McGuinty Liberals blow it on wind turbine debate

London Free Press Editorial
When Ontario gave birth to its public power industry a century ago, it had two goals: Spread “the hydro” widely to cover its huge costs, and keep outside players out.

Treating electricity as a political plaything looked after the first goal. Governments of all stripes have been guilty of keeping power rates artificially low.

A ruthless monopoly took care of the second objective. Only with Ontario Hydro’s breakup in the late 1990s, did the province’s iron grip on power begin to loosen.

Consumers are still paying for that legacy: Billions in stranded debt and cost over-runs no private utility would accept.

But even with multinationals now in the market, Ontario seems to be backsliding to its autocratic past in its handling of one energy file — wind farms.

Lured by the deep subsidies Ontario pays them, energy companies are carpeting huge tracts of prime rural land with industrial wind turbines, some of which stand as high as 30 storeys. Stripped of control by the province over where they can go, rural areas are helpless to stop the often-unwanted behemoths. But as QMI Agency reported this week, far more turbines are on the way — incredibly, with almost no new public debate.

When the Liberals took power in 2003, Ontario had just 10 wind turbines. Today, there are 1,200, with signed deals to more than double that. Add in new turbines in the approval mill, the citizens group Wind Concerns Ontario calculates the figure could hit 6,400.

The only real discussion Ontario has had about the issue was in last fall’s election, when rural areas revolted and threw out Liberals.

So, how is force-feeding even more turbines onto those same rural areas a suitable response?

We get that power rates are headed north, with or without pricey green power, and that subsidies should fall with greater economies of scale. Ditto, that Ontario needs new power sources, including wind, to help wean it off dirty coal-fired electricity.

But shoving a new technology on people who don’t want it, with almost no debate, smacks of the same old heavy-handedness that doomed Ontario’s power monopoly.

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Posted on May 25, 2012, in Dalton McGuinty, Government, London Free Press. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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