Open up your wallets and prepare for blackouts

Wind and solar generation will save us from “climate change” according to the pundits

One doesn’t have to search Google for hours to find the reputed attributes of wind and solar as an energy choice.  The message always tells us their costs keep falling and the energy they use is free and doesn’t generate emissions.  Sounds like utopia unless you live in places like South Australia or California who have had unfavourable experiences with blackouts and/or rolling blackouts!  South Australia has the highest electricity rates in that country and California the 7th highest rates in the USA of all states and both have endorsed wind and solar generation in a major way.

Could that utopia soon be a part of Canada’s experiences as it has been in South Australia, California, the UK and our own lotus-land of Ontario (no blackouts yet, thanks to nuclear, hydro and gas plants) with the highest (before taxpayer subsidies) electricity rates in Canada?

Those who follow the news in Canada since re-election of the Trudeau led Liberal Party should expect the events in the above named locations will soon permeate the rest of Canada as the Speech from the Throne implied.  The Throne Speech, in many ways suggested the Federal Liberal Government; with support from the NDP, will push to blanket Canada with wind turbines and solar panels. “Building back better” as contained in the “Speech” stated: “It will also include fighting climate change, and maintaining a commitment to fiscal sustainability and economic growth as the foundation of a strong and vibrant society.” The speech goes on to declare; in respect to the Paris Accord: “The Government will immediately bring forward a plan to exceed Canada’s 2030 climate goal. The Government will also legislate Canada’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.”  The message is clear and amplified by government departments including the Canada Energy Regulator who posted the following: “As capital costs for wind and solar continue to fall, they become increasingly competitive with fossil fuels in generating power, and will likely become greater sources of power generation in the years ahead.”

When one reads the balderdash emanating from our elected politicians echoed by the bureaucrats charged with executing those destructive beliefs it’s disconcerting. Facts matter!

Ontario’s 2019 wind and solar Costs 

Let’s start with the contracted costs of wind and solar generation in Ontario for 2019.  The IESO in their 2019 Year-end-Data Report show “grid connected” wind delivered 11.0 TWh (terawatt hours) and solar delivered 0.7 TWh.  From that information and the grid connected capacity, one can determine what the “embedded” wind and solar connected capacity should have added to total generation.  As it turns out “embedded” wind and solar added around 4.07 TWh of solar and 1.65 TWh of wind generation.  So total wind generated was 12.65 TWh and solar 4.77 TWh. It one applies the “average” cost of $135/MWh for wind and $448/MWh for solar the cost to the electricity sector was $3.844 billion. Including the cost of the 2.581 TWh IESO curtailed @ $120/MWh the total cost becomes $4.133 billion or a per kWh (kilowatt hour) cost of 23.9 cents.   

In addition to the foregoing IESO also reported in 2019 there were 292 nuclear maneuvers (steam-off) and 2 nuclear shutdowns resulting in 0.7 TWh curtailed and those costs were around $60 million. On top of that OPG reported spilling 3.3 TWh of hydro in 2019 which added $200 million in costs. Collectively those latter two events were probably related to wind and/or solar generation pushing the price of delivered wind and solar generation to an average cost of 25.9 cents/kWh.

The other issue surrounding wind and solar relates to their unreliability and intermittency when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun is hiding behind clouds.  Some time ago the German energy giant, E.ON, their largest grid operator, noted:  “wind needs about 90% back-up” and reference to IESO’s Reliability Report rates wind and solar with capabilities averaging approximately 15% for both.  That strongly suggests wind and solar need at least 85% back-up so the 4,910 MW of wind and the 2754 MW of solar capacity require 6,514 MW of gas plant capacity for those times when the wind is not available or the sun is behind clouds.  Most of Ontario’s gas plants are contracted on the basis of capacity and on average are paid $10K per MW per month for their capacity.  What the foregoing suggests is the 6,514 MW of gas plants as back-up would add costs of just over $780 million annually to the electricity bills in Ontario.  This increases the total cost of wind and solar generation to 30.4 cents/kWh

The foregoing flie’s in the face of the bogus claims wind and solar are cheap sources of electricity. In Ontario they added total costs of almost $5.3 billion for their generation of 17.2 TWh in 2019.

As if to solidify wind and solar add no value it is worth noting Ontario exported 19.779 TWh in 2019 selling it to NY, Michigan, etc. at an average HOEP (hourly Ontario energy price) of $18.3 million/TWh generating revenue of $362 million.  The costs to Ontario’s electricity system however averaged $126.3 million/TWh meaning Ontario ratepayers and taxpayers provided subsidies of $2.136 billion for those exports. Co-incidentally those 19.779 TWh were 2.5 TWh over what wind and solar generated so without their generation we probably woud have saved $1.87 billion!

In an effort to ensure Ontario’s economy is further crippled Ecojustice, a charity, launched a lawsuit against the Ontario Government on behalf of themselves, Greenpeace (who lost their charitable status) and Wilderness Committee (another charity) claiming the government failed to consult before making changes to environmental laws under Bill 197. Those changes were related to the Environmental Assessment Act and the Planning Act.

To top things off Kitchener City Council voted unanimously on October 26, 2020 to join Halton Hills in calling on the Province to phase out gas-fired power production by 2030. Perhaps the local municipal politicians in Halton Hills and Kitchener were spurred on by the Ontario Clean Air Alliance who in April issued what they labelled a 12 page “report” titled “Phasing-Out Ontario’s Gas-Fired Power Plants”.  The report failed to examine facts and suggests more wind generation (off-shore) plus imported power from Quebec could replace all gas generation in Ontario.  The unnamed author(s) of the report failed to note Quebec is a “winter” peaking province and during those months would not have the surplus power availability for Ontario, so those potential future blackouts in Ontario would occur during our winter. 

From all appearances it seems conclusive that the “charitable” environmental organizations in Canada are intent on not only driving up the cost of electricity further to make Canada an economic wasteland but seem inane to the realization their recommendations could result in future blackouts. 

The time has come to remove the charitable status of these environmentalist groups and their use of our tax dollars aimed at crippling the Canadian economy!

Author: parkergallantenergyperspectivesblog

Retired international banker.

6 thoughts on “Open up your wallets and prepare for blackouts”

  1. I don’t dispute your claim that wind and solar energy costs more then gas or other fuels but you seem to ignore what experts say about climate change. If you don’t believe in climate change, check out what’s happening in the Arctic lately. Yes it’s going to cost us to reduce CO2 if we want our grandchildren to live in an inhabitable planet. What alternatives are there? It’s easy to criticize, not so easy to come up with a better solution.

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    1. B. Hutchinson, although more greenhouse gases (Anthropogenic CO2) always increase surface temperatures, the question remains….nobody has been able to answer by how much. The IPPC considers all or most of the recent warming to be man-made, but that is incompatible with paleoclimatic evidence from the Holocene and the last deglaciation.

      If a significant part of the warming has other causes (solar, natural variability), then the answer is that an increase in ACO2 causes little warming. What’s happening in the Artic has happened numerous times in the past, it is a cyclical phenomenon.

      I think the whole climate scare thing has been successfully oversold and the climate, at many different timescales fluctuates naturally…but that’s my worthless opinion. What’s important is to understand where the science ends and supposition begins. The following is a brief explanation of what is and isn’t known…..

      The instrumental record indicates the planet has been sporadically warming since the coldest decade (1640-50) of the “The Little Ice Age” (1250-1850), one of several cooling periods within the current interglacial epoch, The Holocene. From the mid-17th century existing data indicates mean temperature has increased .5 degrees C. per century. The ice-core millenial temperature reconstructions (GISP2) suggest the idea of an ongoing recovery out of the LIA is reasonable.

      The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) supports the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) hypothesis claiming the late 20th century warming (.5°C.) was mostly man-made. The academic climate science community explains the heat “trapped” by the additional CO2 (est.100 parts per million of the 410 ppm level) from our emissions along with the supposed lack of any other valid explanation affirms the position.

      Carbon dioxide (CO2) does not actually “trap” heat, rather it convects it, (hot air rises, even if that “air” is CO2). Heat flux at the surface is “evaporation and convection”, scientifically described as “latent and sensible”. The surface is also where CO2 plays its vital role; the macroscopic effect of allowing photosynthesis and life on earth.

      The much talked about CO2 “greenhouse effect” although not actually a greenhouse effect, is well understood and not in question. CO2 is a radiatively active molecule, its absorption spectra is measured, it is resonant in the far infrared (IR) of the electromagnetic scale, centered on an amplitude of 15 microns, for which the corresponding temperature (minus 50-70°C.) is found 5 to 6 kilometers above the surface, above the cloud deck where there is no water vapor yet still within the troposphere. Heat flux at this level is primarily radiative, it is academically described as the “Average Emission Level”* where incoming solar shortwave IR is balanced with outgoing terrestrial longwave IR (energy in = energy out; thermodynamics 1st law). So, the man-made CO2 raises the level to a colder altitude thus delaying the radiative cooling process ergo the atmospheric temperatures below (including the surface) must increase to re-establish equilibrium. (Entropy never decreases, maximum entropy is equilibrium; thermo 2nd law.)

      So the entire AGW premise is that there is an imbalance in the amount of radiant energy delivered to Earth by the Sun and the amount of radiant energy lost by the Earth due to thermal radiation. The difference shows up as an increase in atmospheric temperature, and thus we have the concept of “global warming.” How much it warms is the debate. The IPCC places estimates of mean temperature increase from 1.5 to 4°C per atmospheric doubling from ice-core measured pre-industrial CO2 levels (270ppm). Observational (satellite era data) studies lead to estimates around 1°C with no cause for alarm. There actually is no experimental support.

      Furthermore, the academic emphasis on CO2 climate overlooks the scrutiny required to dismiss the other arguments… natural variability, solar activity, the fluid dynamics for both ocean and atmosphere and the influence of the equator to pole temperature gradients. CO2 is a trace gas, its atmospheric portion is 400 molecules per million molecules of air, the man-made portion of that is one molecule per 2,500 molecules of air. The “evidence” for AGW amounts to extrapolations of selected short-term trends apparent in the instrumental record, numerical model projections, comparing the mush of proxy data with current temperature data and treating a “consensus” as a scientific case for CO2 climate…in other words science by vote.

      *Richard Lindzen, Professor Emeritus, Earth Sciences, M.I.T.

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    2. Drop wind and solar. We at all levels Government should incentivize a rapid move to modular Nuclear. Moltex Energy has a project in New Bruswick. There are many Molten Salt designs with great potential to choose from. We need factory build 250megawatt modular components, economies of scale, building safe nuclear energy producing electricity at a cost similar to coal at $30.00 Mwh. Moltex Energy has Molten Salt technology and a design for Peaker plants. Producing 2 Gigawatts all day long, and the capacity to peak at 3 Gigawatts for a few hours when needed. Read about New Brunswick here. https://www.moltexenergy.com/our-first-reactor/

      Wind and Solar is fools gold. Wind & Solar is just simply King size stupid. Wind and Solar if we must, to a maximum of 10%, its too intermittent.
      I also am not convinced AGW, My beliefs are more in line with Richard Lindzen & Patrick Moore. Life is good with 4-500 parts per million. Also note, the Arctic has warmed, but other locations have cooled, a loopy jet stream. I am more concerned about potential climate change from the Beaufort Gyer.
      https://www.pri.org/stories/2018-01-06/scientists-are-keeping-close-eye-beaufort-gyre

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    3. Based on the 2013 LTEP in Ontario, the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers reported that ” From 2016 to 2032 as Ontario phases out nuclear capacity to make room for wind and solar, CO2 emissions will double”. See the entire report online by typing the words: Ontario electricity dilemma.
      Also the IESO published an article entitled “Cutting Wind Power Cuts CO2 Emissions”.
      In others words, more wind and solar generation means more emissions. Also, in Ontario propane generators are used to provide energy to start up wind generators. Media and some politicians do a very poor job at informing the public. Robert Hornung of Canadian Wind Energy spouts preposterous ideas concerning wind power.

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  2. Five billion/year to subsidise this mess to keep our power rates low. The November 1 increase should have been 20% instead of 2%.

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