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Wind and solar – seemed like a good idea at the time

It is starting to happen.  Governments around the world are cancelling wind and solar projects and drastically scaling back subsidies, including on existing contracts.  The reason is very simple: they have realized that they cannot afford the huge subsidies that they earlier agreed to pay.

In a December 3, 2010 opinion piece in the National Post titled Green Collapse , Lawrence Solomon compares Ontario’s green status (home of the largest subsidies in the Western world) to that of other jurisdictions:

  • Spain — where support for wind projects was cut 35% while denying support for solar thermal projects in their first year of operation and cutting subsidies for solar photovoltaic;
  • France — four-month freeze on solar projects and a cap on the total amount of solar;
  • Germany — which may discontinue the solar industry’s sweetheart tariffs in 2012;
  • Australia — where New South Wales cut 2/3 of the revenue for roof-top solar;
  • The U.K. — which announced cuts to renewable projects and changes that strengthen local planning laws;
  • Denmark — Vestas, the world’s largest wind turbine company, is closing five production facilities and laying off 3,000 workers); and
  • The U.S. — where regulators in five states have cancelled or delayed renewable projects.

Solomon speculates about a coming confrontation between the province’s captive ratepayers and a renewables industry that, thanks to secret deals with the government, has “been making off like bandits”.  After next October’s election, there will be pressure on the future Ontario government to abort uncompleted deals and abrogate existing contracts.  There are ample precedents to draw on.

The McGuinty government believed that it could achieve a “two-fer”: convert “dirty” coal to “green” wind and solar AND bootstrap a new industry in Ontario that would export to other jurisdictions as well.  But unreliable wind and solar cannot replace coal, which is used to provide baseload power – the replacement will have to be natural gas.  And, with other jurisdictions scaling back their wind and solar projects, the export market is diminishing.  What seemed like a good idea at the time is turning out to be untenable.

Gary Mooney

RR 2, Consecon

Filed Under: Letters and Opinion


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  1. Doris Lane says:

    Watch what the leader of the progressive conservative party of Ontario –Hudak has to say about the expense of feed in tarrifs etc
    Someone how we have to stop McGintys expensive habits. We cannot survive as a province if we have to pay huge amounts of money for electricity , gas and home heating.

  2. Lynne says:

    Take a minute to read Mr. Hudak’s speech about the PC energy plan. It is quite good.

    “I worry that if we continue on this path, we may never recover.

    Ontario cannot accept this fate.

    I will not accept this fate.”

  3. Paul says:

    That darn technology is always so expensive I remember when the first Blu Ray player came out in April of 2003 it cost $3.800 US ,you can pick them up today for under $100.It’ll take some time but once solar and wind power become mainstream the prices will drop.And when the day comes that the wind does’nt blow and the sun don’t shine we won’t be needing anything anyways..

  4. Rob says:

    In environmental science (which my degrees are in) the term “sustainable” refers to a process which does not deplete a finite resource. Oil, coal and natural gas are finite resources and are being depleted rapidly. At current rates of consumption they will all likely be consumed in the next 100 years.

    Wind & solar are variable sources of energy, meaning that their production can vary from zero to one hundred percent over a short period. This does pose major challenges for the grid. They ARE sustainable because we are not going to run out of sunshine (or wind, which is ultimately driven by the sun) for at least 4 billion years.

    So we can either wait until the fossil fuels run out and hope that nuclear fusion or some other miracle energy source has been perfected, or we can begin to take steps to reduce our dependence on carbon based energy. It is not going to perfect, easy or cheap either way.

    The days of inexpensive, limitless energy are over and whether or not any wind turbines or solar farms are ever built in PEC will not change that. There are painful times ahead for all of us.

  5. Doris says:

    Where are your facts from Hazel???
    Do you want to see the County ruined like Wolfe Island???
    Rob my dictionary says sustainable is “to endure”
    Wind and solar will not endure–When the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine, there is no energy produced.

  6. Hazel says:

    Check your facts, Gary; perhaps the National Post is not the best source of reliable information. Each one of your ‘facts’ is skewed to support the NIMBY position. No wonder Canada, and indeed PEC, can be called a Colossal Fossil! Even the Queen is now investing in wind energy!

  7. Cris says:

    It’s hard to keep funding for anything when “fierce grassroots opposition” threatens to tear down any progress made in renewable energy projects. It’s constant articles like this that are afraid of change which are responsible… not renewable energy itself.

  8. Rob says:

    The world’s natural gas reserves are estimated at 62 years given current consumption rates. If demand growth models are included, the reserve life expectancy drops to 50 years.

    That is what is meant by not sustainable.

  9. Doris says:

    It is good to see that some of the major countries of the world are waking up to the fact that wind and solar are not sustainable and way to expensive . Maybe Prince Edward County will wake up to that fact before it is too late for our Island Paradise

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