Ontario loses spine and backtracks on offshore wind, a HUGE mistake it will regret

The Ontario government, to my surprise, has caved to public pressure from a small group of anti-wind folks and backtracked on its previously stated commitment to encourage the development of offshore wind in the Great Lakes. It must be election time. This news release just came out:

Ontario is not proceeding with proposed offshore wind projects while further scientific research is conducted. No Renewable Energy Approvals for offshore have been issued and no offshore projects will proceed at this time. Applications for offshore wind projects in the Feed-In-Tariff program will no longer be accepted and current applications will be suspended. Offshore wind in freshwater lakes is early in development and there are no projects operating in North America. The recently installed Lake Vanern pilot project in Sweden is one of the only operational freshwater offshore projects in the world and a pilot project has been proposed in Ohio. Ontario will monitor these projects and the resulting scientific knowledge. Ontario will work with our U.S. neighbours on research to ensure any future proposed projects protect the environment on both sides of the Great Lakes.

It was three years ago when McGuinty confidently lifted a moratorium on offshore wind projects and declared that such projects, after extensive study and consultation with authorities on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes, could be done responsibly without impact to lake ecosystems. Then came the feed-in-tariff (FIT) program less than two years later, which broke new ground in North America by including a FIT rate for offshore wind — 19 cents per kilowatt-hour compared to 42 cents for large-scale solar projects.

The government has regularly trumpeted its commitment to offshore wind development, and Ontario was well positioned to lead North America in terms of attracting manufacturers and a supporting supply chain that could serve Ontario and the U.S. northeast. One project, to be developed by Windstream Energy, was actually offered a contract under the FIT program, while developer Trillium Power was quite advanced with its project development and preliminary studies and had worked hard to attract foreign manufacturers to Ontario. These companies and others must be furious, having invested millions of dollars already only to have the province do an about-face. I mean, is McGuinty admitting that the consultations and study done three years ago were bogus?

This sends a horrible message to the market. If the government can so easily backtrack on previous commitments, what’s next? What other projects will have their plugs pulled?

Offshore wind was the one truly new opportunity in green energy where Ontario had the opportunity to lead and capture the economic development that would come with it, as this Conference Board of Canada report recently pointed out. Companies such as Siemens and Vestas were seriously eyeing Ontario as a place to lay down their North American anchors. That opportunity is now gone. What’s odd is that it’s apparently okay to have a company like Talisman drill for natural gas in the middle of Lake Erie or to ship radioactive material from a nuclear plant through the Great Lakes, but we can’t erect wind turbines with proper setbacks from shore?

Meanwhile, the U.S. is picking up steam on offshore wind. Just as Ontario is backing away, Maryland is moving forward with legislation that would require its utilities to purchase offshore wind capacity. Virginia is getting its act together, as is New Jersey. The Obama administration has pledged to fast-track offshore wind projects in the mid-Atlantic. New York, Ohio, Michigan and others are all moving forward. Ontario, which had the lead, has decided to disqualify itself from the race and watch from the sidelines.

A truly shocking and disappointing development. There’s no reason why the government couldn’t have honoured its FIT commitments but put in place regulations that made sure only the best sited projects got built. At least this would have got the ball rolling, even if it was just one or two projects that qualified. Environmental concerns can be addressed without having to outright derail the train.

8 thoughts on “Ontario loses spine and backtracks on offshore wind, a HUGE mistake it will regret”

  1. It’s getting less and less surprising given the hard right turn that all Canadian politics seems to be taking these days. Unfortunately, it seems that science is being totally marginalized or ignored by the right wing (why it’s this way is a mystery) and Dalton seems to be trying to court the right wingers.

    What don’t understand is why climate change and green energy has become a right vs. left issue. It’s just wierd.

    What really bugs me is that the wind opponents have arguments that are based more in emotion and NIMBYism as opposed to good science. I always get a kick out of the argument that they’re affected by “vibrations” from the turbines and yet they live 100 metres away from a major highway.


    After this flip, I’d be more than happy to see the liberals voted out, but what could replace them scares me far more than the liberals.

  2. Same as Abraham decided that killing his first born will not please his God, McGuinty decided that killing the Ontario economy through outrageous electricity prices will not please his Green God, or the electorate.

  3. Bad timing for McGuinty…
    Ontario announces their lack of support for wind, yet they are still running their green energy ads during the Grammy’s.

    And then I read this from the US:
    – Federal offshore wind plan: $50.5 million in research funding http://t.co/js6bcAL

  4. I’m beginning to get nervous as well and I’m in the solar industry. It becomes difficult to sell, plan and install projects when the underpinning legislation is unreliable and can change at any moment. Ontario’s green economy seems to have been built on rapidly shifting sand instead of a stable, secure foundation.

  5. Now is the time to send the McGuinty government your letter of support for sustainable energy options, they have obviously heard from far to many nay-sayers and alarmists. This can be undone, however, I don’t see them double flip floping on the offshore wind until after the upcoming election. The letters are critical to prevent further erosion of support and backsliding of what is a promising industry sector for Ontario. For those of you who read this blog, and are in the sustainable energy industry in Ontario – what’s the best way we can get our message to this government?


Comments are closed.