Comparing Ontario Covid-19 Lockdowns in Reducing Electricity Demand

Earlier this year IESO released their 2020 stats and noted Ontario’s electricity demand fell 2.1% (down 2.9 terawatt hours [TWh]) from 2019 or about what 325,000 average households would consume in a year.

In 2020 the first full lockdowns in Ontario started in late March and basically stayed in place until late June/early July when some relief was allowed.  The current year’s lockdown looks very similar!  So, did the 2021 lockdowns result in further consumption reductions compared to the same quarter in 2020?

As it turns out consumption in the current April, May, June quarter saw a jump of 1.4 TWh compared to the same three months of 2020. That 1.4 TWh increase (up 4.7%) represents what 625.000 average Ontario households would consume in three months.  Ontario’s ratepayers consumed 29.724 TWh in the three months of 2020 and in 2021 consumption jumped to 31.130 TWh.

The GA (global adjustment) for 2021 totaled $2.687 billion and adding the average of the HOEP (hourly Ontario energy price) of $15.50/MWh for the three months brings the total cost to Ontario’s ratepayers and taxpayers (taxpayers are now picking up a large portion of the electricity costs) to $3.169,5 billion! The latter total indicates an average cost of approximately 10.2 cents/kWh (kilowatt hour) with the math simply being: $3.169,5 billion divided by consumption of 31.130 TWh.

The GA for 2020 was considerably higher as the Ford government capped the GA at $115/MWh (megawatt hour) due to the concern it would spike, so it totaled $3.825,7 billion and coupled with the average HOEP (average $8.10/MWh for the three months) brought the total cost to $4.066,4 billion.  That means the cost per kWh in 2020 for the same three months looks to be about 13.7 cents/kWh.

So, one should wonder, why the drop in average costs if consumption increased 4.7%?  

Well as it turns out our net exports (exports minus imports) declined 2.9 TWh so in 2021 that decline saved Ontarians about $425 million for those three months as we didn’t have to eat the GA of $115/MWh and the average HOEP (the sale price) was higher (up $7.40/MWh) so in 2021 we got a little more for each MWh we sold.  Additionally, curtailed wind declined by 183K MWh* saving us another $22 million.  I suspect we also didn’t spill as much hydro or steam-off nuclear which would also have reduced 2021 costs but that information is not disclosed as yet.  Less solar generation in 2021 may also have played a role at reducing costs.

It becomes obvious Ontario’s grid; supplied principally with nuclear and hydro supplemented by gas generation would produce lower costs. For all of 2020 nuclear and hydro supplied 94.3% of Ontario demand and cheap and reliable gas easily supplied the balance.  The intermittent and unreliable supply of wind and solar at the exorbitant contracted 20-year rates does nothing to reduce emissions while burdening ratepayers and taxpayers with much higher costs. 

The three-month comparison highlights the mess created by the previous Liberal Government(s) under the leadership of the McGuinty/Wynne terms as Premiers of the Province and their enactment of the Green Energy Act coupled with those contracts signed with wind and solar generators during their time in power.

*Thanks to Scott Luft for tracking industrial wind generation and curtailment monthly.

Political Promises, High Electricity Costs, Climate Change, EV and Line 5

I was invited on the Marc Patrone Show on Sauga 960 AM today and the above title suggests some of the topics we covered. You can listen to our discussion on Sauga 960’s Marc Patrone Show starting at 1:03:25 of the podcast of his July 6, 2021 show by going here:

Hey, Premier Ford, did Michigan Governor Whitmer at least say “Thanks” for the Free Electricity we gave her April 30th?

Several days ago, a friendly contact alerted me to some facts about electricity generation on April 30th, 2021.  He noted wind exceeded hydro in 5 of the hours and as much as 81% of wind generation was curtailed in a single hour. He also pointed out the HOEP (hourly Ontario electricity price) market price was zero or less for 22 out of 24 hours and the two hours it was positive it climbed all the way up to 41 cents per MWh* (megawatt hour)!  The foregoing is a frequent occurrence in the Spring and Fall as Ontario demand is generally low and when the wind is blowing it must be both curtailed and exported.

With curiosity piqued it led to a review of IESO data for actual wind generation, its curtailment and exports for the day.  As it turned out wind generation accepted into the grid by IESO was just shy of 56,000 MWh and curtailed wind was very close to 34,000 MWh. What that meant is owners of the approximately 4,800 MW of grid connected wind capacity will be paid $7.560 million ($135.00** per MWh) for the accepted wind generation and $4.080 million ($120.00 per MWh) for the curtailed wind.  That implies the cost per MW of grid accepted wind generation was almost $208/per MWh versus about $56/MWh for hydro and $80/MWh for nuclear.  It also appears nuclear was steamed off by Bruce Nuclear and we should suspect hydro was also spilled.  Both of those are paid for so their costs would clearly be caused by wind’s propensity to generate power when it’s not needed.

To make matters worse IESO were forced to offer surplus generation via the market and needless to say our neighbours were happy to get it for free.  We exported almost 68,000 MWh to our neighbours in New York, Quebec and Michigan presumably to avoid possible grid failure. The state of Michigan received 24,000 MWh for free.  We basically supplied about 800,000 average Michigan households (approximately 20% of Michigan households) with free electricity for the day!

Ontario has been selling Michigan our cheap electricity exports for years and since we added intermittent and unreliable wind and solar to our grid the amount, we sell to them for pennies of its cost (what Ontario’s ratepayers pay for it) has increased. 

Michigan should recognize what nice neighbours we are! Instead, Governor Whitmer wants to shut down the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline which supplies them, several neighbouring states, as well as Quebec and Ontario with oil for refineries, propane for winter heat, aircraft fuel, etc. etc.

Perhaps the time has come for Premier Ford to give Governor Whitmer a call and tell her if she shuts down Line 5, she will need to fire up more of those (current) 9,300 MW (approximate capacity) of coal plants Michigan has; versus Ontario’s zero coal plant capacity.  

The time has come for Governor Whitmer to recognize and admit Michigan ranked # 8 in 2018 by the US EIA (Energy Information Administration) in respect to CO2 emissions from coal generation and 10th overall for total CO2 emissions.  Once she solves that problem, she can consider shutting down Line 5!

*One MWh is equivalent to 1,000 kWh (kilowatt hours) or what an average Ontario household would consume in a month and a half.

**The contracts signed with those industrial wind generation companies also included a maximum COL (cost of living) allowance of 20% so were presumably paid more than the $135/MWh.

O’Toole’s carbon “tax” may be even worse that the Liberal one

Marc Patrone, the host of a two hour morning show on SAUGA radio 960 AM had me on his program today April 19, 2021 and we again covered a fair amount of ground. The main topic was the recent announcement by the leader of the CPC, Erin O’Toole and his version of the carbon tax. We also touched on the recent news from the Canada Infrastructure Bank run by Catherine McKenna who told us in their press release they were doling out $655 million of our tax dollars to run an underwater transmission line under Lake Erie.

You can listen to our conversation starting at 1:18:40 of the podcast here:

If you happen to be a subscriber of NEWSTALK CANADA you can hear our conversation here:

https://newstalkcanada.com/?page_id=2527

The Canadian Version of “Dumb & Dumber”

Having just read the press release from the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) on how they are partnering up with ITC Investment Holdings Inc., and using $655 million of our tax dollars to build a 117 kilometre underwater transmission line connecting Ontario with the PJM Interconnection, the 1994 movie, “Dumb & Dumber” immediately came to mind.

ITC is a Michigan based company (subsidiary of Fortis Inc.) and they will own 60% of the project with the balance owned by the CIB.  As a bit of an oxy-moron Michigan Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, is planning to shut down the Line 5 pipeline which supplies oil to Ontario refineries (includes aircraft fuel, etc.), chemical plants etc. in Sarnia, and where propane is produced and supplies Ontario and Quebec farms and households. Line 5 also supplies refineries in the US and homes and farms in Michigan with propane.  Interestingly enough, Line 5’s entry into Michigan is also underwater and is the reason Gov. Witmer wants it closed. What this implies is if Whitmer is successful, it will cause job losses in Ontario while our tax dollars will create jobs in Michigan.  That suggests those in Canada making the decision on this project are “dumb”!

The time estimate to complete the Lake Erie underwater PJM connection is 4 years which would mean it should be operative in 2025,  That year happens to be the same year the Pickering nuclear plants will be taken out of service. Those plants currently provide 2,500 MW of capacity and generally run at their maximum so closure will remove 2,500 MWh (megawatt hours) of supply to Ontario’s ratepayers almost every hour of the day.  Additionally, Ontario’s grid operator, IESO, forecasts the closure will create a supply deficit in the summer months when Ontario demand peaks. One wonders if IESO were consulted or involved in the discussions leading to the CIB jumping on board and if not then it adds “dumber” to the announcement.

The “Endorsements” contained in the CIB press release serve to make the reflections of those quoted look “dumb and dumber”.  Here are a couple of their quotes with some observations! 

First, we will start with Ehren Cory, CEO, Canada Infrastructure Bank who stated: “This project will allow Ontario to export its clean, non-emitting power to one of the largest power markets in the world and, as a result, benefit Canadians economically while also significantly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the PJM market. The project allows Ontario to better manage peak capacity and meet future reliability needs in a more sustainable way. This is a true win-win for both Canada and the U.S., both economically and environmentally.”

Had Mr. Cory actually done some research with IESO he may have learned Ontario will be facing a shortfall from the time Pickering Nuclear is closed in 2025 until new reliable power is added, meaning Ontario will not have any of “its clean, non-emitting power” available to export.  How then could it contribute to any “greenhouse gas emissions reductions”? Dumb?

Second, here is what Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, Minister of Indigenous Affairs had to say: The Lake Erie Connector demonstrates the advantages of public-private partnerships to develop critical infrastructure that delivers greater value to Ontarians. Connecting Ontario’s electricity grid to the PJM electricity market will bring significant, tangible benefits to our province. This new connection will create high-quality jobs, improve system flexibility, and allow Ontario to export more excess electricity to promote cost-savings for Ontario’s electricity consumers.”

Three years into the portfolio and from the basis of his comments he has still more to learn! Similar to Mr. Cory above it appears Minister Rickford also didn’t speak with anyone at IESO as he suggests the $655 million in Federal tax dollars used to build the Lake Erie underwater transmission line will “allow Ontario to export more excess electricity to promote cost-savings for Ontario’s electricity consumers “.  Had he spoken to IESO they would have perhaps explained we will be potentially facing an energy shortage once the Pickering Nuclear plants are closed. What that infers is we will not have “more excess electricity” to export! Dumb?

Third, this is what Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities apparently said: With the US pledging to achieve a carbon-free electrical grid by 2035, Canada has an opportunity to export clean power, helping to reduce emissions, maximizing clean power use and making electricity more affordable for Canadians. The Lake Erie Connector is a perfect example of that. The Canada Infrastructure Bank’s investment will give Ontario direct access to North America’s largest electricity market – 13 states and D.C. This is part of our infrastructure plan to create jobs across the country, tackle climate change, and increase Canada’s competitiveness in the clean economy.”

As one will note Minister McKenna, also famous for attending an illegal cock fight and eating dog pretty well maximizes the fallacies of the prior two quotes illustrated above and expands on them.  Once again, a call to IESO or perhaps a chat with Minister Rickford should have disclosed in 2025 when this project may be complete it would have spelled the end of “an opportunity to export clean power, helping to reduce emissions, maximizing clean power use and making electricity more affordable for Canadians.“  It will do none of those things!  If this is part of their “infrastructure plan to create jobs across the country, tackle climate change, and increase Canada’s competitiveness in the clean economy“ we are in big trouble!

Throwing our tax dollars at a plan that cannot be justified in any way is a total disservice to all Canadians or to summarize, this is both “dumb and dumber” than perhaps anything we have seen before aimed at wasting our taxes.

To paraphrase Mr. Corey; this a true economic loss for Canada and our taxpayers.

What Caught my Eye this Past Week or so!

Not sure if it’s the lock-down or just a normal week but a few things caught my eye because they seemed out of place and interesting.  Here they are!

Russia to Offer Carbon Credits With Far East Digital Forest Platform

I happened to read an article in the Moscow Times (credited to Bloomberg) claiming, “Russia is creating a digital platform to collect satellite and drone data on its vast forests in the Far East with the aim of offering them on the carbon offset market.” What that implies iswhen it launches later in 2021, will allow the government to lease sections of forest to enterprises, which can then invest in planting new trees or protecting existing ones.” 

What came to mind after reading the article is the opportunity something similar could do for Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau who promised that young Swedish “climate change” warrior, Greta Thunberg, he would plant 2 billion trees. The answer to his prayers perhaps, as he has been far too busy at his Rideau cottage to actually plant anything since the pandemic broke. He could also unleash the same concept on Canadian businesses to do what the Russian’s propose as between the Federal and Provincial governments about 89% of the land (almost 8.9 million square kilometers) in Canada is owned by either the Federal or Provincial governments.  He will just have to tell them where to plant the trees.

The other thing that struck me was as Canada’s forests are the 2nd largest (347 million hectares versus Russia’s 763 million) in the world why not make the same claim they did!  Russia claims their forests absorb 38% of their emissions so, based on that premise; Canada’s forests would be absorbing about 140 million tonnes which would bring us very close to our 2030 emissions target.  The Trudeau led government has increased the carbon tax imposed on all Canadians to $170/tonne by the time 2030 arrives so, adopting Russia’s concept would allow them to cancel future “carbon tax” increases.  Yahoo!

IESO Board Determination on a Market Rule Amendment

The second thing that caught my eye came from Ontario’s IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator).  IESO manage Ontario’s electricity grid doing what they can to ensure we are not impacted by brownouts or blackouts as Texas recently experienced. IESO announced: “A market rule amendment proposal to limit the IESO indemnity to losses caused by gross negligence, subject to the current limitations on recoverable damages, was adopted by the IESO Board of Directors and is currently planned to take effect on May 3, 2021.”  

Outward appearances suggest should events (blackouts) similar to what happened in Texas occur in Ontario, IESO want to limit potential lawsuits to actions proving “gross negligence” only!  ERCOT, the Texas grid operator is facing many huge lawsuits due to the winter storm the week of February 14, 2021 so presumably this is what inspired IESO to amend this Market Rule.

 Ontario should follow the recent Texas lead

Texas’s political leaders have reflected on the recent blackout and about two weeks ago, the Texas Senateunanimously approved a bill that would slap fines of up to $1 million a day against electricity and natural gas companies that balk at weatherizing facilities and would set up a system for warning the public about the risk of impending blackouts similar to one now used for hurricanes.”

As one would expect the renewable energy crowd, big tech and the financial institutions are upset about the bill but it appears to be a great idea following the review on the causes of the blackout. 

While Ontario’s electricity system is fully weatherized, the precedents of the Texas bill do open up an interesting possible act here in Ontario.  What is suggested is an act to reduce our costs of electricity!  Our Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, Greg Rickford should consider an act penalizing renewable energy generating surplus electricity during low demand times such as the middle of the night or on weekends.  That surplus energy creates huge losses as IESO are forced to sell or curtail our surpluses (to avoid blackouts) to NY, Michigan, etc. at very low rates which are subsidized by Ontario ratepayers. Those events cause Ontario’s ratepayers to pay considerably more than $1 million a day. Here is an opportunity to reduce those ratepayer/taxpayer costs but let’s up the costs to generators to $5 million per day!

The time has come for Minister Rickford to act and deliver on the promise to reduce electricity rates by the 12% we were told would happen should the Ford led OPC party be elected. Here is the chance for them to prove they meant what they promised to those who voted for them!

Some good news on electricity costs

The foregoing title is a little deceptive as when Marc Patrone and I were speaking this morning on his show at Sauga Radio 960 AM we also covered a fair amount of other ground. Some of the other topics discussed were short spurts about pipelines, China, Russia’s forests and even briefly about housing costs. You can listen to our full discussion on the podcast starting at 41:10 and ending at 58:00 here:

or if you are a subscriber to NEWSTALK CANADA you can listen here:

https://newstalkcanada.com/?page_id=2527

Wow! January and February 2021 show declining Ontario electricity costs!

For the first time in a decade Ontario experienced a reduction in the costs of grid generated electricity for two months in a row so the question should be; who should we thank?

As it turns out the Ontario demand for electricity in the first two months of 2021 were actually up slightly (1.3%) from 2020 or just under 300,000 MWh (megawatt hours) and about what 200,000 average households would have consumed in two months.  The costs of generation for January 2021 including both the HOEP (hourly Ontario energy price) plus the GA (Global Adjustment) dropped from $116.24/MWh to $99.83/MWh and for February it dropped from $127.31/MWh to $82.94/MWh.

So, why did costs decline?                                                                                                                                              

Was it because the Ford led Government took action and passed an Act to reduce the rates paid to wind or solar* generators or the OEB (Ontario Energy Board) decreed they would reduce rates or because IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) suddenly contracted for low-cost generation?

The answer is none of the above!  As it turns out we can thank “Mother Nature” for a big part of the cost reduction as wind generation fell by 17.2% or almost 438,000 MWh (what almost 300,000 households would consume in two month). That drop in output by those IWT (industrial wind turbines) saved $60 million in costs alone and additionally the slight increase in consumption noted above coupled with the fact that one of the Darlington nuclear units was shut down for refurbishment meant we had much less surplus generation that had to be sold to our neighbours in NY or Michigan.  Our net exports (exports less imports) sold in 2021 were only 1.007 TWh (terawatt hours) versus 2.694 TWh in 2020. The drop in sales of the surplus power of 1.687 TWh was also sold for a higher price (less suplus generation results in higher prices) which resulted in a reduction in our loss on those sales of $221.2 million year over year.  In 2020 the cost of our exports added $289.8 million to the costs of electricity but that cost dropped to $68.6 million in 2021 for those two comparative months.

To account for the reduced wind and nuclear generation Ontario’s natural gas plants stepped up to meet our needs generating an additional 522,000 MWh at prices reflecting only fuel costs and a small margin.  Most of those gas plants were added to ensure our grid reliability after the Green Energy Act was legislated back in 2009 and the OPA (Ontario Power Authority), since merged with IESO; contracted wind and solar generation they knew required backup due to their intermittent and unreliable nature.

No doubt the eco-warriors will be up in arms when they notice natural gas generation increased in January and February 2021.  Those eco-warriors should take a few moments to reflect on the fact that without electricity from natural gas generators many Ontarians may have died from the cold.

This is just another demonstration of the wasted cost Ontarians are continually forced to pay due to the GEA (Green Energy Act) and the contracts granted to wind and solar generators.

*Solar produces little power during the Ontario winter months and 2021 saw generation of only 0.071 TWh in January and February 2021 but it’s cost added about $32 million for very little generation.

Wind, Solar and Biomass Continue Soaking Ontarians

The OEB just released the “Ontario’s System-Wide Electricity Supply Mix: 2020 Data” report and it provides information beyond what the IESO had in their mid-January report: the 2020 Year in Review  and the subject of an earlier article.  The OEB report includes generation occurring within the DX (distributor connected) sector in addition to what is TX (transmission connected)* generated and the basis of the IESO report. 

The OEB reported DX generated electricity in 2020 was 7.3 TWh (terawatt hours) or about what 810,000 average Ontario households (approximately 18% of all Ontario households) would consume in one year. DX generation in 2020 was up by 5 GWh (Gigawatt hours) compared to 2019 but the increase came from what is described as “Non-contracted” generation defined in the report as “a variety of fuel types that the IESO is unable to categorize due to a lack of information from Local Distribution Companies (LDCs).”

As it happens the three renewables classified as wind, solar and biomass actually had a decline in DX generation falling from 5.1 TWh in 2019 to 4.9 TWh with solar producing an identical 3 TWh compared to 2019, while wind declined from 1.7 TWh to 1.6 TWh and biomass from 4 GWh to 3 GWh.  If one adds what IESO stated was curtailed wind of 2.6 TWh in 2020 to what those three renewables generated it comes to 20.6 TWh or 2 GWh more than our gross exports were! 

Those exports** of 20.4 TWh (sold at an average price of $13.9*** million per TW) generated about $284 million. That’s $3.8 billion less than we paid for them had they consisted of the three renewables.  The latter is derived from the individual costs of wind at $135 million/TWh accepted, plus $120 million/TWh for curtailed wind which collectively cost us $2.3 billion.  Adding solar’s 3.8 TWh at $449 million/TWh  ($1.7 billion) and biomass at $150 million/TWh ($100 million) brings the costs of all three renewables to $4.1 billion. If all of those renewables were exported, they would have returned the estimated $284 million as noted costing Ontario ratepayers $3.8 billion.

What that means is; as ratepayers pick up the loss of the $3.8 billion it would represent a cost of 2.72 cents/kWh or $244.80 to the average household consuming 9,000 kWh annually. The annual cost would be much higher for small and medium sized businesses.

In Ontario we continue to suffer from the perils of the McGuinty/Wynne push for renewable energy brought to us via the GEA. It appears we will continue to suffer the consequences until those outrageous 20 year contracts for wind and solar expire or the Ford led government is inspired to actually do something to correct the Liberal endowment!

*The OPG’s annual report disclosed they were instructed to spill 4.3 TWh of hydro due to surplus baseload generation (SBG) conditions over the 2020 year which IESO did not disclose.

**The actual makeup of exported generation is not available as it depends on many factors.

***The average market price referred to as the market price ie; HOEP (hourly Ontario energy price) averaged 1.39 cents/kWh in 2020.

Ruminations on the Ontario Liberal Electricity Legacy and Premier Ford’s inactions to correct them

I was on the Marc Patrone Show at 960 AM March 23, 2021 to discuss the Ontario Liberal Party legacy in respect to the electricity sector in the province.  We pointed out the billions of dollars in costs of the OLP legacy and how they continue!  At the same time the discussion noted that after almost three years in power the Ford led Ontario Conservative Party has done hardly anything to change the system other than shifting billions of $$$ in costs from ratepayers to taxpayers.

You can listen to our conversation on Sauga 960 AM here on the March 23rd podcast starting at 46:1 ending at 1:02.