MPP, local groups push for cancellation of wind projects

From left, Michel Lavergne, Leo Proulx and Leslie Howard — opponents of the 'Eastern Fields' wind project in The Nation Municipality — and Margaret Benke and John Irven of the Concerned Citizens of North Stormont, opponents of the proposed Nation Rise Wind Farm, along with MPP Jim McDonell, who received almost 1,300 letters of opposition to the Finch-area project in 2016. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Nelson Zandbergen
Nation Valley News

NORTH STORMONT — Opponents of a planned 100 megawatt wind farm in North Stormont have floated the idea of privately fundraising the sum understood to be contractually owed to the developers if the government can be persuaded to pull the plug on the 30-to-50-turbine project at this point in time.

“When we talked about the $600,000, and we talked about it locally, some of the people were saying, ‘Why don’t we just raise the money?’ We’ll pay for the suspension,” said Margaret Benke of the Concerned Citizens of North Stormont group, reporting on feedback received while collecting signatures against the development during the CP Holiday Train’s Nov. 27 stop in Finch.

Added Benke Dec. 2 while delivering almost 1,300 signed letters of opposition to local MPP Jim McDonell, “And I had people come back to me this week saying, ‘You know what? That’s a real possibility. We raised a million dollars for the [Finch] arena; we can raise $600,000 to get them [the wind developer] off our back.”

The MPP didn’t comment on having the community come up with the money to quash the proposed Nation Rise Wind Farm, but he certainly agreed that Premier Kathleen Wynne should kibosh it and other wind projects still being planned under the first phase of the Large Renewable Projects program (LRP I) — in light of her government’s suspension of a planned second phase of development (LRP II) this fall. Three Ontario wind projects continue to forge ahead because they were procured under LRP I, not LRP II. Locally, they include EDP Renewable’s proposed North Stormont-based project, and a smaller 10-megawatt ‘Eastern Fields’ project near St. Bernadine in The Nation Municipality proposed by Renewable Energy Systems (RES).

Both projects are supposed to break ground in 2019, assuming they clear their next regulatory hurdle and apply for Renewable Energy Approval (REA) by deadline this spring.

“They’ve already cancelled the second round, so we’ve been after them to cancel the first round before it gets too expensive [to cancel],” said McDonell, adding, “At a certain point you have to pay them for all the power they could have produced.”

In the case of Nation Rise, that figure would amount to more than $450-million if the project gets REA status and lines up a 20-year production contract, according to Benke, who was accompanied by fellow North Stormont opponent John Irven.

At that point, “you can’t afford” to stop the project, Benke suggested.

But what if the Patrick Brown Progressive Conservatives are elected in 2018 — before groundbreaking? Tory McDonell said they would have to look at the contracts in place at that time but couldn’t promise the project’s cancellation. Better that the governing party follow its own lead and also suspend LRP I before things proceed to that more expensive stage, he argued.

The premier has already publicly admitted making a “mistake” on the province’s surging hydro rates in a province with a surplus of electricity, he pointed out.

“I think we’ve already seen them quash the second round, or delayed them indefinitely. So we’re hoping they go back because they really don’t need the power,” he said. “They’re having a harder and harder time explaining the power system because of the costs … and the auditor general says cap-and-trade alone will add another 25 percent to the cost of electricity by 2020. Those are big numbers.”

And that’s without accounting for additional hydro increases expected once new renewable energy contracts are priced into rates, hitting the global adjustment charge in particular, McDonell added.

“Everybody sees their power bill; it’s starting to really hurt.”

Wind project critics from The Nation, in the neighbouring riding represented by Liberal MPP Grant Crack, also attended McDonell’s office with plans to deliver 700 or 800 letters similarly bound for the desk of the premier and Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault.

Leslie Howard said it was “ridiculous” a proposed 50- to 70-turbine wind project in the St. Isidore area can no longer proceed, under LRP II, while Eastern Fields goes ahead with 10 to 12 turbines under LRP I. Yet the infrastructure requirements on the grid will be similar, he suggested. “There’s no rocket science to figure out how stupid that is.”

(Crack is arranging for a meeting between their group and the energy minister this week, Howard and the other members of his delegation acknowledged.)

“We’re hoping the letters show opposition because as much as we vocalize to the companies when they’re meeting in our communities, they act like it’s unheard or they’ve never heard of opposition before,” said John Irven of North Stormont.

EDP Renewables has another public meeting scheduled Dec. 13, upstairs at the Finch Arena.

Beyond consumers and small business, rising hydro rates are ravaging rural school boards and municipalities, too, according to McDonell, who brandished a letter from the municipality of Kawartha Lakes. That jurisdiction pays just $86 for “electricity” per month on 51 street lights but other line items on its hydro bill push the actual monthly total to $41,333. Delivery charges and global adjustment charges — at $16,125 and $15,793, respectively — accounted for much of the difference on the August bill supplied by the MPP.

In the provincial legislature today (Dec. 5), McDonell demanded the cancellation of the Nation Rise project. (See video below.)


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