail how this act will promote energy independence for the province. That’s true, and that’s a good thing. I’m sure you’ve been presented with a wave of facts and figures and statistics proving the benefits flowing from this legislation. That’s true, but after the 700th factoid, I can sympathize if you’re beginning to wonder if statistics are a good thing.
This presentation isn’t about statistics. What I’m going to do is tell you three stories, stories that explain why this act will help invigorate rural Ontario economies, stories about small-scale economy. All of the businesses that I’m going to mention will benefit in some way from priority access provisions, the emphasis on the development of a smart grid and a progressive system of feed-in tariffs that the act envisions. Just as important, however, is the fact that with the passage of this act, Ontario will become one of the priority places for investment in renewable energy, and this investment creates more jobs per kilowatt than investment in fossil fuel generation.
The first of my stories concerns a family manufacturing business belonging to Bernie MacLellan, who I’m sure Ms. Mitchell knows very well, that formerly had 40-some employees and over 40,000 square feet of manufacturing space. The economic downturn has left him with lots of space but little work for his employees. Two years ago, Bernie began to develop a small-scale integrated wind turbine system suitable for farm and rural business use. The system uses a unique approach to maximize the power used from the turbine and minimize that used from an overstretched rural grid.
The promise of this bill has promoted a resurgence of interest in small-scale generation, and there is no reason that that demand can’t be met by homegrown firms. In the case of this manufacturer, a rate of one system produced per day would amount to 35 jobs and purchases from 23 other local companies.
The second story concerns a young graduate from the University of Waterloo, Jasmine Hofer, who, with her father, used her European connections to adapt and integrate old-world technology and ideas into a unique Canadian product. Backup generators are a fact of life on the farm. The cost of diesel for trucks, tractors and a generator can make life a little pinched at times. What our young graduate and her backers did was develop a system that allowed a farmer to prepare, crush and filter their own oilseed in one easy turnkey operation and at a reasonable capital cost. The resultant mash becomes a feed supplement for the livestock, and the oil becomes fuel for the farm equipment, including a gen-set, the output of which the farmer can have some security about feeding into our new smart grid.
The final story is also about a farmer, in this case Don Nott, who’s growing a biomass crop. The biomass crop is switchgrass, and I want to stress switchgrass, because the last time I told this story, someone in the back row heard “twitch grass” and thought they were going to make a fortune out of their lawn. Switchgrass does have some things in common with weeds. It doesn’t need really top-quality soils and requires much less in the way of inputs than feed and food grain crops. You can harvest it, when it’s tall enough, with regular farm equipment. Biomass crops can and are being used to replace coal in both thermal and electrical generation. If they become more widely used, they will provide farmers with another cash crop.
The last story, however, illustrates an area of the act which could be improved. Just as renewable electricity generation is not just wind turbines, and I would like to stress that, renewable energy is not just electricity. If the committee wants to improve an already innovative and useful piece of legislation, they would do well to put significantly more emphasis on cogeneration—combined heat and electrical applications—and on straight thermal applications, both of which become major contributors to the province meeting its conservation targets.
The three stories illustrate the potential for world economic sustainability on a small scale that the act before you represents. New, rural-based manufacturing, new integration and innovative uses for old systems and well-tried ideas, and new and sustainable revenue streams for the farming community—all this and a clean environment.
Mrs. Carol Mitchell: Thank you, David, for coming today. I just wanted to give you the opportunity to expand on the cogeneration piece and the thermal application piece, but I did want to thank you for the stories that you told about—you weren’t here earlier, but switchgrass was talked about—
Mr. David Blaney: Cogeneration is one of those areas which can be done both on a large and small scale. Last year, I actually went to a conference about microscale cogeneration involving various pieces of equipment, which apparently is becoming quite a thing—the fuel cell development has become quite a thing in Japan and in the east. Large-scale cogeneration is the type of thing that, in some ways, you used to have in the city of Toronto, in which the downtown area was actually heated from one central plant and that plant also turned turbines.
The advantage of it is that most electrical production, in some way, produces heat. Certainly, all biomass applications produce heat. It would seem to be intensely practical to use not only the electricity, but to find a way to also use that heat. It is now slowly being used in greenhouses. I know that in both Leamington and along the shore of Lake Erie, they’re producing electricity, but they’re using the heat from the process to heat their greenhouses.
Mrs. Carol Mitchell: It’s just a short question. There had been, earlier in the day, a great deal of discussion about food versus energy production and how that affects our communities. Do you have any thoughts on that, David?
Mr. David Blaney: There are a couple of things that I think you need to know to understand the argument. First of all, most crops are actually grown for feed, not food—most grain crops are, by and large.
The second thing is, there are a number of specific plants, or products, if you will, that can be grown on land that is not particularly good land in the sense of good economic farm land, and switchgrass is one of them. There are a couple of types of oil-producing plants that can also be used on those particular types of lands. So I’m not entirely sure that the argument is that should you go directly from bioproducts and bio-oils, it directly impacts food. That is not necessarily the case.
Good afternoon, sir. You have 10 minutes for your presentation. There will be five minutes for questions from members of the committee. Just state your name for the purposes of the recording Hansard, and you can begin your presentation as soon as you like.
Mr. Siegfried Kleinau: Good afternoon, everybody. I hope everybody enjoyed the good and healthy lunch. My name is Siegfried Kleinau, better known as Ziggy. Thank you very much for the opportunity to present this submission on the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, Bill 150, on behalf of the over 1,200 members and the board of directors of Citizens for Renewable Energy—CFRE—and our seven affiliated organizations, comprising nearly 10,000 members.
I am the coordinator for Citizens for Renewable Energy, and for nearly 14 years we have informed and educated citizens and advocated and prodded governments and institutions to realize and utilize nature’s free power from sun, wind and flowing water. We have given numerous workshops and we have made quite a few submissions. Our first submission, only shortly after our incorporation as a non-profit organization, was to the MacDonald Commission on Ontario Hydro affairs in 1996, right here in London; then we presented on the Energy Competition Act in 1998; at the select committee hearings on alternative fuel sources in 2002; and less than five years ago on Bill 100, the Electricity Restructuring Act, in 2004.
We congratulate the government on finally taking concerted action to tap into clean, sustainable and safe natural resources to clean up the air and water and create tens of thousands of new long-term jobs. We are very happy that the minister has adopted and included a considerable number of recommendations made by CFRE in our submission on Bill 100. And if you look into your info package, you’ll see our submission there.
The new act puts a greater emphasis on energy conservation and efficiency. This is a most important step to take. We call it the first commandment for renewable energy users—don’t waste any of that precious power. We have devoted almost the full back part of our flyer to actions to take on energy conservation.
A major portion of funding must be set aside for eliminating the 30% to 40% of energy waste, which several recent studies have identified. With grants and interest-free loans for renovations and energy-efficient appliances, the huge cost of refurbishing these old 2,000-megawatt Pickering reactors can certainly be avoided. We also classify self-generation of power from rooftop solar PV and solar water heating as energy conservation, since this power is produced where it is consumed, avoiding the generation of costly, inefficient and polluting conventional power, with the added benefit of relieving stress on transmission and distribution grids, likely avoiding the cost of adding new transmission.
We heartily support the introduction of the new feed-in tariff, which we had advocated for in our Bill 100 submission under the title of advanced renewable tariffs—the ARTs—backed up with a resolution sponsored by CFRE and adopted by the international coalition of Great Lakes United. You’ll find that also in your info package.
We strongly recommend that the scale of premium prices be retained, as proposed. Private investors have to be assured of a fair return for dedicating their funds for a cleaner, safer and more sustainable energy supply. They should be assisted with interest-free loans or even small grants, but in no way should they be penalized by increased taxation through MPAC. There has to be a clear direction by the minister to stop that agency from gouging homeowners and businesses.
We welcome the mandatory connection inclusion in the bill, and strongly recommend strict rules about cutting red tape in all phases of installing, connecting and metering of renewable energy systems. As stated in the preamble of the bill, remove barriers. There’s no room for red tape in green energy.
We want our province’s energy supply to be as secure, cost-effective and independent as possible. All our fuel sources now have to be imported, and I guess nobody realized that—coal from Pennsylvania, oil and natural gas from Alberta, uranium from Saskatchewan. Their prices are at the whim of those suppliers. We have sun, we have wind, we have rain to keep our rivers flowing. They are all free. What is keeping us from making full use of these safe and sustainable fuel sources?
Just to reiterate, energy conservation should be the real impetus of this bill because from then on, we can close down those old nuclear reactors. We don’t have to spend billions on refurbishing them; we might not even have to build any new ones. We really have a lot of potential in those renewable energy sources and they’ll be on much quicker than any new sources from conventional energy.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much, Ziggy, for joining us today. You touched on a few things in your submission that I’m going to ask you about. On the rooftop solar, are you suggesting, even if it’s not on the grid, we should be subsidizing the cost of the installation of those for people who want to have them as part of their home energy use? And do you feel that we could operate without nuclear or any other fossil fuels, that we could reach a point where we could operate without them, not only for homes, but including industry here in the province of Ontario?
Mr. Siegfried Kleinau: To the first question, those investments are made by private citizens and we have to realize that they’re putting in their own money and if we want to build more nuclear reactors we have to fork out taxpayers’ dollars. These private citizens, if they invest $20,000 or $30,000 up front, certainly need to be assured that they have a payback, that they have a fair situation where they are being congratulated and rewarded for this action they are taking. Of course, as I was saying, it’s just a conservation action, too. The answer to the other question is, I just pointed to 30% to 40% of energy waste. All of this has to be eliminated and then we can do the rest with renewable energy.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Ziggy, has—sorry; I should have said thank you for coming and making your presentation today. I really appreciate it. Are you aware of reports that have done an analysis of the scale of solar PV potential here in Ontario?
Mr. Siegfried Kleinau: There are a number of studies, and unfortunately they haven’t really grasped the potential. OPA, for instance, has more or less neglected solar, and I’m pointing out the solar water heating too, because if people would supply solar heating for their water heating needs, it would really make a big difference. I can still figure that about 30% of a household’s water-heating comes from electricity. Again, it doesn’t work all year round but definitely it’s just offsetting a good portion of that source of water-heating. It’s a big opportunity and it should be grasped, and OPA and the IESO should really look into that potential.
You’ve been sitting here all day and you’ve heard the concerns that we have heard from the people. How would you go about addressing some of the concerns that are talked about by a number of action groups today, and specifically with regard to the health concerns, do you feel that they can be addressed through setbacks? If so, what would the setback be that you would recommend?
Mr. Siegfried Kleinau: As for CFRE, we must confess that we don’t really support these large industrial wind farms. We are looking at the co-op model, and it’s really one of the best models because people, private citizens, invest their money in these models and these projects. That way they are directly involved, and then they can’t come up and say, “Hey, we’ve got health problems.” I would really like to find out what the real reason is for people that they can claim these health impacts, because I have never heard anything.
I’ve been to Europe and Germany many times; I’ve never heard anything over there in that regard. Actually, I was with a wind energy developer and builder and he said, “Well, you know, some people have a problem with the strobe effect,” when the sun shines through those wind turbine blades and it reflects on the house. “We gave them blinds and said, ‘Just for two hours, pull the blinds, because after that, the sun has moved over on the horizon and everything is back to normal.’” The same with wind noise: Again, the wind never blows out of the same direction all the time, so it’s just for the time that the wind blows towards the house that they get a little bit of a hum.
A lot of people—actually in our Ferndale wind turbine, they have a wind farm. They have come close to it and said, “We’ve never heard the wind turbine. We heard the traffic noise from the highway, but we didn’t hear anything from the wind turbine.”
Good afternoon, sir. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. You have 10 minutes for your presentation and five minutes for questions among the members. Just state your name for the recording purposes of Hansard and you can begin your presentation when you like.
Mr. William Palmer: Mr. Chairman, honourable members, thank you for the opportunity to address this committee hearing with regard to Bill 150, the Green Energy and Green Economy Act. Officially for Hansard, my name is William Palmer, although I’m normally known as Bill Palmer. It works easier.
To introduce myself, our family’s developing TRI-LEA-EM, which is an environmental gathering place for serving youth and church groups in Bruce county. For over 10 years, the TRI-LEA-EM gathering building has been a demonstration of sustainable resources. Electricity supplied by solar panels and a well-insulated passive solar design minimize heating costs, and there’s a place for that.
Our original design at TRI-LEA-EM considered the use of a wind turbine. When it came time to purchase the turbine, I contacted a person selling a used machine. Why was he selling it, I asked, and the answer came in two parts. Firstly, he said, “Well, I can get hydro now and my wind-generated power is just too expensive.” Secondly, he told me that the neighbours, who were half a mile down the road, complained about the noise any time the turbine operated. I stored this information away in my head, and ordered solar panels.
Then, about five years ago, it was announced that the largest wind turbine development in Canada would be built in our municipality and the neighbouring one. The turbines would be safe, they’d have zero emissions and be a financial boon, the developer said. Many landowners signed leases without further investigation. Neighbours asked me, “Aren’t you going to sign up?” And I replied that when someone offers me free money, alarm bells ring.
My career in the natural resources sector with Noranda Mines and in the electrical generation sector with Ontario Hydro, Ontario Power Generation and Bruce Power gave me experience in the fields of system design and operation, training others, accident analysis and public safety. My engineering education is from the University of Toronto, with specialized courses from MIT in the areas of safety and risk assessment. I’ve been a practising professional engineer in the province of Ontario for over 35 years.
When I applied those skills to the studies of wind turbines that were being built in Ontario, the results were unsettling, to say the least. They showed the turbines were being placed too close to roadways and too close to the edges of leased lots for safety. The risk calculations that were being performed by the wind turbine industry were flawed. I identified this to the Ministry of the Environment, but no action ensued.
Independently, Hydro One networks looked at and determined that wind turbines should be set back over 500 metres from their 500-kV transmission lines, but CanWEA, the industry association, states that wind turbines need to be set back from roads and lot lines no more than 51 metres: a 10-to-1 difference. The public is not being protected. Again, letters to the Ministry of the Environment brought no effective response.
When I looked at the actual performance of wind turbines in Ontario, it showed a blade failure rate four times higher than seen in Europe, as was identified in a briefing file that was presented to the Minister of Energy and Infrastructure on January 24 of this year. The file shows that a higher blade failure rate has been predicted for tall wind turbines with a large rotor diameter during conditions of high wind shear, which is a condition that’s proven to exist in Ontario. These facts identify that the issue of public safety needs to be addressed by adequate setbacks. This had also been identified in letters to the Minister of Energy, and the Minister of the Environment previously, again without resolution.
Then, using experience I had in studying the root cause of incidents, my attention turned to the noise emissions from wind turbines. Research in Europe had determined that changes in the wind profile caused an increase in annoyance from wind turbines at night. This was identified to the Ministry of the Environment, along with evidence showing that this was happening in Ontario. I expected the MOE would investigate and take corrective action. Instead, the MOE’s senior noise engineer refused to take action, and he noted that my evidence wasn’t published. This confirmed my first indications and fears that the Ministry of the Environment was not protecting the citizens.
Then, when the MOE approved the certificate of approval for the Enbridge Ontario wind development, they didn’t follow their own wind turbine noise guidelines, but allowed a non-standard calculation technique to increase the sound levels at homes.
I presented a paper at the second international Wind Turbine Noise meeting in France in 2007, to show the evidence gathered in Ontario. Delegates there—there were about 150, from 24 countries—were supportive, and when showed the Enbridge Ontario wind development plans, they observed wryly: “You are going to have problems.”
After that conference and a further workshop, the MOE did revise their wind turbine noise guideline to state that the summer nighttime average wind shear needed to be used to correctly calculate the noise emissions. Yet, when the MOE issued the certificate of approval for the Harrow wind development months later, they failed to apply the guidelines.
Further, when they did revise their wind turbine guidelines, they refused to apply the penalty for cyclical noise that they called for in their own requirement, NPC-104. It calls for a penalty to be applied if the sound is either tonal or cyclical. The MOE refused to comply with their own requirement and said instead that unless the sound from wind turbines is both tonal and cyclical, no penalty would be applied. The MOE are consistently not applying their own rules.
It’s informative that the MOE’s senior noise engineer stated publicly at a workshop that he was “proud to have approved the Ontario wind turbine developments,” and he stated further, “People will get used to the noise.” Ontario allows wind turbines to produce 51 decibels of noise, while in Germany the limit is 35 decibels. This is an important difference.
A significant flaw in Bill 150 that needs to be addressed is that it delegates the responsibility to develop setbacks for wind turbines to the Ministry of the Environment. Ms. Doris Dumais, director of the MOE environmental assessment and audit branch, wrote me in April of last year and said, “I would like to make it clear that the ministry does not have standards for setbacks to wind turbines,” and then concluded, “The ministry does not intend to introduce setbacks for wind turbines.” She carried on: “As you know, municipalities may set requirements for wind turbine setbacks under the authority of the Planning Act.” Yet Bill 150 then takes that responsibility away from the municipalities and gives it to the MOE, who have consistently shown that protection of the public is not a priority to them.
At the recent MOE technical expert workshop held to collect information about wind turbine setbacks, Mr. Kevin Perry, director of the MOE program development branch, stated, “The goal is to make it possible for these technologies to be installed.” That was the goal of the workshop. A second MOE spokesman added, “The intent is not to create rules and requirements.” Then he added, “There is no time to debate requirements.” At that workshop, the MOE staff refused to permit a presentation on the health effects of turbines.
You’ve already heard from citizens, and you’ll hear from more, who have suffered, in contravention to the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights, from noise or other emissions from wind turbines. You’ve heard that an evidence-based, epidemiological health assessment is required to determine the actual impact on public health before setbacks can be determined.
As a professional engineer, I have an obligation: I am obliged to give you formal notice that undue risk to public safety is being posed by wind turbines at the present setbacks. The consequence of ignoring this is increased risk of public injury and death. Additionally, I have to advise you that the Ministry of the Environment is intentionally contravening their own requirements when issuing certificates of approval for noise from wind turbine installations in Ontario.
On an unpolitical note: You realize that Christians in Ontario are currently celebrating the season of Easter, a season that brings hope to the life of believers. It’s chilling to observe the contrasting denial of hope and the lack of respect shown to citizens harmed by the effects of wind turbines and to professionals showing factual evidence. Statements by the Premier and the Minister of Energy that show that the intent of the Green Energy Act is to ensure that NIMBYs will never again stop the development of wind turbines in Ontario is a denial of hope and brings despair. It makes a mockery of the fact that every person in Ontario believes our actions shouldn’t harm another.
In your review of Bill 150, you must find this bill as flawed. It needs correction. It’s critical that setbacks to protect the public from physical risks and health effects must be identified before the bill is passed. It needs an evidence-based—
Mr. William Palmer: Certainly. You’ll hear from presenters who will say that the Green Energy Act is necessary to save the world; however, many of them have no experience of living under a turbine. Please, unless you’re going to publicly state that everyone who’s seen adverse effects is a liar, then really, you shouldn’t pass this bill until you’ve set proper setbacks and ensured that the problems that have been created have been resolved.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Bill, thanks for taking the time to put together the presentation and come down today. Listening to what you’ve said, I see wind turbines as our best chance for rapid deployment of renewable energy. Would you say that your perspective is more that coal and nuclear are better options for us, in terms of power generation at this point?
Mr. William Palmer: Wind turbines, improperly sited, are a problem, sir. Wind turbines, improperly sited, are not safe, clean renewable energy. They’re a problem. We need a dispatchable source of generation. Nuclear is a dispatchable source of generation that can be used. As Mr. Kleinau has just stated to you, we should be looking at solar water heating. That’s not in the green energy bill. I raised it at the technical workshop and people said, “It’s not here. We can’t talk about it.”
There are difficulties that we really need to look at. We need an energy source that doesn’t cost too much. Wind, unfortunately, costs—right now, we’re paying $110 a megawatt hour for wind, and most generators are actually paying to be online because the power costs have been negative for the past several weeks in the province. The wind generators are being paid. I don’t think that’s really fair to the small person. So I’m afraid I can’t support wind turbines. They’re good in a niche market. As a case, in my place, where I’m supplying a small building and I’m willing to put in the storage system, they’re okay. But industrially I believe they’re not useful for us.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: Just to pick up on the questions Mr. Tabuns was asking, you’ve given us quite a bit of review with respect to the issues associated with the siting of large-scale wind turbine farms, and certainly your view would be that municipalities that have had the responsibility to date of establishing setbacks haven’t had the capacity to do a good job in that regard.
Mr. William Palmer: The difficulty that we’ve had up to now is that every municipality has been picked off one at a time without any identified provincial standard. And yes, we have looked for a provincial standard. However, having set a standard, the province should set a minimum standard and then it’s up to municipalities to say, “Now, given a minimum standard, what are the special circumstances that apply here? What are the special land uses? Are there special conditions we need to consider?” That’s something that this bill takes away. So there needs to be a minimum standard, because two neighbouring municipalities can have a double standard, and that’s not appropriate.
Mr. William Palmer: As I said, really the standard needs to have an epidemiological health study done first. If the study is not done, really what you’re having to do is say, from a public health point of view, you need a two-kilometre setback to a residence and you need a 500-metre setback to any roadway or any lot line. Because you see, there’s no protection for people otherwise.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much, Mr. Palmer, for joining us. I doubt that you have a whole lot of comfort—this issue of the minister always justifying the usurping of municipal powers by saying, “What we’re going to do is upload the responsibility of establishing minimum setbacks,” which he says was a hodgepodge of whatever, which it was. We accept that. But what comfort would you have that the minister’s actually going to err on the side of caution with respect to setbacks? Because we’ve heard nothing from him about where he sees setbacks as being. I would suspect that what you’re saying is absolutely correct: that before you go on the development binge, you should establish these or have these rules in place. I know I’m not comforted by what he said about what setbacks may be, and again, I can’t comment on the adverse effects because I don’t have the background.
Mr. William Palmer: My definition of blade failure, when I talk of a four-times-greater blade—that is where the blade pieces are on the ground. I’m not talking of a lightning strike where you have to replace a blade. Huron Wind, for example, at the Bruce, replaced five blades on five turbines in the first year because of lightning strikes. I counted none of those as blade failures because they didn’t end up with blades on the ground. I’m talking about Ontario having a blade failure rate four times greater than was seen in Europe, and that’s pieces on the ground, pieces that will kill someone.
Ms. Colette McLean: My name is Colette McLean. I belong to an organization called Essex County Wind Action Group. I’m a resident of Essex county. With me today are Bill Anderson, who is chair of our group, and his wife, Maureen Anderson, who is co-chair as well. Also with me today is Barbara Ashbee. Barbara Ashbee is part of my presentation today. I handed out my presentation to you.
I am personally appalled at the tactics the standing committee is taking to squelch these people who are living with wind turbine problems, and I felt it important to rescind my presentation. I hope you will read it and incorporate the information in today’s hearing. I would like to hand over the presentation to Barbara now.
You need to know the problems with wind turbines and people living with them. I know you probably know me. You’ve probably seen my letters. When the wind turbines started up in early December, we had terrible noise issues, and it was pretty much instant. There were three nights straight we didn’t sleep at all, and that’s what prompted my letter to the wind company and to—I actually sent it to the MP because I didn’t know how this all worked at that time. I had no idea.
We had no thoughts that we were going to have problems. When the wind turbines were actually going up at our place in the summer, we were putting a double-car garage up at the same time. We had put in a new fence, a new deck, everything. We weren’t expecting anything. We’re not anti-wind, we’re not anti-green, but there are big problems with the setbacks in our area.
The closest turbine is 456 metres behind us. There are two north and south of it. Our house faces east. Across the road, the next closest is just under 700 metres. When those winds pick up, they’re so loud we cannot sleep at night. We’ve had test after test.
I will say the wind company has been very diligent in trying to find out what the problem is. Tests have been going on over four months now. They’ve been in our house with monitors, outside the house with monitors. They’ve shut turbines on, off. We’ve spent a lot of time with them, and I think they will agree that the two of us have worked very well together—with the acoustics company and with themselves—but they can’t fix the problem.
There’s this horrible hum and vibration in our house. It just drives you mad. It’s been there for the last six days. I’m sorry. It comes and goes, but it’s so loud you can’t sleep, and it’s coming through the walls. The buried cable transmission lines go up the side of our property—we’re on one acre—and I don’t know if it’s electrical coming through the ground in our house or what it is. We’re looking for a rental now because we can’t stay there.
When I hear people say, “There aren’t problems,” and “It’s all in their heads,” and they’re just unhappy because they don’t have a turbine, I don’t even know what to do. My government has not been helping. My MPP, thank God, has been active in trying to work on my behalf with the government, giving everybody my story, and my council has been good, but I’m not getting anything back from anybody.
This hum and vibration is not covered in the guidelines. There are no guidelines for interior noise in our house. When the winds are whipping up, and we can’t sleep for days and days at a time, there’s nothing. You phone the MOE and I cannot tell you how many times I heard, “We’re in compliance. We’re in compliance.” They’re in compliance. They’re in compliance. In fact, they weren’t in compliance. Finally, we dragged it out and got the acoustics study back. It’s just been such a fight to get information.
Now they’re shutting five turbines down at night, and I thank them for that because that’s helping with the noise, but this vibration in the house is horrible, it’s absolutely horrible. Nobody should have to live like that, and I can’t believe the government hasn’t intervened and sent someone to our house to test for dirty electricity or whatever it is. It’s unconscionable, it just is.
We didn’t want to speak out in December. Finally, I gave up and I started writing letters because I didn’t know what to do because now our property value is zero. If I could move out of there, I’d have a for sale sign, we’d be gone, but we can’t sell our house. We’re into the fourth month and a couple of weeks ago a wind company head office guy came and talked to us. We’ve talked to so many people. He said, “Okay, I’ll see you in a month.” I’m like, “A month? We’ve gone on far enough.”
Here we are, we can’t move. We have nobody helping us. Yes, they’re doing their best, but look at the size of the company and look at the number of turbines they have up in Canada, and they can’t fix that problem. If you guys are going to go push more through—and then, because I came out and starting speaking, I’ve got people all over the province phoning me and saying, “Help us. We’re not getting anywhere with our MPP. Nobody’s listening to us.” And I’m trying to help, I’m trying to get the word out, I’m trying to get—
Ms. Barbara Ashbee-Lormand: Excuse me? I’m just saying, they’re phoning me and I’m saying, “Phone your MPP and tell them they have to get the message to the higher-ups.” I keep getting told, “We’ve written letters, we’re getting phone calls,” and they’re having problems. My MPP’s awesome. She’s been fantastic, she’s been very helpful and I said that my town council has been trying its best to help us also. There are other people on our farm who are having problems. They’re not necessarily speaking out yet. They’re phoning me, and that’s fine. I have no problem with that. I would never, ever, ever put anybody’s privacy at issue or say anything, but there are lot more people than even you know or have heard from.
Ms. Colette McLean: I would like to ask this committee, what are you planning to do to help this situation? What are you going to do to help these people? You may think that it’s only one or two, but we have information—we’re getting information—that there are potentially a lot more. And what we’re finding is that, because people feel that green energy is as important, we have to do this. What else can we do? We want to see this province move forward. We’re all like this in this room, including us, but what happens when people like this are being affected and there is absolutely no recourse for these people? I would like to know how the Green Energy Act is going to address this or, at least, how this committee is going to address this or how MPPs are going to address this.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: I’ll respond briefly. The process that is ongoing right now is an opportunity for a committee of MPPs from all parties to travel the province and hear from communities, and that’s what we’re doing. We’re having 33 hours of public hearings on the bill and travelling the province and having an opportunity to hear about the challenges in a variety of municipalities across the province with the establishment of setbacks and how the province can assist as we move forward. Individuals like you have an opportunity to put in written submissions and to attend before committee. Only so many people can come in that period of time, but the process is managed by the three parties collectively and I think it works well to hear voices. That’s really what we’re doing today—having a chance to hear your voices.
Mrs. Carol Mitchell: Thank you. I just wanted to say to you that the comment that is made in one of your reports that the MPP—and you specifically named myself—from the riding specifically with regard to the Ripley farm—that nothing is being done. That is not true. I want to say that when the concerns first started from the Ripley farm—and that was, what? About, I guess, eight or nine months ago?
Mrs. Carol Mitchell: No, no, let me finish. One of the things that they asked me to do was to not get involved. They wanted to work through the private negotiations. When they finally came to me and asked for some assistance, I met with Suncor to address what had been done. I’ve talked to Hydro One. There are studies going on right now to deal with the issues. In my mind, we have to go in and address the concerns. That is what my office is doing. When we see something like this—and Sandy is coming later to speak to the committee. She will be speaking as the last presentation. But to say that I have done nothing is inappropriate.
Ms. Colette McLean: I disagree with that, madam, because you have done very little, if you’ve done anything. You are promoting wind and you’re calling Bruce county the centre of energy. You’re pushing for these projects to go ahead and you’re dismissing these people as NIMBYs.
Mr. John Yakabuski: I do appreciate your submission and putting a face on what we’re hearing from people. It’s very hard for someone like myself to quantify it, because so much of it can be seen as anecdotal, but I’m still hearing that any kind of official response at the ministry level is basically non-existent.
Ms. Barbara Ashbee-Lormand: Yes, Sylvia Jones wrote to Mr. Gerretsen’s office in January saying, “These people have real concerns. Please get in touch with them.” I received a copy of the letter on the 15th, and on the 20th, our MOE office phoned and he said, “I hear you’re having a problem,” and I said, “Yeah, we’re having a problem,” and I went into it with him on the phone. We had a long discussion—probably 45 minutes long. I got some misinformation on decibel levels allowable. Again, I’ve said how many times that I’ve been told, “They’re in compliance, they’re in compliance.” That’s just the phrase word that they like to use, and when I questioned—basically, I was told over the phone that up to 60 decibels was allowable.
Mr. John Yakabuski: The fact that your setback on one was 400 and some metres and the closest one in another direction was 700 and some metres—that, you would think, would certainly give them reason to consider those setbacks as being inadequate—
Ms. Barbara Ashbee-Lormand: No. The wind company is shutting five down at night. They recognize they have a problem, and finally when we got the acoustics report, it was there in black and white. It took a long time—
Ms. Barbara Ashbee-Lormand: There’s absolutely a problem. But the one behind us is shut down permanently, and then they’re running four during the day—three to four—on low rpm so that they’re not emitting as much noise as the other ones, and then they shut them down at night.
But this vibration is just absolutely horrible, and it comes and it goes. Other people have heard it. We had a councillor in. We phoned her one day. Actually, I was in school and my husband phoned her to come in, because we were trying to get people to experience it that we—that’s the first time I had actually met her; I had been to council meetings, but I hadn’t actually met her. I was trying to get people to feel it. It’s a horrible, horrible feeling, and it’s a humming—
What puzzles me is this: I’ve talked to farmers in Alberta, in Pincher Creek, whose farms were saved from bankruptcy by the installation of wind turbines, and they were extraordinarily happy in their experience. Some were—
Mr. Peter Tabuns: I’m not saying you haven’t experienced what you’ve experienced. What I’m trying to understand is what the difference is in conditions. I’ve talked to people, again, in southwestern Ontario, who are very close to wind turbines. Frankly, they’re very comfortable with them. So I’m curious as to what the factors are that have given you this experience that is clearly very difficult.
Ms. Barbara Ashbee-Lormand: Yes, and it’s my thought—and they can’t figure it out. Mind you, nobody from the MOE has come to check, but there are buried cable transmission lines going up the side of our property and there are Bell wires, and there’s a theory that perhaps the transmission cables are inducing electricity into the Bell wire, which is coming into our home. It’s grounded in our circuitry so it’s going around our house. We have had, just last week, an electrical consultant test for dirty electricity and he did find dirty electricity at 13 volts, which may not sound like much, but it’s a lot.
Ms. Colette McLean: That’s why we’re asking for the epidemiological study, to determine the extent. When they did the Walkerton review, they looked at the foci. The foci starts with two or three cases and then they branch out to determine how far the extent of the problems are. That’s how you have to do it. It’s going to require this province to do a review. I’m sorry, it’s an investigation. If you want to go forward with these types of projects, you’re going to have to prove to us as residents—it’s not up to us to tell you, to show you. We don’t have the resources to do that. You have to be able to develop that study and determine how far back, if that’s what you want. I don’t want to see them at all, personally, I’ll be quite up front about it, because I truly don’t believe that this is the real green thing. Industrial wind is not the real answer. I think there are a lot of other possibilities and we should be looking at more research instead, but if you’re going to go ahead, then you have to do that investigation, that epidemiological study.
Good afternoon, sir. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. You have 10 minutes for your presentation and five minutes for questions. Please state your name for the purposes of recording Hansard, and you can begin when you like.
Mr. David Timm: Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members, for allowing me the privilege to speak to you on this important proposed legislation. My name is David Timm. I’m a vice-president of AIM PowerGen Corp., a wind developer active here in the Ontario market. AIM is one of the largest independent wind-developing companies active in Canada. We have successfully built and commissioned 140 megawatts of projects in Ontario, both under the renewable energy supply RFPs as well as the renewable energy standard offer program.
I’m pleased to have the opportunity to provide comment into your deliberations on Bill 150, the Green Energy and Green Economy Act. We’re encouraged by the outreach and extensive consultations in forums such as these legislative hearings, as well as avenues such as the Ontario Power Authority’s stakeholdering on the proposed feed-in tariff program. These are excellent examples of how public policy should be formulated.
The proposed legislation in Bill 150 holds a great promise to develop and modernize the province’s electricity sector. We welcome the introduction of the legislation as a positive signal to industry that the provincial government is serious about enabling renewable energy projects as part of their economic and environmental objectives. The Green Energy Act better positions Ontario to attract investment in an increasingly competitive and challenging time in the market.
That said, there are a few areas of the legislation that we felt warranted greater scrutiny. My comments will be focused on four areas: empowerment of the renewable energy facilitator’s office; maintenance of Ontario’s prudent approach to environmental appeals and hearings; treatment of early movers in a shifting policy framework; and concerns related to the increased integration of renewable energy into our system.
Number one, the empowerment of the renewable energy facilitator’s office: The powers and the responsibility of the renewable energy facilitator’s office need to be clearly defined and robust enough to be effective. After many years of having to navigate through varying avenues of permits and approvals, through numerous agencies and ministries, the office of the renewable energy facilitator is welcomed. However, it is unclear as to the role and the powers of the facilitator, and its role in ensuring the achievement of the province’s renewable energy objectives. It is critical that the office have ultimate responsibility to monitor and report on permitting and approval processes. The functions and reporting requirements of the Environmental Commissioner under the bill and the Environmental Bill of Rights could serve as a useful template in developing the role and powers of the renewable energy facilitator’s office.
My second comment is in regard to the maintenance of Ontario’s prudent approach to environmental appeals and hearings. Over many years in Ontario, adversarial hearings have been recognized as the last resort for environmental decision-making, in part because of the experience in the late 1980s and early 1990s with seemingly endless environmental hearings that, too often, resulted in unsatisfactory results. While in limited circumstances the time and expense of an adversarial hearing is necessary and useful, one of the principal thrusts of previous ways of government streamlining initiatives has been to reduce the frequency of hearings, particularly with respect to private sector energy development and environmental assessment. For this reason, the current approach, for example, under the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Environmental Protection Act, provides a threshold process known as a leave to appeal through the Environmental Bill of Rights.
The leave-to-appeal process is designed to screen out third party appeals that do not merit the time and expense of a full-blown hearing. Through a leave-to-appeal application, a third party must demonstrate the basic merits of its case before it is granted a hearing.
The proposed legislation under Bill 150 seeks to remove the leave-to-appeal screening and push every appeal into a hearing. A hearing as a right of appeal for every new renewable project in Ontario is the opposite of streamlining. It ignores lessons learned over many years, as reflected in Ontario’s current cautionary approach to environmental hearings.
The current leave-to-appeal process available to third parties under the Environmental Bill of Rights comes much closer to striking the right balance between mitigating the risks of frivolous strategic third party appeals while preserving the opportunity for a hearing in the right circumstances. Instead of eliminating the useful screening role that the leave-to-appeal process under the EBR has played and, therefore, burdening renewable energy projects with a new wave of environmental hearings, Bill 150 should simply build on the strengths to mitigate the weaknesses of the current EBR leave process.
My third point is on the treatment of early movers in a shifting policy framework. To provide certainty to developers and investors, predictable and stable policy and procurement processes are required. In the five years since renewable power procurement began in Ontario in late 2004, approaches to procurement have changed considerably.
Over the years, the focus of procurement has gone from large-scale projects through competitive tenders to small distribution connected projects through the renewable energy standard offer program and the original, and subsequently abandoned, renewable energy supply III RFP, and then back to large-scale tenders in 2008, and now to a European-style feed-in tariff.
At the same time, a renewable energy power industry has blossomed under a positive policy framework, but it has also struggled to adjust to all of these changes in procurement policy. While all of these changes and new initiatives have helped keep Ontario on the leading edge of renewable power development, they have also left developers consistently adjusting and changing business plans at considerable time and expense.
Each shift in policy and procurement mechanism leaves developers having to adjust projects, budgets and priorities in an attempt to respond and compete in the newly defined marketplace. These changes have also made it difficult to attract manufacturing and the creation of sustainable, long-term jobs.
Minister Smitherman has stated that the proposed legislation and forthcoming regulations will drive investment in renewable energy in Ontario by bringing certainty and stability to the marketplace. These are very positive goals and ones that are craved by industry. The policy and procurement frameworks that the Green Energy Act seeks to implement must provide certainty and predictability in order to create an attractive investment climate that will deliver the desired investment.
At a time when economic activity is direly needed, new policy initiatives like the Green Energy Act and the OPA’s proposed feed-in tariff are both designed to facilitate maximized renewable energy, and should not have the unintended consequences of themselves delaying projects which are mature and in development under the abandoned policies and programs.
By not addressing commercial issues that arose in previous procurement programs and then barring projects in development under those programs, initiatives implemented under the Green Energy Act may have the unintended consequence of delaying mature, shovel-ready projects.
When a technology is relatively new to the political, economic and social landscape, questions will naturally arise. Informed public discourse on renewable energy options, such as wind energy, is good for all Ontarians. What are wind’s impacts on the environment? What are the benefits to the local community and its economies? What role will wind play in ensuring Ontario’s energy future? These are all important and topical questions. Discussions surrounding these questions should, however, be informed by what the last 15 years of experience and scientific inquiry have taught us with respect to commonly raised concerns about wind energy in Canada and abroad.
Canadians, and specifically Ontarians, overwhelmingly express support for renewable energy like wind. Polling numbers consistently demonstrate this support. The federal government, along with provincial governments across the country, have recognized the importance of wind as a renewable energy source and have taken steps to remove barriers to development.
As public discourse on the merits of wind energy continues, it will be important to ensure that the discussion is informed by accurate information based on scientifically accepted research and documented technical experiences, not anecdotal information or, worse, by information that is so easily propagated in this information age.
In conclusion, AIM PowerGen applauds the Ontario government for introducing this innovative legislation. We feel that it will position Ontario as a North American leader in the promotion and integration of renewable energy.
David, one thing that has been practised for decades, if not centuries, when dealing with opponents of something you want to do is you face head-on their criticisms or their argument opposing what you want to do, and in doing so, you remove that opposition, should you be successful.
We’ve heard from so many people today with respect to the need for an epidemiological study to determine whether, and to what degree, wind turbines and their proximity can affect the health of those within that area.
Would you, as a developer, support the government proceeding with a third party study that would answer these questions, deal with these questions, face those questions so that we can, with some form of a comfort level, move on, should that be the determination of the study? Would you, as a developer, support that?
Wind energy, while it’s relatively new to the Ontario and Canadian landscape, is not a new technology. There are decades of experience in the United States and Europe. You’re not looking at drastically different communities or areas. The reinvention of the wheel and reinvention of data is not necessarily warranted. What we can do is learn from that experience and review those studies. There are good examples of that being done.
Mr. David Timm: I’m not dismissing the fact that these issues are real, but I think we have to create the checks and balances and processes to determine what are appropriate setbacks and appropriate designs.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Okay. One of the questions that has come up in the course of these hearings is the whole question of municipal approvals. So, a practical question for you: Have you found, in going through the municipal approval process, that you have been arbitrarily held up in processing?
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: Do you have any thoughts with respect to the level of government that is best suited for the gathering of the scientific information that you indicated has been done, should be done and should continue to be done?
The second question: As we foray as a government and as a society into a new area, do you have any advice for the committee with respect to areas where capacity needs to be built either within our various ministries or within the municipalities to be able to assess and manage some of these new technologies—not new in the world, but newer to Ontario?
Mr. David Timm: In terms of your first question, I think the Ministry of the Environment, through the current environmental assessment process, through the certificate of approval process—it’s a dynamic process. We’ve heard today already that the Ministry of the Environment in 2007-08 did a review of their noise guidelines. It shows that there’s a need for a consistent review of the current science that’s available to us. I think it behoves us as stewards of the environment, which I suppose is the task of the Ministry of the Environment, to be current on the science that’s available to us.
Mr. David Timm: Absolutely. And again, I think the ministry has done that through that noise review, which was 12, 18 months I think—there were a number of stakeholder sessions, technical sessions with community representatives, technical representatives, and it provided the opportunity for ministry staff to hear the concerns, hear the current science, the research that’s being done and then make a judgment call, make a revision or a review of the process. So I think those mechanisms are built into the processes we have and I think, going forward, the discussions currently happening with the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing are good examples of trying to get up to speed.
Mr. Lee White: My name is Lee White. I’m a board member of the First Nations Energy Alliance. I’m also the director of economic development on the Walpole Island First Nation, and I’ve been in that position for the past 18 years.
The paper that I have in front of you: First of all, I believe the Green Energy Act is a very good act. I think it will lead to some very good opportunities for First Nations as well as other Ontarians, as well as the end goal to help pollution matters.
Section 35 of the Constitution: The interpretive subsection 1(2) of the GEA states that the act shall be interpreted in a manner that is consistent with section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and with the duty to consult aboriginal peoples. This section should be amended to read, “and with the duty to consult and accommodate, where required, aboriginal people whose existing or asserted aboriginal treaty rights may be affected by this act.” Further, we request that this interpretative section be included in each of the acts that are proposed to be amended by the GEA for consistency and clarity.
The renewable energy facilitation office: The objects of the REFO set out in subsection 10(2) should be amended to include a furtherance of projects on First Nations lands. We also believe the act should provide more guidance to the REFO on what “facilitation” exactly means.
We recommend that paragraph 1 be amended to say, “To facilitate the development of renewable energy projects including but not limited to making recommendations to the minister regarding priorities for overcoming barriers to advance the development of renewable energy projects and such other matters as may be prescribed by the regulations.”
We recommend that paragraph 2 be amended to say, “To work with the proponents of renewable energy projects, other ministries and other governments to foster the development of renewable energy projects across Ontario and to assist proponents with satisfying the requirements of the associated approvals processes and procedures, both provincial and federal, including but not limited to providing proponents with information in respect of interactions with local communities and undertaking annual reviews to identify and chart the progress of removal of barriers for the development of renewable energy projects that benefit Ontario.”
Integrated power system plan: Amend subsection 25.30(2) of the Electricity Act, which deals with the integrated power system plan, to broaden the goals and provide more flexibility for matters that are addressed by the Ontario Power Authority and approved by the Ontario Energy Board pursuant to ministerial directive.
Going to point 2 under “Issue”: When Minister Smitherman issued the September 17, 2008, IPSP directive to the OPA, the minister asked the OPA to revisit the IPSP with a view of setting new targets for renewables, among other things. The directive also directed the OPA to conduct enhanced consultations with aboriginal people and to “consider the principle of aboriginal partnerships in generation and transmission.” We later heard from counsel for the OPA that, in their opinion, the ministerial directive as it relates to considering aboriginal partnerships was not a matter that the OEB would have to address in its review.
For this reason, we recommend subsection 25.30(2) be amended to provide more flexibility to the ministerial directives in connection with the IPSP. This could be achieved by simply adding the following clause 25.30(2)(e): “such other matters as may be prescribed by the regulations.” Accordingly, we request that the consequential regulation be put in place that permits the minister to issue IPSP directives relating to consultation and growth plan matters with First Nations.
We recommend that subsection 25.32(4.5) be amended as follows: “The minister shall”—instead of “may”—“direct the OPA to establish measures to facilitate the ownership”—instead of “participation”—“of aboriginal peoples in the development of renewable energy generation facilities, transmission systems and distribution systems and such measures shall include programs or funding for, or associated with, and goals relating to aboriginal ownership in the development of such facilities or systems.”
We are supportive of the addition of subsection 25.32(4.5). However, without consequential amendments to the IPSP review section, there will be no public process to address an ongoing development and review of aboriginal participation programs that the OPA will be directed to undertake.
Under “Feed-in Tariff”: The new proposed subsection 25.32(2) regarding ministerial directives on the feed-in tariff programs contemplates such directives that would have goals relating to participation of aboriginal peoples. We are not comfortable with the word “participation” in that it’s unclear what the intent and goals are. Therefore, we would prefer to use the term “ownership” in its place.
Under the Environmental Protection Act: We need assurances that the appeals process under the environmental assessment will include a right to appeal on the basis of existing or asserted aboriginal rights and treaty rights. Accordingly, we request that subsection 142.1(3), grounds for appeal, be amended to include appeal rights on the basis of an existing or asserted aboriginal or treaty rights.
Under the Ministry of Natural Resources: The existing Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act contemplates certain exceptions for existing hydro sites and for use by communities that are not connected to the IESO grid. We request that exception be broadened to permit hydro sites that benefit First Nation communities; see the current section as set out below.
First Nations need to be able to have access to these sites for sustainability of their communities. If the current exceptions permit development within parks because it will service First Nation communities, the environmental impact will be the same as in the case of where First Nations communities are permitted to develop the site for broader purposes other than just their own uses.
The exception, existing hydro electricity generation sites: Subsection 19(1): “Despite section 16, facilities for generation of electricity located in a provincial park or conservation reserve that exist on the day this section is proclaimed in force may continue to operate and be maintained and, with the approval of the minister, may be improved, rebuilt or altered.”
The exception, not connected to the IESO grid: “Despite section 16 and subject to the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, facilities for the generation of electricity may be developed in provincial parks and conservation reserves for use within communities that are not connected to the IESO-controlled grid.”
In summary, we are in support of the proposed changes to Bill 150 and we commend Minister Smitherman and MEI for its quick action and receptivity to promote these legislative changes. We think that another bold step is required to formalize First Nations at the decision-making level. The FNEA has committed itself to promote a regulatory and decision-making environment that will see the creation of strong, sustainable First Nations projects.
First Nations involvement must be part of the development of the renewable energy permit and appeals process. Much remains to be decided and formalized under the new permitting process and First Nations must be involved in those processes now. The First Nations Energy Alliance is an example of an organization that can take a lead role in this area.
The REFO must have a clear mandate to formalize a working relationship with First Nations through the creation of a First Nations advisory panel. The FNEA is an example of an organization that can be involved in this First Nations advisory panel.
The objects of the REFO set out in subsection 10(2) of the Green Energy Act need to be improved upon so that it is clear what “facilitation” means, and the powers of the REFO in relation to other ministries.
Mr. Lee White: Okay. First of all, I thank you for this time. I believe that the Green Energy Act is a great opportunity for First Nations; and the fact that these opportunities are available to all Ontarians. I believe that the First Nations will have a place in helping with renewable energy projects and I believe that some of these amendments will actually make this a level playing field for First Nations.
Mr. Lee White: Okay. There are a number of nations that are involved. There are also associate members—the Metis and corporations, although they are not voting. I can’t exactly name all the members, but there are about, I believe, 30 members at present. If you would like, I can respond to that within the next day.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: That gives me a sense. The amendment with regard to hydro generation or electricity generation in parks and conservation areas—those bands or those communities that are not currently part of the IESO-controlled grid, are they diesel-generation dependent at this point, for the most part?
Mr. Lee White: Water, I think, would be a dispatchable energy; wind would not be, so it would not eliminate diesel. Although my understanding at this point in time is, some of the nations in the north, because of the diesel, are paying 54 cents a kilowatt hour, and that’s everybody. So the idea of the parks being open—if you’re going to do a project in a park for, say, a one-megawatt or two-megawatt tower, the EA process is practically the same, whether you’re doing, say, a one-megawatt project or a 10-megawatt project. I think amend it to have the opportunity to take a project to something where you could broaden your goals and actually make this a profit-making deal.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: On the same proposed amendment, your submission states that the environmental impact will be the same as in the case where First Nation communities are permitted to develop a site for a broader purpose than just their own use. I was wondering whether or not the organizations that you’re working with have evidence or scientific information with respect to the environmental impact assessment of a smaller site for your own use or a larger site, some for your own use and some for sale.
Mr. Lee White: I can’t point to a specific example. I think the point here is that we’re looking at the opportunity. As I’ve said, the cost of power in the north, which they’re very dependent on, as noticed in the last go-around with the prices going as high as they did, I think what they’re—it would point and give the opportunities that are there.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much, Mr. White, for your presentation. My question was similar to Mr. Tabuns’s. We had a gentleman from the First Nations Energy Alliance present to us yesterday up in Sault Ste. Marie. He raised the issue of the First Nations up there, something like 29 of them, I think he said, that are dependent on diesel-generated power. Of course, your amendments would make it easier to develop those kinds of areas so that they could be self-reliant with respect to self-generated electricity other than diesel. I’m quite certain that the government will be taking a look at your suggested amendments. I can tell you that in my riding, many of the mills are actually working in partnership with First Nations to try to develop some renewable energy projects with respect to biomass, and I think we see some promise there. So we do appreciate your presentation today.
Welcome. If you could announce your name and the organization you speak for, and once you begin, you’ll have 10 minutes and then there will be five minutes for questions. Whenever you’re ready, you can start.
Mr. Jan Bujik: Good afternoon. Thank you very much for allowing WADE Canada to present to your committee today regarding Bill 150, the Green Energy and Green Economy Act. My name is Jan Bujik. I’m a director with WADE Canada.
WADE Canada is a national not-for-profit industry association and a country chapter of the World Alliance for Decentralized Energy, a member-driven organization governed by a board of directors. WADE Canada’s overarching industry voice and focal point for Canada is traditionally a fragmented, decentralized energy industry.
While at WADE Canada we applaud your efforts with Bill 150, we are also concerned that in its current form, Bill 150 fails to provide equal support for high-efficiency combined heat and power, also referred to as CHP, projects. We believe there is enormous potential in Ontario for the expansion of CHP capacity to contribute to the green and clean environment.
Our key recommendations are shown on this slide. Regarding CHP, we support the recommendations that have been developed by the Green Energy Act Alliance on the incorporation of CHP in the Green Energy Act. We also urge the introduction of CESOP as soon as possible and incorporation of recommendations as have been submitted by various industry associations such as APPrO, the Association of Power Producers of Ontario; CDEA, the Canadian District Energy Association; and OGVG, Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers. They have all been fairly consistent in their recommendations.
Regarding biogas applications, the rates and the feed-in tariff are extremely encouraging. We do, however, recommend a further differentiation of the rates, specifically as they apply to small, farm-based projects. We believe that there’s a case to be made to have special rates that apply for projects under 500 kilowatts and specifically in the 100-, 250- and 500-kilowatt segments.
Regarding biomass applications, the base case that the pricing is based on is a 30-megawatt biomass power generation plant, which would be located right beside a pulp and paper mill. Our assessment is that the application and the technology development for biomass fuel-powered generation and cogeneration will be more localized, smaller projects, often as part of district energy systems, and that they will be more in the one- to 10-megawatt size range, and there, too, a further differentiation of rates that encourage the development of these smaller projects is implemented.
Regarding landfill gas, the current FIT rates are lower than they used to be under the RESOP program. Our recommendation is to keep the landfill on par with the biogas rates, given that in many cases, the rate structure also has to support the implementation of the gas collection system. As the landfill opportunities are looking at smaller landfill sites, the respective costs are relatively higher than what was experienced before.
This is a picture that I want to show to underscore the importance of proceeding with a CHP program and to highlight what I would call the “unintended consequences” of the delays and implementation of either a standard offer program or a feed-in tariff that applies to combined heat and power.
What you see in the picture here is a greenhouse in the Leamington area that has recently switched to burning coal. Over the past three or four years, there have been as many as 15 to 20 greenhouses that have switched to burning coal as the fuel of choice. Conservative estimates of those greenhouses are that this is a combined area of about 300 acres of greenhouse space. When you look at the annual gas consumption of a greenhouse to heat an area like that, the gas consumption typically is 225,000 cubic metres of gas per acre, per year. If you look at replacing that natural gas with coal, the coal that’s being burned currently in those greenhouse would be the equivalent of having a 200-megawatt coal-fired power plant that runs for about 1,000 hours a year. There’s a serious issue here. There’s a serious opportunity that’s being missed by the ongoing delays in implementation of a CHP program, where greenhouses are natural for the implementation of CHP. Until such a program is out there, they’re looking for other means to reduce their energy costs, and coal is a fuel that recently has attracted several greenhouses as the fuel of choice.
Building a little bit on the CHP aspects, at WADE Canada we fully support the maximum utilization of renewables. When maximizing the use of renewables—maximizing wind, maximizing solar voltaics—you start to get a power infrastructure that requires more and more dispatchable generation. Because of the uncertainty of power generation and the uncertainty of wind, power from these renewable sources is available to maximize the utilization of renewables. It is important that also dispatchable generation is being created. What I would like to highlight is the potential that exists with combined heat and power to not only provide dispatchable generation, but to provide dispatchable generation at the highest possible efficiencies.
Being recognized overseas are jurisdictions like Germany, Denmark and Holland that are on this track to maximize renewables, and they are also renewing their focus on incorporating combined heat and power in their system infrastructure. What you see here is a picture of an energy system in Denmark combined with thermal storage that allows for the production of power during times when power is needed, and by storing the heat in the big tank, you can then utilize the heat during all the times of the day.
In Ontario, we have a phenomenal opportunity to do the same thing with greenhouses. Greenhouses already include thermal storage tanks. The picture you see here is one greenhouse in Leamington or Kingsville, which happens to be the one greenhouse that was successful in responding to a CHP RFP. The greenhouse already had two thermal storage tanks. In a project like this, engines will run only when power prices justify plant operation. All the heat is being recovered; it will be stored in a thermal storage tank, and when heat is needed in the greenhouse, it will then be transferred into the greenhouse.
In addition, the exhaust of the engines will be cleaned up. Components like carbon monoxide, NOx and ethylene will be removed, and the exhaust will then be directed straight into the greenhouse, where plants absorb the CO2, and that will enhance plant growth and increase plant production. So greenhouses are here—
Mr. Jan Bujik: All right. I figured I wouldn’t get through the whole presentation. Again, thank you very much for allowing me to speak here. I believe that the Green Energy Act is allowing us to do what’s right and develop the energy infrastructure that we, as a province, would like to see, and put the incentives where they need to be in order to develop this energy infrastructure as cost-effectively as possible. Thank you very much.
It’s my understanding that jurisdictions such as Germany have recognized the importance of CHP, but they’ve also recognized in some ways that it is different than other forms of renewable energy—perhaps it needs a different economic model; it has different environmental impacts. So they have brought forward a mechanism where their CHP process is different from their renewable energy process. It’s incremental and it has a number of different concepts. It’s my understanding that the OPA is developing and offering separate procurement processes for CHP right now. I’m wondering if you can comment on the German model and what works, what doesn’t work and whether that’s a model that we could look to?
Mr. Jan Bujik: Actually, I’m not intimately familiar with the German model. I can comment on where the Ontario situation is today. The OPA, three years ago, first introduced the draft program rules of what was then called the CESO program, the clean energy standard offer program. Stakeholders felt that benchmarks were missed and that price levels should be changed to reflect what was needed to develop these projects. By May of last year, the OPA came out with a revised program, which was widely recognized as a solid program that had the right structure to allow projects to be developed. The only drawback was that it was a value-based program, not a cost-based program. So the calculation was based on what the OPA felt would be the value of power produced, and basically relating the value of power to what the cost is to produce power with a combined-cycle power plant—
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much, Mr. Bujik, for joining us today. I was intrigued by some of your information. Given that the current government has made a mantra of demonizing coal as an energy source, that they would stand by and allow greenhouses to convert to it across southern Ontario—because I have not heard so much as a whimper from the government with respect to that. But then again, back in 2007, they actually made a grant to Dofasco to convert their blast furnaces to pulverized coal at that time. So sometimes you wonder where the consistency is. That’s certainly something that I think proponents of green energy should be concerned about, if that’s the case. We certainly hope we can get some more information as well.
It looks like you have a concern that natural gas combined heat and power projects should also fit somehow into the FIT program, so that they would be rewarded for their contributions to green energy. I also see that you have some concerns about the numbers with respect to biomass and biogas, to see whether they are sustainable or viable at those kinds of rates. Could you comment on my—?
Mr. Jan Bujik: A few comments here. The coal issue, I think, is a big issue that not many people are aware of. It’s made possible because in the agricultural sector—the emission regulations don’t apply to an agricultural facility the same way they apply to an industrial facility. So there’s an environmental permitting and regulatory issue with greenhouses and agricultural business, in general, which allows this to take place.
Mr. Jan Bujik: So the debate is, “Okay, should this be governed by regulatory changes or should this be recognized as an opportunity to provide a program that implements CHP?” It’s similar to what’s happening in the Netherlands, for example, where you cannot get financing to build a greenhouse unless you include a cogen project. With 10,000 hectares of greenhouse space, there are about 2,800 megawatts of cogen capacity installed in the greenhouse industry in the Netherlands. That’s more than 20% of the total peak demand in the country—
Mr. Peter Tabuns: I didn’t want to slow you down in mid-flight, but I have a few questions. You don’t have a recommended price per kilowatt hour for CHP-generated power in your document, or if you do, I missed it. What do you suggest as the range that would make sense?
Mr. Jan Bujik: It’s not the price, it’s the structure, and the structure is the way that was recommended by APPrO and CDEA and OGVG, and that is to apply the results of the first CHP RFP, being a reflection of the cost of CHP, and use those benchmarks in the CESOP program as the draft rules were published a year ago.
Mr. Jan Bujik: I did a very rough assessment about four or five years ago. It was based on the total area of agricultural lands in Ontario, compared to German numbers; there would be an opportunity to develop at least 5,000 megawatts of biogas-fuelled power generation in the province of Ontario by having a fully integrated system that looks at food, feed, energy, crops. But if you optimize it, substantial numbers are possible.
Mr. Jan Bujik: That is just me sitting behind my desk, saying, okay, if I look at the German assessment and how much power they can generate by optimizing the biogas business based on total area of agricultural lands, and if you then Google what the total area of agricultural lands in Ontario is, you get numbers like that.
Good afternoon. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. You have 10 minutes for your presentation. There will be five minutes for questions from members of the committee. Whoever will be speaking, or if you both will, please state your name for the purposes of recording Hansard. You can begin your presentation when you’re ready.
Mr. Garry Fortune: My name is Garry Fortune. I am an energy consultant representing Stanton Farms. With me is Doug Carruthers, who represents Organic Resource Management. It’s a pleasure to be invited to speak before you. We appreciate it very much.
I’d like to say first off that we believe that the Green Energy Act has a tremendous potential in terms of developing an on-farm biogas industry here in Ontario. What we’d like to do is show you how that can happen—some of the success stories that we have just down the road.
Stanton Farms is located just outside of London, Ontario. It’s a 2,000-dairy-cow farm operation that was recently moved from London, Ontario, and had to be reassembled because of urban growth in the London area. It just commenced operation in the last year. Incorporated into that is a state-of-the-art biogas facility, which you can actually see. What we do there is we capture all of the waste material from the farm, the 2,000 dairy cows that are currently on the farm. We collect all of that and we process it through a biogas facility. Every one of those cows can generate between three and four kilowatts of energy per day. What we do is we take that methane, and when we put it through the digester, it creates methane gas. We take that methane gas and we burn it in generators to provide clean, renewable energy for the neighbouring community.
In our first phase over at Stanton Farms, we’ll be able to produce 1.3 megawatts of clean, renewable energy. That will produce enough power to power up over 800 homes—the entire town of Ilderton, Ontario—and then we’ll be sending some more power this way, to London. It’s quite exciting when you really look at it.
We can also increase our production by adding off-farm waste from the food service and food processing industry. This is the type of waste that ends up in landfills or ends up being sent to the waste water treatment facilities through the wash systems and through the waste systems of food service and food processing industries. Of course, it ends up taxing those systems and ultimately, at the end of the day, it ends up with the taxpayers having to pay to expand those facilities when they need the extra capacity.
But unlike wind and solar, there’s much more infrastructure that’s required here. It’s not simply a matter of relying on when the wind blows and the sun shines; we have to have a process to create the gas and to process that gas. What you see here, for instance, is in essence our underground sewer system that collects all of the waste on the farm and processes it into the digester facility that we have. There’s a tremendous amount of infrastructure that’s needed for processing the fuel and actually creating the fuel source that can provide the methane gas.
We also have a cogen system. What we do here is we take the gas, and once we burn it and the generators turn, it creates electricity. We put it out into the hydro lines for the local community to use. We actually recapture the heat that’s generated from those generators, and we use that heat to heat up the facility and the waste material as it goes into those tanks, because we have to keep it at a certain temperature—37 degrees Celsius—to accelerate the bacteria growth in it. We also use that heat to heat our in-floor radiant hot water system that we have throughout the facility. When we designed the new facility, we put tubing in the cement flooring, and we run hot water through that. We actually heat the hot water using the heat that’s generated from the generators. We’re also looking at heating a school that’s located less than a kilometre due south of our biogas facility.
What we have here is a sample of this, and I’d just like to pass it around to you. I assure you that the pathogens have been killed in this process. That’s the beauty of the anaerobic digestion process: The pathogens have been killed and the odour is eliminated. What we have is simply the inorganic matter that’s left over. These are really the lignins of the fibres of the plant material that the animals eat. If you smell it, you’ll see that it basically smells like peat moss. The farm uses that as animal bedding. We also market the excess as a peat moss replacement product for the landscape industry. We’re also involved in a research project with the University of Guelph, looking at biomaterials. We have a sample of fibreboard being passed around, which we can manufacture from the leftover fibres. This is a very strong fibre, so we’re looking at adding that to plastic manufacturing in car parts and other types of parts.
Of course, the other product that’s left over is the liquid nutrient by-product. That becomes an organic fertilizer, providing an alternative to the use of chemical-based fertilizers, so we’re able to use it on-farm for crop growing. Again, the beauty of that is the odour has been eliminated, the pathogens have been killed, and of course it doesn’t propose a risk to groundwater quality. In collaboration with the University of Western Ontario, we’re looking at a project where we actually take that liquid by-product and feed it to algae in a greenhouse operation. The algae grow, multiply and create an oil. We can extract that oil and convert it to biodiesel to operate the farm equipment. What’s left over is a protein by-product—in essence, the dead algae. We’re able to take that, feed it back to the cows as a protein supplement, and the leftover water can be cleaned and fed back to the cows.
What we’d like to say here is that there’s tremendous opportunity in terms of on-farm biogas. It is really the reliable renewable. It has the ability to generate 24-7, not simply when the wind blows or when the sun shines. It also has tremendous environmental benefits. Methane gas is 21 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. The traditional means of spreading manure on land releases methane into the atmosphere. What we’re doing in this process is capturing it, converting it to clean, renewable energy, and of course developing valuable by-products. We decrease odours. We reduce pathogens. We are able to convert the by-products to valuable by-products. We’re able to divert waste from landfills. We can decrease disease-causing pests, because the manure is not spread on land, attracting flies and creating larvae. We also are able to reduce herbicide use on the farm, because traditional means of land-applying the waste results in weed control problems, but when we put the waste through the digester system, the weeds don’t survive that process.
These are just a few of the environmental benefits, both on- and off-farm. Of course, it’s a matter of creating a rural green economy. Virtually all of the biogas facility put together at Stanton Farms was locally sourced. It provides farm diversity by providing additional on-farm income for farmers at a time when they certainly need it. Also, ongoing maintenance creates a service industry, and of course there are value-added by-products, which I’ve explained to you.
I just want to quickly show you some statistics about what’s happening in Germany—tremendous opportunity. In Germany, there are over 4,000 biogas operations today, creating over 1,400 megawatts of renewable energy. In comparison, the average nuclear power plant today in Ontario generates about 500 megawatts. In Ontario, we have five—less than 700 kilowatts. A thousand kilowatts are in a megawatt. In Germany, they predict that by 2020, 17% of their renewable source will come from on-farm biogas. In Ontario, we predict that 12% of all of our renewables will come from—all of our generation will come from renewables by 2025. That’s the target we’ve set here in Ontario.
Today, there has been over $1.5 billion invested in on-farm biogas, creating over 10,000 jobs, and they predict that by 2020, there’ll be $10.5 billion invested, creating over 85,000 jobs. Why? Because they have an incentive program that has allowed them to do this. They incentify the feed-in tariff rate and they also provide additional incentives for the things that we’ve been trying to do at Stanton Farms: the heat recovery projects, the bio projects, using certain types of waste like manure, for instance. But one of the challenges we’ve faced here is the fact that there’s a disconnect between the Ontario Power Authority and the energy board in terms of getting things done here. Really, what it comes down to is—
Mr. Garry Fortune: Sure. One quick point, and that is we believe that there’s a need to change the feed-in tariff rate to incentify it more if we really want to see the development of an on-farm biogas industry, because there is truly tremendous opportunity to develop that and a true rural green economy. Thank you, Mr. Chair and members.
Mr. John Yakabuski: That’s a great presentation. We’ve been dying to hear that. I’ve talked about biogas on a number of occasions, and its potential. You touched on one of its strengths, that it is totally dispatchable. Once it’s in the system, once we have the facilities, it’s totally dispatchable, which is the inherent weakness of wind. In spite of what might be seen as some of the qualities of wind, the fact is that dispatchable is significant.
There are tremendous amounts of agricultural waste on our farms, which is a problem in itself that we have to deal with on an ongoing basis. If we had the ability to have enough of these located in strategic areas—and I want you to tell me about transportation problems too, because I think there are some—what could we see as the total megawatts from biogas from Ontario?
Mr. Garry Fortune: To answer your first question, there’s certainly no reason why we can’t duplicate what’s happened in Germany. Our agricultural base is similar to what Germany has done and there are over 4,000 on-farm anaerobic digesters.
In terms of the FIT rate, no, we don’t believe that the power authority has looked at the actual capital costs involved in this. We’ve tried to get some information from them in terms of how they’ve rationalized their rate of 14.7 cents, but they haven’t been able to provide any information. As you can see, there’s—
Mr. Garry Fortune: As you can see, there’s a lot more infrastructure involved for on-farm biogas, but the fact is you get that many more benefits. You get more tremendous environmental benefits and tremendous ability to develop a rural economy than you do with the others.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: First of all, thank you. A very impressive presentation. What is the tariff level that you would be looking at for this to be viable? And secondly, as in Germany or any other places that utilize biogas, it looks to me like you have a fair amount of waste heat. You’re trying to utilize it, but you must have more than you can handle. Are there other places where they utilize the waste heat to run greenhouse operations as well?
Mr. Garry Fortune: Absolutely. To answer your first question, in terms of Stanton Farms, we believe that the rate needs to be in the neighbourhood of 20 cents. In Germany, the rate is 30 cents Canadian—20 Euro cents, roughly—but the way they come to that is they have incentives for other things like heat recovery. The feed-in tariff that the Ontario Power Authority is proposing doesn’t take that into account. You can see the infrastructure that’s required to build a cogen system. They don’t provide that incentive there to do that, so it’s a cost to do that stuff. We need to have incentives to do that. In terms of your second question, I apologize—
Mr. Garry Fortune: Absolutely. Certainly, one of the benefits of it is to be able to feed greenhouse operations. We’re actually also looking at taking that extra heat and using it to concentrate the liquid by-product, because there’s merit in terms of cost advantages of concentrating the liquid for land application and also for marketing purposes.
Mr. Fortune, you mentioned many technologies involved in the project and also some other benefits. My other question is, how much do you need in order to sustain your operation and make it viable to continue in business?
Mr. Garry Fortune: Again, I think the rate that Stanton Farms believes—it needs to be in the neighbourhood of 20 cents per kilowatt hour, as opposed to 17 cents, and there have to be incentives, whether it’s a combination of incentives that do that, in terms of heat recovery incentives, the use of different types of waste material.
As far as benefits, there are tremendous environmental benefits on-farm, dealing with on-farm waste and reducing pathogens, the things that caused Walkerton issues, but also taking off-farm waste from the foodservices. Think of this facility; think of going into a grocery store and everything that you walk by that isn’t sold or goes past its expiry date ends up in a trash compactor headed down the road to a landfill, sometimes in Detroit. But all of that stuff can be diverted into facilities like this. So there are tremendous on-farm and off-farm benefits, as well as the rural economic development potential. We are able to provide farmers with additional sources of income by taking tipping fees for the waste material, but also developing these other types of initiatives where we can sell the energy.
But we have to get a fair price back for the investment that’s made. Our concern is that the Ontario Power Authority and energy board have not looked at the true costs of on-farm biogas. It’s sort of been ignored by them. It’s like the orphan renewable. But there is a tremendous amount of opportunity. If you really want to look at renewable that has tremendous opportunity, you just need to look at what’s happened in Germany. There’s no reason why we can’t duplicate that here.
Mr. Garry Fortune: Absolutely. We’re doing some really exciting stuff. I mentioned to you a couple of projects that we’re undertaking in terms of researching valuable by-products, the fibre biomaterials; also, we have the algae, biodiesel. We’re actually in a lab facility right now growing different types of algae, feeding them the liquid by-product of the digester. We’re also looking at cleaning gas. One of the most interesting things I found out last week—we’ve been talking with the University of Toronto. We have a partnership with the University of Toronto and NCERC. We’re actually looking at taking the fibre that we generate, converting it to carbon, using that to clean the gas in a carbon-cleaning system so we can create another completely closed-loop system. There’s tremendous opportunity.
Good afternoon, Mr. Fraser. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. You have 10 minutes for your presentation, five for questions. Just state your name for the purposes of Hansard and you can start when you like.
Mr. Barry Fraser: My name is Barry Fraser, with Fraser Consulting. Mr. Chair and members of the committee, it’s a real honour to be able to present to your committee this afternoon my thoughts toward the Green Energy Act.
I have a background in primary livestock and crop agricultural production in the province as well as a strong current interest in a wide range of rural community economic development opportunities. I just heard reference to that from a previous speaker, as far as these rural economic development activities.
I act as a private consultant to these sectors, so today I want to make two major points that show support for the act from a general perspective. First of all, green energy is, and will be, a strong economic generator toward rural economic as well as urban community economic development across the province. Further, green energy must not compromise the health and safety of our environment but, rather, enhance it.
Again in reference to the previous speaker, I heard reference to Germany as a world leader and now I’m going to make reference to the country of Australia. I’ve just returned from a one-month study mission to Queensland, Australia, where I was leader of a Rotary group study exchange. Our group found that Australia sees itself as a world leader, just as Germany does, in green energy development as post-Kyoto negotiations and discussions continue. This is a country where there is no nuclear electrical generation but instead a continued development in coal-fired electricity generation based on cutting-edge technology. This involves minimal emissions based on oxy-fuel technology—which can be retrofitted to existing power stations, I might add—and injecting the by-product, CO2, for geo-sequestration underground. The direct result of all that is impacting the amount of CO2 released by coal-fired power stations around the world, by using technology such as that.
I also noted that the amalgamated municipalities in Queensland, Australia, see the construction of these plants, the associated transmission grids, and also the wind turbines and solar collectors all adding up to economic stimuli in their largely rural areas.
Ethanol production based on crop products and biogas generators on livestock operations also add to this stimulus on an ongoing basis. This also encourages the development of sustainable and mutually beneficial partnerships. It provides economic prospects; opportunities for local, state and national suppliers of equipment, services and industrial safety equipment; and as well, of course, transportation, housing and road infrastructure. Of course, the same would also apply here in Ontario, with the vast majority of this increased economic activity actually being generated in rural Ontario.
My second point that I wish to bring out is that the green energy development must not compromise the health and safety of our livestock on our farms as well as people in both rural and urban Ontario. Well-funded research needs to be a priority in this area to ensure green energy is indeed “green.” New and existing infrastructure must also do what is expected of it, based on accepted existing and developing standards. These standards should always be based on defendable, science-based research. This includes any thresholds and mitigation procedures for stray voltage and current as directed by the private member’s bill, the Ground Current Pollution Act, and the Ontario Energy Board, both now and in the future.
Also included should be any new standards developed by authorities for electromagnetic fields, which may well be impacting livestock and human health. Strong conservation and environmental responsibilities in electricity transmission must be a priority. I submit that anything less is a detriment to the environment and a real cost to society in terms of health and cost efficiencies.
In conclusion, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, the Green Energy Act must ensure much-needed high safety and environmental standards. It will also empower local communities, especially rural, to take an increased role in energy generation and be monetarily recognized for it. It is my hope that this will provide real, tangible opportunities for rural community economic development. The end result will then be very positive developments toward renewable energy and conservation, and therefore environmental protection.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: I just wanted to ask you a question with respect to the CO2 sequestration analysis and I think some activity being undertaken in Australia. You’re not a geologist though, sir, are you?
Mr. Barry Fraser: No, I am not a geologist and I don’t put myself out to it, apart from the fact that what I heard and saw demonstrated in the new technology and the new power plant that we toured there—$1.2 billion; it just opened up in the last 12 months—is a testimony to itself.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: Certainly you understand that you need a certain geologic strata to be able to even examine that issue. Our province is not one that has huge oil fields where you can potentially look to that sequestration, and even in the western provinces, where they might look to that, they have a certain geological strata that would allow that, so you appreciate that there are differences in Ontario with respect to our underground opportunities for that.
Mr. Barry Fraser: I fully appreciate that, apart from the fact that it does draw information forward, and that we should always be reviewing what the possibilities and opportunities are to do whatever.
Mrs. Carol Mitchell: Just a quick question: I met with a number of farmers from Australia quite some time ago, but one of their concerns at that time was carbon credits and the currency of carbon. They felt that the agricultural community needed to have much more information than it received when it in fact came into place and their communities were put in peril.
Mr. Barry Fraser: The bottom line: There needs to be, as far as economic activity is concerned in the rural areas, incentives to do that. Of course, we know that agriculture deals with carbon all the time. In order to refer to all that, there need to be sound, research-based results that farmers follow very closely, whether that can come from research here in Ontario or from around the world. Farmers need to be convinced that it works, and if that’s the case, then the real incentive is dollars, at the end of day, and contributing to the overall health of the environment that’s out there across the province.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you, Mr. Fraser, for being here today. Notwithstanding Ms. Broten’s comments, the Minister of Energy, whenever the issue of clean coal is brought up, scoffs at those who suggest it and suggests that they are somehow missing something, except when it’s mentioned that Barack Obama also has said that he is going to perfect this technology because the United States needs it. Then he has much less of a response. But their position is—and I’m not sure. I don’t think they’ve done any geological testing at all because their position is that it simply doesn’t work: “We’re not going to go that way. We’re shutting these things down and that’s the end of it. Coal is dead.” But it would seem to be evidenced in other jurisdictions that they’re moving ahead on this in a rapid fashion, because it is the most abundant energy source on the earth and they’re not going to give up on this; they’re going to perfect this. Quite frankly, we could be at a disadvantage with the price of electricity from those jurisdictions that develop it.
Mr. Barry Fraser: Certainly, based upon research, we know that technology and science are always moving targets, moving forward. We need to, obviously, put investment into that area. I simply bring forward the fact that there are jurisdictions in the world—and it allows me to ask the question as to why this and why that? It may well be that certain technologies obviously cannot be transferred absolutely, but there needs to be ongoing research to ensure that we’re not bypassing opportunities, and in my case, relative to the rural economies across the province.
Good afternoon, gentlemen. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. You have 10 minutes for your presentation. Just state your names for the purposes of Hansard. There will be five minutes for questions following your presentation.
Mr. Don McCabe: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My name is Don McCabe. I’m vice-president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. I also have an opportunity to serve as the president of the Soil Conservation Council of Canada. Accompanying me here today is Ted Cowan, a staff member with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and our lead energy researcher. Thank you to the committee for the opportunity to speak here today on the Green Energy Act and the possible impact that we see with farming.
First of all, to set some context, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture is a 38,000- to 39,000-member-strong general farm organization. We represent nine out of 10 Ontario farmers. We started down the road of working on the Green Energy Act and pulling together a partnership with the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association and the Environmental Defence Fund where we proposed the need for a green energy act. We applaud the government for now putting pen to paper and bringing such an act forward. But, as with anything, a few amendments might have an opportunity to improve this act even more.
As I step through this presentation here, I’d like to remind you of some points that I’ll be making as I move through this again. Agriculture is a solution provider. We’re already feeding you, we’re fuelling you, and we’re going to find even more opportunities in the future to do this. I also wish to take that theme and illustrate that we’ve got actual problems out there right now that need a science-based solution to ensure the enhancement of people and the environment. I wish to offer up some of those ideas here today in the form of amendments that might be possible within the act, to make sure that this entire deal is better for Ontarians as a whole.
As we move forward, currently, on-farm gross revenue is about $9 billion a year in Ontario and net income was about $50 million for 2008. Longer-term green energy can add about $2 billion to the gross and $300 million more to the net. Those are our general estimates as we move forward. But let’s deal, then, with what we feel are some actual adverse aspects of green energy that are out there and what we feel can be done.
First of all, you’ve heard here today, and I’m sure you’ve heard it in other stops, the issues around noise. With regard to transformer noise, usually there’s one of two things going on: that transformer is about to blow or it’s been oversubscribed for the power going into it and wants to blow. Therefore, let’s ensure that we’ve got the proper infrastructure in place to take the opportunities that are about to come and let’s make sure that underground vaults become a low-cost, complete solution to that noise and add to the safety of Ontarians.
When it comes to tower noise, we have issues out there right now where folks are saying that this is disrupting their lives. Let’s make sure the science is behind this to reduce that noise potential and look for opportunities to get that down to possibly as low as 45 decibels at night and no more than 50 during the day, because those are levels that we currently experience within the ag environment. But these distances must be set scientifically; we’re not going to go at this in a helter-skelter manner. The other issue that needs to be taken into account here is that, as you multiply towers, you will increase noise. The appropriate separation distances need to be identified as we move forward in those contexts to take them into account.
This leads to the issue of effective enforcement. There must be provision for a rapid response to requests for noise testing. We cannot allow this to continue on as a distraction in the rural environment. We need to look at the examples that are currently out there. We have a tower at the CNE grounds. A lot of people are living and working within several hundred metres of that. It has not been a source of complaints. It’s only a 600-kilowatt machine. The complaints seem to be associated with the larger 1,800- and 2,100-kilowatt machines. Let’s find a scientific solution.
One of the things that we wish to propose is the possibility of a textured surface, such as dimples, or something like bubble wrap or an acoustic steel sheet being wrapped around this tower, adjacent to the blade, because this would break up the sound wave that’s causing this noise.
Another issue that has come to the attention of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture is stray voltage. We appreciate the work that’s being done by the Ontario Energy Board to put in the necessary steps and procedures to address this, but let’s be clear: This is not witchcraft, this is not hoodoo; this is an actual problem that can be addressed in several ways. We need to ensure that proper collection wires are used to bring this energy to the transformer. We need to ensure minimum separation distances between collection lines and distribution lines go from five metres to 30 metres to not induce that stray voltage. And sometimes, the noise complaints that people have about wind turbines could be a result of stray voltage in their homes. Again, we need to get to the scientific base of getting this information out to where it can go.
Moving forward to biodigesters: Biodigesters, as was alluded to in the second-last presentation, are an absolutely great opportunity. I wish to point out that farmers do not have any waste on our farms. We have underutilized, under-paid-for opportunities. Let’s make those biodigesters an opportunity to move us forward. We have good legislation in place from the Nutrient Management Act; let’s use that principle and bring it forward. If it reflects on other opportunities here for setbacks with wind towers, so be it.
Solar farms: Want to talk food versus fuel? This is it. The OFA is very opposed to the distribution of solar panels on to class 1, 2, 3 or 4 ag land. This is food. I can put that solar panel out there and I can send power to your grid; or I can put an energy crop there, collect that energy and create jobs in the long term; or I can put a food crop there, feed somebody, take care of animals, put that manure into the biodigester, put a wind turbine in the middle of that food crop, and still do all the same jobs as I move forward. To put that into an example from southwestern Ontario, 100 acres in grain will produce 500 tonnes of grain a year and 200 tonnes of crop residue that can be used as fuel, the land will fix 200 tonnes of carbon, and the crop residue will offset 70 tonnes of carbon from coal. There will be no erosion and the land will improve if done under no-till practices.
One of the issues that’s missing under this act is the inclusion of solar heat. We could use that solar heat in some of our farm businesses, whether it is to keep the chicks warm or to help wash the cows when it comes to milk. Solar heat is not part of this act and possibly should be reconsidered.
On another note, provisions for green energy co-ops could be expanded from green generators only to green fuel producers such as biogas and biomass. This would be a help to farmers keen to provide biomass to OPG, for example.
When it comes to the OPG issue, the committee should know that the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, in collaboration with other parties, has submitted a proposal to OPG on the intent-to-supply request that they made earlier this year.
Farmers will meet this market with the necessary resources in a sustainable manner, and you will still have the best-quality food basket in the world on your grocery shelves while we’re doing this exercise.
I also draw the committee’s attention to the fact that the current US farm bill has very good steps in it to make sure they incentivize that market down there. I need a competitive playing field. The 49th parallel only matters to Rand McNally because he needs to know where to draw it. I’m in competition with them boys. I need the same field.
We see the Green Energy Act as a step toward a bio-refinery approach. Again going back to the second-last presentation, there’s a wealth of opportunity here. There is one carbon item on the periodic table. I prefer that we use the green stuff that’s up on top that I can help provide to you, as an Ontario farmer, and for the needs of all Ontarians.
In closing, I look forward to your questions because I’m that supplier of that one green carbon item. Let’s keep the dinosaur guts in the ground instead of turning them into dinosaur ghosts in the air. Thank you.
Specifically, I wanted to make reference to your paper on the transformer noise, the tower noise, and stray voltage and the reinforcement of science-based knowledge going forward. You’re the first ones who have actually made recommendations specifically on that and how to address it. I do thank you for that.
One of the things that I want to talk to you about—I’m pleased to be able to have the opportunity—is the biodigesters. What do you believe should be the fixed rate going forward? Earlier, Mr. Fortune gave a rate. I wondered if that was something that you were prepared to do.
I also wanted you to comment, if you would, on whether or not more of the nutrients would be required, understanding that it would not become a waste site; the primary function would still be a farm. But do you need a richer mixture?
Mr. Don McCabe: I’ll comment first of all on some of the current legislation that the Ministry of the Environment has imposed. It makes it difficult for biodigesters to actually acquire some materials that might enhance their performance, because they define things as waste. I’ll use a separate example than the ones from a biodigester. It is my understanding from officials at the Ontario Power Generation group that distillers’ grains from an ethanol plant are currently deemed an industrial waste. That’s a pretty nasty statement, that our dairy cattle and beef cattle that we feed to Ontario families might be eating industrial waste. That’s kind of a dumb label. It’s not industrial waste; it’s just, again, an underutilized resource.
When it comes to pricing, I’m not going to get into an argument about what the right number should be. I’m going to come back to the issue of looking for a possible continuum, because northern Ontario herds will not have to be nearly as large, possibly, as southern Ontario herds or have the same supplies. We need to look at the opportunities.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much, Don, for your presentation. I accept your clarification on my characterization of waste. I apologize for not recognizing that it is an underutilized resource that we could be taking tremendous advantage of, and I appreciate your clarification.
One thing that’s interesting, but always one of the challenges of politics, is when you—and I know the OFA has endorsed the Green Energy Act. But what happens when you do that sometimes, of course, is the people who want you endorsing it—being the government of the province of Ontario today—take that as being unreserved and absolute. So whenever somebody raises questions about the act, they’ll say, “Well, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture supports this act.”
So we really do appreciate you coming in today. We understand you do support it in principle, and I understand why, because there are opportunities for agriculture within the Green Energy Act. We support that part of it. But we also really appreciate you coming in and pointing out there are flaws and there are things that need to be looked at with respect to sufficient setbacks for turbines, as you talk about. It’s not unreserved, blind support of the act; you have issues of concern too, and we do appreciate that because I think those things have to be pointed out to the government as well. So we appreciate you coming in today.
Mr. Don McCabe: Thank you for your comments, sir. The bottom line: I think it’s always important to try and get your foot in the door, and then it’s my job to weasel the rest of this through, and therefore, that’s the reason for the support of the act, to make sure that we get better support into the future.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Thanks for the presentation. It’s very useful; both aspects. One question I have is about the calculation on the potential income, gross and net, for the agricultural sector out of green energy. Did you do a study or is there a study available that breaks down the sources of that revenue?
Mr. Don McCabe: We’re in the process of dealing with, in particular, officials from the Ministry of Ag and Food to further refine the figures, but I would refer to my colleague here, Mr. Cowan, to further touch on your question.
Mr. Ted Cowan: We have a pretty good idea, based on OMAFRA’s statistics, of what the industry earns now, and we’ve looked very carefully at existing biodigesters, what they’re earning at different scales. We have good information on that.
We have a pretty good idea on what’s available as crop residue from existing crops, but what we don’t have there is a good idea, in each situation, of what has to be left on the ground to retain nutrients in the soil. So looking at around 30% recovery rates, we feel that we can meet the two million tonnes a year that OPG is looking for very easily. We can move to about five million tonnes a year without significant effort or losses on our part. At that point, we’ll really have to work at it, but we believe that we can go into the range of 12-plus million tonnes a year. At that rate, we’d be looking at about $1.2 billion from biomass alone at the current price of straw.
Then we’re looking at wind potential, electricity sales and heat recovery. So the $2-billion mark we think we can get at quite reasonably. That takes gross income from roughly $9 billion up to $11 billion; it takes net income—which bounces from year to year, in a tragic sort of way—from $300 million in a bad year, which works out to less than $20,000 a farmer, to $600 million, pushing it to around $40,000 a farmer in a good year. I think we could add at least 50% to that on the net from this, provided reasonable control stays with farmers on the production side.
Good afternoon, sir. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. You have 10 minutes for your presentation and five minutes for questions from members. Just state your name for the purposes of recording Hansard and you can begin when you like.
Ontario is on the doorstep of ground-breaking legislation that will pave the way for Ontario to embrace renewable and sustainable energy developed on a major scale. First Nations welcome this initiative with concerns as to its implementation. Our primary concern is how the Green Energy Act will create advantages and capacity for First Nation energy project development on tribal reserve lands.
First Nations are beyond being mere stakeholders; we are landowners with the right to develop our resources as they arise in our traditional territories. First Nations believe there should be an all-inclusive, coordinated mandate in the province that recognizes benefits to all Ontarians, and First Nations don’t want to be left behind.
First Nations look beyond the regrettable past of cursory consultation and abject accommodation. First Nations want participation as real players in the market with sufficient resources to accomplish financing and development of long-term energy contracts.
First Nations have become late players in the utility industry and lack adequate resources and capacity. First Nations are hampered by the special relationship with the federal crown, particularly the role of the fiduciary, Indian affairs. Ontario needs to engage in creative thinking and assist in unblocking the barriers that First Nations face. This means that Ontario will need to work with federal authorities to stimulate new methods of cooperation with them for the purpose of facilitating faster decision processes and permitting of First Nation projects.
First Nations are hampered by legislation restrictions and unclear understanding between federal and provincial authorities as to jurisdiction. Matters which should be well understood and matter-of-fact, such as road easements and power line easements on crown lands, are not simple in practice when the applicant is a First Nation.
A new awareness is prevalent within Ontario society, confirming that First Nations are stakeholders in the development of future power infrastructure. Much of the anticipated next wave of renewable energy projects and power infrastructure will be installed on lands that First Nations feel entitled to protect and guard as their own. First Nations are stewards to this land, but we are excited about becoming participants and proponents in the creation of these projects. Canadian law has made it clear on two points: (1) The crown has a fiduciary duty as it relates to First Nation lands; and (2) The crown has a duty to consult and accommodate First Nations as it relates to traditional territory and existing aboriginal and treaty rights.
In the case of land licences, easements often were created by default and through administrative inattention instead of oversight by INAC and the federal government. First Nations feel that their rights, historically, have been infringed upon or not upheld adequately, and now we worry about a repeat of the past.
First Nations feel that the development community has been insincere in its approach to the duty to consult. To give the development community some benefit of doubt, there probably has been confusion as to whether the duty to consult lies with the developers or with the crown. But those days of confusion are gone; developers today know they must deal with First Nations directly. It needs to be determined by crown entities what level of engagement third party corporations will have delegated to them, and First Nations need to be at the table when this happens—not a process that occurs between developers and government entities without First Nations.
Through the past flawed processes of consultation and accommodation, development has proceeded on our lands and we have permanently lost sacred sites and burial grounds of our ancestors and hunting grounds of our fathers.
When First Nations attempt to improve themselves through economic development, it’s not so simple. Barriers exist that need to be illuminated so that the permitting and crown governance agencies can deal better with the matters that First Nations face, and it is vital to do so quickly because the opportunities for resource development will be more available to those commercial entities that are equipped to respond on a timely basis.
Some First Nations desire to engage in energy infrastructure development to a high level of sophistication, including the creation and active operation of local distribution companies on reserve properties that will own and operate distribution wires for the purpose of supplying local energy customers. Under this scenario, a fundamental issue is that such power infrastructure on the reserves lies under the jurisdiction of the chief and council and is administered under the federal Indian Act, while the operation of the infrastructure is governed by the OEB, which exercises authority concerning rates, capital expansion and good utility practices on behalf of the Ontario government—in the case of First Nations, the question of when and if provincial law can be lawfully applied on reserve lands without the consent of chiefs and councils. First Nations who so desire are hampered with respect to their own projects that require access to grid-carrying capacity. The rules that the OPA uses to administer access privileges are designed for non-First Nation entities, and they are prejudicial to First Nations who must engage with federal authorities to make their projects move forward. Partnerships with capital sources are strained under the bureaucratic burden of requisite intergovernmental process that delays progress.
—national laws and resource extraction policies adopted by provinces and states which often violate existing treaties, agreements and constructive arrangements, as well as international human rights obligations;
First Nations are faced with incarceration and denial by provincial institutions if they speak out against the problems created by industrial and generation facilities in our homelands, yet NIMBYism is tolerated. Why aren’t local mayors and town councils penalized and given the same treatment?
Land issues: The Indian Act was created long ago, and it does not contemplate situations where First Nations are proponents of energy-generating projects on tribal lands. Such developments are subject to crown approval, which can embed the permitting process in a bureaucratic bog for years.
There are contractual and legislative restrictions on the use of tribal land that hinder First Nations in their desire to engage as proponents. First Nations cannot easily pledge the use of their lands nor grant securities or easements to outside agencies such as investors or lenders, as would be normal in a non-First Nation project. Any such pledge is nullified under section 18.2 of the Indian Act, and this can be overcome only through the direct intervention of the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
There are limitations imposed by conflicting federal/ provincial legislation over such matters as access to land, chattels, non-taxable entities, and royalties. Even when the crown parties are acting in good faith and the outcomes are positive, it still takes time to work through these institutional barriers. Such delay weakens the strength of First Nations leadership to mobilize for capital projects. It’s challenging enough in the world of renewable energy that typical development cycles are five years long. Try it when the First Nation approval processes add another five years.
Opportunities created by the Green Energy Act: With the onset of the Green Energy Act, First Nations wish to define content within the act to accommodate native issues. Developers and government policy makers must understand that First Nations have limitations on their own jurisdictions and exist with the constant involvement of a higher federal authority that is entrusted with fiduciary duties. Moreover, the federal government is constrained in its ability to serve the First Nations. The oncoming boom in renewable resources development in Ontario will no doubt challenge the federal authority in terms of engaging on behalf of its First Nation charges. Federal and provincial consultation must be—
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Sir, excuse me; I’m sorry to stop you. Your presentation is quite extensive. There’s quite a bit of material here. You probably won’t get through it all, as that’s time, but if you want to take 30 seconds and just wrap it up, you can do that and then we need to move to questions.
Mr. William Big Bull: Fundamentally, why we’re sitting in front of you today, as a provincial authority, is to deal with some of these problems that face First Nations. You can say that in Canada it’s a universal problem with provincial and federal jurisdictions and why we keep incurring that expense when we decide to develop First Nations energy projects. Those limitations in the values that are available, as far as—if you take the view of all mainstream Canadians, First Nations are cut off at the knees as soon as we enter this arena, simply because, as I said, we’re late players. But at the same time, because we live within this little enclave of law, which is reserve lands, it creates doubt in investors’ minds and it hamstrings our capacity to be able to move as effectively into the game as all other developers.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: First of all, thank you very much for the presentation and for coming out here today to talk to us. Is there a lot of interest in First Nations communities in developing green energy?
Mr. William Big Bull: It’s increasing. I think it has really more to do with immediate energy matters. This is an economic opportunity. Viewing it that way as opposed to coming in as a private developer, which really is the opportunity—it’s more a collective value.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: Have you had any engagement—as you know, the Green Energy Act seeks to facilitate the approvals process, over which we have responsibility, as the province. I’m wondering if you have any advice or thoughts as to how perhaps we or yourselves could engage the federal government with respect to the added layer of approvals that you will have to deal with for federal reserve land, and that will trigger much more federal involvement than we would see in other jurisdictions.
But beyond that—and I’m not being facetious here—I think there really needs to be the very same question that we’ve gone to the table with this previous summer, when the original hearings were going on. There seems to be kind of a sense that there needs to be some kind of high-level policy discussion between federal and provincial governments. There is actually a development right now with the renewable energy strategy; there’s a second round of discussions going on to refine. But I guess the dilemma, if I can just take another couple of minutes here, is that along with that they’re amending the federal CEAA at this time. So the timing and the timelines for these things to happen, based on what environmental assessments and what approvals are required, are really fundamental, and that’s really the value this committee brings.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much, sir. I apologize, I had to leave so I won’t have too much to question you on, but part of your presentation does seem to focus on the issue of provincial/federal jurisdiction with regard to First Nations and certainly it would be good for all of us to be able to have those things streamlined and clear, so that projects that affect First Nations could proceed in a more certain fashion, I suppose.
Mr. William Big Bull: Absolutely, but I think also in that there is the First Nation participation at the chief and council level, because there is another level of approval that we’re faced with and that’s in our own communities. The consultation level that we engage in is more to serve the tribal interests and pass them on, which I guess isn’t the best way to get business done, and I think that in that process because of the case law—but now that you have accommodation and consultation taking place, we don’t want to be seen as simply being another step forward for Big Brother to take over opportunities from the little guy, whoever that is.
Good afternoon and welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. Please have a seat. You have 10 minutes for your presentation and five minutes for questions among members of the committee. Whoever will be speaking, or if you’re answering questions, just state your name before you do that when first presenting or responding to a question for the recording purposes of Hansard. You can begin when you like.
Mr. Joe Hough: Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity of presenting to this committee on the Green Energy Act. My name is Joe Hough. I am president of the London and St. Thomas Association of Realtors. Joining me today is Bruce Sworik, by my side here, LSTAR’s past president and chair of our government relations committee.
Just as a point of background, London and St. Thomas Association of Realtors represents approximately 1,474 real estate salespeople and brokers. Our association was founded in 1936 to organize real estate activities and develop common goals in the region. These goals include promoting higher industry standards and preserving property rights.
We are pleased to be here today to speak on Bill 150. London and St. Thomas area realtors have a number of concerns with respect to the bill. However, our presentation will focus on our opposition to subsection 2(1) of the bill, which requires mandatory home energy audits.
Mr. Bruce Sworik: Thank you, Joe. Like other areas of the economy, the local real estate market is feeling the effects of this recession that we’re in right now. Current unit sales in the LSTAR district—London and St. Thomas—are down about 24% so far this year. Despite the doom and gloom, our membership has remained committed to helping people in this area achieve their dreams of home ownership in Canada.
Unfortunately, prospective home buyers in the London and St. Thomas area have been faced with a double whammy of not just new taxes and new regulation in recent years. We have rising property taxes. We have GST. We have the new harmonized tax which has been talked about. We have just gone through FINTRAC paperwork etc. So there are financial obligations on the buyers, and there is also an awful lot of paperwork involved.
Time and time again, the government has established barrier after barrier to hard-working residents who want nothing more than just to own a home and have a roof over their heads. Bill 150 and mandatory home energy audits are yet another cost, yet another regulation on real estate that will make it even more difficult for residents in the London and St. Thomas area to buy a home, much more than normal. As such, our realtors oppose mandatory home energy audits and urge this committee to amend Bill 150 by removing subsection 2(1). Instead, our membership supports the government of Ontario’s existing home energy audit program, where homeowners are offered rebates to voluntarily assist in the energy efficiencies of their home.
Mandatory home energy audits put a disproportionate amount of the cost of going green on to the homeowner. We all benefit from a cleaner environment; that we understand. If the government maintains that a cleaner environment is indeed a public good, then everyone should pay, not just homeowners.
Mandatory home energy audit reports have serious cost implications for home sellers. Those with less-than-ideal energy audit ratings will face pressure from homebuyers to either spend thousands of dollars to improve the energy rating of their home or lower the effective sale price. The problem becomes even more apparent when you consider the age of some of the homes in our particular area. I’m going to ask Joe to cite an example.
Mr. Joe Hough: I’ll give you a great example of this, and it’s my mother-in-law. She and her husband bought their home in old north London in 1952 and have been living in that home ever since. He died a year ago. She is faced now with less income, of course, basically a very small fixed income. She wants to continue to live in her home. She is going to have to sell it, probably within about five years. I expect her life expectancy, if it runs in the family as normal, to be about another 10 to 12 years.
She is probably going to have to move into some assisted living because of the health problems she has, and the money she will get out of her home is going to be greatly reduced because it was built to 1952 standards. Yes, they have upgraded a number of things, but it was still built to 1952 standards. What was wrong with that? They purchased it in good faith at that time with the expectation that it would increase, and now, all of a sudden, we’ll be faced with a mandatory home energy audit plus the situation of the house price being reduced or she will probably have to put in, knowing the situation, in the range of $25,000 to bring it up to today’s energy-efficient standard. And I think that is extremely wrong.
Mr. Bruce Sworik: Thank you, Joe. Seniors will also be disadvantaged by mandatory home energy audits. Most Ontario seniors rely on the equity they have built in their homes for retirement. Mandatory home energy audits will force homeowners who are seniors to complete energy retrofits at a tremendous cost to their retirement savings or lower the value of their home in order to compete with the newer homes on the market. The average cost of a home energy audit is somewhere in the $300 to $350 range for a 2,400-square-foot house. Although the government of Ontario will rebate $150 toward the initial audit, this rebate does not help homeowners with the costs of their second home energy audit required to qualify for home energy retrofit rebates or travel costs if the homeowners live in a rural community.
Home energy retrofits can cost thousands of dollars. Even with government rebates, homeowners will have to pay thousands of dollars in order to bring their home up to energy-auditor-established standards. This will force homeowners to either raise their selling price or lose home equity. Both are no-win situations for the people of this area.
Even if homeowners reduce their selling price as a result of a poor energy audit rating, homebuyers are not likely to invest in energy-efficient retrofits. In fact, most home renovation dollars in Ontario are spent on cosmetic alterations and major repairs. Please see the energy audits and consumer briefing note we have provided for you for more information. Joe will now sum up for you.
Mr. Joe Hough: Thank you, Bruce. Mandatory home energy audits will act as a brake on the real estate market in our area, hurting the local economy. On average, the sale of a home in Ontario generates $33,425 in additional benefits to the economy.
In 2008, 8,356 homes were sold in this region, generating $279 million in additional economic benefits to the local economy. When many local residents are losing their jobs and local businesses are closing their doors, the government should be encouraging consumer investments in housing, not hindering them.
Supporters of mandatory home energy audits argue that audits are necessary to provide homeowners with all the necessary home energy information to make an informed buying decision. As a key contact point for homebuyers, realtors know that that information available to homeowners is sufficient to provide them with an overview of the energy efficiency of a home at a relatively inexpensive cost. For example, the most widely used method for informing homeowners on the levels of home energy consumption is their utility bills. These are available to us and ultimately free upon request and provide a prospective homebuyer with a snapshot of the energy consumption of a home in measurable terms, dollars and cents, unlike an energy rating provided by a home energy audit. Additionally, homebuyers can turn to home inspectors for even more home energy efficiency information.
Supporters of mandatory home energy audits have consistently maintained that since cars and appliances have energy labels, resale homes ought to have the same. Realtors know that the differences between these two groups of products are numerous; making comparisons is very problematic. For example, cars and appliances are mass produced. The per-unit cost of assessing and altering the unit cost of energy audits is dramatically lower than it is for resale homes. Additionally, measuring the energy efficiency of a home is not as scientific as it is for cars or appliances. Car mileage stickers, for example, are monitored closely by the federal government; resale home energy audits are not. Just because energy stickers are available on other products does not mean that they should be available on homes in the London and St. Thomas area.
Results of energy audits are not regulated by any level of government and anecdotal evidence would suggest that energy audits are far from being consistently reliable. For example, in June 2007, Toronto Star investigative reporters—
Mr. Joe Hough: —found that three different energy audits conducted by three different auditors came to three different energy ratings and three different sets of recommendations for home energy retrofits, ranging anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000. How can homeowners be sure that these audits are accurate and reliable?
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Thank you for the presentation, first of all, because I know it takes time to put this stuff together and come down here. I’ve had people argue with me that as buyers, they want to know what the energy consumption is of a home. They can only afford so much; they want to know what it’s going to cost them not just for the mortgage, but also to keep that house operating, in terms of energy. To me, this is something that protects buyers and sellers. Why do you feel that it’s simply a disadvantage to sellers and not a benefit to buyers?
Mr. Bruce Sworik: I’ll answer that. It’s a disadvantage to the sellers because of a reduction in cost, probably. We don’t know that the buyers are going to do the retrofitting that is necessary. In a survey that was just done last year, completed by our association across Canada in 2008, by CREA, the number one issue was property taxes; 1.5% of the concerns were to do with energy. So we believe that people are talking a lot about it but doing a lot less about it.
The other example we had illustrated was, there were three audits done by three different firms with three different results, with prices ranging from $5,000 to $25,000. I think that if it is going to be used, it has to have a lot more meat and guidelines to it. Who are the certified ones? What are the issues that we’re going to deal with? What are the implementation plans on it and the cost and structuring of that?
Mr. Khalil Ramal: Thank you very much. It’s nice to see you again in the same place, twice in the same week. I heard a lot from your colleagues across the province of Ontario. We got a lot of e-mails about this point. As you know, in this bill, if it passes, is some kind of component—and you mentioned it in your presentation—as an incentive for homeowners to do energy audits, and for seniors on a regular basis, every year, to support them in remaining in their homes. Also, there is an incentive if you want to reconstruct your house and refit it, up to $10,000 from the federal government and the provincial government.
You don’t think that those incentives—that it’s important to encourage many people to refit their homes and make them energy-saving homes? The price of the home will go up, not down, as new buyers come to see the house and it has a good energy efficiency—windows and doors etc.
Mr. Joe Hough: You know, it’s interesting when you talk about people buying homes. I do sell—I’m an active realtor. The most interesting thing is, tying in with your question over here, Peter, every time that I sell a house, whether I’m on the listing end or the selling end, I always request energy bills, because people do want to know the energy bills for a home. Things like electric heat, of course, they always tend to shy away from, although in a lot of cases some of the electric homes are a heck of a lot more efficient than some of the other homes. But they do ask for those things, and that gives them a guide right there as to whether they can afford that home.
The problem comes when you’re forcing people to do something. It’s either going to drive the price down or somebody’s going to put the money in. Will it bring the price of that home up if they put $20,000 in? Is it going to put it up $20,000? No, it will not.
Mr. John Yakabuski: I think what it might do is raise the listing prices of homes, because when people realize that they’re going to have energy audits on these homes, they’re going to have to start from a different starting point because they know that somebody’s going to try to bargain them down once they get an energy audit, because what’s a satisfactory score? It’s just a number that you’re going to get.
You touched on the important part, and that is that there is no requirement on the part of the buyer to invest those savings into the energy efficiency of the home, so it certainly defeats the purpose.
I think the government has been all over the map on this one as well, even the things they’ve said about it. The member for Ottawa–Orléans, whose private member’s bill kind of spawned this in this act, a couple of weeks back in his own community—because it depends on who the audience is—was musing about, “Well, maybe we can look at this or phase it in or whatever.” So how they talk about this thing depends on how friendly or unfriendly the audience is.
Mr. Joe Hough: I think that’s one of our biggest points: It’s been thrown out, and to me, it just hasn’t been fully thought out. If you look at the number of resale homes in this province right now, and the number of inspectors that would be needed is probably 10,000 to 12,000—that might be a great place where you could put a lot of the auto workers. We could retrain them into energy auditors, I don’t know—and I’m being facetious when I say that.
Mr. Joe Hough: But the thing is, we’re going to need a massive number. There is no standard at this present time. So all of a sudden, we’re looking at something that’s potentially going to come in next year, with absolutely no details on knowing how it’s going to work. Yes, from that standpoint, that’s why we’re against it, because we have no idea of what we’re dealing with.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Our next presentation is BlueWater AgriWind. Good afternoon, and welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. You have 10 minutes for your presentation and five minutes for questions from the members. Just state your name for the purposes of Hansard. You can begin your presentation when you like.
We call Canada home but we bring with us a really unique experience because all of us are immigrants, either first- or second-generation. We come from Holland, Germany, Ireland and Switzerland. Our goal is 52 megawatts of wind-generated green power on our own farmland.
Through the past years, we have committed over $650,000 to our projects. So after four years of studies, planning, permitting, we thought it was all a lost cause because there was no way for us to connect. In fact, our area became a yellow zone. There seemed to be no room for farmers or community groups, even though it was our belief that that was the original intent of the standard offer program. Let me add that we did start on time; we started in early 2006, well before the November commencement of the program. But anyway, it was too late.
You have brought to us a green light called the Green Energy Act, and we’re really hopeful that this is going to change things for us. We’re excited to be here and we think it’s a very exciting time for Ontario.
Our biggest problem, as I mentioned, was the lack of grid capacity. Our system is old and in need of repair. These upgrades should not be made on the shoulders of the renewable energy producers. We ask that every effort be made to find an equitable way to share the connection costs between the renewable energy producer and the customers. It’s just not feasible for us to have to upgrade our antiquated system and then produce the energy. We can’t do it all.
This is a little picture of our town of Forest. It’s a great place to live. I’m a city girl from London but I just love it in the country, and this is our town. We feel that a locally owned co-operative would be economical. It would provide reduced building costs for those of us who are building. It would allow us to use our local resources. We have excellent companies in our area for gravel and excavation and all kinds of work that we would use because we know them and we deal with them all the time. Also, this may be well known, but farmers spend their revenue in their own communities. Locally owned projects generate 10 times the economic activity for community businesses as compared to outside owners. That’s huge for rural communities. You don’t know very many farmers who keep their money in their pocket. There’s always another farm to buy or more quota or something—a bigger tractor. Trust me on that one.
Therefore we ask that you look at the schedule to involve the local communities, but we really need priority access rights for local landowners and community groups. It’s really easy for us to kind of be stepped over by the big guys unless we have something in writing that gives us a little bit of pull for our own area. We live there; we’ll do what’s best. We’re going to live there for many, many years, and so are our children.
Even with the ability to connect a community project, economic viability and stability is the bottom line. We’re in favour of the draft released by the OPA regarding the proposed feed-in tariff prices, of course provided that turbine prices don’t continue to escalate and interest rates hopefully remain low until we can lock something in. We ask that schedule B, section 7, be amended to require feed-in tariffs as the preferred method for procuring viable renewable energy resources.
As we started this process in early 2006, it was difficult to know what steps would be needed and what approvals and permits were required. Some of us ended up with some fly-by-night companies that said that they were authorities but really weren’t. Others, in this case, had some of our members sign on for a $100,000 environmental assessment. When we further read the paperwork, I believe that an environmental screening process would have sufficed for our projects, but a few of our members had already signed the paperwork for the big environmental assessment.
Therefore, we thank you for proposing that the process for permitting and approvals be streamlined. Knowledge is key. If we know what we need and it’s clear in writing, we don’t have to completely rely on professionals. We’ll know ourselves what we need to do and then we can seek out the help that we need.
Anyways thank you for listening to our story. I’ve kept it short, but I’m open for questions. Mike and I do a lot of this wind stuff together, so if you have any questions, we’d be happy to answer them. We really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you all.
Ms. Jeannine Van Kessel: Okay. There are five families. We all put in for 10-megawatt projects and then there was one fellow farmer who just wanted a two-megawatt, so we kind of pulled him under our wing and that’s how we got to 52.
Ms. Jeannine Van Kessel: What it was, we all had put in for the 10-megawatt project separately, and then you know how it goes in a small town: You hear about other people doing the same thing. We said we should talk because more heads are better than one. So we started talking because we thought this was all going to happen and we could get together on sharing turbine costs. Well, we all know that went nowhere. So now, we’re more of a group to lobby together. We went to the Ministry of Energy and we’re trying to work together to just push this on and try to make it happen because we’re in a great spot for it and we have the land.
Mr. Mike Van Kessel: They’re quite substantial, and it depends on our location to the access point, but each situation is a little bit different. We probably didn’t investigate it that well because we knew we couldn’t connect anyways. But there are some that are right on transmission lines and there would be reasonable transmission costs, and there are other projects that would be seven or eight kilometres away. There was some talk of maybe $100,000 a kilometre or so for that kind of infrastructure to get connected, and those are very broad because we’ve kind of stopped the whole process because there was a roadblock there.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Actually, Mrs. Mitchell asked my question, which is, have you done the analysis as to what the connection costs would actually be for the project? But I guess with 52—so you’re talking more that 26. If they’re two-megawatt turbines, you’re talking 26, but they’re quite possibly—
Do you have any concerns with some of the issues that have been raised by opponents of wind developments? This would classify maybe not as large but certainly not small—26 turbines. Mind you, it’s over about 10 square miles.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Have you got any concerns with respect to the negative effects, the health concerns that have been raised here today, and how far they would be from any of the dwellings on the property?
Ms. Jeannine Van Kessel: We don’t have a lot of dwellings in our area, and we do have the turbines from Glen Estill and Martin Ince near us at Ravenswood and they’ve been accepted quite well. People don’t seem to mind them; they’re kind of a drawing point.
We’re not in a hugely populated area. Even though we’re along the lake, we’re a little more inland. Also, we have big enough farm bases that we can put them at the back of our farms—where, of course, it would be better anyway—or along fence lines and not close to other dwellings. A lot of what we have heard—it’s all new but it seems like there’s maybe something wrong with the tower or certain people have a certain sensitivity even just to the spinning of the tower, and if you keep it far enough away then they don’t get that sensation of the flicker or the light through the tower—
Mr. Peter Tabuns: First of all, thanks for making this presentation but also thanks for taking the initiative to move forward on green energy in Ontario. You comment about “viable” projects. Can you tell us why you put that word in there?
Ms. Jeannine Van Kessel: We put that in there because we just wonder: With how the feed-in tariffs work, if you end up making projects that maybe have very low wind speeds by paying them more, is that as viable? Does that really bring out the best in people to get the most that they can out of their project? Because if you can put it in areas that aren’t as good—we made an analogy to cropland. Everybody gets the same price for their corn, beans or wheat. You get a little more if you’re closer to the crushing plant. So to us, it would make sense that if you’re closer to Toronto or the big end-users, maybe there should be something based on how close you are to where the energy is needed and what your wind speed is or what you’re getting out in kilowatt hours. The best farmland, yeah, you get more crop off of it but you pay more for it. So it’s kind of a give and take. If people want more—right now, bean prices are going up; they need more beans, then you put the price up. If you need more green energy and you’re not getting it, you have to put the price up.
Good afternoon, Mr. Stephens. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. You have 10 minutes for your presentation, and there will be five minutes for questions from committee members. Just state your name for the purposes of our recording Hansard and you can begin your presentation right now.
I’m going to go about this a little bit differently than some of the other folks. First of all, we shouldn’t be here. That’s my first point. The Green Energy Act is quite possibly the most draconian piece of legislation that has ever been foisted upon the people of this province. If this government or any government said to the municipalities, “We want you to have more doctors; we want you to have better education,” and the municipality said, “We’re not up for that right now,” it would be wrong for the government to take away their power to say yes or no on those issues, and it is equally wrong for this government to take away any municipality’s rights to make their own decisions. That is blatantly clear. Once you remove the rights of a municipality, you have removed the democracy of this province. You have in fact made the sitting Premier the king, the dictator of this province.
The idea that we need green energy depends on how you describe green energy. In my talk with the—I guess he’s the ex- now, probably—senior policy adviser for the Ministry of Energy some time ago, we went through all this stuff; we spent a long time talking to each other on the phone. My research keeps coming up with the same thing: Build a nuke, put the scrubbers on the coal plants and drive on. That cost would be about $10 billion to the population of this province. We would get energy as clean as you’re ever going to ask for, we would get as cost-effective energy as we can hope for, and there’s nothing more important for an industrialized province such as Ontario than to furnish cost-effective electricity, because without that cost-effective electricity, this province is going in the toilet.
As far as what the green energy program is based on, it seems to be based on this faulty idea that we are facing some kind of man-made global warming scenario. We are not. That is blatantly clear if you follow history. In 1922, the Arctic was ice-free. I don’t think that had anything to do with burning coal.
The easiest way to wrap your mind around—I’ll do this as quickly as I can. You have to understand: All of these programs are being foisted upon us by the UN and the NGOs that the UN has spawned. In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea to use pollution, the threat of global warming, the water shortages, to facilitate our program. From there it goes to the IPCC, which is just another UN program. They say, “We need to get some broad-based support to capture the public’s imagination, so we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts.” It doesn’t sound too scientific.
Timothy Wirth, who is—I don’t know if he still is—US undersecretary: “We’ve got to ride this global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic and environmental policy.” Former federal Minister of the Environment: “No matter if the science of global warming is all phony ... climate change provides the greatest opportunity to bring about justice and equality in the world.” And it goes on and on and on.
Democracy is not a panacea. It cannot organize everything. It is unaware of its own limits. These facts must be faced squarely, sacrilegious though this may sound. Democracy is no longer well suited for the tasks ahead. The complexity and the technical nature of many of today’s problems do not always allow elected representatives to make competent decisions at the right time. I believe that’s where we sit today.
I do not believe that the government is competent to make an intelligent decision on any of this stuff. You sit there under the guise of something that is phony to take away the rights of municipalities in order to do what? Facilitate an industry that can do nothing of what it says it can do. It takes very little research and very little time to find that the wind industry, on the whole, is phony.
If you go to the IEA reports, which is another UN outfit, and you look at their studies, what is the purpose of renewables? The purpose of renewables is twofold: money and carbon credits. That is what green energy is about. After we have installed that green energy and those renewables, we will build large coal plants, large hydroelectric facilities and nuclear plants. This, folks, is a scam.
Back to the Green Energy Act itself: There’s no reason for the Green Energy Act other than the facilitation of the industry. There is not a council in this province that is not capable of deciding where and if a small wind plant goes. If Mr. Smith wants to put up a windmill near his barn or his house, the municipality can deal with it. If Mr. Jones wants to put up a solar panel on his roof, the municipality can deal with it. If a farmer wants to put up a small biodigesting plant, the local council can deal with it. Therefore, the only reason for this legislation to come through is for the facilitation of the industry itself, and that is fundamentally wrong in a democratic society.
A lot of people have been conned for a long time. This didn’t happen yesterday. I was at the very first Earth Day when I lived in Calgary, where I was introduced to windmills and solar panels, which I have no negative feelings about. If you, as a human—in the latest reports now, we’re not humans anymore; we’re called “climate changers,” which is a little disturbing. If people wish to do that, that’s their business. It is not the government’s business to foist it upon them. Saying to the public—and I’ve been to a lot of meetings, and they’re being treated like rubes. There’s no other way to describe this. To say to these people who come out to these meetings, “We want to give you the opportunity to create electricity”—the average person is so damned busy trying to keep their mortgage paid and their kids fed that creating energy is not part of the game. That’s like saying, “We want you to be your own cable provider.” That’s just plain stupid.
I expect, and the people of this province expect, you members here and the members of your parties to get your backbone in order, get the talons of the UN out of your backs, and stand up and start to represent Ontario. If you’re not prepared to do that, then the only option for you is to resign your positions, and that would also be expected by the people of this province.
Let’s go over quickly to the father of Kyoto, Maurice Strong, probably the most vile piece of flesh ever born in this country. Maurice Strong, at a young age, got himself hooked up with the UN. Maurice Strong himself says he is a capitalist, for himself and his friends; for everyone else, socialism will be the answer. Mr. Strong and his sidekicks Suzuki and Gore and the boys—where are we at here with them? Where is Maurice Strong? Maurice Strong is presently in China. What are they doing in China? They’re building 500 coal plants. I don’t see Suzuki going over there bitching and complaining; I don’t see Maurice Strong bitching and complaining. Maurice Strong does not want me to drive a car. Maurice Strong is up to his ass in the car business in China.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much. You have serious concerns about the usurping of municipal authority in this act, and I think that part would be shared by many municipalities, including—we have some concerns in our caucus, as well, about the decision that the government is going to, as they say, upload the municipal responsibility from the duly elected local people. So we do share that concern with you. Hopefully, it is something that the government—
Mr. Ron Stephens: It’s not only that you share the concern, okay? In a democratic society, one of the jobs of elected officials, I believe—I may be wrong—is to protect our democracy; not give it away, not usurp it. From that perspective, anybody who believes in democracy in this province should be on the airwaves, in the newspapers, and they should be screaming to the top of the rafters that this has to stop, because this has nothing to do with anything but moving an industry forward. When an industry can take the rights away from the people in their local jurisdictions, we have crossed all boundaries, and that must be stopped. You can’t justify it. It’s impossible.
Your comments with respect to climate change—I would expect, in listening to your comments, that you don’t accept the work of Sir Nicholas Stern, the IPCC and many bodies of scientists around the world. I wonder if you’re talking about the role of legislators. If you can comment on the fact that the views you hold, where you don’t accept any of this body of work that’s out there—I would suggest to you they are not consistent with the majority of people we do represent. Many Ontarians are very concerned about the future of the environment for their children, their grandchildren; concerned about climate change and air quality and how the actions that we’re undertaking as a society are affecting the world that we live in. Do you share their concerns in any way?
Mr. Ron Stephens: I’ll go back to the senior policy adviser, okay? When you try to scare someone—I mean, this is just history; this goes on constantly—what you do is you try to find a uniting scare factor. So we use climate. Of all the gases on the planet, CO2 is the most benign. Why would we bastardize CO2 as a common denominator? There’s nobody on the planet who doesn’t know what CO2 is, okay? It’s an impossibility for CO2, in itself, to cause climate change. I know we’ve gone from global warming to climate change, because global warming’s getting kind of worn out.
Mr. Ron Stephens: I don’t accept anything, basically, from the Ontario medical society because I had the privilege of talking to a director from one of the health boards. I asked them to go down to a wind farm that was experiencing problems, to send someone down and take notes, because it was a cluster of people. The response I got from that person, who is a director of health, was that what those people were experiencing was all in their heads.
Mr. Ron Stephens: And he said, “Well, I was talking to someone in the wind industry and he told me some people don’t like the look of them, therefore they get psychosomatic problems and it goes in their heads.”
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you, Mr. Stephens. That’s time for questions. Thank you very much for your presentation. The last word went to you, so thank you for taking the time to come here this afternoon.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Our next presentation is Mindscape. Good afternoon, sir. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. You have 10 minutes for your presentation, five for questions. State your name and you can start your presentation.
Mr. Derek Satnik: Thank you. I’ll just give a second for the handouts to circulate. Of the two handouts, one is more of a reference printout from a piece of software that I will only make passing allusion to, and then the other is a brief summary of handout slides that I have on my laptop. I was under the understanding I could plug in and project, so I won’t; I’ll just speak to the slides instead. Is that okay? Okay.
Briefly and unequivocally, I’ll just state that Mindscape is a member of the Green Energy Act Alliance, so I fully and completely support everything that the Green Energy Act Alliance has been endorsing to date and I won’t bother to repeat any of that. I’m sure you’ve already heard that several times over, but just to state that we do completely support that.
Personally, my involvement through Mindscape is mostly in the housing sector, so here, I’m primarily interested in the clause that relates to mandatory energy auditing of homes on exchange—on sale or resale. I see you skimming through the material; okay.
From my vantage point—I’m on several different boards of several different agencies, from the Canadian Green Building Council’s various housing-related committees to the Net-Zero coalition and the Canadian Residential Energy Services Network and a few others like this, so we’re hearing, of course, a great amount of discourse on the idea of housing and house energy auditing and things related to that.
I want to just generically state that, from my vantage point—I’ll speak on behalf of myself. I couldn’t contact everyone from the various societies I represent, so I didn’t want to speak on their behalf out of turn, but on behalf of myself and what I see in each of those committees, there is no concern at all about the idea of mandatory house labelling causing a tremendous strain on the economy. I know there’s been a great deal of dialogue in the press about that and some numbers floating around about what that will do to transaction costs. I just wanted to offer the vantage point—from my resumé, you can see in the printouts there that we see no reason to be alarmed at this. We think it’s a very healthy thing, and that, if anything, it will spur the local trades and local jurisdictions to be doing more renovation work on existing housing, which we think is also a very healthy thing. I would be interested to hear the London Home Builders’ Association’s perspective on that. I see that they are on the deputation list for today as well. But certainly, I would expect that, if anything, their renovating members will be very pleased by this. It will create some interesting small-scale economic activity, which is nice. You see the mom-and-pop shop contractors benefiting probably the most out of this. We have associations like the London Home Builders’ Association to monitor the quality of their work, so I’m very confident that that will be a good thing. I can speak with some confidence that places like the Net-Zero coalition, the Canadian Residential Energy Services Network and others are equally confident that this would be a very good thing.
The one key thing that I would stress, though, related to mandatory home energy labelling is that the process by which that is implemented and the timing of that will be important. The overall capacity of this sector, as I understand it currently, is not anywhere near sufficient to address mandatory labelling of all houses. Certainly, we could move into that fairly quickly, but we would need to be able to stage the industry and we would need to have appropriate notice. We would need to be talking about delayed phase-in dates. These are the kinds of things you folks have seen many times over in many other pieces of legislation. So I would suggest that late 2010, early 2011, would be an appropriate date for that to start. This is a date that I would suggest certainly be stakeholdered and negotiated with some of the core stakeholders. I’m speaking mostly on behalf of my own experience. When I say that, my own experiences in this case, primarily as a service organization—we actually do train raters who go to houses and audit them and provide an energy number on the houses and label them, so this is directly our experience as a company.
Speaking from the vantage point that I have amongst my peers and competitors, all of whom are very interested in the challenges that this will create for them—positive challenges, but challenges no less—the timing will be something that should be discussed. I’ll leave that to your competence to sort that out, but I’ve suggested a date in the handouts, or a range of dates.
I would suggest that along with that, again, with these green-housing-type programs, when we have a phase-in date by which everything becomes mandatory and active, it helps tremendously if there’s an optional compliance period in advance of that, starting the day the act is passed until the day everything is mandatory. I would encourage that if we can find an appropriate way to put an incentive in place during that period, then we will actually see industry ramping up and we will see professionals getting trained. We’ll see, I would think, a great number of quality assurance professionals from other industries who have been laid off in recent months making career changes and getting training.
This industry particularly is really nice for the home business. It’s a very small-scale, compatible industry, which creates a really pleasant opportunity for retraining of other professionals. That said, we will see very little activity until it’s mandatory, unless there is some kind of a process by which to incent people to take action in the meantime, before it’s mandatory.
The biggest concern I have is that if it becomes mandatory instantly, then we will have a period of time where the rating service industry is prepared to do about 10% of the volume that they would need to do, and they’ll need to come up with another 90%, and then it won’t happen, of course. So then we’ll have to deal with all of the process issues of how we graduate into compliance.
I offer those perspectives. There are some brief notes in the handouts that I’ve given you, pushing, really, two thoughts: the phase-in dates and the implications of the phase-in dates; second to that would be enablement tools. The second handout—I’ll be upfront and say this is a Mindscape tool that we have created for use in our network, and we would be royally delighted if the Ontario government gave us lots of money to roll that out all over the place. But really, the idea I wanted to push there is not so much to invest in Mindscape, but that there are Ontario-made tools that really make sense here that can streamline the process. If we were to take the service industry as it currently stands, with its ability to service about 10%—my guess—of what the demand would be, but retool them with better tools, then they could easily, I would say, double their efforts and double their productivity to further complement that with an appropriate training investment. We could double the service base and double the capacity of the service base. It becomes a fairly doable, responsible process by which we could look at actually, truly labelling all the houses in the industry on sale or resale.
I guess my two messages in that is that I see this as a fantastic thing. I’m really delighted that our government is looking at this seriously for existing housing. Speaking as a green building guy, we spend a lot of our time on new housing, so it’s really encouraging to me to see the concerned paid to existing buildings. Of course, the immediate challenge there is just the practical stuff of how you get it done, so I offer some thoughts on how we would get that done. I don’t expect that to show up in the act. When the regulations are created, though, that’ll obviously be important. So however that takes shape and form, I’d like to pass those thoughts on now.
I also want to suggest—on the side, and largely unrelated to my core business practice at Mindscape, but it’s a common discussion topic that comes up in the circles that I frequent in the committee and policy sphere—the idea of CHP and thermal technologies. I realize there has been much debate about that. I just want to generically voice support for those again. It was a little disappointing not to see those in the act, but not surprising. This is an incredibly progressive act already. It’s got all of the main stuff in it. The Green Energy Act Alliance has some good, constructive feedback, I think, on how to improve that, but I would just strongly encourage that whenever there is an opportunity to encourage the adoption of pointed thermal technologies—CHP, solar-thermal, geothermal—it would be really nice to see those show up in there in an appropriate way.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: First of all, thanks for coming and presenting on this, because it’s a significant point in the presentations that we’ve heard so far. One question that came up today was related to discrepancy between the results of different energy audits. In the field where energy audits are studied, what would it take to standardize so that people would get a consistent result in the auditing of their home?
Mr. Derek Satnik: It’s much like the quality assurance processes you’d see in all the other industries, but right now, the easiest answer I have to that is that Natural Resources Canada already has a quality assurance process in place for that. So what you’re seeing in the field when people mention these kinds of discrepancies are the practical gaps in the existing program.
As a service organization, I have to sign a licence agreement with Natural Resources Canada. Included in that agreement, I am accountable to audit my auditors. So we have to actually go out and resample some of the homes they test and make sure they come up with the same results that we trained them to get. The reality is, it doesn’t always match, and we have disciplinary measures we have to take in order to bring that all in line and make sure it’s harmonious.
I would say, first, there is a process for this. The media always finds the holes in the process, so we can leave it to them to do that. I would say, though, that on the whole it’s not a concern to me in the microcosm. I take that up with Natural Resources Canada as a worthy thing to be re-evaluating constantly. They are going through a process right now of re-evaluating much of the service organization process. That’s something that’s happening right now.
I can say, though, that’s only true directly of the Natural Resources Canada programs, which is most of them. In this case, everything that the Ontario government is considering is managed by Natural Resources Canada, so we’re fine, as this feeds into some other programs that are industry-led, such as LEED. LEED for houses is not directly tied to the EnerGuide rating system. It’s one of the compliance tests. So it just becomes important for them to have a quality management process, but they’re very concerned about that anyway. I would say that the industry is good at that. We don’t have to be as worried about that as the media would lead us to believe.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: One of the comments that we’ve heard over our days of committee hearings is that we don’t need to have home energy audits because the energy efficiency of a home is something that anybody can tell by looking at it, and I wanted to get your comment on that point. The second point is that all this does is provide a checklist of every piece of work that needs to be done in your home, puts a price point on it—say, $35,000 or $40,000 or $45,000—and then it just becomes a point to negotiate a price reduction. If I could just get you to comment on those two criticisms.
Mr. Derek Satnik: Sure. The second is directly tied to the eco-energy program from the federal government, which many people assume is what we mean when we say energy audits. It’s actually not. That is sort of step two in a two-step process. Step one is when you have the auditor come to the house and literally do an assessment of what they find and give it a number on the government’s EnerGuide scale—and we won’t go into what that really means. They have to give it the number first before they can identify opportunities to improve it. Those are relatively distinct exercises, either of which requires training. Anybody who says they could just go and do it, I would tell them, “Go and disassemble your car and put it back together and tell me how much fun you had.” It’s the same kind of thing.
Yes, people can do it. There are do-it-yourselfers that will figure it out. No, nobody is an expert at that. Yes, there’s a reason I have a six-day training course, mandated by the government, which every one of these guys has to take, and there’s a certain amount of in-field experience they have to have before I can licence them. There’s rigour behind this. There are always do-it-yourselfers who can, but no, not everybody is a competent EnerGuide auditor. It’s a total farce to think that they could be.
That said, when we get to the checklist approach, the reality in the industry today is that that is a two-step process. The government is thinking about mandating step one: that you should have a number on the house, which is a relatively contained, simple exercise. I’ve made some comments in the handouts about that. Step two, when you tie it to the eco-energy program, is completely defined by the federal government’s grant process today, which could change. It’s valid to say that once you’ve got an EnerGuide number you can apply it to this checklist, and you can go and try to get quotes and turn it into an upgrade exercise. It’s equally valid to say that you might not. If you’re the one selling the house, you probably won’t. If you’re the one buying the house, you just might. It creates an opportunity.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much for your presentation today. You talked about your core business. The Ontario Real Estate Association and every real estate board that we’ve heard from across the province—and they sell hundreds of thousands of homes. That is their core business; 213,000 homes in 2007. That’s their core business. They say that this will have an inflationary effect and it will be a wedge between buyers and sellers and will negatively affect sellers in this province, many of whom can least afford to have this kind of an adversarial issue between them and the buyers. You say that it’s not going to have an effect. That’s not your core business; it’s theirs. Why would we take your word on it and not the word of the industry that should know their business best?
Mr. Derek Satnik: I agree, but if we talk about the way that energy will affect sales, right now it’s a crystal ball exercise that we all have perspectives on. I would say that energy is something I’m very competent to assess; sales is something they certainly are competent to assess—
Mr. Derek Satnik: —so the medium in between is where the dialogue is important. What I would suggest to them is that they probably need to be more involved in this program before they assess it. I think they’ve pre-judged it because there are these two steps and people get them confused. One of the steps that I see in the solution, honestly, is to get real estate agents involved at a technical level with doing these assessments. If we’re going to actually audit the entire industry, all 213,000 homes, I can readily say that my portion of the industry does not have capacity to do that. There’s no way we’re going to come up with that many people to do that effectively, so we will very quickly end up seeing home inspectors and sales agents who want to do this work. There’s a piece of it that they’re not capable of doing, but there’s a piece of it that they are. The piece that they can do is everything up to putting the number on the house. They just need a bit of training for that.
The day we do that and start training those folks, I think we will see this become commoditized so fast that this extra cost they’re all concerned about—which, by the way, is the cost of the two-step process, not the cost of the process they’re concerned about. The cost of the process they’re concerned about, I’m very confident would become a value-add. What it’s going to end up doing is coming to zero cost net in most cases, which will put a lot of pressure on my piece of the industry, actually, which is something that we’re concerned about.
The Acting Chair (Mrs. Linda Jeffrey): Our next group is the London Home Builders’ Association. Welcome. If you could state your name and the organization you speak for, and when you begin, you’ll have 10 minutes, with five minutes for questions.
Ms. Lois Langdon: My name is Lois Langdon. I’m the executive officer for the London Home Builders’ Association. We represent approximately 400 local businesses: builders, renovators, suppliers, subtrades, manufacturers, developers—anyone who’s associated with residential housing. Our members build approximately 85% of the new homes in the London area. It is a volunteer association; all members are volunteers.
The London Home Builders’ Association has been on the cutting edge of energy efficiency in housing for a number of years. We partnered with our local city of London on a London EnerGuide program a number of years back. We have been working hard to educate our members. We have a LEAP program that we’ve done, which is 17 cutting-edge technologies that we have worked with NRCan on to produce a tool kit, and we have been encouraging our members to take the technologies and the tool kit and incorporate it into their building. Our industry has been involved in R-2000 for over 20 years, so it has a long track record of energy efficiency.
We are in favour and support of the proposed Green Energy Act. I believe that the Ontario Home Builders’ Association issued a news release to that point the day after. We believe that the fundamental policies we support will help to differentiate housing, whether it be resale or whether it be new homes, and give homeowners all the information they need to know to understand what type of house they are purchasing and what the energy efficiency is in that house. We are more than willing to participate with the government on any regulations to bring that in. We have experts within our field who are participating. One of them was Derek, who was just here.
It has been a difficult situation for new homes for our builders to encourage people to want to have the energy efficiency features in their homes. If the builder doesn’t take a position and make it mandatory in all of their homes, then they’re in a position to have the homeowners choose between hardwood floors or granite counters or the energy efficiency. Oftentimes the energy efficiency features lose out in that. One of our suggestions is that the government might consider offering some sort of incentive or rebate to the homeowners to encourage them to purchase an energy-efficient home, whether that be an Energy Star home, a LEED-certified home or whether there’s another building label that they want to use for that. But if there was some sort of program that would help support moving people into new homes—and I think the energy audit will help to differentiate and let people know exactly what they’re purchasing.
Mr. Khalil Ramal: Thank you very much for your presentation. I know you’ve been working hard over the years with the city of London to produce and construct a home with energy efficiency. I went to see your model, I guess, a few years ago. It’s impressive.
There are so many different incentives. For the people who want to do a home energy audit, they get almost half the cost, plus if you want to renovate your house you get up to $10,000, and also for seniors there’s a big incentive to remain in their homes, and also financial support. There are so many different elements.
You probably agree with me that in order to sell your home and if you have a good, efficient home, I think you’ll have a better price for it. What kind of incentives are you talking about for the government to support people to have energy-efficient homes? Financial support or—
Ms. Lois Langdon: One of the difficulties is when they choose something other than energy-efficient features in a new home. So if there were some sort of incentive that was offered to the homeowners or the homebuyers, whether it would be some sort of rebate or—I guess a rebate would probably be the easiest form that would be administered that would come right back to the homebuyer.
Mr. John Yakabuski: I appreciate your presentation today. When people are building a new home, I would suggest and I would hope that they’re all encouraged to make it as energy-efficient as possible. But I’m not sure how energy audits are going to affect that decision, because enough data is available when you’re building a home as to what things you might want to do with that home to make it the most energy-efficient. But when it comes to older homes, and this doesn’t apply—and they’re not even sure whether they’re going to make those energy audits. Now they’re changing their tune about maybe they won’t do them for homes less than five years old, 10 years old, whatever. But if you live in a home like the Van Kessels’—what did they say, 1886 or somewhere around there?
Mr. John Yakabuski: Eighty-nine. I still have three years on you. But the cost of making that home energy-efficient would be practically prohibitive. If you’re going to live in that home, you’d better have a big woodpile or something.
This is the issue of energy audits. When it comes to the act, encouraging efficiency and energy efficiency in every new home are standards we should be adopting. But I’m not sure how that juxtaposes with mandatory energy audits, because the existing stock of homes is the issue, not what’s going to be built.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Thank you for coming down and making the presentation today. I’ve read the act to understand that the building code is going to be changed to make homes far more energy efficient than they have been in the past. How do you see that affecting the cost of homes and the cost of your operations in the years to come?
Ms. Lois Langdon: A majority of the builders right now—in the London community, anyway—are building to what the new code is going to be. So any of those price adjustments are already in the marketplace right now. There will be an adjustment for some, but a majority of them are already at that.
Ms. Lois Langdon: It’s my understanding—and probably Mr. Satnik would know better—that R-2000 is being adjusted right now, that they’re working on it. It did have an EnerGuide level of 80. I believe that they’re working to adjust it higher, that Energy Star is now at 80.
The Acting Chair (Mrs. Linda Jeffrey): Our last deputation of the day is the Ripley neighbours group. Welcome. Thank you for coming today. If you could state your name, whoever is going to be speaking, for the Hansard record. When you begin, you’ll have 10 minutes, and at the end we’ll have five minutes for questions.
We formally request that the more than 150 submissions that did not get a voice in front of the committee receive time at extended dates. We also formally request that committee members use their five-minute time wisely and benefit the Ontario citizens and not waste our time by trying to discredit our integrity. We have written letters to the editor, put up lawn signs, and during phone calls voiced concerns about our health way prior to the project going on line. Having an informed opinion is encouraged in a democracy. Our deteriorating health changes are not opinions. The wind industry and some Liberal politicians consistently try to cast doubt by disrespecting our experiences.
We formally also request that our MPP, Carol Mitchell, resign from the standing committee and devote 100% of her time to resolving the harm to the health of families in Kingsbridge, Ripley and now Tiverton wind projects. Ms. Mitchell needs to spend her time focusing on her constituents who hired her to do a job for them and resolve their health problems. Some families have been suffering for over three years. I’ll begin.
Emotional and social stresses: We are quizzed or defending our health problems at community events such as hockey games, shopping or church. Dysfunctional community relations have been created by the wind project representatives and some community members trying to discredit the validity of our problems.
The family unit for each family has deteriorated and has been torn apart. We begged for sleep, and four families were billeted by the wind company from their homes for 90 to 180 days in motels, hotels and a rooming house. The consistent stress has broken apart the family unit—no gatherings, few or no celebrations at home. At present, one family has purchased a separate residence to live in, and two others had to, at the expense of thousands of dollars, modify their hydro connection to try and live in their homes that they’ve lived in for 19 to 35 years.
Due to concerns for the health of grandchildren, grandparents, older children, extended family members and friends, we all strongly discourage extended visits to our homes. We had to meet somewhere else other than our homes for celebrations.
Neighbours, business acquaintances and media personnel from two different networks have also felt the pressure in the chest and ears and ringing in the ears while in our homes. In an open invitation to the Premier and any other politicians and their families to pack their bags and live in one of our members’ homes for two weeks, our MPP suggested that we might trade by living beside a pig barn or beside a grain elevator.
Health and safety: We’re like the first population of smokers who went to their doctors with health problems. This is the third official warning to the Liberal government of Ontario: There will be harm to citizens of all ages and gender, due to wind projects.
Sleep deprivation; sleep disturbances; poor-quality sleep; humming in the head by the ears; edginess; a feeling as if you’ve had five cups of coffee; bad temper; heart palpitations; heaviness in the chest; pains in the chest like needles; increased blood pressure, 217 over 124; uncontrollable ringing in the ears; earaches; sore eyes, like you have sand in them; digestive problems which continued for months; headaches which caused you to be bedridden; the sensation of your skin crawling or being bitten by bugs; sore joints; nosebleeds; sores on feet that would not heal until you moved out of your home; inability to concentrate or form words; a severe feeling of being unwell; bedridden for days; depression; tiredness; anxiety; stress—these are the signs and symptoms we have experienced over the past 17 months. Note that the above all start to subside when you leave the polluted environment of your home. The health changes are individual. Even the pets are affected while in the home—losing hair, sore ears—but not when away from the home.
The long-term health effects have also started to show. There’s an increased sensitivity to certain sounds and high-frequency lighting, such as in the local stores, and in this room as well. You feel ill upon entering the building. Hearing difficulty has occurred. What other effects will occur?
Who is accountable for the unseen health changes occurring within our bodies from basically living in a vibrating microwave? What protection is there for a developing two-year-old who cries endlessly and pulls at her ears when she’s in her home, but not when she’s away from the project? Who’s accountable to the young family who are expecting their second child? What if there’s a deformity or a miscarriage resulting from infrasound, low-frequency sound and the electrical pollution?
The health costs of four families have impacted the health insurance plan 61 times, strictly for health problems due to the two factors stated previously. I had a local hospital finance department calculate a rough estimate for the bill of one family member—$5,000 for one family member. Fourteen ER visits; 19 doctor visits; seven specialist visits, for ear, foot and heart; blood work, six times; audiologist, five times; CT scans, twice; heart machines and stress tests, five; Doppler testing, one; X-ray, one; urine tests, one—do the math. This is just four families so far. Who’s going to pay for the health costs due to the health effects of wind projects?
Each family has incurred additional costs from budgets for food, fuel, laundry and doctor visits while living away from our homes. Family events had to be held in restaurants. There is wear and tear on our vehicles. There is the extra cost of extensive phone bills from trying to get the problems fixed. There is the price of putting isolators on our homes to protect our families from the unfiltered power. There’s the cost of going to meetings. There’s loss of productivity due to sleep deprivation. A loss of three weeks from work occurred.
The market value of a property is determined by what buyers are willing to pay for it after it is exposed to the market for a reasonable period of time. Affecting market value is the saleability of a property. The more saleable, the higher the value. Conversely, if there are factors negatively affecting the saleability of a property, the value will be reduced, or it will become much more difficult to sell, or both. If there are factors negatively affecting the property, or unknowns—or in this case, controversy—surrounding a particular property, while those conditions exist, the property will not be saleable at any price. Whether the market value is sustainably reduced or the property is unsaleable, it is a major cost or liability to the owner. That is from a real estate agent in Kincardine.
Ontario common law and MLS rules and regulations set out for Ontario realtors all require full disclosure of factual information regarding properties offered for sale by owners. This means an owner is legally obligated to disclose any information known or expected about a property that may affect a buyer’s decision to purchase a property.
My real estate agent tells me our farm is unsellable. Our homes are unsellable or of zero value. Buying a second home to live in, which I’ve done—possible lawyer fees, possible appraisal costs. Our lives are upside down for the last 18 months, and how do you put a cost on that? This is like someone committing a crime, going to jail for, say, 10 years and then finding out after DNA tests, “Oh, you’re innocent.” How do you get that time back at our ages?
There have been other costs to Ontario Hydro and Hydro One for testing our problems, which were not caused by them. Values of houses near us are going down. The township lost tax base assessment. I and Sandy have appealed to MPAC to reassess our homes. The drugs are covered, and also to our own drug plans we’re going to have to pay more money—and the Minister of the Environment.
Communications: There has been no progress report on what is happening from the companies. Larry Bester, who is the manager at Acciona, will not return our calls. There’s no follow-up from the wind project about our health issues. Carol Mitchell had a meeting with us in Kincardine approximately two months ago. We have had no reply from her. I know she’s been talking to Suncor. I think two months is unreasonable. Ripley Wind Farm did not give us minutes of any meetings, so nothing is documented legally. No communication from the wind projects when the underground cable failed—
Mr. Glen Wylds: Okay. I’ve got three quick questions. The first two are a show by hands. Does anybody on the panel live in the middle of a wind farm? I’ll take that as a no. Would anybody, after hearing about the health problems we’re having, want to buy a property in the middle of a wind farm? So I’ll take that as, nobody wants to live where we want to live. Carol, what’s a reasonable length of time for you to communicate back with us on your findings with Suncor?
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much for your presentation. It has been eye-opening today because up until now, so much of this evidence or testimony has been third parties. Again, I can’t comment on the science of it because I’m not qualified to do that. But, Sandy and Glen, do both of you personally suffer from the health effects?
Mr. John Yakabuski: I look at the report on doctors’ visits, and I cannot believe that anybody would intentionally—I know how much I like to go to the doctor, but I can’t believe that anybody would want to be going to the doctor this many times and that different kinds of doctors would suggest that obviously they’ve got some kind of a health issue. It just seems that the government is not interested in addressing them or responding to them.
Ms. Sandy MacLeod: The sound that you hear is 24/7 in my house and it’s even more intense than this; this is as close as I could find to it—non-stop, and that’s low compared to a windy night and it’s after we’ve had our house filtered. I was the one who had heart attack symptoms on February 22. I had it for the first time in 27 years of teaching; I’ve taught over 4,000 students in my 27 years. I’ve seen 17 of them pass. I’ve seen my father-in-law pass of cancer. I’ve seen my dad pass of cancer. I’ve never been so very sick. I was in the hospital with heart attack symptoms. The hospital, after seven and a half hours, was able to get all of my symptoms down to normal.
I had doctor’s orders at that time to stay away from work and also to stay away from my home until modifications were done. My husband and I spent an extensive amount of money to get electrical pollution done. For example, last night the turbines were really loud. I haven’t had a chance to call the spills action centre on them, but they were loud last night. It was difficult to get to sleep, even till 3 o’clock in the morning. Helen herself also had difficulty sleeping.
Ms. Sandy MacLeod: We have electrical pollution that comes into our home. That’s been well documented as well. That’s from the unfiltered power that is coming into our homes, because it doesn’t get filtered until it gets to the substation.
Mr. Glen Wylds: The one common thing that we all have—it isn’t just the towers; it’s the transmission line with the dirty electricity going to the transformer station, going past our homes. The transmission line was 92 feet from my bed.
What happened was, they put us in different motels and paid for it, for them to bury the cable in front of our homes, which they did. In my case, it failed about two weeks later. In the middle of a snowstorm, instead of just leaving the wind farm down, they had K-Line out there jumping the insulators—because the lines were never taken down—to get the power back on.
This is all about money. If this was at Bruce Power, the CEO would shut the plant down. Public health, employee health and the environment are important issues. Darlington would do the same. But since it’s a wind farm, people—they live 3,000 miles away. Nobody works for the wind farm who lives on the wind farm—nobody. The manager lives in Shallow Lake, which is about 60, 70 miles from us. They don’t do it.
We had a thoughtful presentation this morning, or earlier today, by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, who started to analyze some of the differential factors associated with when residents close to wind farms have problems and when there are no problems. They focused on tower noise, transformer noise and location.
In your last comment, you made a comment with respect to the transmission lines and the buried lines. Would that be consistent for all those that you know who are having these health issues? Are they directly related to transmission lines?
Ms. Sandy MacLeod: I’d like to comment on that. That’s exactly what a government should do. A government should take all the money we’ve given in taxes, use some of it to get the science people out there with no association with the wind industry at all—get out there and study this, and don’t put up another wind tower or another wind project until you fix the problems. That’s what good government does. Good government looks after its people.
Mr. Glen Wylds: We’ve been talking to Shawn Carey from Owen Sound. They are doing sound studies, but as Sandy says, it’s a combination of things. Our families are unique because we have the unfiltered transmission lines going past our homes. Once you get past the transformer, people north of there, going up to the Bruce, nobody has complained that we know of. It’s only five families that have the unique thing about it.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: Sorry, I just want to make one comment with respect to the importance of having Ms. Mitchell on the committee. I represent a riding in Toronto. Mr. Tabuns represents Toronto–Danforth. It is really important to have an MPP such as Ms. Mitchell on this committee, to have the ability to reflect the reality and the circumstance in her own community. I think—
The Acting Chair (Mrs. Linda Jeffrey): I’m sorry, we can’t have two people talking at the same time. If you’ll let Ms. Broten finish, I’ll let you have 30 seconds to respond. That’s how it’s going to work. All right.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: Thank you. For those of us who are trying to assess, “Are there challenges with implementation? What are the specific details?” it really is very important to have someone who represents part of the province where we see a lot of wind development.
Ms. Sandy MacLeod: Okay, just a minute. Let’s think through this clearly. If Ms. Mitchell was going to give the Ontario Legislature, and thus the rest of the province, the best information possible, the best way to do that would be to solve the problems within the farms that are in her constituency right now, take that information back and use it appropriately and prudently so that the harm that has come to us will not be experienced by any other families in this province.
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