Rants about Ontario’s electricity system

Canada Day came and went without parades or fireworks to celebrate the 153rd year of Canada’s birth as the Covid-19 pandemic lock-down kept many of us confined to small social bubbles.  The exceptions were those who chose to defy regulations and participated in anti-racism protests, both indigenous and anti-black ones across the country.  To most it seemed a strange way to celebrate our country’s successes. At least the weather was sunny and very warm in Ontario on July 1st!

Industrial Wind Turbines on Canada Day In Ontario

As is often the custom in Ontario on hot humid summer days, most of the IWT (industrial wind turbines) took the day off so the 4,800 MW of capacity they have was virtually silent.  Had they operated at 100% of capacity they would have delivered 115,000 MWh but instead they only managed to puff out 7,440 MWh and had 400 MWh curtailed (at 11 PM) meaning they operated at a level of capacity of 6.8% including the curtailed MWh.  As the morning broke at hour 9 AM they generated 8 MWh or 0.017% of capacity.  Fortunately, we didn’t need their power as nuclear, hydro and gas easily supplied our needs throughout the day even though total market demand reached 22,641 MWh and Ontario demand peaked at 19,342 MWh or 402,000 MWh for the full day.  Our net exports were north of 45,000 MWh which earned us ratepayers only about $750,000 while costing us close to $7 million.

Hydro One’s 1st Quarter Distribution Results raises unanswered questions

Hydro One announced their 1st Quarter 2020 results on May 8, 2020 and they were pretty unexciting with adjusted earnings of .38 cents per share compared to .52 cents in the comparable 2019 quarter. Examining this further; revenue related to Hydro One’s distribution customers increased $118 million (+ 8.9%) but they reported a decline of $82 million (- 16%), net of purchased power.  The latter reputedly climbed from a cost of $807 million in 2019 to $1,007 million in 2020 or $200 million (+ 24.8%).  Now the odd thing one notes is consumption fell by 254,000 MWh* or 3.3% yet costs increased meaning the average cost per MWh shot up $29.31/MWh from $104.29/MWh to $134.60/MWh or 28.1% and well above the increase reported by IESO!  Interestingly if one looks at Note “23. Related Party Transactions” it states in one line; “Amounts related to electricity rebates” which for 2020 totaled $433 million and in 2019 was $138 million for an increase of $295 million. That suggests in just one quarter (compared to the 2019 quarter) the Ford led government raised the taxpayer support to reduce electricity prices year over year by 213.8% if Hydro One is atypical of all distribution companies.  The foregoing is scary for taxpayers and due to the inferred net revenue decline for Hydro One it possibly signals they will apply for a rate increase which will hit ratepayers.  Additionally, it also raises the question; where did the $295 million extra received for those “electricity rebates” go as it should have kept the cost of purchased power lower than Hydro One claim?

IESO’s limited transparency

On a monthly basis the IESO, responsible for managing the Ontario electricity grid, put out data disclosing Class A and Class B Global Adjustment (GA) rates along with consumption by each Class. IESO also provide what they label as a Monthly Market Summary (MMS) and in it you will find consumption, the HOEP (market price) rate for the month and the Class B, GA. They also provide other data covering exports and imports, market demand, lots of charts showing unavailable capacity, operating reserve prices, etc. etc. and even temperature data.  The big difference in the two reports is in respect to “consumption”, ie “market demand” as for some reason the MMS fails to include DX (distributor connected) generation which are the myriad of smaller solar capacity contracts (2,200 MW), wind generation contracts (600 MW), biofuel, etc. etc. IESO is responsible for settling with the LDC (local distribution companies) for the generation for each of the contracts. Those details are presumably provided by the LDC where those contracts reside.  What that tells us is; if IESO was truly transparent they would include the monthly generation created by those DX connected generators so those of us watching the system wouldn’t have to either make assumptions or wait until IESO publish their Year-End Data.

Wind is wimpy during peak demand hours

So far in 2020 five of the top ten peak hours have occurred in the first week of July and collectively IWT contributed 0.9% of their overall capacity during those five hours and only 1,9% of total demand.  What that implies is IWT without 99.9% back-up from reliable generation sources would leave us all sweating in the dark without air conditioning!

Hydro makes wind and solar look expensive and pretty useless

My friend Scott Luft recently posted an excellent chart on his Facebook page showing: generation by source, costs and curtailment for the first six months of each year starting with 2008.  Looking only at the 2020 data by itself is an interesting exercise in that hydro contributed 19,396 GWh (gigawatt hours), wind 7,140 GWh and solar 2,037 GWh.  It is worth noting hydro provided Ontario’s electricity system with 111.4% more power than both wind and solar combined and the average cost of hydro’s power was $59.24/MWh whereas the average cost of wind and solar was $213.69/MWh or 360% more costly. The total cost of the combined wind and solar generation was $1.961 billion versus $1.149 billion for hydro.  If one goes further Scott notes exports were 11,598 GWh so the combined generation of wind and solar represents 79.1% of those exports.  Those exports generated revenue of $17.87/MWh and if all the wind and solar (9,177 GWh) were a part of those exports the net costs to Ontario’s ratepayers and taxpayers would be approximately $1.8 billion (wind and solar related only) and that is just for the first six months of 2020.

With that cost of $1.8 billion highlighted in the foregoing paragraph I personally hope those of you who read this will forgive my rants and start ranting with me and the others who do the same!

Time for Premier Ford to fix this mess if he wants our economy to recover!

*What 102,000 average households would use over 3 months.

Author: parkergallantenergyperspectivesblog

Retired international banker.

5 thoughts on “Rants about Ontario’s electricity system”

  1. Reblogged this on Colder Air and commented:
    “I personally hope those of you who read this will forgive my rants and start ranting with me and the others who do the same!”

    I particularly enjoyed Parker’s first point, and the last two sections.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Could someone please explain to me how Ontario can afford to waste so much money, especially given the financial impacts of the decision to demand broad based lockdown ? Why are we not hearing from our Minister of Finance?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Serious questions, not easy answers. How can the Ontario treasury afford to subsidize electricity prices at the level it does? Simple answer: It really can’t, but has no choice. Either ratepayers, or taxpayers have to foot the bill – in general they are one and the same. The only debate is over: Which is the fairer way.
    As to fixing the Liberal legacy hydro mess. Not any time soon, it is a complex system where any move has, and will continue to have unexpected consequences. As a residential electricity customer who uses electric heat, and as a taxpayer, I fully expect to be paying for the Liberal legacy for the rest of my lifetime.

    Liked by 1 person

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