Weekends or weekdays: wind is a waste

October 20, 2017

Proof of the need to repeal the Unfair Green Energy Act

Tuesday October 17, 2017 was a typical Ontario fall weekday with electricity demand relatively low.

Total Ontario demand for power was slightly over 335,000* MWh for the whole day, peaking at hour 19 (7 PM) at 16,318 MW, according to the IESO’s Daily Market Summary.

That hour has significance as during weekdays, it signals the time when off-peak hours start. That Tuesday, it also was the hour when the Hourly Ontario Electricity Price (HOEP) reached its high for the day, getting all the way up to $5.01/MWh or ½ cent per kWh.

All through the day the wind was blowing. Based on the IESO’s Generator Report and Capability and their “wind generation forecast” it could have produced just over 57,000 MWh — that could have met 17% of Ontario’s demand.  IESO only accepted 20,900 MWh, however, and the other 36,100 MWh were curtailed or cut back.

The collective cost of the grid-delivered and curtailed wind generation over the 24 hours was almost $7.2 million, making the cost of the grid-accepted wind $344.50/MWh or 34 cents/kWh. Also because of a surplus of generated power, Ontario exported 38,200 MWh (almost double what IESO accepted from wind generators), principally to New York and Michigan — they had to pay them an average of $1.13 per MWh to take it.

All this makes it clear: Ontario’s electricity ratepayers don’t need any of wind’s intermittent and unreliable power, but are forced to pay for it anyway. To make matters worse, that power we subsidize gets delivered to our neighbours at negative prices. Those costs wind up on our electricity bills, too.

It’s time for Premier Wynne to stop the bleeding and kill the Unfair Green Energy Act.

 

* Numbers are rounded

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Hydro One: the Svengali behind the Fair Hydro Act?

If you are a Hydro One customer, when you get your bill this month it will include a letter addressed “To our valued customers” which describes the wonderful things Hydro One has supposedly done for you.  The letter, signed by CEO Mayo Schmidt, is filled with claims about actions taken and how they were all done to “serve you better.”

One of the paragraphs is particularly noteworthy. It declares:

“For our customers who are struggling with affordability, I want you to know that we are strongly advocating on your behalf. Earlier this year we urged government to make affordability a priority and we made several suggestions that resulted in the creation of the Fair Hydro Plan. The majority of our customers consuming 750 kWh a month have started to see an average reduction of 31 per cent on their monthly bill. For many of our customer, this represents a savings of $600 a year.”

So, the take-away from those words of sympathy from CEO Schmidt ($4.4 million* in compensation in 2016) suggests it was he — not Premier Wynne or Energy Minister Thibeault — who conceived the “kick the can down the road” concept that became the Fair Hydro Act!

Look back to a recent comment from Minister Thibeault in a CBC article, he said this about the Plan:  “ ‘This is like remortgaging our house,’ Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault told reporters Monday at Queen’s Park. “I’ve always said that the Fair Hydro Plan was a fair plan; it was the best plan we could come up with when we were talking with energy experts, accounting experts, the legal experts.”

When the Fair Hydro Plan was launched back on March 2, 2017 Premier Wynne said: “I have heard from people around the province who are worried about the price they are asked to pay for electricity and the impact it has on their household budget. Electricity is a necessity. By fixing problems in the system, we will be able to provide every residential customer in Ontario with an average 25 per cent off their bills now and make rates fairer in the future.”

So the question is, does the “we” include Hydro One’s CEO Schmidt, and is he classified as one of the “energy experts” Minister Thibeault claimed they talked with?  If so, I hope Schmidt told him about the rate increases Hydro One has applied for that will increase average customer’s bills by $141 a year in 2022 (based on current Hydro One rate applications under review by the OEB).

Those rate increases are needed by Hydro One to help pay for their upcoming purchase of Avista Corp. as it will represent a revenue gain to them of close to $500 million annually.

The LDC benefiting the most from the Fair Hydro Plan was Hydro One which still has the second highest distribution rates. Before privatization, they had the highest ratepayer arrears (past due accounts), the bulk of ratepayers accessing the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) and the highest level of bad debts.  A part of the rate increase they currently seek would allow them to install “pre-paid smart meters” meaning if a ratepayer couldn’t afford top up their account they would be automatically disconnected.

On October 17, 2017 ratepayers got further bad news from Bonnie Lysyk, Ontario’s Auditor General reported due to the way in which the Fair Hydro Plan is being financed, ratepayers will be required to pay an extra $4 billion in interest costs.  That $4 billion increases estimated borrowing costs by 19% to $21 billion to cover the forecast $18.4 billion cost of the Plan. The latter costs represent the bulk of the 25% reduction (16%**), bringing total estimated costs for this portion to $39.4 billion.

The shell game of the Ontario Liberal government in Ontario’s energy portfolio continues, aided and abetted by Hydro One. If Hydro One’s rate applications are approved, their distribution rates will jump bringing more misery to their ratepayers!

 

* The CEO’s compensation is more than the total amount available annually under the LEAP (Low-income Energy Assistance Program) from the 73 local distribution companies in the province.

** The other 9% comes from removing the provincial portion of the HST (8%) and putting the OESP and RRRP (1%) as a taxpayer responsibility.

 

Hydro One’s shopping list: new Smart Meters”!

Ka-ching! And, Hydro One is considering asking you to pay for electricity up-front …

Electricity: soon to be a luxury in Ontario? More families choose between heat, or eat

It was just a couple of years ago when then Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin issued his damning report about Hydro One’s billing errors. As quoted by the Globe and Mail, “Hydro One issued faulty bills to more than 100,000 customers, lied to the government and regulators in a bid to cover up the problem, then spent $88.3-million in public funds to repair the damage.”

The Office of the Ombudsman cannot now report on Hydro One due to partial privatization, so ratepayers obtaining their electricity from them should be prepared for this monopoly to do whatever it wants.

Prior to the release of the Ombudsman’s report the OEB said this:  “On March 26, 2015, the OEB issued a Decision and Order to amend Hydro One’s distribution license to include an exemption from the requirement to apply TOU pricing to approximately 170,000 Regulated Price Plan customers that are outside the smart meter telecommunications infrastructure. The exemption expires December 31, 2019.”

Those 170,000 RRP customers represented about 14% of Hydro One’s customer base. In December of 2015 the Ontario Auditor General in her annual report noted: “Hydro One installed 1.2 million smart meters on its distribution system at a cost of $660 million”. The math on that indicates a probable cost per meter of $550 each, including the 170,000 meters that aren’t working as they should. Now, Hydro One is back in front of the OEB seeking rate increases that will impact their ratepayers for the next five years. They are submitting thousands of pages of documents to justify their needs to increase distribution rates by 1.56cents/kWh for their rate-paying clients.

Looking at one of the Hydro One application documents, you find the following (untenable) claim related to smart meters: “There is a significant increase in projected spending in 2022, which reflects the anticipated commencement of smart meter replacement, as the current population of smart meters approach end of service life.”

This should alarm Hydro One customers—should we once again be concerned about billing problems? Will the replacements once again fall short of being able to communicate data?

Ontario’s record with smart meters is not stellar. A report issued in August 2016 by The Brattle Group report notes: “Besides Italy, Ontario is the only region in the world to roll-out smart meters to all its residential customers and to deploy TOU rates for generation charges to all customers who stay with regulated supply.” The old mechanical meters were much cheaper and longer lasting as an article from 2010 states: “Itron, which formerly produced mechanical meters and now makes smart meters, said that older instruments generally have a lifespan of about 30 years before they start to slow down.”

Another disturbing issue is found on page 2038 in yet another of the documents submitted for the rate increase discloses Hydro One’s plans when it comes to ratepayers who are slow to pay their bills:

“One method of enabling customer control of their electricity consumptions, while in arrears condition, and minimizing Hydro One Network’s financial risk, is through the use of pre-paid meters. Pre-paid meters are a type of energy meter that requires users to pay for energy before using it. This is done via a smartcard, token or key that can be ‘topped up’ at a corner shop, via a smartphone application or online. For customers who are high collection risk, the financial risk will be minimized by rolling out this type of meter. With a pre-paid meter, electricity is paid up-front. Once the pre-paid amount is used up, power is cut-off until the customer is able to load the meter with more credits.”

 If the OEB backs off on their muscle flexing and grants Hydro One’s wishes, ratepayers should expect they will have to prepay their anticipated electricity usage or have their power cut off.

Sad times for Ontario as power becomes a luxury, and many more households face the “heat or eat” dilemma!

 

The OEB flexes its muscles … but Hydro One keeps asking for more

Hydro One asks for more money. Sometimes, the OEB says no. Sometimes.

The Ontario Energy Board said NO to Hydro One’s request for $30 million, essentially for executive salaries — but another application for a rate increase is coming

Over the past several years, the rate applications submitted to the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) by Hydro One generally got the rubber stamp of approval despite the obvious — their distribution rates were growing at multiples of other distributors and their transmission rates also grew well past inflation rates.

The latter were/are not comparable as Hydro One has a transmission monopoly and that was entirely secured when they purchased Great Lakes Power in late 2016 for $373 million.  The purchase was blessed by the OEB even though it basically gave Hydro One control of over 98% of all the transmission lines in the province.  Prior to the purchase of Great Lakes Power, Hydro One had been snapping up small local distribution companies (LDC) and this writer has been critical of that for some time as outlined here and here.

Hydro One’s most recent attempt to acquire one of Ontario’s smaller LDCs was put on hold, however, by the OEB less than two weeks after the announcement of their plan to acquire Avista Corp. of Spokane, Washington for C$6.7 billion. The OEB’s approval related to the purchase of Orillia Power Distribution by Hydro One was held in abeyance because, the OEB’s “board staff found that rates proposed for previously acquired utilities in Hydro One’s distribution rate application suggest large distribution rate increases for some customers in future.”  Funnily enough, that is what I predicted in 2013 when Hydro One was busy scooping up several small LDCs.

The most recent event when the OEB flexed its muscles was in respect to the application from Hydro One asking for increased rates for their transmission monopoly. The OEB basically told Hydro One they would not be able to allocate $30 million in additional administrative costs to their rate increase application over the next two years.  The $30 million, as the OEB stated, was reflective of “hydro customers gain little from the jump in executive salaries that were largely generated by the IPO. The total corporate management costs for Hydro One in 2014 of about $5.5 million are set to increase to $22.1 million in 2018”.

While the two recent decisions by the OEB are encouraging, the worrying one for Hydro One’s ratepayers is the 2018-2022 Distribution Rate Application (OEB File No. EB-2017-0049). This particular application seeks rate increases totaling $11.75 per month or $141.00 annually for an “average” ratepayer consuming 9,000 kWh. It represents an increase of 1.56 cents/kWh!

The OEB’s 2016 Yearbook of Distributors notes Hydro One’s distribution in 2016 was 36,122,262,000 kWh, so the 1.56cents/kWh is an increase in revenue in excess of $565 million annually. If it’s only the 26,289,000,000 kWh that Hydro One report as their distribution total in their annual report, it will amount to increased annual revenues of $411 million. It it’s the former, it represents an increase in distribution revenue of 45% and if the latter, a 33% increased based on the net distribution income (deducting the cost of power) for 2016.   Either one will represent a multiple of the inflation rate.  And, either of those spectacular increases would go a long way to help Hydro One pay for the above market price they have agreed to pay for the acquisition of Avista!

One certainly hopes the OEB will continue to flex their muscles in respect to Hydro One and ensure they are not allowed to extract another $565 million annually from ratepayers’ pockets just so they can pay obscene executive salaries and dividends to Avista shareholders.

In the meantime, many Hydro One households in Ontario continue to have to choose between paying their hydro bill or putting food on the table.

Hydro One’s scorecard: not a winner

Lose, lose, lose … and more losses to come

Hydro One 2016 Scorecard highlights shortfalls

 

 On several occasions, I’ve expounded on the decision by then Energy Minister Dwight Duncan in July 2004 to direct the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) to instruct all LDC (local distribution companies) to install “smart meters”*   The Premier’s October 2005 throne speech included the comment:  “Consumers can look forward to getting smart meters that will help them save money by telling them when they can pay less.” 

I believe most ratepayers know how McGuinty’s claim worked out: over the past 12 years, our electricity bills have shot up and the Hydro One billing problems were top of mind in the media for many Hydro One in the province, thanks to Andre Marin when he was Ombudsman and thanks to  Ontario’s Auditor General. Those billing problems were caused by the inability of Hydro One to read many smart meters; and, installation costs were double ($2 billion) the budgeted costs, as noted by in the AG in her December 2014 report.

While Hydro One customers have been assuaged with claims the problems with smart meters have been fixed, if one examines their 2016 Scorecard submitted to the OEB it is obvious they are still dealing with issues.  Under the heading “Billing Issues” is this: “The Company’s continued improvement is mainly attributable to ongoing business process optimization, investing in the smart meter network to expand and replace various network support tools, and a continued focus on addressing smart meters that do not meet the necessary quality levels.”

Oh dear.

Further on, under the heading “Asset Management” is this remark in respect to why Hydro One exceeded its planned investment: “Hydro One is replacing meters because its service provider is phasing out network cellular technology by April 2018. The new meters align with the service provider’s new technology and prevent loss of data communication between Hydro One and its customers.”   

Garbage day

Hydro One obviously doesn’t want to encounter the negativity of future billing problems so, now, the expensive meters they installed just a few years ago are being tossed in the waste bin. The cost of the replacements has caused them to ask for further rate increases.

Despite the spending on “smart meters” past and present, Hydro One’s “Customer Satisfaction Survey Results” keep trending down despite their claim of higher billing accuracy according to the Scorecard.

Hydro One also shows a lack of leadership in the “Scorecard’s” System Reliability in both the “Average Number of Hours that Power to a Customer is Interrupted” and the “Average Number of Times that Power to a Customer is Interrupted.”

Scoring high in one area, at least

Yet another very disconcerting leadership role in evidence in the Scorecard is under “Financial Ratios” where Hydro One shows their “Leverage: Total Debt (includes short-term and long-term debt) to Equity Ratio” at 1.46 to 1. That means it ranks as the sixth highest leveraged LDC.   With their plans to purchase Avista their debt will increase substantially ($4 billion), raising this ratio further, and impacting Ontario’s ratepayers in respect to possible credit rating downgrades and the resulting increased borrowing costs.

So far, we see no discernible benefits to Hydro One’s ratepayers — only more costs.

 

Sidebar: Amazingly, Hydro One claims on the Scorecard they scored brilliantly in hooking up MicroFit contracted parties where the excessive cost of what the parties are paid are picked up by all of the other ratepayers of Ontario.

* For more background view this article: Hydro One’s failure to communicate rewarded with rate increase

 

Wynne government hydro discount means larger costs looming

IESO Connecting Today. Powering Tomorrow.

…and racking debt up for tomorrow, too

October 2, 2017

The Wynne government’s (apparent) 25% reduction in electricity rates for Class B ratepayers (ordinary folks, not huge corporations and businesses) under the Fair Hydro Act might have resulted in increased power consumption … but it doesn’t appear to have had that effect.  Should reduced demand for power continue in Ontario, the big discount will simply drive up the debt to be accumulated over the next ten years of the deferral (refinancing existing assets) under the act.

The Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO just released their Monthly Market Report for August 2017. Compared to the August 2016 report, overall consumption was down from 13,113,357 MWh to 11,350,008 MWh or 1,763,349 MWh (-13.4%). That’s enough to power about 200,000 average households for a year.

When one looks at the breakout between Class A and Class B ratepayers, however, IESO reports consumption by Class A ratepayers increased from 2.373 TWh (terawatt hours) in 2016 to 3.230 TWh in 2017 —  36.1% (.857 TWh).  Class B ratepayers consumed 22.9% less (2.515 TWh) reducing consumption from 10.962 TWh to 8.447 TWh.*

The lower consumption by Class B ratepayers was partially influenced by a slightly milder August in 2017; however, IESO notes in the recently released 18-Month Outlook “Weather-corrected demand was a similar 11.5 TWh and represents an all-time low for the month.”

Now looking at the Class A consumption, the combined rate (Global Adjustment + HOEP [hourly Ontario energy price]) dropped from $75.05/MWh to $70.53/MWh (-6%) from 2016 to 2017, and that ratepayer class appears to have taken advantage of the drop. Some of the increase was no doubt due to  an expansion of Class A ratepayers following a change in who qualifies under the Industrial Conservation Initiative program. That allowed companies with lower consumption to join the Class A group.  Energy Minister, Glenn Thibeault dropped the Class A attributes from peak consumption of 3 MWh to 1 MWh and then finally to 500 kWh* in an effort to mollify the numerous medium-sized companies and associations who lobbied hard to get a lower electricity price.

Costs are up for regular folks, down for business

The weighted average (GA+HOEP) cost for “B” class ratepayers is up $15.47/MWh year over year, but down for class A by $4.52/MWh. Costs (GA +HOEP) in August for B class ratepayers was $118.37/MWh and those costs for A class ratepayers were $70.53/MWh.  The additional costs of $47.84/MWh that B class ratepayers are responsible for was 67.8% higher than A class costs in August. Under the Fair Hydro Act, 17%** of the B class costs will be deferred and IESO tracks those under a “Variance Account”.  The latter increased in August by $210.8 million to reach $605.5 million for just the first two months.  The monthly variance is being refinanced cumulatively and will come back to haunt ratepayers and whoever is the government, in 10 years

According to my friend Scott Luft, wind power generation in August from grid- and distribution-connected industrial wind turbines (IWTs) produced 597,537 MWh. Another 78,265 MWh were curtailed, or paid for but not added to the grid.

All-in, the cost of IWTs in August was approximately $90 million and represented 79.7 % of our export of surplus power of 847,416 MWh to our neighbours in New York, Michigan and elsewhere.

While we don’t know specifically the source of the power included in the grid, if all the wind generation was exported, we were paid about $17/MWh or around $10 million, meaning a loss of $80 million. Without wind power generation, the August “Variance Account” addition could have been lower by that $80 million.

The future: more costs

So, despite “B” Class ratepayers experiencing the “benefits” of the Fair Hydro Plan, instead they reduced their consumption by 22.9%.

 

Maybe they are concerned about what will happen in 10 years’ time, when they will be billed for that Variance Account the Financial Accountability Office said would be a minimum of $45 billion and could balloon to as much as $93 billion.

 

* The difference of 165,000 MWh between the Market Report and the breakout is presumably due to line losses billed to each ratepayer class and the 22.9% drop is no doubt related to the expanded ICI

** 8% of the 25% reduction was due to the canceling of the 8% provincial portion of the HST.

 

Wind power: missing in action during Ontario heat wave

The impact of the well above normal temperatures Ontario has been experiencing for the past several days in September was seen in hour 17 (5 pm) yesterday, September 25, 2017.

From all appearances, hour 17 set the record for high peak demand in the province for the current year as businesses and homes had air conditioners and fans blasting away, drawing power from the grid.

Peak demand for hour 17 was 21,639 MWh.

Nuclear and hydro along with gas generated 20,091 MWh during that 60 minutes and was supplemented by net imports of 1,221 MWh from Manitoba and Quebec.

Where were “renewables” (excluding hydro), wind, solar and biomass? Together, they generated a miserly 307 MWh. In fact, wind power generators probably consumed more then they contributed with a minuscule 67 MWh. That 67 MWh represented about 1.5% of their grid connected capacity of 4,213 MW.

Put another way, wind power contributed .3% of peak demand!

All this simply proves industrial wind turbines (IWT) are unreliable and intermittent. If they can’t be counted on when we need the power, why does our Minister of Energy Glenn Thibeault and Premier Wynne continue to support them? Why not cancel contracts for wind power plants that have not commenced construction?

The time has come for the Ontario Liberal government to admit that industrial-scale wind turbines deliver nothing more than unreliable, intermittent power that must be backed up with reliable power in the form of nuclear, hydro and gas.

The dream is over.