TV Appearance: TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin Thursday September 30, 2010 8-9 pm

I joined a live panel debate titled “So green we are in the red”. The show discussed the Ontario Government’s efforts to green the province’s electricity portfolio. The other guests for the show were Joyce McLean for Toronto Hydro, Paul Clipsham for Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Gord Miller and Donald Dewees, University of Toronto.

You can watch the show here.

For an illustration of how reckless green energy policy is moving us back to living in caves, check out the Environmental Commission of Ontario, Gord Miller, gloating over the Green Energy Act at time stamp 44:30. He argues the fact that the Japanese have complained about the protectionist aspects of the Act proves that the policy is a success, attracting international attention and not harming Ontario’s industrial output.  Fortunately, Professor Dewees stepped in pointing out that Ontario has a trading economy, deflating Miller’s jingoism and ruinous advice.

At time stamp 24:26, I present the argument that the Green Energy Act is hurting Ontario’s environmental performance overall. Buying low emission energy supplies from imprudently costly sources lowers the amount of low emission energy we can afford.


  1. Tom.

    I caught most of the show last night. There were only three informed people at the table.
    Unfortunately, the ones making the decisions were not numbered among them!

    I was astonished to hear Gord Miller elude that the rate payers incurred no costs if wind
    and solar were not producing any power. That is either ignorance, incompetence or both!
    The rate payer pays for most of the infrastructure other then the actual wind turbine/ panel. We pay to
    upgrade roads, install grid connections etc, etc. Furthermore, municipalities can’t tax these things
    at their full value. This loss of tax revenue is again dumped on the backs of the ratepayers. Thusly,
    as you are fully aware, ratepayers incur millions in costs BEFORE a single watt of power is generated!
    As for the micro FIT program being relatively inexpensive, WHAT? Sure, a small panel here or there
    perhaps but 19,000 of them? We’re well beyond “cheap” now! Furthermore, no one spent much time
    talking about hundreds or perhaps thousands of acres of commercial PV at 40 cents/kw. Again, we’re
    not talking cheap anymore!

    And for what? More expensive, inefficient, CO2 spewing natural gas generation?

    Also, I heard not a peep about the massive environmental damage wrought by both IWT’s and shale
    gas hydro-fracturing methods. Just exactly what is it that Gord does anyway? Turn a blind eye?

    I was incredulous at the endorsement PV solar got from Joyce McLean. She is apparently completely oblivious to the fact that PV solar, without tracking equipment, only produces full power a small fraction of the time and only produces usable power less the 40% of the time. Where does she think that power comes from the rest of the time? To be fair she was absolutely correct about the egregious
    state of the distribution network in and around Toronto. However, upgrading/maintaining the grid would cost a pittance compared to the wild and unnecessary costs thrust upon us for the construction
    of vast completely un-needed new grid ties to new generation.

    Paul Clipsham provided sobering facts that the proponents around the table had difficulty rebutting
    as did the level-headed and pragmatic Donald Dewees. As for you Tom, you were constantly interrupted. they didn’t give you a chance to elaborate on the vast information and expertise you have on this topic. That was both unfortunate and counterproductive.

    At the end of the show, an uniformed individual would have been even more confused then at the start.

    Fortunately, an increasing number of Ontarian’s and citizens of the world, are quickly becoming uniformed no longer!

    I’m not likely to spoil my ballot in the next provincial election…

    Sean Holt.

  2. Tom:

    I watched the program. Yourself and Donald Dewees were the bright lights. I did not see a reasonable grasp of the issues from the other participants. The CME participant should not have been there — he was in a no win position as “Green Energy” companies are participants in CME.

    I was also baffled by the evasiveness and lack of content of the comments of Joyce McLean — bust as a past Chair of Canwea and executive of Greenpeace I guess she has to be careful of comments as well. I checked the resumes afterward…

    I think that a future conversation on The Agenda would be far more productive if for example just yourself and DeWees participated and let the “Green Energy” advocates have their say separately as well. This would allow “denser” examination of the issues without the constant ebb and flow of too-simplistic arguments and rebuttals.

    The comments of Gordon Miller baffled me as well. His understanding of energy and conservation does not appear to be as deep as is required. Maybe it was the show format that detracted from the participants.

    For your entertainment and enlightenment there is an article on Master Resource which might shed some light on the conservation debate.

    I spent a lot of time trying to educate people that making a resource more efficient simply meant that it would be used more as people would perceive that the value of using the resource had increased — you could make more widgets, get more light, draw more power, make more bags… It seems that the idea is gaining credence.

    The article puts a new light on conservation and hopefully will generate some reevaluation of the consequences of conservation. Conservation is good — but it needs to be thought through.

    Keep up the valuable work in the community. Thank you!

  3. Thank you for your comments on the Agenda last evening. One thing that is being overlooked in the debate on energy, alternative energy debate and costs to consumers is the effect on property values as industrial wind turbine projects proliferate throughout rural Ontario.

    Despite a CanWEA-funded study that said there was no effect on property value, other studies say there is (Luxemburger, Appraisal One Group, and many more). Mr Luxemburger has said that the presence of industrial wind turbines is now seen (by lenders, too) as a negative factor, like a quarry or a garbage dump.

    The Ontario Real Estate Association now has a question about tthe presence of power generation projects e.g., “windmills” on its Sellers Property Information Sheet (SPIS).

    In my own community, the property value loss due to the installation of ten 190-meter, 2.5 MW industrial wind turbines is estimated to be $45 million. The turbines, if built as proposed, will be within 2 km of hundreds of homes in rural south Ottawa. (Critics have said this is a completely inappropriate site for industrial wind turbines.)

    As you commented re: electricity prices, the net result of property value loss in communities will result in people’s diminished ability to buy and invest.

    Thank you again for your insightful comments last evening.
    Jane Wilson

  4. Loved you and Don Dewees. Paul was OK but yes, in a snug spot. Joyce McLean drinks/serves the Koolaid and Gord Miller is a bit of an odd duck who finds it easy to comment on things he doesn’t know much about.

  5. Jane is absolutely right and assuming that it does impact real estate values then MPAC will be required to reflect that in their assessments. Lower assessed values will reduce property tax revenues impacting the ability of the local municipality to provide the required services for their residents. Municipalities should pass by-laws to the effect that: decreases in property assessments by MPAC caused by windmill development (and the resulting drop in property tax revenue) must be paid for by the developer. That would make them think twice.

    Tom, you and Don were the bright lights on the panel.

  6. Re: property values, a drop in property value SUCKS, period … but … it wouldn’t result in less revenue for a municipality as (everything else being equal) the tax rate would rise slightly for everyone else.

  7. I watched the show.

    I was struck by the fact the two public servants were totally disinterested in the costs to the public in every respect.

    Enjoyed Mr. Dewees on the show – which was an enormous surprise as he wrote an article for the Globe, following a paper for CD Howe, in January, titled Shocker: We don’t pay enough for electricity. Shocker, Mr. Dewees has really sharpened up in the past 8 months.

    I was dismayed that person could be employed by a public utility – but I would be dismayed if she was employed at a Walmart. I don’t generally yell at the television, but when she announce electricity policy should not be politicized …

    And I had, in the past, appreciated our environmental commissioner. In the past he has noted the limitations of concentrating on electricity supply for GHG reduction and noted the much more fertile ground of building efficiency, transportation efficiency, and even central heating. But honesty and intelligence were thrown out the window to fight for the team.

    Market pricing he first declares irrelevant except as an indicator (I liked the usage of Danish propaganda dialect), and then we can’t handle spikes of $1900/MWh – which happened once, and when demand was under 20000MW (indicating to me a sudden loss of supply).

  8. The show was pretty entertaining, in a blood-pressure soaring kind of way. Two things that came to mind :

    Maybe Gord Miller doesn’t know any better, but it was very dismaying to see a representative of Toronto Hydro cheering on McGuinty’s policy disasters. I think the most insidious aspect of politicizing the energy file is that people in positions of responsibility feel compelled to become robots. I’m glad that Don Dewees, who is also part of the broader public service, feels free to express his honest beliefs.

    Although it was pointed out (by the three working lightbulbs on the 5-crystal chandelier) that the jobs created in wind and solar were offset by losses due to higher rates (at best), I think the GEA supporters were let off the hook. No matter how much of the 50-80 c/kwh (for solar) stays in Ontario, it is an unproductive expenditure by definition, akin to paying people to break rocks with sledgehammers. It is ALL (with the exception of the true value of the power produced) a net loss to Ontario.

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