TILLSONBURG — Siemens Canada is closing its wind-turbine plant here, slashing more than 340 jobs and shuttering one of the town’s largest employers.
The closing, announced by the company Tuesday, comes after weeks of nervous speculation and one day of public debate over the factory, which was locked to employees Sunday night.
“This was a very difficult decision that was taken only after assessing all the options,” said David Hickey, head of Siemens Gamesa Business in Canada. “We have a great team of employees at the plant who have produced quality work for the last six years, and we sincerely appreciate their efforts.
The closing raises new questions about the fallout from Ontario’s controversial green-energy policy. Siemens was one of four green-energy plants lured to Ontario under a controversial
Outside the factory Tuesday, one employee talked about the frustration felt by
“There was quite a bit of anger in there because they shut the place down the other night and never really told anybody about it,” said Rick, who asked his last name not be published. “It was bang, everything was locked down.”
A four-year Siemens employee said workers who called the plant’s sick line during the weekend were told there was no production Monday and were to attend a morning meeting Tuesday at the town’s community
“It was the joke around there that they were just going to lock the doors, but we didn’t think it was going to happen,” said the man, who did not want to give his name.
Ontario – where electricity prices have basically doubled over the last decade, and where the energy file has become hugely political heading into next year’s election – had started the process to contract for an additional 600 megawatts of wind energy, requiring
But amid rising criticism and reports indicated that Ontario will have enough generation capacity for at least a decade, the Liberal government suspended plans for new projects in September.
Projects already in development weren’t affected.
“Clearly, the Liberal government should be working to build and promote our manufacturing sector — not set up situations where we’re losing these jobs,” said MPP Peter Tabuns, the NDP energy critic at Queen’s Park.
“There seems to be a growing disinterest on the part of the Liberals to actually invest in green energy. I think that may well lock us out of where the rest of the world is going in terms of energy technology,” said the Toronto MPP.
Conservative energy critic Todd Smith, the MPP for Prince Edward Hastings, couldn’t be reached for comment.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association, an industry umbrella group, says the market remains healthy in Ontario, regardless of the news from Siemens.
Despite the province’s decision last fall to suspend new projects, there are orders to fill in Ontario and bids for projects in Alberta and Saskatchewan, said Brandy Giannetta,
“The outlook is positive,” Giannetta said, declining to comment on the Siemens situation specifically.
In 2010, four plants to make parts for wind and energy farms were set up under the Samsung deal between the company and the province to generate power for Ontario and create manufacturing jobs in green energy.
The four plants were to create about 900 jobs.
In exchange, Ontario agreed to buy heavily subsidized power from Samsung wind and solar projects and guarantee the company space on the province’s crowded electricity transmission grid.
The Liberal government, sharply criticized over the cost of the agreement, later renegotiated it after the company missed some deadlines, slashing by more than one-third the nearly $10 billion in power it had agreed to buy and reducing to $5 billion from $7 billion Samsung’s investment
While wind energy has its supporters, fierce opposition in rural communities – especially in Southwestern Ontario, home to the largest number of wind turbines in Ontario and the largest wind farms – remains and helped defeat two prominent Liberal cabinet ministers in the region in the 2011 election.
Much of the opposition has focused on the loss of local control, taken away by the province, over where the mega-projects can be built.
Published by London Free Press staff