Surplus power: the other side of wind’s “success story”

Napanee gas plant: more flexible resources needed to offset intermittent wind -- trouble is, they also push emissions up
Napanee gas plant: more flexible resources needed to offset intermittent wind — trouble is, they also push emissions up

January 23, 2017

The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) summarized their submission on Ontario’s long-term energy plan (LTEP) to the IESO on their website.  “Ontario is the Canadian leader in clean wind energy with 4,781 megawatts of installed capacity, supplying about 5 per cent of the electricity that Ontarians depend on,” CanWEA said. “Wind has been the largest source of new electricity generation across Canada over the past decade. Over this time, costs have come down as capacity factors have increased.”

Here’s the other side of that apparent success story. It’s not as rosy as CanWEA, the wind power industry lobbyist, would like you to believe.

The IESO just released the 2016 Electricity Data indicating industrial wind turbines (IWT) were responsible for the generation of 9.0 terawatts (TWh) of power, representing 6% of Ontario demand of 137 TWh.

What IESO doesn’t say about wind power generation, however, is annoying.  IWT generation in 2016 was actually10.7 TWh when DX (distributor connected) industrial-scale wind turbines or IWTs are included.  If the 2.2 TWh of “curtailed” wind is added, the bill to ratepayers was for 13 TWh.  The estimate of curtailed and DX wind comes from Scott Luft who does a remarkable job of tracking what is actually happening with generation.  IESO fails to disclose either curtailed or DX generation for whatever reason as they are the settlement agent for all generation in the province.

They have the data available to supply the public with those details.

Surplus baseload means possible grid failure

Not surprisingly IESO continue to run “stakeholder committees” that generate reports disclosing concerns about the intermittent and unreliable nature of wind (and solar), referencing it as “Variable Generation.” They note the production of Surplus Baseload Generation (SBG) which may cause grid failure leading to brownouts or blackouts. One of those reports from May 2016 noted: “SBG in ~65% of hours in 2015, even with 2 major nuclear outages” and “So far, SBG in ~88% of hours in 2016”.

Interestingly enough the current Minister of Energy, Glenn Thibeault on December 16, 2016 issued a directive to IESO instructing them to negotiate an exit from some of the NUG (non-utility generators) gas contracts labeled as “baseload” generators. IESO obeyed the directive as noted by my friend Scott Luft in his recent post “Ontario’s IESO steps off the gas”. We should suspect this action was not aimed at reducing SBG, but instead is aimed as trying to give credibility to the addition of the “cap and trade” tax that took effect January 1, 2017 by showing some negligible reduction in emissions.

The oxymoron in that is also to be found in a June 2016 IESO report titled: “Review of the Operability of the IESO-Controlled Grid to 2020” which suggested:

“We recommend enhancing the flexibility of Ontario supply resources to ensure that there are increased quantities of resources able to address the hour-ahead VG forecast inaccuracy, 95% of the time. This translates to needing ~1,000 MW of additional flexibility. The additional flexibility needs to be located in unconstrained parts of the system to ensure they can operate without restriction. Methods to enhance the flexibility of Ontario resources could include: increased utilization of existing resources, enabling simple cycle operation at combined cycle plants, or adding new peaking generation, grid energy storage or demand response resources. Methods chosen, which are expected to happen through open competitive processes, must ensure that they are cost effective and can meet expected operational duty requirements – given that these resources are required in the near-term to address reliability needs.”

Serious problems with wind

What IESO’s concerns and subsequent recommendations suggest is the variable and unpredictable nature of wind generation has created serious problems in the eyes of those entrusted to run Ontario’s electricity system.

So, here are the facts: power generation from wind cost Ontario’s ratepayers over $1.7 billion (approximately 12% of total generation costs) in 2016 for just over 6% of demand, and will cause ratepayers hydro bills to be further affected negatively.   IESO’s responsibility to manage the system through the exercises suggested in their recommendations will cost the system more money, increasing costs just to ensure industrial wind developments are able to extract money from the pockets of Ontario’s ratepayers.

The government of Ontario led by Premier Wynne will (in the near future) claim their actions on the electricity file were instrumental in reducing emissions, but here’s the thing: the flexible resources IESO seeks will push the emissions up again.

The trick is, that won’t be seen until after the 2018 election.

Author: parkergallantenergyperspectivesblog

Retired international banker.

11 thoughts on “Surplus power: the other side of wind’s “success story””

  1. Surely we don’t have to wait until after the election in 2018 to address this. Why on earth would this information not be presented to this government so they can act now? Is this government inside of such a bubble that no one can get through?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t fully understand the bureaucratic dynamics at work here, but it seems like the IESO is telling the government only what they want to hear. And that they may not be as independent as the ‘I’ in their name suggests.


  2. Amazing what subsidies from the many to the few can do for PR!

    Warren Buffet publicly stated (2014). “…on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

    Then there’s wind-power’s sadun-environmental reality… (Irish example)
    View at

    Click to access Full-Report-True-Cost-of-Wind1.pdf

    Click to access 150226-Sub-TW-WindTurbines.pdf

    And so on and on. Wind boosters fail to mention the ~2000 tons of raw materials needed to build 1MW of average wind energy delivery over a year, and that all those raw materials are processed using fossil fuel.

    Someone once said: “It’s easier to lie than to convince someone they’ve been lied to”.

    Wind folks know that all too well.
    Dr. a. Cannara
    650 400 3071


    1. Dr. a. Cannara, thank you for listing this research you’ve done. This is precisely what people need to see and to use to pressure this government into making the necessary changes.
      When one adds links to the published frightening and distressing experiences of the many rural people in this province who have tried every way they possibly can to convey to our ‘leaders’ that the noise, the low frequency noise modulations and infrasound radiation are having on them because their homes have been surrounded by wind power stations, it explains clearly why people are so enraged.
      Imagine having to work within the relevant agencies when you can see the mess your government has made and you realize you are complicit.
      We need experts running the energy portfolio and we need to be able to fire them if they do not meet certain criteria.


    2. “It’s much easier to fool someone than convince them they have been fooled” Mark Twain

      As recently as the last LTEP in SSM when the little IESO guy was startled to find we were up on the finer points of the East West Tie doubling of the transmission from Thunder Bay to Wawa as a requirement for North American Electricity Reliability, it was claimed that this was NOT intended to enable additional wind development (NB the word “intended”) and yet…
      “As well, the projects would be dependent upon the creation of the east-west transmission tie line, which is scheduled for completion in 2020, to create capacity for new projects.”

      We have a tyranny folks.

      Political language … is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. —George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language” (1946)


  3. my question is this – would it not help to lower the cost of electricity for domestic consumption in order to decrease the amount of electricity being sold at a huge loss to new York and Michigan? we lose 7/8’s of the value of each kwh we sell to new York, Michigan et al. 7/8’s of what – 40% of the power we produced? So if we sell less to them, we have less of a loss to pay for in the global adjustment… Any thoughts on trying to spark increased demand through lower prices in order to counter the cost of our excess supply?


    1. The answer to your question is yes. If they dropped the prices and created more demand we wouldn’t have to curtail wind, spill hydro or steam off Bruce and we would export less at a loss, but, our average consumption would go up and they would have to admit that conservation spending is a complete waste of ratepayer dollars. I know the OEB/IESO is being tasked with looking at pricing plans that are different than TOU and may even run some pilot projects but I suspect it will not change the minds of the current ruling party as it would be an admission of their screwup!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: