Lawrence Solomon: Europe Is Beginning To Dismantle Wind & Solar Farms

  • Date: 07/04/14
  • Lawrence Solomon, Financial Post

Europe taught us to spare no expense in supporting wind and solar projects, the better to help the planet survive. Now Europe is teaching us how to tear down those same projects, the better to help ratepayers, and politicians, survive.

UK Prime Minister “David Cameron wants to go into the next election pledging to ‘rid’ the countryside of onshore wind farms,” the London Telegraph announced this week. He intends “to toughen planning laws and tear up subsidy rules to make current turbines financially unviable – allowing the government to ‘eradicate’ turbines,” the goal being to “encourage developers to start ‘dismantling’ turbines built in recent years.”

Cameron will have no shortage of methods in taking down the now-unpopular wind turbines — in recent years countries throughout Europe, realizing that renewables delivered none of their environmental promises, have been systematically cutting their losses by ditching their renewable commitments. Here’s Spain, unilaterally rewriting renewable energy contracts to save its treasury. And France, slashing by 20% the “guaranteed” rate offered solar producers. And Belgium, where producers saw their revenues slashed by as much as 79%. And Italy and others, which clawed back through taxes the gross profits that renewables companies large and small were raking in at the expense of average citizens and the economy as a whole.

North America has been slow in systematically recognizing the damage wrought by renewable megaprojects but its turn will come soon enough, possibly among the 30 U.S. states with onerous renewable mandates, possibly among the Canadian provinces. No citizenry would more benefit from reversing the wind and solar gravy train than Ontario’s: Its developers have received up to 20 times the market rate of power, leading to a tripling of power rates and a gutting of the province’s industrial base, and helping to turn Ontario into a have-not province.

North America’s politicians have at their disposal all the methods employed in Europe to undo the odious arrangements voters find themselves in. Those squeamish about the optics of unilaterally ripping up a contract with the private sector can consider more genteel methods of skinning the cats.

Ontario’s property tax system, for example, allows for numerous residential and industrial tax classes, among them farms, forests, and pipelines. The provincial government could add wind and solar to the list, and then let local governments set whatever tax rates the local councillors, in fulfillment of the democratic will of their constituents, deem just. Given the view of many rural residents toward their windfarm neighbours, councillors will swiftly ensure a just end, sometimes by deterring new installations, sometimes by speeding their dismantling, sometimes by using the extra revenues to compensate victims.

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