Kneel before Scarborough, Ontario: province’s biggest renewable energy resource will go untapped thanks to Bluffs voters

Kneel before Scarborough, Ontario: province’s biggest renewable energy resource will go untapped thanks to Bluffs voters

Offshore wind farms, like this one near the English Channel, won't be coming to the waters near you (Image: phault) 

There’s nothing quite like watching a government run against itself: after years of touting itself as the greenest government in North America, Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government has spent the last three months running away from various parts of its clean energy program. Friday saw the latest and greatest example of this, as Queen’s Park used exciting, headline-grabbing news elsewhere in the world to distract from an announcement they’d rather not have made: Ontario is halting offshore wind projects in the Great Lakes until further study.

Tyler Hamilton, a clean energy columnist for the Toronto Star isn’t happy. He writes at his blog, Clean Break:

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?

That this announcement had more to do with election realities than McGuinty’s natural technocratic instincts might be clear enough just from the calendar (and this morning’s polls), but the fact that important green groups like Environmental Defense weren’t given a heads up before the announcement is another smoking gun.

Green-minded voters looking for someone to blame for this—aside from the government, of course—can direct their ire toward Scarborough-Centre, the riding held by Energy Minister Brad Duguid and one of the hotspots for anti-wind activism in the province. (Toronto Hydro had been planning to build a wind farm several kilometers off the beach from the Scarborough Bluffs in the next-door riding of Scarborough-Southwest.) Offshore wind power in Ontario has had a pretty rough ride with the McGuinty government, having been jerked around with a moratorium in 2006 only to see the moratorium lifted in 2008 just months after McGuinty won his second majority.

Objections from NIMBYs concerned local citizens include that the spinning turbines create noise, strobe-like shadows and are a danger to wildlife—especially migratory birds. Fans of the turbines argue that offshore wind power is the largest renewable energy resource Ontario has, and that most people live and work within a manageable distance of the Great Lakes. For these proponents, the best-case scenario is that the same thing happens again, and the Liberals will just re-authorize offshore wind after the election if they win. Yes, optimism on this file amounts to hoping that Ontarians get jerked around a second time.

Ontario Rules Out Offshore Wind Projects [Ontario.ca]
Ontario loses spine and backtracks on offshore wind, a HUGE mistake it will regret [CleanBreak.ca]
‘The first domino has fallen’ in wind turbine plans [Toronto Star]
• Ontario stops offshore wind power development [Globe and Mail]
Cohn: Ontario reverses its spin on offshore wind [Toronto Star]