Is it time for Ontario to use more power?

A warm summer meant  electricity use went up and costs went down. Is there a lesson here?

Photo © Norris Wilson

With Ontario experiencing a relatively warm summer, I thought it might be interesting to look at three recent months, starting with May 2018, to see if power consumption had increased compared to the same period in 2017.

As it turned out, May, June and July in 2018 versus the same three months in 2017 resulted in an increase in total demand (Ontario consumption plus net exports [exports less imports]) of 1,447,000 MWh or 3.9%.   With “net exports” dropping by 1,120,000 MWh, Ontario consumption actually increased by 2,567,000 or 7%.  This increase occurred despite the continued spending of approximately $400 million annually on conservation initiatives.

You might expect that an increase in power consumption by that much in Ontario would have resulted in a substantial increase in the cost of electricity, but as it happens, the amount was a meager $73 million for that extra 2,567,000 MWh. Based on the average cost (GA + HOEP) of electricity over those three months, the additional cost should have been around $313 million. The additional consumption cost only 2.8 cents per kWh (kilowatt hour).

The question is: why did that additional consumption (enough to power 1.1 million average households for the three months) cost so little?

There are several reasons why! First, curtailed wind (paid for but not added to the grid) in 2018 was 416,400 MWh* less than 2017. That means the savings from lower curtailment was approximately $50 million.

As well, Ontario’s net exports were thus lower by 1,120,000 MWh — that saved Ontario ratepayers the full cost of the GA (the GA averaged about $101/MWh in 2018) or approximately $113 million.

And, the 3.4 million MWh of net exports in 2017 generated only about $8/MWh versus $20/MWh in 2017 (the approximate GA for the three months in 2017 versus 2018) for the 2,280,000 MWh of net exports in 2018 for a net benefit in 2018 of about $18 million.

If one totes up the additional costs of $73 million plus the wind curtailed savings of $50 million, the $113 million saved due to reduced net exports, and the $18 million extra earned on export sales due to a higher GA in 2018, it comes to $254 million or $59 million short of the $313 million noted above.

I suspect the unexplained $59 million is related to: spilled hydro, steamed-off nuclear, and a reduction in the Class B to Class A subsidy resulting from the higher average GA. Most of those latter details are not yet publicly available.

Interestingly, wind power — generated and curtailed — was equal to 80% of net exports in 2017 and 112% of net exports in 2018. That suggests wind power was surplus to demand in both years.

It time to acknowledge again that wind, as an intermittent and unreliable source of power, tends to present itself when not needed. That, along with the multiple millions spent by the previous government encouraging electricity consumers to conserve has a simple effect!

Together, they simply drive up the cost of electricity.  Perhaps we should increase consumption to drive costs down.

© PARKER GALLANT

*Thanks to Scott Luft for his data related to wind generation and wind curtailment.

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Canada’s wind power lobbyist re-energizes its spin


September 3, 2018

The Comber wind power project in Ontario: intermittent, unreliable power. Alberta, are you watching?

A recent posting by Robert Hornung, President of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), occurred shortly after the Ontario government passed an Act to terminate the White Pines wind power project.

Mr. Hornung’s post on the CanWEA website contained these statements.

“Maintaining investor confidence in the Ontario marketplace is important for Ontario’s short- and long-term economic prosperity. The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) shares the Ontario Government’s commitment to an affordable and reliable electricity system that benefits Ontarians. CanWEA notes that wind energy projects in Ontario are an important source of sustained revenue for municipal and Indigenous partners. Ontario’s wind energy projects are providing long-term, stable pricing for Ontario ratepayers. Wind energy is now the lowest-cost option for new electricity supply in Ontario, across Canada, and throughout much of the world.”

It is ironic that Mr. Hornung, on behalf of CanWEA’s members, would claim they share the “commitment to an affordable and reliable electricity system” while suggesting “Maintaining investor confidence in the Ontario marketplace is important”.

Is he unaware Ontario has lost many good manufacturing and processing jobs due to the high cost of electricity, or has he simply chosen to continue to spin the fallacious claim that wind power projects have not played a role in driving up the operating costs (electricity rates) of the numerous large and small manufacturing and processing plants that have either closed or moved to other jurisdictions?

CanWEA, leaving behind its effect on Ontario’s economic well-being, appears to be moving on to greener pastures, promoting the same spin to politicians who buy into their claims. Now that they have sucked Ontario dry, they are headed to Alberta where Premier Notley has signaled her plan to close the 6,300 MW of coal plants and replace two-thirds of them with 5,000 MW of renewable energy, including 4,500 MW of industrial wind turbines (IWT).

CanWEA in yet another post on its website seems excited at the new prospects and boasts: “Wind energy developments are making positive and lasting social and economic contributions in communities across Alberta.”

With that in mind, it is ironic that at 11 AM on August 20, 2018, the 1,491 MW of wind turbines in Alberta delivered just 5 MWh* of power to the grid — that’s about 0.33% of their capacity.

Needless to say, similar occurrences have been seen in Ontario and many other places around the world where wind turbines have been constructed. This clearly demonstrates power generation from wind is both intermittent and unreliable, and must be backed up with reliable generation in the form of hydro or fossil fuel generation.

CanWEA buttresses their claims with promises of jobs and prosperity in yet another recent posting on their website. “Wind energy will also generate jobs and other benefits for Albertans, as a recent Delphi Group report demonstrates. And it can be an important part of a broader economic diversification strategy for the province, with the total potential for local project development and construction spending alone reaching $3.6 billion by 2030.”

If you actually read that report, you’ll find it suggests most of the estimated $8.3 billion spending ($1.8 million per MW) will actually occur elsewhere. Alberta produces very little of the materials required to erect wind turbines so the local jobs created will be temporary, in the planning and construction phase. In fact, the report suggests only 15,000 person-years of employment will be created for the $3.6 billion planned to be spent on planning and construction. The report also suggests 714 jobs may be permanent during the O&M (operations and maintenance) phase; however, even that seems optimistic as that would suggest one permanent job for every six MW which at a 2-MW average would represent only three turbines. In fact,the standard is one technician per ten turbines.

With the recent negative Superior Court ruling on the Trans Mountain pipeline build, and Premier Notley’s plea for action by the federal government, it is obvious her government will soon experience a lack of anticipated revenue to execute both her social programs and the provincial climate plan. The slowdown in royalty revenues will push Alberta into further debt. For that reason, it is not enough that she has pulled out of the federal climate plan and should, if logic prevailed, also cancel the provincial climate plan.

I found it stupefying that Premier Notley said “The time for Canadian niceties is over. We are letting other countries control our economic destiny. We can’t stand for it.” Is she suggesting the National Energy Board and the Superior Court are controlled by “other countries”?

Premier Notley should have cancelled the provincial climate plan including replacing coal generation plants with unreliable wind and solar power generation if she really wants to make her point, instead of blaming others.

The time has come, alright: time for Canada’s politicians to stop believing the spin from lobbyist CanWEA, and instead act in the best interests of Canada’s ratepayers/taxpayers. Politicians need to show us they aren’t controlled by those foreign-controlled entities granted contracts to erect symbolic industrial wind turbines.

PARKER GALLANT

*Thanks to Steve Aplin who posted this info on his twitter account: https://twitter.com/SteveAplin

What did we get for billions spent on electricity in Ontario?

It’s not over: Ontario taxpayers and ratepayers will be paying for the past government’s mismanagement for years to come. Here’s how… and how much.

Ontario wind turbines at Belle River project

The last in a series on the IESO

August 2, 2018

The two earlier articles about Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO revealed the fact that it could be “gamed” — and in fact, it was! To the tune of $100 million, by just one generator.

Needless to say, any gaming by a local distribution company (LDC) also may be happening. Why would I suggest that?  When I asked the IESO why the Fair Hydro Plan “Variance” amount was so high for May 2018, they said this:

“Please note that settlement data submitted to the IESO by the LDCs is not audited by the IESO (audit responsibilities reside with the OEB) and is processed as submitted.”

The May “Variance” amount was $309.9 million. More disturbing is that the first six months of the current year has rung up $1.180 billion in the “Variance” which could represent $2.360 billion for 2018 if the last six months are similar.

The results to date of the FHP “Variance” amount is well in excess of the calculations presented by the Ontario Financial Accountability Office (FAO) in their review, which had the following note:

“Figure 3-3 summarizes the FAO’s estimate of the annual cost of the FHP through to 2045-46. The FAO estimates the cost of the FHP to the Province will peak at $1.8 billion in 2020-21, after which the FAO assumes that the electricity relief programs will no longer be funded by the Province. The HST rebate is forecast to cost $0.9 billion in 2021-22, rising rapidly to $1.6 billion by 2028-29”.

The average suggested by the FAO per year was $1.750 billion, so, at the current rate of accrual, future Ontario ratepayers may be looking at total of almost $9.5 billion (without including interest costs) added to our electricity bills.

Taxpayers will be affected too: They’ll have to bear the costs of lost revenue of about $4.1 billion (plus interest costs) associated with the HST rebate and another $3 billion associated with “Adjusting Electricity Relief Programs”. The latter includes the RRRP (Regulated and Remote Rate Program) the OESP (Ontario Electricity Support Program) and a new First Nations On-Reserve Delivery Credit and Affordability Fund.

So, the 17-percent reduction on our electricity bills, coupled with the HST foregone tax revenue plus the cost of those “Relief Programs” represents $16.6 billion of spending, without interest costs.

What are we getting for $16B?

What are we getting for that $16.6 billion? No new power generation. No new transmission lines or upgrades to LDC infrastructure. Simply more wasted money, lots of it, as a result of the Green Energy Act.

Questions put to the IESO about the May Variance amount got the following response from them:

“Hi Parker– the increase in GA deferral in May is mainly due to most LDCs submitting settlement data to the IESO based on the second GA estimate which was unusually high (i.e., 13.2 cent/KWh) in May. LDCs submit May settlement data to IESO during the first four business days of June at which time the actual GA rate would not have been calculated yet as per IESO’s settlement schedule. Each month there is a true up when LDCs submit their data to the IESO for the previous month plus an estimate of the current month they are submitting for.”

Read that and you have to ask, Why? Why not settle the Variance account once IESO has determined “the actual GA rate” rather than go through a series of wasted financial maneuvers? Logic doesn’t seem to be a formula used or followed within the electricity sector.

Are the ratepayers and taxpayers being “gamed” or can we trust IESO with our hard-earned money and believe that each and every action by them is truly being “audited” by the OEB?

I will leave the foregoing question to be answered by an “Electricity Audit” that will hopefully be conducted by Ontario’s new government.

PARKER GALLANT

 

Smart meters, smart grids, conservation campaigns: how well does IESO watch your money?

More on Ontario’s IESO…

August 1, 2018

Yesterday, I examined IESO’s responsibility in respect to the “financial settlement” associated with the various public and private electricity generation sources in the province, and their ability to execute those, considering all the variables connected with the GA (Global Adjustment) and the HOEP (hourly Ontario energy price).

I contemplated not only their ability to handle that responsibility, but also to deal effectively with the FHP (Fair Hydro Plan) and the HST rebate the prior Ontario government created.

Soon, the IESO will be further burdened with the financial aspects of the additional 12% reduction in residential electricity bills that the newly elected Premier Ford government has promised. IESO denies responsibility for any audit-associated issues and simply pays money to the LDC (local distribution companies), based on the data associated with the billing submitted.

The question today is this: is it possible possibility the IESO can be “gamed” as they already were by one of the gas generators for $100 million, as reported in December 2017?

IESO deals directly with all grid connected (TX) generators, plus approximately 70 LDCs in Ontario.  Those 70 LDCs in turn deal with well over 26,000 generators under the various MicroFIT programs, carrying a variety of contracted payment amounts. So, “gaming” IESO under their unaudited procedures should not be seen to be difficult.

Additionally, those LDCs are responsible for implementing campaigns associated with the numerous conservation programs, which annually dole out more than $400 million.  For example, Hydro One uses their five-year allotment of $338 million to basically do whatever they wish with the money, as long as they report back to IESO that they have reduced consumption via conservation programs. Toronto Hydro’s allocation is even higher than Hydro One’s at $396 million.   Strong “gaming” possibilities.

Now if you bother to look at past predictions of both data development and spending on that development, you would find aspirations speaking to “smart meters” and a “smart grid” as a means to take data and configure it in such a way to allow all of us to experience utopia! Presumably that “utopia” would make life easy for IESO to handle the financial aspects of managing day to day activities associated with generating power and bringing it to our households or businesses along with the many variables included in the Global Adjustment!

The facts, since the advent of both smart meters and smart grids however, dispel those notions of a forward-looking “cars will fly” utopia. As the Auditor General reported, the “smart meters” cost Ontario $2 billion which, as it turned out was twice as much as planned. The “smart grid” was advocated by a 10-member Smart Grid Forum in February 2009 with objectives loosely defined as “It is necessary change; change from a one-way ‘dumb’ grid to an interactive, intelligent smart grid.”   The Forum reached a consensus in respect to the costs of this “smart grid”: “The preliminary cost estimate by the Forum is that incremental capital spending over the initial five years would be $1.6 billion.”

Well, those five years have come and gone. To the best of my knowledge, there is no report indicating how far we are along in developing the “smart grid” or how much of the $1.6 billion has been spent, but what we do see on each and every electricity bill we get is a charge for its development.

So, “smart” meters, “smart” grids and all that data and the fact the IESO was “gamed.” It is still looking like a one-way “dump” on ratepayers.

Tomorrow, in Part 3 in this series, I look at what the Fair Hydro Plan has accomplished in the first year of its existence.

PARKER GALLANT

Which is it, Mr Manley?

John Manley of the Business Council of Canada is complaining that cancelling wind power contracts is bad for business. But he says high electricity costs are bad for business, too.

Business spokesperson John Manley doesn’t get it: high-priced wind power contracts aren’t good for business

July 27, 2018

The unwanted and unneeded 18.45 MW White Pines wind power project being erected in Prince Edward County is receiving a lot of attention. The people in “The County” have been fighting the project for years with some success and were continuing that fight.  Nevertheless, IESO granted wpd Canada an NTP (notice to proceed) after the writ for the Ontario election was drawn up, and the power developer charged ahead.

They did so knowing the newly elected Premier Ford-led government were proceeding with a “special act” in the Ontario Legislature to stop the project. German owned wpd ignored the backdating of the “act” to July 10, 2018 and in response to the “act” (noted in a CBC article) responded: “The company has indicated that it will seek to recoup $100-million that it has sunk into the project, but it is not clear how much the provincial government will agree to pay. The legislation requires wpd to cover the cost of decommissioning the project and to restore the land to ‘clean and safe condition’.”

The action caused Berlin’s ambassador to Canada Sabine Sparwasser to suggest the move to cancel the project represents a black mark for the province in the eyes of foreign investors: “Obviously, every incoming government has the right to change policy direction. But to have a unilateral cancellation pushed through by law that way is unsettling for the company, but is also something that will unsettle other potential investors.”

Shortly after, John Manley, President of the Business Council of Canada, wrote a letter to Premier Ford in which he said: “(The Act) would revoke permits several years after the proponent obtained them from the appropriate regulatory bodies, cancel contracts with the Independent Electricity System Operator that were negotiated in good faith and unilaterally set the terms upon which the proponent may be eligible for compensation.” What Mr. Manley failed to note is that wpd were facing three charges under the Environmental Protection Act and the NTP was issued after the writ period, so it was in fact the proponent who failed to act in “good faith”. Mr. Manley did not fully investigate the circumstances surrounding the proposed act and simply sided with the developer without consideration of the other contentious issues.

Interesting is a letter Mr. Manley sent to Premier Wynne, last June 15, 2017 in which he noted: “According to the Ministry of Finance’s Long-Term Report on the Economy, Ontario’s average annual growth rate is projected to slow to 2.2 per cent between 2016-2020. At the same time, businesses in Ontario are adjusting to sharply higher electricity rates, higher CPP contribution rates and the implementation of a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas reductions.”

Yet another letter Mr. Manley sent to Glen Murray, then Ontario’s Minster of the Environment and Climate Change back in March 2015 stated: “Ontario firms are facing a number of challenges, not the least of which is higher electricity costs as a result of policies already adopted by the government.”

It would appear Mr. Manley, a former Liberal MP and Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, failed to realize how industrial wind turbines helped cause those “higher electricity costs.” At the same time, he seems to condone the actions of parties who fail to follow legislation meant to protect voters and our environment.

Mr. Manley and the Council he represents cannot have it both ways.

Ontario’s wind turbines demonstrate what they can’t deliver: reliability

The wind power lobbyist makes impressive claims but reality is a different story

Ontario turbines at Belle River: power not there when needed

 

In a bid to be assertive after the Speech from the Throne last Thursday and Premier Ford’s pronouncement of the upcoming demise of the Green Energy Act, CanWEA’s (Canadian Wind Energy Association) President Robert Hornung issued the following announcement

He made some impressive claims.

Maintaining investor confidence in the Ontario marketplace is important for Ontario’s short- and long-term economic prosperity. The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) shares the Ontario Government’s commitment to an affordable and reliable electricity system that benefits Ontarians. CanWEA notes that wind energy projects in Ontario are an important source of sustained revenue for municipal and Indigenous partners. Ontario’s wind energy projects are providing long-term, stable pricing for Ontario ratepayers. Wind energy is now the lowest-cost option for new electricity supply in Ontario, across Canada, and throughout much of the world.”

Focusing on the weekend immediately following Mr. Hornung’s announcement is an interesting exercise. Examining his use of the words “reliable electricity system” is worthwhile to see if it has any bearing on generation from industrial wind turbines (IWT).

As it turns out, both Saturday July 14th and Sunday July 15th delivered pretty average summer days with Ontario demand of 837,000 MWh and total demand (including net exports) of 910,000 MWh. Over those two days, grid-connected IWTs in Ontario delivered 11,329 MWh.

What that means: wind turbines operated at a capacity value that was 5.4% of their rated capacity of over 4,400 MW. Peak output was at 12 AM on July 14th when they generated 969 MWh or 22% of rated capacity. The lowest output was at 10 AM on July 15th when they were probably consuming more than their output of 26 MWh, or 0.6% of their rated capacity.

Wind power generators represent 11.9% of total grid-connected capacity in Ontario according to IESO, so if they are promoted as part of “reliable” electricity, it’s not too far a reach to expect them to demonstrate their reliability.

It appears CanWEA’s claim is false.

Over the two weekend days they generated 1.4% of Ontario’s demand and only 1.2% of total demand.

If that is considered a “reliable” electricity source, Ontario’s ratepayers have been taking it on the chin since the wind contracts were awarded. Those contracts have had the opposite effect of bringing Ontario “short- and long-term economic prosperity” as our electricity cost increases have been more than double those of our neighbours.

All Ontario’s ratepayers are grateful that nuclear and hydro generation, (supported by gas generators during peak periods) were up and running over the past weekend.

Now all we ratepayers need is for the President of CanWEA to finally confess: wind power is intermittent and NOT reliable, and, oh yes, very expensive!

 

Should the Pickering nuclear plant be closed? Not based on cost and performance…

Pickering: working at 95% capacity during the heat wave [Photo: OPG]
July 6, 2018

Wind power a failure during recent high demand during heat wave; dependable power needed

I got a call at 11 a.m. on June 25th from the producer of the Scott Thompson show on CHML 900 AM to appear on the show to discuss the suggestion by NDP leader Andrea Horwath about closing the Pickering Nuclear plant.

Essentially it was about her statement during the election campaign indicating the NDP’s position on Pickering:  “we will begin the decommissioning process immediately, which will bring more jobs to the area — as opposed to the Liberal plan, which is to mothball that facility for 30 years and allow the next generation to figure out the decommissioning”.

Doug Ford, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, on the other hand stated: “The Pickering plant can continue to safely operate until at least 2024. We can generate 14 per cent of Ontario’s power needs right here”.

The producer suggested Scott wanted to explore the opposing issues with me.

Aware I was scheduled to be on his show at 12:35 p.m., and remembering that a Brady Yauch article a few months earlier in the Financial Post had suggested closing Pickering, I felt I should do more research before the call back.  Brady’s principal point was Pickering was a poor performer and the estimated costs ($300 million) of the extension would prove to be negative for ratepayers.

OPG’s website describes Pickering as follows: “Pickering Nuclear has six operating CANDU® (CANadian Deuterium Uranium) reactors. The station has a total output of 3,100 megawatts (MW) which is enough to serve a city of one and a half million people, and about 14 per cent of Ontario’s electricity needs.”.

Pickering Nuclear traces its roots back to 1971 when it first commenced operation with four units and expanded to eight units in 1983.  Two of the first four units have been in voluntary lay-up since 1997.  The CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) awarded OPG’s Pickering and Darlington nuclear stations its highest safety rating in 2017.

Combined, the Pickering and Darlington nuclear stations generated 10.4 TWh (terawatts) of power for the 1st Quarter of 2018 at a combined cost of 7.2 cents/kWh (up from 5.8 cents/kWh in the comparable quarter).  The 10.4 TWh was sufficient to supply the 4.6 million average residential households in the province.

Directing my research to IESO’s hourly Generator Report I was able to discern Pickering at hour 10 of June 25th had just generated 2,308 MWh out of 10,457 MWh produced by all the nuclear plants in the province.  Pickering nuclear represented 22% of nuclear generation at that hour, 15.6% of Ontario demand and 14% of total demand (including exports).   At hour 10, wind turbines were generating 452 MWh or 10% of their capacity versus Pickering nuclear which was operating at about 74.5% of its capacity.

Both nuclear and wind are classified as “base-load” generation!

As it turned out, when I was on Scott’s show the bulk of our chat was related to his prior guest’s discussions about Premier Ford’s cancellation of the “cap and trade” tax.  Only a couple of questions were raised about Pickering which I responded to.

Interestingly enough, now that the Ontario July heat wave has passed, I felt the urge to look at the performance of Pickering and IWT over the seven days when peak demand was high.  Pickering nuclear performed well generating close to 3,000 MWh each and every hour over the period meaning it was operating at over 95% of capacity.  Wind power generation, however was all over the map reaching a high of 2,769 MWh (62% of capacity) at midnight July 1st and a low of 5 MWh (0.11% of capacity) at 10AM on July 4th!

It is obvious that wind fails miserably as “base-load” generation when needed and the relative cost of generating power (sans back-up costs) is over 17 cents/kWh.

It sure looks like we should keep Pickering nuclear operating, as Premier Ford suggested.

Parker Gallant