Quarterly stats show wind power blowing Ontario electricity costs higher

A power project that began operating in 2017 … wind power causes waste of other, less expensive sources of clean power due to lucrative contracts

A cold, windy winter cost Ontario electricity consumers. And if the first quarter of 2018 is typical, we’ll pay even more…

The IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) recently released the March Monthly Summary along with the Generator Output by Fuel Type Monthly Report, so that interested parties can see a year-to-year comparison for the first quarter of 2018 versus 2017.

What the “Generator Output” shows for the first three months of 2018 versus the same period in 2017 is, grid-connected generation output was up by over 600,000 MWh (+1.6%). That suggests the colder than normal winter created increased demand, which it did by just over 700,000 MWh.  As it turned out, gas generation increased year over year by about 750,000 MWh, while Hydro generation decreased by almost 200,000 MWh.

Grid-connected industrial-scale wind turbines (IWT) also generated almost 180,000 MWh* more in the first three months of 2018 versus 2017, and saw curtailed (paid for but not used) generation increase by over 50,000 MWh.

Both of those elements increased costs for ratepayers.

In 2017, the approximate cost of wind power generation in the first quarter, coupled with curtailed generation, was just shy of $532 million. In 2018 it was $30 million higher ($562 million). If the first quarter is typical, the cost to Ontario’s ratepayers for the full year could be over $2.2 billion — just for wind power! (Note the foregoing cost estimate does not include spilled water, steamed off nuclear or the high costs of back-up generation in the form of gas plants standing “at the ready” when the wind isn’t blowing.  On the latter issue a 2017 peer reviewed report by Marc Brouillette for the Council for Clean and Reliable Energy showed wind turbines produce power of value to the grid only 35% of the time.)

To reflect on what the IESO report suggests: even though winter months are considered high demand, the grid-accepted wind power presents 65% of the time when it’s not needed. Wind power, in addition to causing waste of other (clean) sources of power such as spilled hydro, steamed off nuclear, etc., results in the IESO selling surplus power to our neighbours at prices well below the cost of wind power production due to their lucrative contracts.  Proof? Look at the grid-accepted wind power versus Ontario’s net exports.   Grid-accepted wind in the first three months of 2017 was 3.46 terawatts (TWh) and net exports (exports less imports) were 2.92 TWh; the comparable period for 2018 saw grid-accepted wind generation of 3.64 TWh and net exports of 2.86 TWh.  In other words, the wind power, if all exported, was done with only partial recovery of its costs and was excess to actual demand.

That raises the question:

Why did Ontario contract for it in the first place and why was it given “first to the grid” rights? And, why don’t we cancel any outstanding contracts** that haven’t been started if what it generates is surplus?

Paying over $500 million per quarter and as much as $2 billion annually for wind power generation increases energy poverty and sends Ontario’s manufacturing jobs south.

Parker Gallant                                                                                                                                 May 1, 2018

*Thanks to Scott Luft for his data on wind generation and curtailment!

** The government awarded five contracts for almost 300 megawatts of new wind power in 2016, one of which has reached Renewable Energy Approval. The contracts will add $1.3B to Ontario’s electricity costs.


Author: parkergallantenergyperspectivesblog

Retired international banker.

4 thoughts on “Quarterly stats show wind power blowing Ontario electricity costs higher”

  1. I always read your articles with interest Parker; however, on occasion you refer to “Wind power, in addition to causing waste other (clean) sources of power such as spilled hydro…”. As I’ve pointed out in the past, it is a well known myth that hydroelectric is clean.

    Just because dams are not spewing out smoke does not mean they are clean or green. Indeed, hydroelectric power generation has resulted in significant and ongoing impacts to fish and wildlife populations and habitat, to ecological processes, and to aboriginal communities. It’s very convenient for federal and provincial governments to ignore the hundreds of studies showing that reservoirs used to store water to produce power for peak demand produce methane, and are responsible for 7% of world greenhouse gas emissions. These and many other impacts from hydroelectric generation are only going to intensify in a warming climate.

    You can talk about the cost and waste to ratepayers as being exorbitant – I totally agree; however, don’t promote hydropower as clean in an attempt to build your case about the folly of wind generation – it’s very misleading.


  2. Not only is hydro electric an inexpensive renewable green energy but it also provides with their water management minimization and elimination of the yearly flood to communities that are built along the Canadian rivers like Ottawa and Montreal and many more that suffered flooding every year at one time. Hydro electric power plants serve the taxpayer in so many beneficial ways working with the taxpayer to make energy cheaper unlike wind energy that has along with the Liberal green energy fiasco has destroyed the energy sector in Ontario


    1. IESO FIT/microFIT prices for hydroelectric are < 500 kW – 24.1 cents/kWh vs. wind – 12.5 cents/kWh. However, the highest cost is to the riverine ecosystem – water quality, water quantity, erosion, and fishery decline. Hydroelectric dams can either increase the risk or decrease the risk of flooding – depending on the capacity of the reservoir to hold flood waters. However, dams also fail – as in October of 2015, when a South Carolina flood breached 18 dams, and resulted in 16 deaths. The Gorrie Dam, near Wingham failed last year and put 150 families at risk. Dams can and do fail, and the extremes of climate change are only going to increase that risk.


  3. Parker,

    You are quite a bit too nice to the wind developers in this province.

    The worldwide data clearly shows that renewable energy penetration is the only reason for prices to be over $0.13/kWh (delivered with all taxes). One just has to compare places like Poland, Slovakia, Michigan, Manitoba, Quebec, Kentucky, with California, Denmark, Germany, Ontario, South Australia, etc to see that this is the case. The evidence is in. Renewables cost ~$1/kWh by the time they are delivered with backup, management fees, tax breaks, transmission, etc.

    With a $0.25/kWh price in Ontario, this means that 50% of the money spent on electricity in Ontario is used on unneeded renewable energy. Your numbers are so much lower than that because they omit solar, transmission, sunshine list bureaucrats, tax breaks and other costs.

    Why not halt Ontario’s renewable contracts until Germany, the world leader in green energy, is only 2 times more carbon intensive than Ontario. Germany has electricity 5 – 10 times dirtier than ours and getting dirtier. So let’s wait a decade to see if they can catch us!


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