Bullfrog Power: “Taxing our Guilt”


mrG left a a very interesting comment on the Nelly Furtado Earth Hour concert which is sponsored by Bullfrog Power. I think he raises a very important point and we shouldn’t be blindedly falling for everything that claims to be “Green”.

This is so … wrong. It just is and I can illustrate a sliver of the wrongness of it with a numerical example:

The sponsors are Bullfrog, who admirably bill themselves as “green, carbon-free power” which they are, and I think that is great, but read the fine print! What they say they do for us is this: “don’t need any special equipment or wiring and there is no change in the reliability of your service. We inject green power onto the Ontario grid to match the amount of power your home uses. You have the comfort of knowing that your electricity dollars are supporting clean, renewable power instead of polluting and carbon-intensive sources like coal. It’s that simple.”

But is it that simple? You see, what they describe is absurd. They are not going to measure my meter and go “Oh, hey better turn up the windmill another notch, some guy in Sauble Beach is using a bit more power today!” No, they have their generators, all very green, and the law of Ontario says Ontario Power must pay ‘market rates’ for any energy added to the grid. So Bullfrog hooks up their windmills, and the money flows in.

But dig the line “Bullfrog Power does cost a little more than regular electricity” … ah, you see? Ontario Power will pay them X dollars per kilowatt-hour but you and I can get suckered into paying them X dollars plus a bit for those same kilowatt-hours, duped by our own noble good nature in wanting to help. They already have the windmills and generators, they had investors and boards of directors and business plans and it all made sense because they had the guarantee of market rates for their green power. But they figured out a way to get a government-subsidy … by taxing our guilt.

Clever lads. But is it ethical? I mean, I’d love to dump nuclear power and would do it in a minute if I believed their story, but dig, they’ve already lied to me and I’m not even a customer yet!

Comments?


32 responses to “Bullfrog Power: “Taxing our Guilt””

  1. Cassandra says:

    I wouldn’t say it’s ethical, but it’s the way of the world now. I’m not sure why we feel like green solutions should be ethical by nature. Maybe it’s because most of us feel like pollution is bad, and many corporations dupe consumers into thinking they’re not polluting when they really are.

    I don’t know enough about Bullfrog to call it “green washing,” but it might be. Or it just might be that changing the way our world uses energy is going to cost more. Not because it actually does cost more, but because it’s a commodity just like everything else.

  2. Greg says:

    I find it slightly simplistic to think that it is ‘unethical’ to charge extra for power that ultimately wouldn’t exist if Bullfrog didn’t exist. Sure the windmills are running and making power regardless NOW but they were expensive to build, that’s the whole point.

    The Canadian government is not doing a very good job stimulating the renewable sector, and not too many provinces have shown much initiative either. In fact, since Bullfrog power has proven a market, things in Ontario have been progressing better than ever. Maybe it’s coincidence, but who knows.

    The fact that a private company is making a profit from something that is labelled ‘green’ shouldn’t automatically be called ‘greenwashing.’ I am the first to concede that there is a lot of crap floating around the ‘green’ economy, with many people taking advantage of a infant industry that has a lot of eager consumers – but in the end, I believe that Bullfrog, and in turn it’s consumers are doing something that is 1) making a slight difference, and 2) well intentioned. (Since when is it illegal to make money in Canada?)

    Of course… this doesn’t take into account the argument that Bullfrog is only offsetting coal power in Canada, and this offset power ends up getting exported to the power hungry States, but that’s another story.

  3. good al says:

    I think their name says it all : BULL

  4. Judy says:

    When I called Bullfrog asking exactly what they were providing for my money, the first person I spoke to was unable to explain it. Later I spoke to someone else who told me they use the extra money to fund education, public awareness, etc.
    Actually, whatever green power is generated gets used without any intervention from Bullfrog. I’m still not sure exactly what benefit they offer.
    By all means, let’s lobby and complain to our elected representatives about what we want. Meanwhile, there are lots of local fairs going on around Toronto right now (and I’m sure elsewhere), showcasing solar and wind power projects for homeowners. Wind power for individual homes is not very practical in the city but certainly is for other areas. Solar power, either for electricity or for heating water, is simpler, requiring less maintenance and is becoming pretty mainstream.

  5. James Bosma says:

    We noticed this ongoing discussion and wanted to provide some information about Bullfrog Power to address some of the concerns that have been raised.

    Bullfrog Power is actively increasing the supply of renewable electricity in Ontario with the support of its customers. We accomplish this in several ways:

    1. Bullfrog Power is directly increasing the supply of renewable electricity in the province, above and beyond the actions of the government. The power that we are bringing online is incremental to the quota the provincial government has set for renewables on the grid by 2010. Bullfrog Power does this in two ways:

    – first, it invests in generators to help them build new renewable generation. Without this investment, the generation would not be built. For instance, two new wind turbines were commissioned in the fall of 2006 at the Sky Generation wind farm site on the Bruce Peninsula to service Bullfrog Power customer demand. In early 2007, in partnership with Schneider Power, Bullfrog announced the commissioning of two more new turbines on Manitoulin Island. In the words of Glen Estill, the principal of Sky Generation, at our launch “Our contract with Bullfrog Power allows us to increase our capacity and bring more green power onto the Ontario grid.”

    – second, we enter into long-term Power Purchase Agreements with generators for new projects, like Sky Generation’s project. These PPAs give the generators a stable revenue stream and allows them to raise financing that makes new project development viable.

    2. Bullfrog is also indirectly increasing the supply of renewables in the province. Bullfrog Power pays its suppliers a premium over the price for regular electricity, which provides them a reasonable return on equity, allowing and incenting them and other developers to build more renewable projects.

    3. Bullfrog Power educates the public about renewable electricity and the electricity market in general. One of the very significant challenges in moving forward energy policy in the province is the state of awareness about electricity sources and issues. As a retailer, we touch hundreds of thousands of Ontario residents and voters, helping to increase understanding of renewable electricity.

    4. We are also in regular communication with government at the municipal, provincial and federal levels to help positively influence the advancement of policies favourable to the renewable industry. These actions will ultimately help increase the supply of renewables in the province.

    5. Bullfrog Power gives people a choice of which power to support and where to direct their dollars. In virtually every other product category there are green choices: organic food, efficient vehicles, low-phosphate soaps, etc. Previously, when Ontarians paid their electricity bill, 40% of the money went to nuclear power, another 25% to coal and 10-15% to oil and gas generators. Now with Bullfrog Power, Ontarians can choose to support renewable electricity and direct their dollars there. By providing a practical step that residents can take at home, Bullfrog Power engages citizens in the electricity debate that is otherwise carried out in the halls of Queen’s Park.

    All of Bullfrog’s power is sourced from EcoLogo certified generators. EcoLogo is Environment Canada’s certification for excellence in environmental products. Additionally, we have voluntarily retained Deloitte to conduct an annual audit of our green power inventory to verify that we are injecting at least as much green power onto the grid as we have contracted with customers.

    Ultimately, we are thrilled that almost 6,000 residential customers and almost 600 businesses from virtually every sector, as well as leading environmental groups including WWF-Canada and Pollution Probe, have made the decision to become “bullfrogpowered” and help us in our efforts to advance the development of clean, renewable power in Canada. We hope this helps address some of the concerns, and please feel free to contact Bullfrog Power at http://www.bullfrogpower.com for more information.

    James Bosma
    Bullfrog Power

  6. al says:

    James, are you hiring? I need to work for green company.

  7. Randy says:

    Just to set the record straight on this, I’m a Bullfrog customer. Our house was built in 1969 and is 1800 square feet, not including the basement. With Bullfrog, we pay on average $17 a month more for electricity than we did for Ottawa Hydro. And no, we don’t now “turn up the heat” — which would cost us more anyway.

    If Bullfrog profits from this, so be it. I don’t feel like I’m being gauged. If fact, we were surprised it didn’t cost more. I can afford the $17 a month to burn clean energy.

  8. James says:

    James,

    I admit that I am a sceptic. Could you clear up a few points for me?

    1) How many “Generators” (I assume this is a windmill) does Bullfrog own and how many kilowatts do they generate

    2) What is the total amount of money that Bullfrog invested in 2008 into infrastructure for “green energy solutions?”

    3) I realise that your a private company but you must have an audited annual report that would support your claims that you share with the public. Where do we get a copy?

    4) Does the kilowatts purchased by your customers match the kilowatts that you bulk purchase from Green energy suppliers?

  9. Lisa Johnson says:

    I saw a very brief presentation by Bullfrog Power last night in Vancouver and was left with some similar questions.

    Let me play dumb: What’s wrong with electricity in B.C. now?

    More than 90% of our power is from hydroelectric dams. There are problems with big hydro, greenhouse gas emissions are *not* one of them.

    Only 3% of B.C.’s GHGs come from electricity generation. (Compared to, say 25% of California’s.)

  10. Javier says:

    I am happy there is finally a company that is committed to providing a choice for cleaner energy, and I was looking into using them for my household. I want to support these technologies, so that we can show it is a profitable business and bring more competition in, allowing costs to come down.

    Unfortunately, I am unable to spare that extra $17 a month, since all levels of governments are presently gouging me with taxes and cuts, with more plans to squeeze even more from me.

    Until my fellow localites, Ontarians and Canadians start voting, and vote for the right people, we may never see our choices grow for green energy.

  11. Meghan Ney says:

    Hi again from the Bullfrog Power team, we have been following the further comments and questions and wanted to respond with more information and some updates on green electricity.

    Bullfrog Power provides homes and businesses in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, and soon the Maritimes, with a voluntary 100% green electricity choice. Today, over 8,000 households and 1,000 businesses have made this voluntary choice in order to reduce their own environmental impact and influence the market to see even more green electricity development. Over the past four years, five new wind power facilities have been commissioned to meet the needs of our customers. More information on these projects can be found here: http://www.bullfrogpower.com/clean/newprojects.cfm

    In addition, each year Bullfrog Power conducts an annual audit of our green electricity production levels to make sure the amount of green power our customers purchased was produced from low impact, EcoLogo-certified wind and hydro power projects. This audit can be found here: http://www.bullfrogpower.com/clean/2008%20Green%20Power%20Audit%20Report.pdf

    In March of 2009, Bullfrog Power began providing a voluntary choice to British Columbians, the first and only choice to support new wind power in the province. Providing this choice was as a result of interest expressed by both businesses and individuals in British Columbia that wanted to see more, low-impact renewable electricity in the province. In B.C., less than 3% of the electricity used comes from sources that are low-impact renewable as most of BC’s electricity comes from higher-impact large hydro generation, local thermal and imports from neighboring provinces and states. By offering British Columbians the choice to take a stand for lower-impact renewable electricity sources Bullfrog Power is advancing support for new wind energy in the province. In fact, later this fall the Bear Mountain Wind Park, B.C.’s fully operational wind project, will begin supplying bullfrogpowered customers.

    We appreciate the feedback and encourage you to visit http://www.bullfrogpower.com for further information. We’re always happy to answer any questions you may have.

  12. Dimitri says:

    I live in Ontario, and signed up for Bullfrog.
    It is true the actual electrons entering your house are not 100% renewable, as the grid is operated as an interconnected pool of power.
    But if you just imagine a giant swimming pool, that you go to remove liters of water from every day. You then must pay someone to replace those liters.
    By default, you pay OPG that invests billions of dollars on nuclear power that I do not support. Or you can pay a company like Bullfrog to replace the power you use with green energy.
    The more people that sign on, the more green generation will go online.
    An option to put in my own renewable power at my house would cost around $20,000. I would then be responsible for maintenance, and repairs, and it would take up space on my property.
    Compare this to signing on with Bullfrog, and paying an extra 10-15$/month.
    It’s simple, and I know who I support, and I give my money to each month.

    Thank you Bullfrog for making an easy choice.

  13. Tyler says:

    It is not a scam. It is legitimate, honest, and generates real environmental benefits. However, it is difficult to understand how it works because the generation (manufacturing), transporation and marketing of electricity is not something that is top of mind for most people.

    Think of water as an analogy. When you open the tap, you are not getting SPECIFIC water molecules assigned to you. You are merely being charged for the VOLUME of water molucules you consume from the pool of fresh, clean water available (in resevours, treatment facilities and pipes).

    When you buy “green” power you are not buying specific electrons from the pool of electricty available; rather, you are paying for the VOLUME of energy produced from renewable energy generation sites (solar arrays and windturbines) to be put into the pool in an equal amount to the energy you consume from non renewable sources (coal-basee generation plants, natural gas generations plants, nuclear generation plants).

    So, while you can’t ensure you get the specific electrons from the solar array or wind turbine, you do get the specific “environmental attributes” associated with these solar arrays and wind turbines. What BullFrog does, is match the environmenatl attributes to the electrons you consume, and they keep track of this on a volume-in to volume-out basis.

    As to why it cost more…
    You pay more for green energy because: 1) electricy markets are not truly open to competion in Canada, and so companies like Bull Frog cannot directly compete with the big utilities because they are not allowed to buy and sell electricity for the same price and offering as the big utility; and, 2) because it is cheaper to manufacture(generate) electricity using a dirty coal plant then it is using a solar array or wind turbine.

  14. Kevin says:

    I’m sorry, you are calling wind power “lower impact” ? Take a look at what been happening in Germany and Denmark for the future of wind power.

  15. everyone needs to get involved

  16. Sherwood Botsford says:

    Questions I’m seeking answers to:

    1. How much new green generation capacity has BullFrog Power created?

    2. What percentages of the revenue stream respectively goes to:

    * creating green power alternatives?
    * advertising for new customers?
    * administration costs?
    * dividends to stockholders?

    3. Who audits BFP’s claims?

    4. Who audits Bullfrog Power’s books?

    5. Is the full audited account for BFP available on a NON BFP website, preferably the auditor or a governmental site?

    6. Since electricity can’t be ‘tagged’ or marked, who certifies that the power generated by a windmill was only ‘sold’ once as green power?

    7. A 2 cent per kwHr premium on power is effectively a $125/tonne carbon charge. Given that carbon credits go for about $15 per tonne in Canada, and $50 per tonne in Europe, this seems a bit steep.

    8. Electricity cannot be efficiently stored: When I use power during a winter calm, how is that power ‘green’?

    9. Can BullFrog Power claim any decrease in the available coal fired generation capacity? This does not have to be in the form of decommissioned generators: It could be in the form of power companies being willing to have lower reserves, doing shutdown maintenance during windy seasons.

  17. Lynn says:

    the audit report on their web page – performed by deloitte and touche – 80% of the electricity created in ontario by bull frog was done by using “low impact water generation”. So it’s Hyrdro powered. Wow, glad we’re offsetting Hydro generated electricity with Hydro Generated electricity.

    http://www.bullfrogpower.com/about/2009_Bullfrog_Green_Power_Audit_Report.pdf

    • Riverwatch says:

      Low impact power from Bull Frog is BS.

      A so called Run of River green hydro power generating station is most likely the main reason for the extinction of the wild Atlantic Salmon on the Magaguadavic River in Saint George, New Brunswick, Canada. The conservation group ASF has data to back this up as outlined in a 2013 report. There was 29% to 100% fish kill rate in the fish bypass function.

      In order to be labeled ROR, there is not supposed to be a dam or head pond, but there are both in this case however the power generated gets the green stamp, for premium power rates to its customers. I questioning this before I sign up as a green power costomer.

      .

  18. Judy says:

    Not all hydro powered electricity is low impact; much of it comes from huge reservoirs and dams that flood habitat and displace people and wildlife. Making use of natural water falls (ie Niagara) is much preferable. We have many small rivers and streams that can be used to add to our supply of clean electricity but they would not be considered economically viable by “Hydro”, hence a need for small Bullfrog funded projects.

  19. I’ve got to that I had been a little leary with all the different hype taking place around solar. After checking out quite a few programs and purchase options my spouce and i decide to make the leap. We ended up getting solar with no money down and we immediatly started saving money the very first month is was installed. I must say that the potential benefits to solar look like they’re real and I am happy that we decide to proceed with it.

  20. Lawrence says:

    I think its great! The company makes more profits which in turn attracts more investors and new green power companies. Before you know it all power could be green and it would only cost 0.02cents on top for the consumer.
    They have legal obligations to supply the amount of power they charge the consumer for and they have third party audits. This means as they grow they have and will build more green energy sources.

    If you want green power you gotta pay more and considering government is incapable of creating this change, the consumer as in you and I need to cough up the cash and make this viable.

  21. That was a nice read. Phew… Don’t get too flattered but I actually learnt something from Bullfrog Power: “Taxing our Guilt” Canada. Ha!

    If you don’t mind, since you talked about gardening bits there, I wrote a gardening article myself at my gardening site here: http://www.growinggardening.com/. Do give me your thoughts on that and leave your input there. Thanks!

    Tina Gail the Gardener 🙂

  22. Vincent says:

    You should do your own reseach but in my opinion this company is a scam. The product you actually get is a smile because “you’re making a difference”. That is it. I’ve read almost everything on the website and this is how the company work.

    1 – They don’t own or operate any generating stations and the don’t distribute electricity. When you sign up you still have to buy electricity from your local utility (KW Wilmot, EnerCare, NB Power, etc). Bullfrog Power just sends you another bill for “greening your energy”. It actually amounts to nothing more than a “self tax”.

    2 – The income that this company brings in is used to invest in new generating stations so that they can make more money. You, the customer, voluntarily give them your money so they can invest it and make more money while really giving you nothing in return. You get nothing in return because; I get the exact same benefits as you do except that I’m not a customer.

    Bullfrogs business model is even better than an insurance companies model since you give both of them your money, they invest that money and make more money, except an insurance company will sometimes give you some service in return. Not just a smile and a pat on the back.

    Before you sign up you should make sure you’re actually getting a service and not just taxing yourself. If you want to make a difference and get something in return, take you money and invest it in a “green energy” fund or an actual “green energy” company. That way you’re making a difference and you get an actual return.

    Cheers

  23. Clayton says:

    ‘I get the exact same benefits as you do except that I’m not a customer.’

    I find this an interesting point of view. I don’t believe I’m paying Bullfrog for a ‘product’ or a ‘service’ for myself. I’m paying to be part of a large pool of people striving to allow for more ‘green’ energy production. You benefit from our generosity. Seems nice enough for me. I hope that our country benefits from those who can afford to pay a little more.

  24. Go Green Everyday says:

    There are other green energy providers in Ontario who actually have built their own water and wind facilities. Just Energy for example, I know it sounds like Direct Energy, has the Scott Falls and Robert A Dunford Generating Stations, the Essex-Windsor Regional Landfill Gas Capture and Destruction plant. The membership to a green community pays for green facilities like these IN Ontario creating clean power and jobs…. Why not support them?

  25. anotherview says:

    Power from government sponsered wind and solar farms is a scam being forced on everyone by those who think that the technology really is green.

    Ponder these points:
    Wind and solar farms being built companies all over the world for the purpose of siphoning off the huge subsidies offered. In most cases, they would not have been built without governent assistance.
    A wind turbine will produce less energy over their lifetime that it took to manufacture, transport and erect.
    Hydro, natural gas and coal plants need to be on standby to supplement wind power when there is no wind. They are less efficient on standby
    Do some internet searches and you will find lots of evidence of health problems and bird collisions due to wind turbines.
    Wind turbines are being erected in previously pristine areas, prime farmlands and bird flyways. In many cases, local municipalities have no say in where they are built. If there are trees at the base, they are clearcut. Huge concrete bases are needed to support the towers. Roadways are built for maintenance. Each wind turbine is an environmental disaster in its own right.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am all for green power (I even own a pair of Birkenstocks) but current technology is not the answer. We need to get away from the big power companies, investment companies and scams like Bullfrog power. Companies need to be encouranged if they can deliver technologies that individuals and small companies can afford.

    Run away from Bullfrog power. They are assisting in creating what could become one of the biggest environmental disasters the world has ever known.

  26. Mike says:

    Another “Green” idea.

    Why don’t you all give me only $.001/Kwh and promise I will build my own personal windmill and be completely off the grid in a year.

    You will be doing your part to help the environment! (and me of course)

    Or I have a “Green” bridge in New York for sale…

  27. Jagtar Cheema says:

    I wonder what has happened to this company and their advertisements?

  28. Colin says:

    I like the sound of Bullfrog Power in general, but I think that there have been some fair (and some outright bizarre) criticisms of its practices here.

    Before I would start dealing with this company I would want to see its financial statements and see how much profit it makes and how much it spends on things that don’t contribute directly to green energy (eg. administration, education, advertising, advocacy, donations to other organizations, etc.).

    I would encourage people to make constructive contributions to the company’s wikipedia page so that consumers are more informed (it appears as though a possible employee of the company (‘DLBFP’) has recently been editing the page!)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullfrog_Power

    Also, I thought people might be interested in learning about SPARK, an electricity co-op in Alberta – it looks like it might have improved on some of Bullfrog’s apparent flaws. See “What makes SPARK different than Bullfrog?” on the following page:
    https://www.sparkyourpower.ca/faq/

  29. Kevin johnstone says:

    This is nothing but a tax on idiots.

    Bull shooters came to my house putting forward the same junk science that has been exposed for the fraud that it is. Even if you believe the scaremongering they fail to mention the infinitesimally small chance of this initiative having any impact on the global climate catastrophes that they foretell. They are simply sending sales reps to your house to sign you up to send your money so that you can funnel more money to a bunch of energy sector parasites.

    • John M says:

      As far as I know, the construction and operation of wind turbines are generally done by profit making companies. Initially, these companies obtain money from the investing public in exchange for shares in the company.

      A company then builds a wind turbine and signs a long term fixed rate supply contract (20 years or so) with a government owned power utility. The power utility then sells that power to the public. The fixed rates are set by the power utilities at levels designed to make the wind turbine companies profitable. Assuming the company is well managed it should generate a profit and the investors will get dividends on their shares.

      If I give money to Bullfrog and they operate a wind turbine, they keep the money I gave them and they keep the profits earned from the wind turbine.

      It may well be true that my “donation” to Bullfrog results in new renewable power being put into the grid but it seems to me that I can have the same renewable power created if I “invest” in a wind turbine company. With the “investment” I have the opportunity to earn dividends and if all goes well I can eventually sell my shares to another investor who values the stream of dividends.

      Both arrangements generate renewable green energy. With one Bullfrog keeps my “donation” and future profits from the wind turbine. With the other I own a saleable piece of the turbine business and I get a share of the company’s profits. Your choice.

  30. Alex says:

    Are employees of Bullfrog actually posting on this comment thread? these guys just came to my house with an aggressive commitment tactic, which was obviously rehearsed. Bullfrog is just profiting off being a virtual middle man, sponsored by Unilever? sure it makes sense on paper, alot of redundant programs have resulted because of this fact, great. sounds so legit. community projects should collectively average the Kw out and include it in an environmental bill, they will be doing in the near future. this is not a scam, but just a meaningless loophole, profiting off ignorance.

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