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.