Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources
Issue 4 - Evidence - October 18, 2011
OTTAWA, Tuesday, October 18, 2011
The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural
Resources met this day at 6:06 p.m. to study the current state and future of
Canada's energy sector (including alternative energy).
Senator W. David Angus (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: I call this regular meeting of the Standing Senate
Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources to order as we
continue our study into Canada's energy sector with a view to developing a
framework for a strategic national focus on energy and having sustainable,
efficient and better management of our energy, both federally and provincially,
across the country.
Welcome to our guests as well as to my colleagues, the other people in the
room, our viewers on CPAC and those who are visiting our website dedicated to
We are in the midst of a study that began well over two years ago. We are now
winding down and trying to finish our consultations with Canadians as part of
the dialogue that we have initiated on energy issues. We plan to visit some
Western provinces before we start preparing our report, which we hope will come
out in June.
One of the groups we heard from last spring was the wind association.
Following hearing their evidence, we received many overtures from folks who had
a contrary view to the ideas expressed to us that evening, and we were moved. I
want to pay special tribute to Senator Frum. Due in part to her resolve, we
decided that we should hear contrary views.
Of course, wind is widely touted as a clean and sustainable alternative
source of energy. When it is not in someone's backyard or interfering with
migratory birds, it may or may not be a good thing.
In any event, this evening I am very pleased to welcome two witnesses who
were scheduled to appear here before Parliament rose for the election in the
I want to thank you both for your patience and your goodwill in being with us
Carmen Krogh is a member of the board of The Society for Wind Vigilance. She
is a retired pharmacist with more than 40 years of experience in health care,
including in senior executive positions at a major teaching hospital in Alberta,
the Canadian Pharmacists Association and Health Canada's Pest Management
Regulatory Agency. She has made numerous educational presentations in Ontario,
Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Vermont and California regarding adverse health
effects from industrial wind turbines and the need for clinical human and
epidemiological health studies.
With Ms. Krogh this evening is Ms. Beth Harrington, known more, perhaps, to
some of us than others. She is a well known, highly regarded veteran broadcaster
and host. She was an on-air personality at CBC TV for the last 15 years. Since
leaving CBC, Ms. Harrington has been a communications consultant for many
organizations, including schools, charities and community groups. She was also
the coordinator of the first international symposium on adverse health effects
and wind turbines in October 2010. She is a founding member of The Society for
Wind Vigilance and is a member of its board.
We did receive documentation in advance. Thank you very much for that. That
is always very helpful. We received documents, including Industrial Wind
Turbines and Health: Wind Turbines Can Harm Humans.
The full bios of our witnesses are in your packages, colleagues.
I am Senator David Angus, the chair of the committee, and I am from Quebec.
Our deputy chair will be with us later, but I will introduce him by name now. He
is Senator Grant Mitchell from Alberta. To my immediate right are our very able
staff from the Library of Parliament, Mr. Marc LeBlanc and Ms. Sam Banks.
Senators present tonight include Senator Richard Neufeld from British
Columbia and Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, who is filling in this evening for
another senator. I had the pleasure of sponsoring Senator Boisvenu when he was
I am Senator Boisvenu's sponsor and he is full of energy. That is great for
this evening because the name of the committee is the energy committee. So
welcome, Senator Boisvenu.
Also present are Senator Judith Seidman from Montreal and Senator Fred
Dickson from Truro. To my left is our wonderful clerk, Lynn Gordon. To her left
are Senator Linda Frum from Toronto and Senator Rob Peterson from Saskatchewan.
Next is my predecessor as chairman of this committee, Senator Tommy Banks from
Alberta. Next are Senator Sibbeston from the Northwest Territories and Senator
John Wallace from New Brunswick.
The floor is yours.
Beth Harrington, Communications Director, The Society for Wind Vigilance:
It is very nice to be here, albeit after a few delays. Good evening to all.
It is a pleasure to be here before the Standing Senate Committee on Energy,
the Environment and Natural Resources. Tonight's presentation will bring forward
a great deal of evidence that points to the fact that industrial wind turbines,
when sited improperly, can cause harm to humans. In fact, they do now, right
here in this province, but not only here. Internationally, Australia, New
Zealand, Japan, France, the U.K., the U.S., Spain, Germany and Denmark report
symptoms that are virtually identical.
Tonight's presentation will be roughly 20 minutes. It is quite comprehensive,
but we will make it as simple as possible for you to understand. The PowerPoint
presentation will be given by Ms. Krogh who, as you know, is an independent
researcher and a founding member of The Society for Wind Vigilance. I am also a
founding member of the society and its communications director. I have also
carried out independent research on the reported impacts of wind developments on
international migratory bird routes.
The Society for Wind Vigilance is an international federation of physicians,
engineers, acousticians and other professionals who conduct independent research
and share their science globally. It is a volunteer organization.
I would like now to call upon Ms. Krogh to begin her presentation. All the
quotes are referenced in case anyone would like to do further research on the
subject. Ms. Krogh will start at slide 6, which is entitled "Setting the stage."
The Chair: That is in this document, colleagues, Industrial Wind
Turbines and Health: Wind Turbines Can Harm Humans.
Ms. Harrington, you have stressed keeping it simple. One thing we have
learned as this study has progressed is that issues related to sources of energy
are very complicated. Canada is blessed with many wonderful natural resources,
but there are many complicated elements in the production, for example, of
electricity. We have learned that the Canadian people do not have a full grasp
of the issues. In fact, we learned that we did not have any grasp ourselves.
When you turn on the light switch, there is light, and we all take it for
Therefore, as we try to make the Canadian system more efficient, cleaner and
more sustainable, we need to simplify the issues so that Canadians can
understand them. That is what this dialogue is all about. I know that wind
energy may sound simple; the wind blows and turns the turbines, but it is much
more complex than that. If you could simplify it, that would be great.
Carmen Krogh, member of the board, The Society for Wind Vigilance:
Thank you. I have been conducting research on this subject for about three years
and I have had a couple of articles published in peer-reviewed scientific
journals. I did some research on the sociological impacts because, not only were
people experiencing a variety of symptom, but the social impacts were
significant as well. I concluded in one of my articles that if we do not site
wind turbines properly, people will suffer adverse health effects.
Within two days of my article being published, the Environmental Review
Tribunal of Ontario handed down its decision. They arrived at a similar
conclusion to my own after hearing 27 expert witnesses over many months from
both the appellant and respondent. They determined, based on the evidence
provided at that hearing, that if the facilities are too close they can cause
negative human health responses and that the debate is one of degree. Therefore,
it is not whether the symptoms occur; it is how serious they are.
On slide 9 we ask what we know about this. I have tried to capture tightly
the ample evidence we have regarding human health impacts. There are competing
claims, of course. Some believes this happens and some do not.
In response to a consultant's report presented in Nova Scotia, Health Canada
said that they wanted the statement suggesting there was no peer-reviewed
evidence about wind turbines causing adverse impacts revised, because scientific
articles published back in 2009 did demonstrate that there were possibilities of
adverse health impacts occurring.
Since that time, through a freedom of information request to the Ontario
Ministry of the Environment, we have learned that the field officers advised the
Ontario government that the current approval process will result in adverse
health effects. I have been working with affected people for three years now and
know that the symptoms and problems are real.
Moving to slide 11, we often hear that the Ontario guidelines follow the
World Health Organization's guideline of 40 decibels. However, those guidelines
are only related to road traffic, airplane or train noise. It has been
determined that wind turbine noise is unique and is more annoying or more
problematic than 40 decibels for traffic and other industrial noises. During the
environmental tribunal, many witnesses acknowledged that it was not based on
wind turbine noise.
I tried to simplify the extensive information on the high annoyance factor
that occurs with wind turbines. This was a slide presented by an expert witness
at the Environmental Review Tribunal. The big circle off to the side shows a
compilation of the peer-reviewed studies that have shown how quickly people get
annoyed with wind turbine noise, in contrast to the smaller circle towards the
right, which shows aircraft, road and rail.
The significance of this slide is that in Ontario, we do predictive computer
modelling for 40 decibels, but the approval will allow up to 51 decibels with
increased wind speed, and a 10-decibel increase is perceived by the human ear as
a doubling in sound. You can see there is a big difference between the wind
turbine noise and the other types of industrial noise.
There is a recent peer-reviewed article from a field officer who has done
extensive work in Australia. He has determined that an outside noise level
should really be 32, that 40 is too high, and that people are suffering ill
health from that higher noise level. He felt that 32 decibels would probably
assist in this regard.
Interestingly enough, another freedom of information request, again from the
Ministry of the Environment field officers, back in 2010, indicated that the
setback distances should be reflecting around 30 or 32 decibels outside the home
as well, and that the 40-decibel level was too high and causing issues.
The Chair: Let us make sure we understand what you are saying. You
made a request for information from the Ontario Department of the Environment to
find out what data they had in terms of introducing their own regulatory scheme
for this, right?
Ms. Krogh: That is correct.
The Chair: You found that indeed it was not using 40 decibels but 30
to 32; is that correct?
Ms. Krogh: No. We found, through memos from field officers who were
investigating complaints from residents, that the 40 was too high, and they felt
that a 30- to 32-decibel limit should be applied instead of the 40.
We are finding that despite the 40-decibel limit being in the guidelines in
Ontario, a lot of evidence is saying that is too high and that it does affect
humans quite significantly. Between 30 and 40 is half the perception of the
noise level that you hear. A lot of people are experiencing sleep disturbance
because of the loud level.
The Chair: Excuse me for interrupting again in the interests of
simplicity. It is not simple, just looking at these slides.
The point I want to make is that we are here in the arena of Ottawa, where
there is a give and take, but it is almost antagonistic. Access to information
is usually done because no one will let you have the information. Are we to
understand that there is this element of secrecy and that there was push-back
when you tried to get this information?
Ms. Harrington: It has been very difficult to get access to
information. We are talking about rural Ontario, people in rural communities,
where it is very quiet at night. When you go to your country house, if you are
lucky enough to live outside the large urban centre, it is very quiet at night.
The background noise levels at nighttime are practically nothing.
Wind turbines do turn at night because they pick up the wind at 500 feet in
the air. They are turning and whooshing, and on the ground level it is
extraordinarily quiet. Therefore, this noise is doubly disturbing, because it is
at nighttime, when everything else is fundamentally silent.
People have complained, asked for information and gone to the various
ministries involved with these decisions, particularly here in Ontario, and have
not been able to get information about noise studies that have been done, where
is the information, and why is someone not paying attention to what is going on.
It had to come down to, frankly, freedom of information. It took a year to get
that information into the person's hands who requested it, and this is what was
in the thousand pages of information. That is the story.
Ms. Krogh: The point is that it is supported that the 40-decibel
modelling technique is too high for people. We are seeing peer-reviewed evidence
supporting that the decibel level should be much lower than the 40, and that is
also coming from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment's own field officers,
who do these measurements. The indications are that the noise levels allowed
have to be a lot lower than are currently in the guidelines.
The Chair: With regard to these decibel levels, is it easy for the
manufacturers of these turbines to lower it, or is this a huge issue and that is
why there might be influence? I do not know what you are suggesting. I think I
Ms. Krogh: To answer your question, it would probably require further
setbacks than the 550 metres allowed right now. That could have implications, of
course, if the setbacks were further from residents.
I like to balance things. We were very interested when the American Wind
Energy Association and Canadian Wind Energy Association panel review report came
out in 2009. When I read the reference, I realized that within the document
there was acknowledgment that the turbine noise could cause annoyance, sleep
disturbance and stress, and that these symptoms of stress are well-known effects
of noise levels. This was a significant document from the point of view of
acknowledging the types of symptoms that could happen with some people being
exposed to that.
As well, the president, in 2010, did support that. He acknowledged that the
sound of wind turbines can be annoying and cause stress. I am emphasizing a
little bit the annoyance. I will show you what annoyance means in clinical
Interestingly, there were about 80 presenters at the Wind Turbine Noise 2011
Conference. They found this difference: that during the day people experienced
symptoms from annoyance and at night they were sleep disturbed — as Ms.
Harrington pointed out, that is the contrast between low sound levels at night
versus the noise emitting from the turbines — and that this could result in
stress. We all know that stress illness can be quite serious if it is chronic.
Here is why annoyance is very important. In clinical terms, annoyance is
acknowledged to be an adverse health effect in itself. A lot of people think it
is just a trivial thing and we are complaining about it. Health Canada has an
excellent brochure on community noise annoyance — this is slide 18 — where the
common effect of noise annoyance is considered to be an adverse health effect by
the World Health Organization. There are many references, from a variety of
acousticians, documenting that the annoyance factor is an adverse health effect
and that people's bodies automatically respond to it and will have
stress-induced problems when it is chronic.
I just gave you a sample on slide 19 of some of that evidence. I have a lot
more; I just tightened it up.
The Chair: This is noise-induced annoyance, not just the noise of the
opposition for obstructing our program?
Ms. Krogh: Yes, it is. It is a physical, psychological phenomenon. You
Dr. Leventhall, a well-known acoustician from England, who testified. He
confirmed that some people will be annoyed or highly annoyed.
The MOE of Ontario commissioned a report on low frequency noise. It was
submitted as evidence during the tribunal as one of the disclosure documents.
That is slide 22. Within that document, the consultant acknowledged that at the
typical receptor distances in Ontario, which is 550 metres, it is expected that
a non-trivial percentage of people will be highly annoyed and that the annoyance
associated with the sound from wind turbines is expected to contribute to
stress-related health impacts in some people.
This is important, because based on the research to date, not everyone gets
sick. Some do not, but some do. Those are the people that I have been looking
Quickly now about the symptoms, during the tribunal many of the witnesses
testified. I just extracted something again from the well-known acoustician, Dr.
Leventhall from the U.K. He had given previous testimony at a hearing a year
before in Wisconsin. He documented the fact of symptoms described by Dr.
Pierpont, another researcher of sleep disturbance, and you can see all the types
of symptoms that are occurring that are consistent internationally. Some are
cardiac, vibration of the body, vertigo, et cetera. He stood behind the
symptoms. He was happy to accept them because he has known for many years that
they are stress indicators, particularly from the introduction of low frequency
noise. Low frequency noise is an important component. It is not measured in
Ontario but it is that very deep resonance that sometimes you can feel with a
boom box or very deep base.
We advanced the understanding about this through the tribunal. What I did in
about 2009, because of my work that I did with the Compendium of the
Pharmaceuticals and Specialties, CPS, I realized we did not have any vigilance
monitoring for this. We had people anecdotally reporting. I set up a vigilance
monitoring survey that followed what Health Canada does for Canada Vigilance.
This is known as self-reporting. It is a baseline first step in determining if
there are issues. This article has now been peer-reviewed.
The Chair: Again, my predecessor, Senator Banks, educated me that
these acronyms sometimes were complex and he used to charge witnesses — I forget
whether it was 25 cents or $2.
Senator Banks: It ended up being $1 inflation.
The Chair: VOiCe as used on slide 25, what does that mean?
Ms. Krogh: It means WindVOiCe, Wind Vigilance for Ontario Communities.
It is an acronym. Through volunteers, it was self-funded; we were capturing in a
database the symptoms that people were reporting. As a result of the publication
of this particular survey result, I put in the next slide an extraction of a few
of the findings.
The Chair: This would be slide 26?
Ms. Krogh: Yes, that is the next one. It is where the sleep
disturbance is more clustered the closer people are. You will see that some
people can experience it past 2 kilometres, but for people around that 1.5
kilometre distance, the cluster is more intensive. The same results in the next
slide were found regarding headaches. This is a quick snapshot of the findings
of the WindVOiCe survey and it is still ongoing at the moment.
Next is causes. I would like to take a quick look at that because, as you
pointed out, we do not know the mechanism of action. We know the symptoms are
there and there have been a lot of causes proposed. Some attribute amplitude
modulation, which is the rumbling sound that seems to be annoying to some
people; lack of nighttime abatement, which is the contrast between the ground
level; it may be inaudible or audible low frequency noise, infrasound, tonal,
voltage and visual impact, which seem to be fairly bothersome for some people,
even at night if it is a bright moon. That is the blades passing and bouncing
off the ground and showing a flicker.
Those are some of the references; we have many more. They are indicating the
causes. That is something that needs to be researched.
I would like to quickly see what authorities are saying.
The Chair: Just a moment. Again, I am sorry; I do not do this as a
rule. What are the causes of these symptoms that you talked about, namely, the
annoyance and sleep interruption and all of the above? I thought the causes were
40 decibel and above and short distances from where you are standing, that is,
from the installation. Are those not what the causes are?
Ms. Krogh: Yes, they are. Noise levels certainly factor in there, but
there are other types of noise like the low frequency noise that we do not
measure and the tonal. We need to look into those kinds of things as well
because we know when people are sleep-disturbed they will hear audible noise
from the decibels. There are many components, as you pointed out, that are
complicated. Those are things that we need to determine from a human response,
namely, what the mechanism of action could be. I propose a bunch of plausible
things. It may be a mix of everything. When I speak to people with whom I
research, they will tell me one day they cannot stand what they hear, and maybe
on another day, depending on the wind speed, they will actually feel physical
pulses in their body and they cannot stand those. That is the confounding part
of the mechanism of action.
This is an excerpt from the environmental tribunal again where the counsel
for the Ministry of the Environment thought that possibly annoyance was a result
of loss of property values and that losing property values was making people
sick from anxiety. The social part is also a possible causation here where
people are concerned about things like property values and have anxiety around
that. A lot of things require detailed research.
As well, in Ontario, back in 2010, the Minister of Health said — and this is
what I would call the competing claims again — there is no evidence that wind
turbines can be affecting human health. I am now on slide 34. The Ontario Chief
Medical Officer of Health stated in one of her reports dated May 2010 that there
is no direct causation, no direct causal link from wind turbines. I want to
explain that a bit because there is a good peer-reviewed noise schema that shows
different pathways, direct and indirect pathways from noise levels. You will see
the big circle on the left, which is the direct pathway. When you get to the
stress indicators partway down, the red circle there, you will see the end point
leading to cardiovascular disease from a direct pathway, if the noise levels are
high enough. Under the indirect pathway you only need moderate noise levels
where people cannot sleep; they experience annoyance and cognitive and stress
problems. That leads, again, to the same end result, which would be
cardiovascular effects. We have many people experiencing cardiovascular effects.
During the tribunal, the lead author of this report admitted that they only
looked at the direct links and did not consider the indirect pathway; yet, there
was agreement with this noise level schema. One of the gaps in Ontario is that
only the direct pathway was considered, not the indirect pathway.
On slide 37, I indicate that the decision in the tribunal expressed concern
that there was no look at the indirect pathways, where the bundle of symptoms
is. It is not on the direct pathway side. To be clear, we do not know of people
experiencing hearing loss but we know that all these other symptoms are
occurring from the indirect pathway. That was an important consideration. We
have gone to the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health group and offered to
assist with some of the evidence to have that report revised because it is
important to consider that other mechanism. I have also corresponded with
federal officials for some time. There has been acknowledgement federally that
exposure to wind turbines can cause self-reported annoyance and complaints. As
well, the Chief Public Health Officer indicated that there is a need for more
study and research on that. That was helpful.
As we mentioned, the issue is international. I am on slide 39. One of the
Australian reports came out last year in which the chief executive officer said
that this is all unsettled. He testified before a Senate committee meeting in
Australia that this must be under constant review and that there must be a
precautionary approach until we know more.
I have corresponded with the Minister of Health in Canada. The response I
received recently was that there is insufficient scientific evidence that wind
turbine noise can harm us and that the department is not in a position to invoke
the precautionary principle, which is often used in health. I am hoping that we
can have that revisited at some time because our evidence shows that we are at
the point of initiating a precautionary principle before proceeding. The WHO
says on precaution — and this concerns their guidelines on community noise in
1999 — that if you have a reasonable possibility of public health being
affected, action should be taken to protect the public without awaiting full
I should have indicated earlier in my slide presentation that to help focus
the key points of some of the quotes, I took the liberty of emphasizing certain
parts of the quote, as in this one. The WHO says that we should be looking at a
precautionary principle if we have a reasonable possibility of a problem.
Slide 42 shows our peer-reviewed evidence. The Senate hearings in Australia
went on for over a year. They recommend a distance of 2 kilometres, as per
peer-reviewed articles, field officers, et cetera. The term "without consent"
applies to those who have not hosted or are not hosting a turbine. Therefore,
anyone who wants a turbine on their property does not have to apply the 2
kilometre distance. It does not apply to them.
Senator Banks: Would it apply to their neighbours?
Ms. Krogh: If the neighbour is not signing on, then the 2 kilometre
distance applies. The proposal in Australia is that the host is to place the
turbines 2 kilometres away from a neighbour. My understanding is that Victoria
State has accepted that. I am not sure if it has signed off yet, but the state
wants the 2 kilometre distance.
Also, the Australian Senate committee, which may be of interest to you,
recommended adequately resourced epidemiology and laboratory studies, which are
the clinical evaluations of the actual people. I wanted to let you know about
the consequences to humans because I work with them all the time. My research
explored the loss of social justice. The article pulls together people suffering
symptoms, many of whom had already moved out of their homes and were still
having a lot of problems so they could not live in their homes; they did not
want to leave. My research shows that initially the turbines were welcomed into
the community but, once the turbines started operating, some people experienced
psychological and negative health effects, such as degraded well-being and so
Moving to slide 46, one of the psychoacousticians from a university in New
Zealand published two months after my article. He independently determined that
people welcomed the wind turbines down there initially and that they were
suffering the same kind of things that I had captured in my study. We are
starting to understand this better.
I am now at slide 47. I am in touch with people all over, for example la
Gaspésie. The wind turbines shown here are smaller but still quite close. There
are ill people there that I have been in touch with. It is of interest that 52
physicians in Quebec have signed on to the attestation to ask the Quebec
government to research this better to ensure that the setback distances are
appropriate. This is an important concern being expressed out of Quebec.
In Ontario, the turbine units on Wolf Island are quite a bit bigger and very
close to the community. It may be that we have exceeded the threshold of size
and are putting them to close. I do not know for sure but it is a question.
As well, the low frequency noise induced annoyance is significant and is not
measured in Ontario. In 2004 one of Dr. Leventhall's articles said that people
will do all kinds of things to get away from it, such as sleep in a garage, et
cetera. In my research I came across people either sleeping in their cars,
garages, small trailers or in basements. The humming sensation is very
intrusive. This is a snapshot of a family that slept in a tent because they and
their house were humming and vibrating. They slept for quite a while in a tent.
The developer did everything possible to mitigate the problem, such as shutting
down turbines at night; but it still penetrated the home. Eventually they were
bought out by the developer.
Interestingly, all the experience of low frequency noise in that home was
confirmed by a community funded study — many of us fork over our own money for
some of this stuff — a developer's noise study, and the field officers from
Ontario freedom of information. If someone is experiencing low frequency noise
emissions near their home, it can be quite significant to them.
I am at slide 52. I know that many people are feeling great sorrow and grief.
In the education system, a teacher had to leave her home and is sorrowful that
she has to teach the social marketing. She cannot say too much more as a
teacher. Even young people are affected. I know of a young teen who had to be
sent away to live somewhere else and lost the social interaction at school with
her friends. It is distressful.
I will not read this, but prior to the Green Energy Act a group of five
families went to the standing committee and described the symptoms they were
experiencing. I will leave that with you. The symptoms are identical worldwide.
One of the main problems was lack of sleep. Four of the families were
billeted up to six months. Another family was billeted for over a year due to a
child being affected and a pregnancy. All have since been bought out and none of
them live in their homes. This can affect people of all ages. We cannot say that
it affects one age group or another.
In conclusion, Canada and our provinces subscribe to the World Health
Organization definition of health, which is complete physical, mental and social
well-being. I have found the lack of social well-being to be as significant as
the physical symptoms. I would be happy to share my article with you.
We are proceeding without having done the front-end research to determine how
exposure to these facilities will affect at least some parts of the population.
I have met, along with Ms. Harrington, many federal and provincial
organizations. We offer help and we are independent. We have offered assistance
to CanWEA as well. We would like to have clinical research done to correlate all
the submissions that we are talking about. We would like to have laboratory
studies done, that is, sleep studies, et cetera.
We are also starting to see environmental risks, and we would like to see the
front-end research done on that. I would really like to see some vigilance
monitoring such as Health Canada normally does. We do not know what the
long-term impacts will be. We have indications that, even after being out of the
home, those who were chronically exposed and suffered memory and cognitive
problems are not recovering as expected. I am concerned about that. Some people
who were out of their homes for over two years have told me that they have not
regained their former health.
We need that long-term surveillance and a resolution on how we can advance on
this without putting people at risk.
We provided a package of those recent peer-reviewed references. We do have
some preceding those. We also included the citations and abstracts.
I appreciate your attention.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Krogh. That was a substantial deck and we
are now running out of time. I will allow 15 minutes for questioning.
Please keep questions and answers concise.
Senator Frum: It is worth remembering that you have focused on the
impacts of wind energy on human health, but that is only one of the issues that
you have with this source of energy. Looking at this amazing photo of la
Gaspésie, I do not see how conservationists consider this despoiling of the
landscape to be a green improvement.
I understand that your information on this is largely anecdotal because you
have not done the studies, but when there is annoyance what percentage of a
community tends to report those feelings? How widespread is it?
Ms. Krogh: There are ranges in the peer-reviewed evidence. The
tribunal heard about ranges from 5 per cent up to 25 per cent. It may depend on
the terrain and the size of the turbine. We have gone from under one megawatt in
Europe to three megawatts now. We know that terrain has a big impact, as does
wind direction. Those may be reasons for the ranges in impact.
Ms. Harrington: Another element that we have not talked about is that
when people host wind turbines on their property they have to sign
non-disclosure clauses saying that if there is a problem they cannot say
anything. Often the owner of the land will move into town, leave the house empty
and let the wind turbines continue. We know that anecdotally as well.
When a portion of the community is not able to report and a portion of the
community does not want to report because they do not want to lessen the value
of their property because it is all they have in the world, we are probably not
getting accurate reports of the number who are suffering.
Senator Frum: I thought I understood you to say that someone who lives
in the heart of a city is exposed to 40 decibels all night long. Do wind
turbines produce 40 decibels of a different type? Some critics would say that
city dwellers get used to 40 decibels so people in the country can get used to
Ms. Krogh: The key is that research is showing that the 40 decibels of
wind turbine noise is more annoying. There is a constant intermittent swoosh,
which is a unique type of noise that you do not adapt to. We do know that it is
Ms. Harrington: Even in Toronto the noise level drops a lot at night.
If you live on the 401, it does not drop as much. If you have ever been along
Lake Ontario at night when a large freighter goes by, you hear the sound of the
rolling of the machinery. It carries over incredible distances. It is captured
by the walls of a home and then is captured in a body cavity. People describe it
as similar to sea sickness. They feel nauseated and unstable. It is an
interesting set of conditions in rural landscapes that contribute to this extra
Senator Neufeld: Thank you for your presentation. I come from British
Columbia and have experienced lots of discussion around noise levels.
As I understand it, 40 decibels is a quiet talk between two people. We have
to put that in context. That is not hollering or whispering; it is a quiet talk
between two people. In British Columbia we decided that 40 decibels outside of a
dwelling is acceptable. I understand from your presentation that you do not
believe that that is acceptable. Do you agree with me that 40 decibels is a
normal quiet talk between two people?
Ms. Krogh: That is what I have been told.
Senator Neufeld: That is what I have been told, too.
Ms. Krogh: I am not an acoustician. There is so much to explain, and I
should have mentioned that the modeling for 40 decibels is based on a single
source. Physicists are now finding that you have to take into consideration the
multiple sources. That came out in the freedom of information as well, where the
field officer from the ministry said that they were looking at 33 as a grouping
and that there seemed to be a worsening or augmentation of that.
The new research that I am aware of, which will be coming out soon, supports
the fact that you cannot just deal with one source. If you have 35 turbines
around you, which some people do, you have to look at it as a unit.
There may be that added feature, but we know that the 40 for wind turbines is
more annoying because you will get high annoyance right away at 40 — as shown in
the slide, it just shoots up — whereas with traffic noise you can tolerate maybe
70 decibels. An increase of 10 decibels is a doubling of sound to the human ear.
We can accept many, many times, probably because it goes away; it goes by. We
do not fly airplanes at night over top of us. However, at night, in a rural,
quiet area, the difference between the ground level noise and the noise that you
are getting from the turbines keeps people awake; they do not sleep.
Senator Neufeld: I live in the country. You were talking earlier about
how in the country it is quiet; then all of a sudden you introduce wind turbines
and there is noise, but other than that there is not. I live in the country and
I understand there are some noises at night; I appreciate that.
The World Health Organization, however, more or less sticks to the 40
decibels, and I think that is what most provinces are trying to do. You are
dealing strictly with Ontario. I know you can have discussion around this, but
when you look around the world, it is anywhere from 35 to as high as 50 decibels
at 200 metres. Thirty-five wind turbines are not within — is it 550 metres in
Ms. Harrington: That is the starting point.
Senator Neufeld: That is the closest you can be.
Ms. Krogh: Yes.
Senator Neufeld: Decibels also works in there. You will not have 35
turbines 550 metres from your home. I appreciate what you are saying.
I want to say one other thing. I live about two kilometres away from a major
highway. This is just my observation, but I can hear the traffic at nighttime or
early in the morning. If I think about two people, two kilometres away, talking
in a normal voice, I do not think I could hear that. Therefore, I have trouble
with some of this.
Ms. Harrington: It is not two people talking.
Senator Neufeld: I understand where you are coming from on some of
your issues, because it is an issue and I think it needs some time. In Europe,
they have had wind turbines for a long time. Do not get me wrong; I am not a
huge proponent of wind energy.
Ms. Krogh: They have trouble in Europe as well — I am in touch with
them — and they are under one megawatt, typically. The newer ones are big, and
people are experiencing the same problems. The turbines were in clusters of two
or three. You cannot compare apples to apples here; we have different scenarios
that need to be researched.
Senator Neufeld: Europe has some big turbines, bigger than ours.
Ms. Krogh: Yes, and they are having some problems there.
Senator Banks: I have some restaurants and stores that I would like to
send you guys after with respect to annoying noise.
I want to go back to a question that the chair asked, and I did not quite
understand the answer. If the manufacturers were able to reduce the sound that
is emitted by a wind turbine to some degree, then by that degree, whatever the
ratio is, we would not have to reduce the setback; is that right? If the turbine
made less sound, then the proximity could be closer, could it not?
Ms. Krogh: The issue is that low-frequency noise is ignored, and the
infrasound. There are a number of peer-reviewed articles showing that even
though you do not hear the sound, it is affecting the inner ear.
Senator Banks: I am very familiar with that.
Ms. Krogh: Dr. Salt is an inner ear guy and he has done a lot of work.
There are other factors going on. We are talking about decibels right now, dBA,
which is usually used for pure tone, and we have this other side that is not
measured, and the field measurements are showing a lot of low frequency and
Senator Banks: They are not measured?
Ms. Krogh: No.
Ms. Harrington: On the recommendation of the industry.
Ms. Krogh: Yes. They are not a requirement.
Again, we are missing half the equation on the correlation of how humans
respond. We have a lot of people now experiencing vertigo. I do not know if
anyone has had it, but it is horrible; you just spin. That is an inner ear
thing, and the mechanism of action is being researched as we speak.
Senator Banks: Is there a cumulative effect? That is to say, if there
is one wind turbine a kilometre from my house that is emitting 40 decibels, and
then a second one — however close together; they are not two kilometres apart in
a wind farm — that also emits 40 decibel in measurable sound, using a VU metre,
is there a cumulative effect of 80 decibels of sound with two?
Ms. Krogh: I do not know. The physicists are saying that they augment
each other. That is one of the things they are looking at. However, I do not
know if it is 40 plus 40. I could not really answer that question.
I should also say that clinically you can measure the annoyance that occurs
with increased levels of cortisol. A research physician in Australia is doing
that. This shows that even though you might not hear the turbines, as they are a
fair distance from the home, the cortisol level, which is our human response to
intrusions, is really high. That is not yet published, but we will see more on
that clinical side.
Senator Banks: You are right that low-frequency sound waves act very
differently from high-frequency ones.
Senator Seidman: Thank you very much. I appreciate your presentation.
I also acknowledge what my colleague Senator Frum said, that there are issues
one must consider as far as the effects of wind turbines other than human health
issues. However, we are here to discuss these, so that is what I will focus on.
I do not attempt in any way to minimize what you are saying, but I would like
to say that we can discuss differences between causal relations and simple
correlations or associations. I will not do that here right now. However, I will
say that you keep saying "we know," and I would like to know what you are
referring to when you say "we know."
If I read, for example, from a couple of fairly authoritative studies that do
a review of the evidence, they have a different conclusion from yours. I will
cite them and then get your observations.
McMaster Institute of Environment & Health did a study in 2010. I will not go
into all the details, but they did a review of the evidence for risk to human
health status through the eyes of public health units. They concluded that the
evidence to date does not support claims of health and hearing damage attributed
to the operation of wind turbines.
A study was prepared for the American Wind Energy Association and the
Canadian Wind Energy Association, which you referred to on your own website, by
David Colby and others, entitled Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects.
This is an executive summary with a fairly substantive review of the literature,
a multi-disciplinary panel of all kinds of experts, and extensive review
analysis of a large body of peer-reviewed literature on sound and health
effects. They conclude that:
There is no evidence that the audible or sub-audible sounds emitted by wind
turbines have any direct adverse physiological effects.
The sounds emitted by wind turbines are not unique. There is no reason to
believe, based on the levels and frequencies of the sounds and the panel's
experience with sound exposures in occupational settings, that the sounds
from wind turbines could plausibly have direct adverse health consequences.
Ms. Harrington: Occupational settings and going to bed at night is not
the same thing. They are completely different worlds, number one.
There are people on that panel who testified at the Environmental Review
Tribunal that was appealing the Suncor wind development in Chatham-Kent in
Ontario. As Ms. Krogh pointed out, they all agreed with the symptoms that have
been brought forward and did say, in fact, yes, they are the symptoms. Every one
of those people were at this Environmental Review Tribunal and every one of them
testified that, "Oh, yes, that is low frequency."
That report is actually incredibly, I would not say light but it needed more
fleshing out. It is no longer appropriate to be doing literature reviews when we
have people around the world identified as suffering identical symptoms from the
exact same cause. When they leave the environment where the wind turbines are,
they are better. When they go back, they are worse. When they leave, they are
better. When they go back, they are worse.
We are at the point now where, reading 400 pages of various documents saying,
"They say that. Well, let us write that one down," we need to study real people,
real patients, real problems, real victims, and get to the bottom of this. The
December 2009 paper, the evidence was already there but it has moved forward
even more. It has accelerated because far more people are getting affected and
more researchers are getting involved and asking, "What is going on here?"
All those people who presented, wrote and contributed to that document also
appeared at the ERT. Therefore, it does not apply. The best way to describe it
is that it is old.
Senator Seidman: What about the McMaster Institute of Environment &
Health study in 2010?
Ms. Krogh: They are talking about the direct effects for hearing loss
again. I showed in that noise schema the indirect effects where the
symptomatology is occurring. They are talking about an industrial high noise
level. If you recall from that schema, when you get into the stressor part, the
end result of cardiovascular still occurs.
If you put someone into a factory without ear protection and chronic noise
exposure at high levels, they will become stressed and experience some of the
This is where I believe we have turned the corner of the literature review.
Much of the evidence I showed today is the human health part. More research has
been ongoing now to correlate the human responses with noise levels and so
forth, and we are at the point where we really need to start studying the people
in some methodical manner.
We self-fund everything; everything we do is paid for by ourselves, including
the research that is done. Everyone does that right now. What we need now is
some authoritative independent movement forward to research the people now. They
are the ones experiencing the issues; we have to find out more.
Ms. Harrington: To add one thing to the 40 decibel number, industrial
noise has its own sound scheme; these are acceptable levels here; these are
acceptable levels for industrial types of noise, et cetera. With industrial
noise, if it is a cyclical nature, you have a 5 decibel penalty right off the
bat. Some company that grinds something and all day long makes a noise, that
factory must be that much further away to protect people from this noise because
it is cyclical and it bothers people. We cannot help it; that is just the way we
Oddly enough, however, wind turbines do not have to have that penalty and
there is nothing more cyclical than something going around at 200 miles an hour
passing that tower every 30 seconds. It is problematic and yet, for some reason,
they do not have to have that 5 dB penalty. We do not know why exactly it is
that an industry that is invading an entire province from one end to the next
does not have to abide by regulations that are already there to protect people
from these kinds of situations. That is another question we have going forward.
How is it this one particular industry, which is claiming a lot of families who
are abandoning their homes — who wants to do that? — does not have to stick to
the regulations as much in a lot of ways as other industries? It is very
concerning to people like Ms. Krogh and me and others that there is kind of a
divide here somewhere.
The Chair: If everyone is comfortable, I will ask Senator Mitchell to
have the last word and, at the same time, I have suddenly been called away. I
will ask him to assume the chair for the balance of the meeting.
I want to thank you, ladies, for your input and your excellent documentation.
You have made your points very well and we will take them into consideration.
Perhaps they will be so destroyed by Senator Mitchell that there is nothing
Senator Grant Mitchell (Deputy Chair) in the chair.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you both. I am sorry I am late. I had a
commitment, but I certainly got a good gist of what you are talking about. I
would not in any way, shape or form diminish your concerns. These are legitimate
concerns. It struck me as you were describing them that had we undertaken the
kind of prudence you are talking about before we ever built a coal-fired plant
or nuclear plant or any number of other energy facilities, we never would have
built them. I am not being facetious; I am saying we should have been prudent
then and we should be prudent now.
You are not saying no to wind power; you are just saying if we are going to
do it, we have to do it right so that it does not hurt people.
Ms. Krogh: That is correct. I do not think you will find any of us
negative to going forward. One of the thoughts I had was to move the turbines to
remote areas and bring the grid there. Australia is starting to propose that if
someone does happen to be affected, instead of hiring expensive litigators, as
is happening now, they would be bought out. I am from Alberta and my family
homestead was bought out because they wanted to do coal mining, and those
negotiations that occurred were pleasant. No one was upset over that. My family
did not have to hire a litigator. It was a normal business process. Australia is
looking at moving them to remote areas, if someone is sick, and bring the grid
there. If someone becomes sick, we will work it out.
Right now we are bringing the facilities to the people where the grid is. I
understand it is expensive to bring a grid to some of these areas. We have a lot
of land, and I understand it is expensive, but it would be a win-win and avoid
the issues that we are seeing.
Indications are that Ontario is expecting another 6,000 turbines. We are
seeing problems with 900. I do have a lot of concern where we will be with
The Deputy Chair: That is great. Thank you very much. It was an
excellent presentation. We really appreciate it.
Ms. Krogh: We appreciate everyone's attention. Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: We will go right into the next presentation. We are
pressed for time and we have kept our next witnesses waiting.
I would like to welcome Daryl Wilson and Terry Kimmel to the second half of
Welcome to the second half of our meeting. Let us resume our study on the
current state and future of Canada's energy sector.
I am very pleased to welcome these two gentlemen. Terry Kimmel is Vice
President of the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association. He has an academic
background in chemistry from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and
the University of Oregon. He has spent most of his career in technology-driven
engineering, research and development, and manufacturing organizations. He has
held senior level positions in both private and public companies and government
organizations; and he has been associated with the hydrogen and fuel sector for
the past 12 years.
He is accompanied today by Daryl Wilson, President and Chief Executive
Officer of Hydrogenics Corporation since December 2006. He brings a versatility
of experience with a 25-year background in technology and industrial management
to this company. That includes product development, organizational change and
turnaround experience. We have received documentation from these two gentlemen
in support of their presentations, which each of us has.
I ask you to proceed as you like. We are pressed for time, but we want you to
get your message to us, after which we will respond with questions.
Terry Kimmel, Vice President, Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association:
It is an honour for us to be here. Thank you for your introduction. We hope not
to take much of your time. We would rather engage in dialogue than have us talk
at you. You have the information in front of you. Our objective today is to
introduce you to the role that hydrogen can play in a clean energy strategy
within Canada and advocate a bit for our sector. Let me tell you a bit about our
About 80 organizations in Canada can be counted as members of our association
that represents the hydrogen and fuel cell sectors. We will include fuel cells
in here as an appliance that fits nicely with hydrogen in the sense of meeting
energy efficiency and clean energy aspects. We tend to like to talk about
hydrogen systems more so they are quite inclusive and, believe it or not, they
include wind energy as a means of producing the hydrogen required. The 80
companies are small- and medium-sized enterprises. Some are multinationals but,
for the most part in Canada, they are small players. For example, Hydrogenics is
a company of about 100 or so employees. We have some companies that have only
five employees and some have thousands of employees. It is a relatively small
sector that overall employs about 2,000 individuals in Canada.
We want to advocate support for our sector. It is interesting that in 1985,
the Government of Canada commissioned a statement from the hydrogen community, a
national mission for Canada, which really said: What is the role of hydrogen in
meeting a clean energy strategy? It was published in 1987. I have not left this
document with you, but I would be happy to have you look at it. I have only two
copies left in captivity, I am afraid. I would like to turn it over to you. It
is probably as valid today as it was in 1987 when it was published. It is a good
treatise on a role that hydrogen can play in Canada.
We have based some of our background information on International Energy
Agency reports that tell us where we need to be in 2050 with CO2
emission levels and how they need to be equivalent to the levels in 2000. In
order for us to meet those kinds of objectives, we need to become aggressive
with these new technologies; and we think there is a good fit for hydrogen.
Hydrogen is not an easy story to tell. You have probably heard about hydrogen
and fuel cells for some time. In fact, Canada is a leader in this technology. We
are a leader in hydrogen production. We have been producing hydrogen safely for
over 100 years in this country. We have been utilizing it for probably that same
amount of time in various applications. Fuel cell technology has developed since
about the mid-1980s. Again, we have world dominance in that area. Our senator
from British Columbia will certainly know Ballard Power Systems and those in the
Ontario area will know of Hydrogenics and what they do around electrolysis and
the production of hydrogen as well as fuel cell technology. You have heard about
it for some time. We are leaders in that sector. We need to become more
aggressive in moving that technology in our own backyard. It is beginning to
develop internationally but, as far as we are concerned in Canada, we do not
have the uptake on that technology, and it is not being utilized as much as we
would like to see it used.
In the documentation, we talk about rapid, large scale deployment of low
carbon technologies being needed to reduce CO2 emission levels by
2050. The IEA reports that hydrogen is one of the technologies they refer to as
being a principal technology in order for us to meet that goal. Hydrogen could
well become the major component of clean, sustainable energy systems in the
longer term. It is relevant to all of the energy sectors, transportation,
buildings, utilities and industry.
Hydrogen is a complicated technology or material to talk about because it is
somewhat ubiquitous. I like to talk about it as being synonymous with
electricity; you can make hydrogen from electricity by electrolysing water. You
split water into hydrogen and oxygen, which is what Mr. Wilson's company does,
or you can put the hydrogen back together with the oxygen and make electricity,
which a fuel cell does. When we talk about fuel cell vehicles, they are, in
fact, electric vehicles. We are talking about a way of moving electricity other
than through the lines that we are so familiar with. You can now move it in a
form as hydrogen. It is a bit complex and hard to come to grips with, but that
is really one of the unique applications and opportunities with hydrogen.
Hydrogen can provide storage options for intermittent renewable technologies,
such as solar and wind, and when combined with emerging decarbonisation
technologies, it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from continued fossil fuel
utilization. In Canada we produce three million tonnes of hydrogen a year. That
is a lot of hydrogen. That hydrogen, for the most part, goes into the
transportation sector. What does that mean? How does it go into the
transportation sector? It goes into upgrading a lower quality of fossil fuel so
that we can use it as gasoline and diesel fuel. Hydrogen is produced
specifically to improve the quality of a fossil fuel.
In my documentation, I use the analogy that if we took three million tonnes
per year of hydrogen and put it into the transportation system, we could fuel
nine million fuel cell electric vehicles with no emissions from the vehicle. It
is an interesting dichotomy that we are looking at and how we mesh with the
fossil fuels sector and the hydrogen sector.
Mr. Wilson will speak a bit to what is happening internationally.
Daryl Wilson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hydrogenics
Corporation: Yes. We will keep our comments brief in order to ensure that we
have time for questions and dialogue.
Canada is renowned around the world for being the leading pioneers in this
field. Today we are still respected for the work of our company, Hydrogenics,
going back to 1950, that of the Ballard Fuel Cell Company in Vancouver, going
back to the early 1990s, and many other organizations. We are watching that
leadership position being eclipsed because other countries around the world have
well thought-out, deep, coherent energy policy that situates hydrogen technology
alongside a number of other technologies; and they take a long-term view as to
what will unfold in the world. You may well know that some major changes have
happened even in the last 12 months with the events at Fukushima, the subsequent
shutdown of nuclear reactors in Germany and the strong commitment expressed in
Europe to clean technology for the generation of energy.
We are making far more progress outside our country than inside our country.
We are watching other countries with coherent energy policy provide a context
and a vision that goes for the long term where hydrogen will take its place and
deliver the value to society that we have worked on for so long. We recognize
that it has taken a long time. Innovation in energy usually takes decades; that
is a well known observation of history.
However, this area speaks to energy policy in terms of having coherency,
consistency and a long-term view. Unfortunately, we do not have that in Canada.
We have been spoiled by having plenty of inexpensive energy, such as natural
gas, oil and available electricity by hydrogenation, et cetera. This is putting
us in a situation such that by virtue of our strengths, we are failing to pay
attention to what is happening in the rest of the world and failing to have a
coherent long-term view. Places like Japan, which is not a place of plenty, have
such plans and have supported the hydrogen industry on a continuing basis. They
will be the ones who will birth the baby that we conceived. This whole issue
also speaks to innovation policy.
You may be aware of a report published in The Globe and Mail this
morning entitled Innovation Canada: A Call to Action, which is a review
of federal support to R & D in Canada. It is a well produced report. A great
deal of thought went into reviewing our systems at the federal level to support
R & D in Canada. It observes that a number of these frameworks have been in
place for a long time and have not had a deep review to understand the
relationship between inputs and outputs, the value of the money that is being
spent and the effectiveness of the outcomes that arise from that money. There is
recognition that small- and medium-sized enterprises are burdened with
tremendous complexity as they apply for the various grants and support programs
that are available at the federal level.
It is a good piece of work that I would encourage you to look at as you study
energy policy. Supporting companies like ours with R & D through the long
journey of innovation requires a long-term view and thoughtfulness. As we move
into the period of commercialization of technology, we must have support for
deployments and demonstrations so that adoption moves up the curve.
In the hydrogen business we are now at the stage of adoption and
commercialization. The R & D work is essentially done. We have products that
work and are being deployed in buses in Whistler. There is a fleet of 20 fuel
cell buses there that has performed very well. It was put there by our
colleagues at Ballard. We have the deployment of fuel cell forklift trucks in
the Wal-Mart distribution centre. It is a showcase in North America that many
people are touring to observe how hydrogen is used in an industrial setting for
material handling. In Bella Coola, British Columbia, we have a run of the river
hydro project where we are converting excess hydro energy into hydrogen using
our technology. We are doing the same on a small island in Newfoundland where
they are moving from getting their energy supply from diesel to getting it from
wind and hydrogen.
A number of projects have been put on the ground to demonstrate, but the
industry needs help to move over the hump and out of that valley of death in
order to cross the chasm of commercialization to make this a reality.
I will speak to industrial policy as well. I met this afternoon with
representatives of Industry Canada. Together, Industry Canada and Natural
Resources Canada have paid attention and supported our sector. I want to express
our gratitude for the more than $200 million that has been invested over the
last 15 years in the hydrogen technology sector. We appreciate that, but good
industrial policy means that we have a long-term view over multiple decades and
understand the birth and growth and maturing of industrial segments that are
unique to Canada.
The Danes can proudly say that they were the birth place of wind, and Germany
has nurtured solar. Now we are watching Germany, Korea and Japan take the
leadership on hydrogen technology when it should have been us. That is hard to
watch when much hard work was done by Canadians. Somehow we are not so good at
adopting our own stuff and supporting each other in order to realize the promise
of the innovation that is often born in this country.
I hope that we have provided you with some raw material that has provoked
your interest, and perhaps you have some questions.
Senator Banks: I do not know if you know this, but until the beginning
of this session the Senate proudly used hydrogen powered buses.
Mr. Wilson: Yes, I do know that.
Senator Banks: They were built for us by the Ford company. The House
of Commons refused to use them, for reasons we do not understand. I guess they
have too much hot air over there and were afraid of the volatility.
The chair mentioned before he left that we impose fines for the use of
acronyms. While this committee has visited the IEA, would you please tell us,
for the record, what the IEA is.
Mr. Kimmel: It is the International Energy Agency.
Senator Banks: Our visit there was very useful. We also visited
Ballard. If I recall correctly, we visited with you, Mr. Wilson, when we were in
Vancouver a few years ago.
Is it safe to say that fuel cells are better now than they were three, four
or five years ago? Are they more efficient? You said it has gone off the table
top, that the research is done and we are ready to go. Is that because the fuel
cells are better?
Mr. Wilson: I joined the industry five years ago. In my short time in
the industry the durability and performance of fuel cells has improved tenfold
and the cost has decreased by 80 per cent. That means that we now produce a fuel
cell vehicle for just under $100,000.
Let me put that in context. I worked for seven years for Toyota Canada as the
head of manufacturing. I saw the first Prius vehicles in Japan as they were
built in 1975. At that time, the Prius cost Toyota about $70,000 to build.
The automotive industry is now in the production cycle to produce fuel cell
vehicles in significant scale within five years, which is a normal model
changeover time. Here in Canada, Daimler recently invested in their plant
operation in Vancouver to produce the first pilot fuel cell engines for vehicles
that will likely be integrated in Germany.
In that sense, we have secured a contribution, but in all likelihood, large
scale production will occur in Germany, Korea and Japan.
Senator Banks: What would it take to change that?
Mr. Wilson: There is ongoing value engineering work being led by
Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Daimler and General Motors. Frankly, there is a pitched
race between them to see who will be first. We will now see large volumes of
fuel cell vehicles over the next five years.
Senator Banks: Will you get a piece of it?
Mr. Wilson: Our contribution in the automotive sector is to build
fueling stations. We have built 40 of the 200 fueling stations around the world,
5 just in the last year, and are seeing an upsurge in the deployment of fueling
stations. We expect to have a piece of that indeed.
Mr. Kimmel: To add to that, they have a strategy in Germany to roll
out fuel cell vehicles beginning in 2015. In order to do that, you also need to
fuel them, so you must produce hydrogen and fueling stations. They have a
strategy to build 700 fueling stations, I believe it is, by 2020. I have seen
projections of between 500,000 and 1 million vehicles on the road in Germany by
That is because there is a strategy. In this country we have four or five
fueling stations. They are demonstration stations, except for the large one at
Whistler, which is the largest hydrogen fueling station in the world, dispensing
1,000 kilograms a day. We did this in Canada. However, that is captive by BC
Transit. There is one in Surrey that is captive by the municipality of Surrey.
There are a couple in Toronto.
Senator Banks: There is one here.
Mr. Kimmel: It has been dismantled. We would like to see one here.
Auto makers are talking about rolling out vehicles in 2015. They have talked to
Canada, but they need to know that there will be a strategy for building the
fueling infrastructure before they put vehicles on the ground, and they need to
know that that hydrogen will be at least at the same price to its customers as a
gallon of gasoline.
Senator Banks: So that is the chicken and egg.
Mr. Wilson: There is actually no chicken and egg situation here. A
study was coordinated by the McKinsey consulting company and published last
September on the portfolio of power trains for Europe. It studied the cost of
hydrogen infrastructure and found that there is essentially no difference
between the cost of putting hydrogen infrastructure in place and the normal
incremental cost of putting additional diesel or gasoline stations in place.
Senator Banks: That is good. You said that we need a coherent national
energy strategy. That is what we are about. In that context, in your deck it
says that we must develop a national energy, environment and natural resources
strategy. You then say that we must put a price on carbon to drive technology
and social change.
Talk about that for us. Why do we have to put a price on carbon?
Mr. Kimmel: It levels the playing field with other technologies. It
drives innovation in this country. Without putting a price on carbon, it will be
very difficult to introduce some of these technologies.
Senator Banks: What is your best view as to how that ought to be done?
Mr. Kimmel: As an association, we do not have a view on which is the
best, cap and trade or just pricing carbon. Australia recently came out with a
carbon tax. We need to see how these unfold. It is not an easy question. I
appreciate the question, but I do not have the answer.
Mr. Wilson: The key point, as you understand, is that the economics
and energy policy are intricately entwined with what happens competitively
elsewhere, and our trading system is also a factor.
This is a complicated area but our old advantage of cheap, plentiful energy
will turn into our disadvantage if we fail to pay attention to both the
economics and the policy attributes.
Senator Banks: Correct me if I am wrong, but on the environmental end
you say a hydrogen vehicle does not, in itself, pollute. Do you have a ratio
that you could tell us about between the generation of the electricity that is
required to make the hydrogen and the energy that would be exposed by another
form of vehicular propulsion?
Mr. Wilson: If you are going from electricity to hydrogen through our
technology electrolysis, then you are dealing with the mix of carbon sources
that might be involved in the generation of electricity, and the reduction
available from using hydrogen is reduced.
Let us talk about the rethinking that has gone on in Germany. In the area
around Berlin, many of the states now produce between 30 and 50 per cent from
wind energy. We have heavily populated industrial areas in the world which have
moved to almost more than 50 per cent renewable generation. Those places may
have a fully zero carbon regime for generating their transportation energy. This
is the vision sitting in Germany. As they look at the period from now to 2050 in
Europe, as you start to blend in zero emission contribution on transportation,
we start to see the effects that we want to see in terms of reducing the carbon
intensity of our economy. It will not happen overnight. It will take time.
However, if you do not start introducing zero emission technology, you will
never dilute down the burden we have already accumulated.
Mr. Kimmel: As you go across Canada, we know the profiles of each of
the provinces in terms of energy mixes. You know that B.C. and Quebec are very
hydroelectric based. If we are running vehicles in those provinces and the
hydrogen is being produced there, you can imagine that it is fairly low
Senator Banks: What if it is coal?
Mr. Kimmel: It is coal, yes. I have a positive, fuel cell response to
your coal, too.
You see that mix. If you are in British Columbia or in Quebec, you are
getting a net zero carbon footprint at all from the production of hydrogen
because of hydroelectric. Graphs and analyses have been done on the different
vehicle types, be they battery operated or hybrid electric vehicles on different
electrical grid mixes. Fuel cells still look good at the end of the day because
of their high efficiency.
Senator Neufeld: Part of the problem with hydrogen that I saw in
British Columbia is the ability to carry enough to go any distance, similar to
compressed natural gas, but they are overcoming that.
Fuelling stations in British Columbia are in the Lower Mainland, North
Vancouver and around Burnaby. Would you say in regard to cities that hydrogen is
a better answer than trying to build fuel cell stations all across British
Columbia? Remember that it is 1,300 kilometres from my home to Vancouver. That
is not the whole length of British Columbia, just part of it. Give me your sense
of that please.
Mr. Wilson: An important point is that fuel cell vehicles now
developed by the automotive industry typically have a range of 300 kilometres.
They will more than satisfy against your current vehicle, whatever you drive.
The plans for the distribution of fuelling infrastructure are something that
we already understand well in putting out the fossil-fuels-based fuelling
station. It is no different. In Germany the plan to have a good sense of
mobility is 1,000 hydrogen fuelling stations throughout the country. In the Los
Angeles area, our company services eight fuelling stations, and about 100
vehicles do their daily commute and normal business in the L.A. area. For each
area, the footprint will be different, but the distribution and cost of stations
is not an impediment to realizing this vision. It is more an issue around having
a plan that goes out on a coherent basis over time. This is what is emerging in
Korea, Japan and Germany and has yet to emerge here.
Senator Neufeld: In British Columbia, again, working with Washington,
Oregon and California, there is a plan for a hydrogen highway. The goal was to
begin that process with buses. I understand that, but there is a huge population
when you go south through there that probably would help.
With a 300-kilometre range, how much room do you have left in the trunk? The
tanks are relatively large; I have seen them. Does it take up quite a bit of
room in the vehicle? I know technology has changed over time, but can you expand
on that a bit?
Mr. Wilson: If you take a close look at the vehicles now available
from General Motors, Daimler, Honda and Toyota, they are attractive. There is no
functional loss of space and they are safe. I do not think that is an issue at
all. The overall architecture frees up various elements of the design to create
something with no hump in the middle of the floor and various other attractive
attributes. I would not say this is a design impediment.
Mr. Kimmel: There are vehicles now with a range of 1,000 kilometres
and 700, I think. One was launched last week with a range of 1,000. The storage
aspect is getting better.
I want to challenge Mr. Wilson on one thing. The research is not all done,
just like it is not all done on the internal combustion engine. That continues
for improvements. The same thing applies to storage. There is a lot of work
going on in the area of storage, different profiles. Now we store compressed
hydrogen for the most part, but we are looking at solid storage mechanisms as
Senator Neufeld: One other note, you mentioned everybody but Ford. The
federal government, along with the provincial government, conducted a program in
British Columbia. I think the cars are still running. There are five Ford cars
in Vancouver being tested on hydrogen. That has been ongoing for about five
years. Are you are aware of that?
Mr. Wilson: Yes.
Senator Neufeld: Has that been relatively successful?
Mr. Kimmel: That was part of the program between 2003 and 2008, funded
by Natural Resources Canada. The $215 million that Mr. Wilson talked about was
to promote demonstration and deployment of those technologies. There were three
major programs: the hydrogen highway, which is the one you alluded to on the
Lower Mainland; the hydrogen village, which was in the Greater Toronto Area; and
the Vancouver fuel cell vehicle project, those five vehicles. We have continued
to keep those vehicles. They now belong to the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell
Association. We are trying to keep them on the road as much as possible. I think
Ford has probably gone three generations past those. Those were initial cars
that are still on the road and operating. It was a very successful program.
Senator Neufeld: I can appreciate Germany has a massive population. A
small country, I think, is a bit easier to undertake than a massive country.
Germany would fit in the constituency I used to represent, but with a huge
population. I understand that.
Did I hear you say that Germany produces 30 per cent of their electricity by
Mr. Wilson: In the northeast area of the country surrounding Berlin
several states are between 25 and 50 per cent wind generation at this point.
This brings up a point that we have not yet addressed which is critical. The
growth of renewable energy leads to a situation where there are large
fluctuations in energy generation. This cries out for some form of energy
storage. It happens that hydrogen technology is the technology with the highest
capacity to bring storage and stabilization services to the grid as we deploy
wind. Today in Germany we have multiple project proposals from Hydrogenics,
which is our company in Canada and is acknowledged as the global leader for the
provision of hydrogen technology for energy storage. It is a great honour and an
opportunity for us to participate and complement this significant deployment of
renewable generation in Germany, which is only going to grow.
As a company, there is somewhere between 12 and 15 per cent on an overall
average, but in certain significant areas it is between 25 and 50 per cent.
Senator Neufeld: My records show that Germany generates about 50 per
cent of electricity using fossil fuels, 30 per cent with nuclear and some from
hydro. I was interested in the 30 per cent. It did not quite add up to what I
Mr. Wilson: I would be happy to send you the data. We have a map of
the country with the generation by segment.
Senator Neufeld: I have the data, just last week's data.
Senator Wallace: I was interested to hear you say that the development
and use of hydrogen in Canada has progressed beyond the R & D phase. You are
into the commercialization phase. I suppose that is true where you can produce
hydrogen from water, through electrolysis, or extract it from natural gas and,
perhaps, other ways. When I think of that, however, you are seeking assistance
from government to proceed with the commercialization phase. Why is that? It is
a private sector product. You are taking it to market. The obligation is on the
private sector to convince the market that it is a product that is equal to or
better than what else is available. Why should government be involved in the
commercialization component of the development of hydrogen in this country?
In particular, when you say that the hydrogen supply network, the retail
network, is comparable in cost to developing gasoline stations and diesel
fuelling, why should government be involved in the commercialization aspect of
Mr. Wilson: It is the role of government to pursue policy which is in
the public interest. In Canada, we have the situation of plentiful low-cost
fossil fuels which one day will be depleted or be a concern from a cost point of
view. We must, as a newcomer, compete with those low-cost alternatives and we
are at a significant disadvantage today from a competitive point of view here in
Canada. If we go to some other areas of the world, the cost of Russian natural
gas in certain countries is extremely high; the cost of electricity is extremely
high. Without any support or incentives, we are able to see significant
penetration of our technology in those areas. Here, in Canada, we have a
What I would encourage the committee to look at is the incentives in place
across the various energy vectors that we have today. How much money is going to
the oil industry by way of some form of incentive? How much money is going to
the natural gas sector and to other technologies? If we were simply to
redistribute existing incentives that are going to well-established technologies
that have decades of history and move them to support, through this critical
period of commercialization, emerging technologies, I think, in the public
interest, we would have a better blend in the long-term.
Yes, we continue to need some help, but we are more than willing to share the
work and the burden of seeing the commercialization of our technology. I do not
believe that government help ends with the discovery in the R & D phase. I think
there is a role for government in the commercialization of emerging
technologies. Certainly, that has happened in Germany and other places to great
Senator Wallace: I take from what you say, then, that, without
government subsidization or contribution toward that commercialization phase,
hydrogen will never be competitive in the marketplace, even though, as you would
grow it, perhaps at a slower pace than it would otherwise be if you had
government financial assistance, as economies of scale improve and as you have
more customers online, you feel that rate of growth or that normal growth
pattern, which most private sector businesses follow, would not enable your
product to be competitive in the marketplace?
Mr. Wilson: Not in the short- and medium-term. We will watch Korea,
Japan, Germany realize the potential of what was created here with the hydrogen
Senator Wallace: What do you mean by "the short- and medium-term"?
What time period are we talking about that your product would remain
uncompetitive in price?
Mr. Wilson: I think over the next five years we need to give our
potential customers the opportunity of actually experiencing the technology. We
can then start to see some sort of recurring turnover and adoption from the
overall benefits of the technology. We are in that deployment and demonstration
phase where there needs to be experience.
This is another issue that was addressed in this report that we produced
today where government procurement can play a role. Rather than some sort of
outright subsidy, there can be some program set up and government procurement to
favour new Canadian innovation technology and adopt it and demonstrate its use
for the benefit of other users to see and then promote further adoptions.
To me this is not an issue of handouts or of social welfare for industry.
This is a matter of taking the promise of innovation and capability in this
country and helping that to be realized so that it can stand on its own two
feet. That, after all, is what happened with the oil industry in the first
Mr. Kimmel: To comment, the other countries clearly, and I think Mr.
Wilson alluded to this, that are embracing hydrogen are countries that import a
lot of energy now — island communities like Denmark, Japan and Korea. They also
have — not Denmark so much but Japan and Korea — indigenous auto industries that
are well supported and where hydrogen plays a big role. The adoption of hydrogen
plays right into a long-term strategy for transportation as well as for reducing
CO2 emissions. We need to come back to that. This is the role that
hydrogen can play overall. It is quite a large ball that we are playing with
here around hydrogen. Again, I use the term "ubiquitous" in terms of the ways
and the roles that it can play.
Back to innovation. We stand to lose this innovation capacity in this
country. If everything is offshore, if all our markets are offshore, Mr. Wilson
will get one call a month from some country that says we want you to relocate
here. We have lost companies to the U.S. The U.S. has an incentive program
already for the introduction of fuel cell technologies. We are not so much
competing — I would not call it that because we are selling into that,
fortunately, because there is an incentive and we have better market
technologies in many respects. We sell into those markets, which is wonderful,
but would it not be nice to have a market at home that you could point to and
say, "We also are selling into our own indigenous domestic market?"
Senator Banks: By way of example of competitive industries and energy
sources, do you have the advantage of something like the accelerated capital
cost allowance? Does your industry enjoy that advantage that other energy
Mr. Wilson: No, I do not believe it applies but I am not certain.
Mr. Kimmel: No, I am not certain, either.
The Deputy Chair: Probably it does not or you would know. Why should
Senator Dickson: I come from Nova Scotia. As you know, the source for
electrical generation down there is coal. There is a tremendous proven resource
of coal down there except it is not able to be developed for one reason or
another. I was interested in the fuel cell answer that you had because we are
sitting on over 100 million tons of coal down there. Is there a way to utilize
that coal using the technology to which you alluded?
Mr. Kimmel: Again, this is why the area that we talk about, hydrogen
and hydrogen systems, is complex. There are a wide variety of fuel cells. We can
have a high temperature fuel cell called a solid oxide fuel cell which can work
in reverse, if you like. Rather than taking hydrogen and oxygen and making
electricity, you can actually cake carbon dioxide and push it through the system
and make electricity and concentrate the carbon dioxide. The role of the fuel
cell that I alluded to in the statement that I give you concerns what how you
would concentrate the CO2 from a source like coal combustion. That is
still in the early stages. We have not demonstrated that technology in Canada.
The British are looking at it right now.
Senator Dickson: Is there any country where that technology has been
adopted and is in use or is it just on the bench scale?
Mr. Kimmel: The U.K. is looking at it right now. There is a project in
the United Kingdom — in fact, we are holding a conference new year and we are
hoping to get one of the speakers at the conference to talk about that
particular technology. There is work at the University of Calgary related
specifically to the oil and gas sector, in this case looking at concentrating
carbon dioxide. It is another way of carbon dioxide capture and sequestration.
Senator Dickson: In a time horizon, what would you be looking at, 10
Mr. Kimmel: If you look at just the chemistry of that reaction, it is
doable. In terms of scale up, I would say less than 10 years.
The Deputy Chair: In the absence of anyone else, I will ask couple of
quick questions. Your point is interesting and it needs to be emphasized,
namely, that we would not have had the oil sands had it not been for direct
government participation. They bought an equity interest; they set up a company
and made that happen. I do not know for sure, but I was at the oil sands 20
years ago and they were losing 5 bucks a barrel then and they kept going.
Someone understood that vision was very important and that is about where you
are probably. Why should you not get the same advantages and why should there
not be government partnerships to make that happen?
Speaking of partnerships, is there any potential for partnerships between and
amongst countries in this kind of research and development? Maybe it already
occurs, but is it conscious, is it as big as it could be? Is there something we
could work with other countries on even?
Mr. Wilson: There is a substantial network of exchange between various
countries in this technology area. In mid-November I will be speaking in Berlin,
to the intergovernmental panel between Germany and Canada, on the collaboration
in this particular area. Again, being the technology leaders, I would say we
have been our normal Canadian selves in being open, communicative and team
oriented in sharing what we know and learning together. In that respect globally
there is very good cooperation and information exchange.
The Deputy Chair: You said it is not a question of the chicken or the
egg when it comes to infrastructure. Maybe I just missed that. What would it
take to catalyze the sufficient fuelling stations so that when the cars arrive
there is something to fuel them? Did you need government intervention there?
Mr. Wilson: In addressing this issue in Germany as part of their
overall energy policy and plan for transportation, it was recognized that the
cars will not come if the fuelling stations are not there, and it is entirely
possible to put the fuelling stations there. A plan was announced in September
of 2010 for the institution of 1,000 hydrogen fuelling stations in Germany.
Subsequent to that announcement, the first two stations that were actually put
in the ground came from Hydrogenics, a Canadian company, our company.
That plan is actually being unfolded now, saying the infrastructure needs to
be in place. Daimler, as an automotive manufacturer in Germany, is very keen to
deploy clusters of vehicles for early adopter buyers.
Mr. Kimmel: As an association, we would like to undertake an
infrastructure study to address that question. The issue is that this is a big
country; it is not Germany, as we heard already. Will you put them all across
the country? Probably does not make much sense. What we will need to do is focus
on where the target markets would be. You can talk to the auto makers and find
out where they want to position cars. They will want to put them in markets
where there is a large population and people are familiar with this technology,
which would be the Lower Mainland of Vancouver, the GTA or Montreal.
There is a lot of activity beginning now in Quebec around hydrogen, so there
is quite an initiative there. We would like to do a study that talks about how
we roll this infrastructure out and what the cost would be. That is something we
would like to look at with this government as well.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you. As we hear more and more witnesses like
you, we get the sense we are sort of on the verge of something quite significant
and it is quite exciting, and it would make for an exciting economic future for
Canada if we embrace some of this stuff.
I would just like to mention that these gentlemen have left us each a copy of
this book. I would encourage members of the committee to pick it up.
Hydrogen: Facing the Energy Challenges of the 21st Century. I have not
actually thumbed through it but it looks interesting. Thank you for that and for
your presentations. It has been very informative and we appreciate it greatly.