Ecojustic, the ironic charity

The charity, Ecojustice Canada Society, claims, “everything starts with the law” but, certain events related to their involvement in recent court actions suggest what should be added to their statement is; “as long as it suits our views”!

Ecojustice recently noted on their website; “In about 48 hours, my colleague Harry Wruck and I will appear in the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC). We’re arguing that British Columbia has a right—and a constitutional duty—to protect communities and the environment from toxic diluted bitumen spills.”

So, in the above case they were arguing provincial jurisdiction should take precedent over Federal jurisdiction but only one month earlier their website had the following statement; “That’s why for the last year, we’ve helped the David Suzuki Foundation and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation participate as interveners in Ontario, Saskatchewan and now Alberta’s attempts to derail national-coordinated efforts to take action on climate change, including putting a price on carbon pollution.”

The argument they plan to make in the upcoming SCC cases, by supporting the Federal jurisdiction against the provinces, is of course related to the “carbon tax” implemented by the Federal government under the “Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act”.

In the latter case, perhaps, because they received “charitable” status, their aim is to protect that status by having others pay tax so they can remain tax-free.  Others of their ilk will be pleased to support them due to their ability to receive a tax receipt!

Those oxymoronic views entice you to examine Ecojustice’s CRA filings where one notes they (over the five years of financial reports) spent $3.658 million on fundraising activities and raised $1.806 million as a result.  Logic suggests by not spending money on fundraising activities they could have saved $1.852 million of tax-free funds which may have been useful for other court actions.

Also, over those five years, Ecojustice received almost $5.4 million in donations from other CRA registered charities including; the University of Ottawa, two Tides registered charities, the McConnell Foundation, Ivey Foundation, etc. and several were (surely a coincidence) also funders of the Ecofiscal Commission and the Pan-Canadian Expert Collaboration.  Of the total revenue ($30.895 million) reportedly received by Ecojustice over five years, 58% ($17.932 million) was expensed for compensation and 52.7% ($16.278 million) was reputedly allocated for “charitable activities”-like fighting for a carbon tax!

It is also noteworthy, despite Ecojustice’s many claims, they also fight on behalf of “species at risk” yet they’ve never intervened in any actions in Ontario in support of groups fighting the intrusion of industrial wind turbines (IWT) and the harm they cause to “species at risk” (birds, bats, turtles, etc).  Various nature groups in Ontario have fought IWT intrusion in front of ERTs (environmental review tribunals) and Ontario courts and not once has Ecojustice joined them.  One should wonder why?

Ecojustice supports continued implementation of a carbon tax in support of the Liberal, Federally imposed tax by working against the province’s elected governments.  The carbon tax will have no effect on the planet’s climate!  On the other hand, Ecojustice claim they fight on behalf of species at risk, but don’t defend those “species at risk” when  harmed by industrial wind turbines.

Truly ironic!

Ontario ratepayers and taxpayers pay up for Hydro One’s Niagara transmission line

The 76-kilometre Niagara transmission line, meant to strengthen power ties between New York State and Ontario, with a capacity to import/export as much as 800 megawatts of electricity has finally been completed.

Recently, information submitted to the OEB (EB-2018-0275) in a rate application stated: “The Project was originally approved by the Ontario Energy Board on July 8, 2005 pursuant to EB-2004-0476 but construction was halted in 2006 until earlier this year due to a third-party land dispute.

The Niagara transmission line was finally completed August 30, 2019, or over 14 years after construction started. It’s been a long road!

The decision and order from the OEB blessed the application (they generally do for Hydro One) noting; “Niagara Reinforcement Limited Partnership’s (NRLP) interim 2020 revenue requirement request of $9,389,914 is approved.”

The approval for NRLP rather than Hydro One is a reflection of well over a decade of negotiations to satisfy the Six Nations of the Grand River and, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.  Contained in a note in the 3rd Quarter financial results of Hydro One, indicates a portion of the Niagara line was sold to them in the entity now referenced as NRLP. The pertinent part of the audit note stated:  “Hydro One Networks sold to the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation and, through a trust, to the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation a 25.0% and 0.1% equity interest in NRLP partnership units, respectively, for total consideration of $12 million, representing the fair value of the equity interest acquired.”  The Mississaugas also hold an option to purchase another 20%. NRLP was created for the sole purpose of allowing that to happen.

On November 5, 2015 an article headlined “Powerline to nowhere” on CTV, noted the cost of the line to that point was $100 million plus $54.5 million in interest payments (including $5 million in interest payments for 2016).  If one adds another $10 million in interest payments for 2017 and 2018 it appears the total cost of the Niagara line was in the neighbourhood of $165 million at a minimum.  In NRLP’s submission to the OEB the actual costs of the line were claimed to be $120 million, but it’s unclear if that included any interest. Either way the cost of the line was north of $165 million yet 25% of it was sold for $12 million which seems like a pretty good deal.  Details on the Mississaugas option were not disclosed.

It should be noted Hydro One had to seek an injunction in July 2019, after repeated attempts were made to block work on the transmission project.  They stated; “Work stopped again in January when members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC) blocked access to the construction sites and issued a “cease and desist” order.  The CBC reported; “Hydro One’s statement of claim says the defendants “have a long history of organizing blockades, causing public disruption, breaching court orders” and interfering with land development and utilities as a tactic to negotiate compensation and other benefits to members of the Confederacy.”  The article also said: “The Six Nations and Mississaugas will have 45 per cent ownership* of the project, said Hydro One, and the project will create jobs and economic benefits.”  The injunction was granted by the judge in that appeal and as noted the line was completed August 30, 2019

The estimated cost of the line (north of $165 million) mentioned above has now been passed on to Ontario ratepayers via the OEB decision.  There were lots of other costs picked up by taxpayers in Ontario** and the rest of Canada as suggested in the partial list of material contained in the Chronology of Events at Caledonia in the former Federal Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Ministry website suggesting the other activities associated with the happenings in Caledonia also may have cost the Canadian taxpayers as much or more than the $165 million associated with the Niagara transmission line but that is for someone else to determine.

Conclusion

Perhaps we in Ontario should be grateful for the delay in completing the transmission line as it prevented the sale of even more of our surplus power from wind and solar etc. to New York for pennies on the dollar. The delay may have accidentally saved us ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars due to the 14 years it took to complete.

*Acquisition details related to the Mississaugas’ 20% purchase option are not available but are believed to expire quickly.

** The Ontario government agreed to pay $20 million to residents and business owners of Caledonia who suffered through the native protest at a housing development in Caledonia.

November 2019 a reflection on the cost of reducing emissions in Ontario’s electricity system

IESO finally released the November 2019 Monthly Market Report in early January and compared with November 2018 overall costs (GA + HOEP) for Class B ratepayers was down slightly from $123.69/MWh to $120.54MWh (12 cents/kWh) or 2.8%. Falling exports of 975,600 MWh (down by 151,200 MWh or 13.4%) from 2018 resulted in Ontario experiencing a drop in overall costs despite the GA being slightly higher (98 cents/MWh) in 2019*.  The drop in exports resulted in ratepayer costs of $97.1 million versus $111 million in November 2018. Ontario ratepayers are obliged to pick up the GA costs**.

Intrigued by the marginal good news for November 2019 and the arrival of 2020, nostalgia overtook my brain waves!  A decade ago, I started my quest to explore the electricity sector in Ontario. My quest coincided with a high electricity bill and the passage of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA) in 2009.  The GEA passage led to the OPA (Ontario Power Authority) receiving directives from various Energy Ministers in the McGuinty/Wynne led Liberal provincial governments telling the bureaucratic experts how to run the system.  It was meant to signal the world; Ontario was a beacon in emission reductions.1 The ministerial directives were aimed at contracting for renewable energy (principally in the form of industrial wind turbines [IWT] and solar panels) and closing two coal power plants.  Due to above market rates offered to (mainly foreign) companies and the lack of a cost/benefit analysis rates skyrocketed as projects were commissioned.  The consequence of creating the highest electricity rates in Canada and the US resulted in total defeat of the Ontario Liberal Party in 2018.

Based on the “nostalgia” it is perhaps worth going back a decade to November 2009 and compare it with the one just passed.

All-in Generation Costs for November 2009:

The IESO Monthly Market Report for November 2009 indicated the weather over the month was warmer than normal whereas in November 2019 is was colder than normal and as one might expect the latter resulted in higher Ontario demand coming in at a daily average of 375,178 MWh versus 370,578 MWh in 2009.  The extra 138,000 MWh we consumed in 2019 would translate into higher costs even if the cost of generation had remained the same. The weighed average cost (GA +HOEP) for November 2009 was $68.39 MWh so the additional 138,000 MWh Ontario ratepayers consumed should have added approximately $9.4 million.  It is worth noting back in 2009 there was only one ratepayer class so the $9.4 million would have added 84 cents for each additional MWh consumed. The average household back then was consuming 800 kWh monthly.  The total consumption of 11.117 TWh (terawatt hours) by Ontario ratepayers in November 2009 had a cost of $760.4 million.

All-in Generation Costs for November 2019:

 So, ten years later in November 2019 the 11.255 TWh consumed by Ontario ratepayers cost considerably more than the $760.4 million suggested above.  The weighted average cost for this recent November came in at $120.24 for Class B ratepayers; an increase of $51.85/MWh or 75.8% for the 8.106 TWh they consumed.  For Class A ratepayers the ten-year increase was only $3.59/MWh or 5.2% for the 3.384 TWh they consumed.  Putting the foregoing in perspective if Class B ratepayers consumed 8.106 TWh in 2009 the cost would have been $554.4 million and in 2019 it was $974.7 million or $420.3 million more for just November!   For Class A ratepayers the increase would have been a much lower amount of only $12.1 million costing them $243.6 million versus $231.4 in 2009.

As one can deduce from the foregoing the $760.4 million all-in costs for one month of electricity generation in 2009 jumped to $1.218 billion (up $457.9 million) in the decade.  The jump of $457.9 million impacted Class B ratepayers (residential and small and medium sized businesses) to a much greater extent than Class A businesses and is only representative of one month.

What caused the jump?

The increased costs drove our average rate of 6.84 cents/kWh in November 2009 to 12.02 cents/kWh (UP 75.7%) in November 2019.  That increase is about four times the inflation rate and there are several reasons for the jump in costs.

One of the major causes of the increase was the addition of industrial wind generation and solar to our grid(s) over the decade.  Their intermittent and unreliable ability to generate electricity when needed meant back-up capacity (principally gas plants including the $1 billion to move two of them) was required. To top things off the intermittency of wind generation caused the market price (HOEP) to fall and the GA to increase.  The GA is not included in the sale of surplus electricity to our neighbours so we earn less for our exports to NY, Michigan, etc. but Ontario ratepayers must absorb the difference (the GA) in the contracted value and the HOEP market price.

A rough calculation of the additional losses on our exports in November 2019 versus November 2009 indicate it represents about $68 million of added costs.  Thanks to Scott Luft’s wind generation and curtailment files I was also able to calculate IWT generation costs which increased considerably from November 2009 adding $178 million to the increase. Those two additional costs of about $246 million represent about 54% of the $457.9 million increase. The balance of increased costs can be attributed to payment for additions in; solar generation, gas plants (idling costs), biomass, and some of OPG’s expenditures on Big Becky ($1.5 billion) and the Lower Mattagami ($2.6 billion) hydro projects.

If November’s comparison becomes a measure of how the GEA harmed our electricity sector by driving our electricity rates up almost 76% in the last decade we will be looking at total additional costs of around $5.5 billion in 2019 versus 2009. The $457.9 million is but one month of comparison out of the 120 months since the start of 2009 so the final number for the decade will probably be in the tens of billions of dollars to achieve those emission reductions sought by the governing Ontario Liberals.

*The GA or Global Adjustment rate for Class B ratepayers has been higher in 10 of 11 months in 2019 compared to 2018.                                                                                                    **Exports are sold at the HOEP (hourly Ontario electricity price) price via the market to traders who buy/sell our surplus energy to Michigan, New York, Quebec and other grid connected markets.

  1. The Ontario Energy Quarterly shows our CO2 emissions fell from 20 megatonnes at the start of 2010 to 2 megatonnes at the end of the 2019 second quarter.

More of CanWEA’s wind spin

Wind energy is “reliable and cost-competitive

Shortly after Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment Conservation and Parks revoked the REA (Renewal Energy Approval) for the North Stormont, Nation Rise wind turbine project, CanWEA (Canadian Wind Energy Association) reacted. They issued an apoplectic press release which beyond suggesting; the sky is falling, made the claim, wind energy is both “reliable and cost-competitive”!

Anyone who has taken the time to read any of my rants over the past 10 years will know I have pointed out the fallacies of CanWEA’s claims on numerous occasions with two recent ones pointing out wind’s tendency in Ontario to generate energy when it’s not needed.  That bad habit creates surplus generation that must be curtailed (and paid for) or accepted into the grid and then causes the HOEP (hourly Ontario electricity price) to fall. One should suspect those surplus MWh (megawatt hours) it generates causes IESO to sell off unneeded power to our neighbours in NY, Michigan, etc. at rock bottom prices.

Those two recent articles mentioned above highlighted five December days of additional costs of almost $40 million caused by wind generation.  That generation brought absolutely no benefit to Ontario ratepayers but we were obliged to pay the costs due to the generous contracts awarded after the GEA (Green Energy Act) was passed in 2009 by the previous Ontario led Liberal government.

Three more days of unreliable and costly wind energy:

The existing TX (grid connected) industrial wind turbines (IWT) operating in Ontario over December 30th and 31st along with January 1, 2020 were humming and collectively generated 155,228 MWh of grid accepted energy and their owners were also paid for 81,250 MWh (rounded) for curtailed generation.  The costs of the foregoing at $120/MWh for curtailed wind and $135/MWh for TX connected generation produced income of approximately $30.7 million for the owners over the three days or about 20 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) accepted into the grid.  One should also assume OPG were obliged to spill water and were paid for doing so and the gas plants were paid to idle to back up both intermittent wind and solar. None of those costs are included in the 20 cents/kWh we ratepayers were forced to absorb.

Three days of exporting surplus for pennies:

The reference to selling our surplus generation for pennies is not an exaggeration as the average sales price over the three days was .39 cents a MWh.  Remember there are 1000 kWh in just one MWh!

IESO sold off 201,936 MWh* in three days for pennies while Ontario ratepayers picked up the costs of wind energy (grid accepted and curtailed) of 236,478 MWh.  Its not a stretch to note, without wind energy net exports would have been less and the HOEP would have been much higher than the average it achieved for those three days. The $78,755.00 at .39/MWh earned by IESO from the export of those 201,936 MWh fell very short of the cost to generate them! Using the all-in average Ontario commodity rate for 2019 of $111.80 MWh as estimated by my friend Scott Luft those exports cost us Ontario ratepayers in excess of $22.5 million.

Without the unneeded wind energy and its cost of $30.7 million, Ontario’s nuclear plants, running at their current capability level could have provided 834,000 MWh over three days. Hydro running at only 50% of its capacity could have provided a minimum of 282.000 MWh which collectively would have been more (1,116,000 MWh) than Ontario’s demand (1,052,000 MWh) over those three days.

The time has come for CanWEA to do an about face and admit:  wind energy is both “unreliable and costly”!

*What 2.7 million average Ontario households would consume in three days.

IESO continues their “Black Friday” sale

NY and Michigan benefit while Ontario ratepayers pick up the costs

Well, I guess it was inevitable; IESO would be forced to continue with their “Black Friday” sale as the Christmas week produced “mild” winter weather on Christmas day, Boxing Day and the Friday following them.  Mild weather meant average Ontario demand over the three days was a low 341,221 MWh per day even though Christmas lights were in full bloom! Base-load power from nuclear and must-run hydro could have easily supplied our needs however, wind and solar are also classified as base-load and the wind was definitely blowing.

IESO sold off net exports of 178,152 MWh (what 2.3 million [50% of all households] average Ontario households would consume in three days) at big discounts to NY, Michigan, Quebec and a few other neighbours.  The average sale price over those three days was $14.74/MWh or 1.5 cents/kWh. Based on the (so far in 2019) annual average cost reported by IESO for October (GA+HOEP = $127.55MWh) the sale price represented an 88.4% discount.   Net exports were sold for a loss of $20.1 million!

Over those same three days curtailed wind was about 21,900 MWh and grid accepted wind generation came in at 103,652 MWh so collectively represented 70% of Ontario’s net exports and added $16.6 million to the costs of electricity. If all grid accepted industrial wind generation was sold as part of net exports it would have earned only $1.63 million instead of the $16.6 million of its cost for curtailed and grid accepted generation.

If Ontario had absolutely no industrial wind turbines in the province, our net exports over those three days would have cost us a maximum of $5.13 million ($20.1 million – $16.6 million + $1.63 million). In fact, it would have probably cost even less as those trading in the HOEP market are aware of our surplus generation and bid in at very low prices knowing IESO must sell it to avoid grid related problems.

So, another three days saddles Ontario ratepayers with costs of $20.1 million without any reduction in either our carbon emissions or the carbon tax the Federal government impose!

Perhaps it’s time the Federal Government handed out carbon credits to Ontario ratepayers for our long standing support in reducing emissions for New York, Michigan, Quebec and those other markets benefiting from our clean electricity exports.   Based on the loss over those three days of $20.1 million annualized ratepayer costs would amount to almost $2.5 billion.

If us long suffering Ontario ratepayers were handed some “carbon credits” to help us offset those new and annoying “carbon taxes” on our home heating and other bills we might be able to put up with this continuing debacle!

If not IESO should find a way to fix this mess!

Merry Christmas to Michigan and New York

From: Ontario’s ratepayers

Once again, the generosity of Ontario ratepayers stood out on the recent Sunday and Monday (December 22nd and December 23rd) before Christmas day.

Ontario’s demand was relatively low, averaging only 357,900 MWh over the two days so our grid operator (IESO) had a “Black Friday” sale.  They pretty well gave away almost all of our surplus generation by exporting (net exports) 118,680 MWh* over those two days.  They sold off those net exports of 65,592 MWh on the 22nd and only charged $4.32/MWh and another 53,088 MWh on the 23rd for the discount price of $5.16/MWh. That means those 118,680 MWh generated only about $560K (rounded) while ratepayers absorbed all of the costs under the contracted and/or regulated prices.

Co-incidently the IWTs (industrial wind turbines) were active over the two days so IESO had them curtail approximately 22,500 MWh but accepted 117,237 MWh on our grids.  Ontario ratepayers paid the price for both the curtailed ($120/MWh) and the grid accepted ($135/MWh) wind.  If one tally’s the MWh of grid accepted and curtailed wind one notes it represented 117.7% of net exports over those two days. The costs of the two of them came to approximately $18,527,000 which Ontario ratepayers are on the hook for.  The unneeded generation from IWT therefore represented a cost to ratepayers of almost $18 million ($18.527 million less the $560K paid for those net exports at the HOEP price).

As is obvious from the information above, Ontario didn’t need the IWT generation but are obliged to pick up their costs.  The only ratepayer benefit resulting from paying for curtailed and grid accepted wind is knowing we helped our neighbours in Michigan, New York and a couple of other grids connected in getting very cheap electricity.  Let’s hope they appreciate our charitable attributes!

Doing the above on a continual basis would cost Ontario ratepayers more than $3 billion annually.

*Annual average consumption of over 13,000 Ontario households

Environmental Charities and Foundations

Where the top 10% of the middle-class hang out

Researching the Pan-Canadian Expert Collaboration members compelled the viewing of various filings on the CRA’s website. The filings for “charities/foundations” requires them to provide a small amount of information associated with how much the top 10 employees operating them are paid within salary bands.  Those bands start at $1 to $39,999 and climb by $40K increments until reaching $199,999. From that point forward they jump by $50K until reaching $349,999.  The last band is “$350,000 and over”.

With the foregoing in mind it is fascinating to look at those charities/foundations and, in several cases, when the chosen member was associated with a university, to look at the university foundations holding charitable status in support* of the entity chosen as a member of the “Collaboration”. One example of the latter is, “Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission” attached to McGill University. Ecofiscal recently suggested Canada’s “carbon tax” will have to rise to $210/tonne to possibly achieve our reduction in emissions committed under the Paris Agreement.

One of those on the list of 21 is not a Canadian institution and a couple of them can’t be found on the CRA’s charities listing which may mean they are using a different name as a “registered” charity but don’t disclose that name to the public on their website.  Another two of those in the “Collaboration” (Ivey Foundation and Trottier Family Foundation) each report having only four (4) employees on their payroll.

As a result of the foregoing there are only 132 employees falling into the various bands based on the CRA filings among the names associated with the collaboration.

Of the 132 employees located on the CRA’s listings, 102 or 77.3% are in bands exceeding the $200.000 and up category and 53 (40.1%) of them are in bands exceeding $300,000.  To top things off 26 or 19.7% of those 132 employees are identified as being in the “$350,000 and over” category.

It certainly appears the appointees managing those charities/foundations involved in the Pan-Canadian Expert Collaboration firmly believe in the very old expression; “charity begins at home”.

Many of us wish they would stop using our tax dollars to achieve the above average remuneration for research and recommendations to the government that will probably result in a further rise in the “carbon tax” and our cost of living.

*Instead of a donation to the “entity” it is made to the university foundation who issue a charitable tax receipt but provide the funding for the research.

PS:  Full disclosure: the writer is a member of a charity contributing to our community but we  pay our executives nothing!