Record profits for Ontario Power Generation

(but there’s a catch…)

Ontario Power Generation or OPG reported their results for the year ended December 31, 2018 on March 7, 2019 and for the fourth year in a row profits were up.

Net income after taxes attributable to the “shareholder” set a record* coming in at $1.195 billion versus $860 million in 2017.

Both 2017 and 2018 net income were affected by the sale of OPG’s properties. Their Head Office sale generated a 2017 after-tax gain of $283 million, and the sale of the Lakeview property generated an after-tax gain in 2018 of $205 million.

Putting aside those one-time gains, the increase in net income of $335 million (up 39%) from 2017 to 2018 is attributable to the $379 million in additional revenue generated by OPG’s nuclear fleet and was, co-incidentally, their total revenue gain, raising OPG’s revenue from $5,158 million in 2017 to $5,537 million in 2018. The increase in nuclear generation year-over-year was nominal, rising from 40.7 TWh (terawatt hours) to 40.9 TWh.

While this may be good news for the province, there is a “catch” : this all means ratepayers will eventually have to pay for the bulk of increased revenue when the Fair Hydro Act ends. The revenue gain came about principally because the OEB granted OPG a substantial rate gain on their nuclear generation amounting to approximately one cent per kWh or about $9/MWh.**

Other good news in the financial report was the OMA (operations, maintenance and administration) costs remained relatively flat as did fuel expenses.

Looking back:                                                                                                                                                    As noted above, OPG achieved record profits in 2018, but revenue was still not a record.  If we look back and compare 2018 with their results for 2008, we find that revenue was actually higher, coming in at $6.082 billion or $545 million (9.8%) higher.  In 2008 however net income was affected by a substantial increase in income taxes and by the recession which affected bond and stock markets (down by 35%) and OPG’s income from the $9.2 billion “Nuclear fixed asset removal and nuclear waste management funds”.

The year 2008 is the year prior to introduction of the GEA and the FIT and microFIT programs which drove up the cost of power in the province and affected OPG’s ability to increase its revenue and net income. First-to-the-grid rights granted to FIT and MicroFIT participants (wind and solar) meant OPG suffered the effects of the HOEP (hourly Ontario electricity pricing) in respect to their unregulated hydro.

In subsequent years the HOEP fell, resulting in OPG’s appeal for that capacity (3,631MW) to become regulated. The appeal was granted!

Another aspect affecting hydro generation profitability is fuel costs which were $254 million for the 2008, 36.4 TWh generated and climbed to $334 million for the smaller 29.8 TWh generated (not including the 3.5 TWh spilled) in 2018. OPG were forced to write-off their fossil fuel (coal) plant costs in 2004, but in 2008 they were still contributing to Ontario’s energy needs supplying 23.2 TWh out of a total of 107.8 TWh from OPG’s generating sources.

If one looks at a simple pricing cost per kilowatt hour, in 2008, dividing OPG’s gross revenue of $6.082 billion by the 107.8 TWh generation the per kWh cost for ratepayers was 5.6 cents/kWh. Doing the same simple calculation for 2018 using gross revenue of $5.537 billion for the 74 TWh generated provides a cost of 7.5 cents/kWh for a 1.9 cents/kWh (up 33.9%) increase. Over the ten years, in simple terms, the average annual increase is approximately 3% and above the inflation rate; however, without the GEA and the FIT/microFIT programs, it is likely that OPG’s costs would have been much closer to annual inflation rates.   The foregoing is borne out if one looks at the IESO year-end reports for 2008 when they state the cost per kWh averaged 5.8 cents/kWh compared to 2018 when their year-end report shows a cost of 11.5 cents/kWh.  That translates to a 5.7 cent/kWh increase — a jump of 98.3% over the same 10-year period, or triple OPG’s costs.

In retrospect one wonders if the proponents for renewable energy (industrial wind turbines, solar panels and biomass) such as Gerald Butts, who held sway over George Smitherman (former Ontario Minister of Energy) and former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty seriously contemplated the results of their pilgrimage?

Did the damage done to the province benefit or hurt peoplekind?

You be the judge!

PARKER GALLANT

*Page 5: Financial and Operational Highlights

**Page 4: Annual Information Form

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Author: parkergallantenergyperspectivesblog

Retired international banker.

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