Extraordinary, isn’t it? In all that expanse of rhetoric, messaging, massaging, visioning and stroking, ululation and pontification, there is not one mention of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s signature energy goal – turning the Ontario countryside into an endless thicket of 500-foot wind turbines.
Perhaps McGuinty has belatedly gotten the message?
Perhaps the election just past – which reduced his government to a minority, cost him what little rural foothold he had and torched the Liberal Party’s hopes outside Toronto for at least another election cycle – finally drove home what farmers and landowners, by their simple requests for a hearing, could not.
(One needs to undertake a hunger strike apparently, as raw-milk activist Michael Schmidt recently did, to get a hearing from this premier.)
It’s a pity, the Liberals must feel as they contemplate their small, populous urban islands of power surrounded by vast acreages of Conservative blue, that they didn’t listen better, sooner.
It now seems that, in the absence of any official concession from McGuinty that he badly underestimated and misjudged rural Ontarians, the wind-power revolution may die a slow death.
The Feedin Tariff (FIT) program is under review. That means subsidies for so-called green energy are headed sharply lower. Given the economic gloom, reflected in the throne speech, we can expect this to happen quickly. The new pricing structure is due in mid-December.
Falling prices will mean a collapse in demand for green energy gear of all kinds – including turbines. The turbines will become more expensive to build and buy, because of reduced economies of scale. That and reduced profit prospects will lead to a flight of capital. Investors looking for easy money will go elsewhere.
Energy Minister Chris Bentley has already said the province now intends to pay more attention to local concerns – without returning control over the location of wind farms to local control.
That’s a first step. Bentley will find that, far from having been either discouraged or mollified by their partial victory in the election, anti-wind activists have been emboldened. The local political action committees aren’t going away.
Two thousand more wind turbines are reportedly planned, for Ontario: I would bet money that the vast majority of them never get built.
Here’s what McGuinty would do, if he wanted to make amends to his rural citizenry and create at least a window for country comeback, sometime in the future:
First, he’d apologize, for being a lousy listener, so wrapped up in the certitude of his own sanctity that he became deaf to all opinions but his own. He’d apologize for shunting rural people aside as though their voices don’t matter.
Second, he’s say the Green Energy Act needs to be revised, in substantive ways. He’d return planning control to local councils.
Third, he’d order wind farms, wherever there is significant local opposition, scrapped – or have these projects moved to areas where local people want them, or where there are no people.
Fourth, he’d commit his government to helping farmers and small landowners acquire, build and maintain small eco-energy projects designed to provide energy to a household, or a group of households in a neighbourhood.
That could include small wind mills, as have existed in the Netherlands and Belgium for centuries.