Ontario’s lavish, expensive electricity weekend

Enjoy the weekend and the balmy weather? Good: you paid millions for it.

Live it up, baby

Ontarians waited a while for Mother Nature to bless them with a good weekend and it finally happened. June 8th and 9th were beautiful days filled with sunshine and temperatures that were warm but not hot.   A nice breeze added to the two spring days.

So, while Mother Nature treated us nicely, that meant people were out enjoying the weather and electricity consumption was, as it usually is during the Spring and Fall, low. Consumption at its lowest (Ontario demand) point over the weekend was 10,564 MW during one hour, and average Ontario demand over the 48 hours was a very low 12,975 MW*.

The combination of nice weather and low electricity consumption however, created an expensive weekend for Ontario ratepayers. Those breezes were generating surplus wind power from industrial wind turbines and water was flowing through our rivers and through and over our dams. The combination cost Ontario ratepayers lots!

For example, wind which delivered 39,870 MWh but the IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) was, at the same time, getting IWT to curtail wind — that amounted to 58,870 MWh**. Those wind power operators were paid $120.00/MWh for curtailed wind and $135.00/MWh for grid-accepted wind.

Wind at 3.7 cents a kilowatt hour? How about 31?

So, collectively over the two days, wind generation and its curtailment alone cost ratepayer $12.448 million or over $312.00/MWh (31.2 cents/KWh).

Over those same two days our net exports (exports minus imports) were 123,960 MWh and most of it was sold at negative prices.   Those 123,960 exported MWh cost Ontario’s ratepayers an average price in excess of $115/MWH, so that was another $14.3 million added to the weekend’s expenses!

It also appears IESO were spilling quite a bit of hydro as well. Scott Luft estimates hydro spillage was somewhere around 50,000 MWh** which would add a further $2.3 million to our expensive weekend.

As if these costs weren’t enough, we also shut one nuclear plant down early Saturday morning and steamed-off nuclear power at Bruce Nuclear — that resulted in another waste of around 43,700 MWh at a cost of $2.884 million which Ontario’s ratepayers are obliged to pay.

And just to put some icing on the cake, our 7,925 MW of gas plants (backing up renewable intermittent wind and solar generation) were idling all weekend at a cost (estimated) of $10,000 per MW of capacity per month. That cost ratepayers about $5.2 million for those two days.

So add up the waste of the two days for curtailed wind of 58,870 MWh, steamed-off nuclear of 50,000 MWh, spilled hydro of 43,700 MWh and net exports of 123,960 MWh you will see Ontario’s ratepayers will pay for 276,530 MWh of unneeded power, or 44.4% of what was actually consumed.

That’s almost $26 million. For one weekend.

If one includes idling gas plants, total costs were north of $31 million to be paid for, but provided absolutely no benefit to Ontario ratepayers!

PARKER GALLANT

*Nuclear power alone could have supplied about 85% of total consumption over the 48 hours.

**Thanks to Scott Luft for this information.

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Why warm breezy spring days are horrible for Ontario

but New York and Michigan think they’re great. 

The Victoria Day weekend often brings nice weather and the recent weekend was no exception in Ontario.  Sunday was a beautiful day in most of the province, with temperatures in the high teens to low twenties.

Pleasant, but if you are an electricity customer? Horrible.

As a direct result of that really nice day on May 19, Ontario’s demand for electricity was low — according to IESO’s daily summary demand was just under 296,000 MWh.   Ontario’s nuclear plants combined with a little bit of hydro could easily have supplied all our electricity needs that day.

But, the wind was blowing and according to IESO’s forecast was expected to generate over 59,200 MWh of power or about 20% of Ontario’s demand.  Even though wind generation gets “first-to-the-grid” rights (because of the contracts the wind industry negotiated) the IESO only accepted 40% (23,700 MWh) of the forecast amount, presumably at standard contracted price of $135/MWh (plus cost of living increases since contract signing).

IESO curtailed the balance of 35,500 MWh and paid the CanWEA-negotiated price of $120/MWH.

So the total cost of power generation from wind was almost $7.5 million or about $315/MWH — about 31.5 cents/kWh.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, IESO were busy selling off surplus generation to our neighbours. Cheap.

Our net exports (exports minus imports) averaged 2,860/MWh for 24 hours, meaning net exports for the day were just over 68,600 MWh.  As a reminder, exports are sold at the market price or what is referred to as HOEP (Hourly Ontario Energy Price) and that averaged -$2.16 (negative) for the day, meaning it cost us about $150,000 to just get rid of our surplus power on top of paying for the HOEP and the GA (Global Adjustment).

The IESO in their April 2019 monthly summary said the combined HOEP and GA cost averaged $116.77/MWh* up to that date.  A quick calculation on this indicates Ontario’s ratepayers picked up costs of $8,150,000 for power shipped off (via transmission lines we pay for too) to New York (31,160 MWh), Michigan (19,180), Quebec, etc. That helps them to keep their costs down.

In summary, Ontario’s ratepayers picked up the costs for wind generation and curtailment of $7.5 million together with the cost of exports of $8.150 million without inclusion of solar, hydro spillage and nuclear steam-off costs. While we may have been outside enjoying a nice sunny spring day, Ontario’s ratepayers were being treated as scapegoats for the mess that permeates the electricity system.

The total damage was $15,650,000 for just one day.

This waste is offensive to both ratepayers and taxpayers — the time has come to stop.

PARKER GALLANT

*Scott Luft reported April set a new record for Class B ratepayers which IESO said was $138.90/MWH

Hydro One customers take it on the chin–again

Delivery charges ballooning, according to recent financial report

Hydro One released their first Quarter results on May 9, 2019: reported revenue was up 15.4 % ($183million) compared to the first Quarter of 2018.  The higher revenues were “driven by higher distribution revenues [up 30.5% from the comparable quarter] primarily due to OEB’s decision on the 2018 and 2019 distribution rates.”

With that in mind and, as a Hydro One customer who just received the monthly bill, I checked the relative percentage costs of their “delivery” charge. It was 45% of the bill (before taxes). Another quick calculation by simply dividing the delivery costs by the monthly consumption indicated a cost of 7.31cents/kWh for Hydro One’s delivery charges.   Electricity costs were 52% of the bill (8.5cents/kWh) and “regulatory charges” represented the balance.

Intrigued with these findings, I then calculated Hydro One’s comparative delivery costs for the same quarters in 2018 and 2019 to determine how the two rate increases granted by the OEB for their distribution business affected the same calculation—cost per kilowatt hour! Hydro One’s quarterly report provides the details on both GWh (gigawatt hours) distributed and the cost of “Purchased Power” so the basic calculation is the same as that for my bill.

For the first Quarter of 2018, Hydro One reported their distribution was 7,406 GWh which produced gross revenue of $1,145 million, and the cost of Purchased Power (PP) was $751 million, meaning “Distribution Revenue” net of PP was $394 million. Dividing that $394 million by the 7,406 GWh distributed indicates the average distribution cost was 5.32 cents/kWh.

For the first Quarter of 2019, Hydro One reported their distribution was 7,738 GWh (+4.5%) producing gross revenue of $1,321 million (+15.4%) and the cost of PP was $807 million (+7.5%) producing net Distribution Revenue of $514 million (+30.5%). Dividing that $514 million by the 7,738 GWh distributed indicate the average distribution cost was 6.64 cents/kWh.

So, based on these calculations, what do we get? Average delivery costs for Hydro One customers increased from 5.32 cents/kWh in 2018 to 6.64 cents/kWh in the comparable 2019 quarter which equates to a 24.8% increase year over year. That far outpaces the cost of living increase year over year!

Despite the 15.4% ($183 million) increase in revenue compared to the first Quarter of 2018, Hydro One’s net income fell from $222 million to $171 million as operations, maintenance and administration (OMA)  costs jumped by $146 million.  Interestingly enough, of the $146 million OMA increase, the financial statements attribute $140 million of it to the cost of the failed Avista acquisition.  In an attempt perhaps to appease shareholders, the quarterly financial statements suggest “Adjusted net income attributable to common shareholders” was $311 million.  If they earned that for the ensuing three quarters, net income would be $1.244 billion.  If one measured that income on an equity base of $9,622 million (Hydro One’s year-end equity December 31, 2018) it would represent a 12.9% ROE (return on equity).

The current OEB (Ontario Energy Board) allowed ROE is 8.98% which suggests the OEB either treats Hydro One as “special” or sets the ROE without enforcement. The first point under the OEB’s “Mandate” is “Establishing rates and prices that are reasonable to consumers and that allow utilities to invest in the system.”

Perhaps it’s time for the OEB to follow their mandate, as a 12.9% ROE exceeds the current allowed ROE by a wide margin. All ratepayers should be aware Hydro One has five distribution rate applications outstanding with the OEB according to their latest quarterly report!

Let’s all hope the OEB has a serious look at those applications and actually allows rates to be set that are “reasonable to consumers”!

PARKER GALLANT

Another spring day, more big bucks for wind power operators

Mild spring weather, breezy days are money-making combo for wind power corporations

Wind turbine beside MIlford, in Prince Edward County: wind power not needed to meet demand

As very recently pointed out, utility-scale wind power operators love the spring because it brings nice breezes that result in lots of generation for which they are paid.  The bad news for Ontario electricity customers is that the power produced is generally not needed, but due to the wind power industry’s negotiated “first-to-the grid” rights, they must be paid regardless.

That was the case on May 8 and again the following day.

May 9 was another low demand day in Ontario as reported by IESO with only 337,700 MWh required to supply all of the province’s needs for electricity.  IESO’s forecast for power generation from wind was about 79,400 MWh, which would have represented 23.5 % of total demand.  However, a large part of it was forecast for low demand hours; no doubt that meant power from other relatively cheap sources of generation were dispatched off.

Low demand on a low demand day caused IESO to curtail 29,400 MWh (37.1%) of the forecast output and to sell off surplus generation to our grid-connected neighbours in New York, Michigan, Quebec, etc. The net exports of 41,600 MWh (rounded) sold to those buyers represented 83% of the accepted “output” of wind power.

In other words, Ontario didn’t really need any wind power!

The net exports were worth $3.70 per MWh (average of the Hourly Ontario Electricity Price or HOEP for the day) meaning they produced total revenue for Ontario of approximately $154,000.

So, you might ask, how much wind generation cost Ontario ratepayers for the day?

The 29,400 curtailed MWh at the $120/MWh IWT operators get paid was $3.528,000 and adding in the cost of the 50,000 MWh actually accepted at $135/MWh adds another $6,750,000 to the cost of wind. That brings the total cost of wind for that spring day to $10,124,000 if we deduct the $154,000 generated by the sales of our net exports.

Ten million paid, $150,000 recouped–makes sense doesn’t it?

So, wind power on May 9 cost Ontario ratepayers $202.48/MWh or 20.2 cents/kWh. That doesn’t include any of the other costs its generation may have caused such as spilling cheap hydro or steaming off cheap nuclear. To top it off, most of the day’s wind power generation, if exported, at an average price of $3.70/MWh means a loss of $198.78 for every megawatt hour sold.

The “average” Ontario ratepayer would love to be able to buy the 9 MWh they consume in a year at those bargain basement prices of $3.70/MWh. Imagine: it would cost them $33.30 for a full year’s electricity needs.  I’m confident our small and medium-sized businesses would also love the opportunity to pick up some of that cheap electricity, instead of being forced to pay for expensive, intermittent and unreliable wind and solar generation!

It’s time to sort out the mess created by the McGuinty/Wynne governments in respect to the electricity file.

If it isn’t, Ontario will continue to be stuck with climbing above-market electricity prices until the wind and solar contracts finally end.

PARKER GALLANT

Wind power operators love spring! Here’s why

Wind power operators don’t need flowers: they get money

Most Canadians love Spring simply because the snow is melting and that signals the summer is coming.

Ontario’s wind power developers love Spring, too! They know the wind will blow much stronger than in the hot summer weather and that means, their generation output will climb.

The fact the wind power lobby negotiated “first to the grid” rights with the Ontario government under Premier Dalton McGuinty means most of them will be paid 13.5 cents/kWh for whatever they produce, whether it is needed or not.

For example, May 8 was a day when the breezes were brisk throughout Ontario and the industrial-scale or utility-scale wind turbines were busy generating lots of power. The IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) reports hourly on both the forecast for wind generation, as well as the actual output. That day, wind could have provided as much as 26% of total Ontario demand for power.  But here’s the important fact:  the total Ontario demand on an early May spring day is not what it is in the heat of summer or the cold of winter and that was the case on May 8.  Total Ontario demand was only 322,000 MWh for the day.

Money for nothing

Because of the low demand, about 36% (30,400 MWh) of IESO’s forecast for wind power generation looks as though it was probably curtailed (paid for but not used) and the wind power operators were paid $120/MWh. That means, Ontario’s electricity ratepayers paid almost $3.7 million for nothing. Zero.

The output actually accepted into the grid was just over 54,000 MWh, which cost ratepayers about $7.3 million. Coupled with the curtailment costs, that meant each kWh of wind “grid-accepted” cost 20.3 cents/kWh.

We should also assume that Ontario was probably spilling hydro or steaming off nuclear due to low demand, which would further drive up that price.

As if this information isn’t enough of a downer on a nice spring day, the HOEP (Hourly Ontario Energy Price), or what is referred to as the “market price,” was noted in their daily summary at an average of $1.75/MWh.

And the very next day …

Ontario’s demand was so low so we didn’t need any wind generation May 9, so IESO had to sell it off at the market price to U.S. and other grid-connected operators. The surplus demand of just under 44,000 MWh (81% of grid-accepted wind generation) was sold at $1.75/MWh generating total revenue of $77,000 but cost ratepayers in the order of $6 million.

This all simply demonstrates why the Global Adjustment charge keeps climbing. If the loss of $6 million daily for just the cost of exporting our surplus energy occurred every day of the year, it would represent in excess of $2.1 billion annually as a cost to Ontario ratepayers.

The time has come to fix this weird situation created by the former Ontario government.

PARKER GALLANT

How Ontario’s “little” electricity customers help out the big ones (with billions)

Class B Ontario ratepayers support Class A ratepayers–$6.2 billion and growing

It was almost six months ago when the Ontario Energy Board’s (OEB) Marker Surveillance Panel (MSP) released a review of the Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI). The review looked at the impact it had on pricing since its launch in September 2011.

The ICI came into being after extensive lobbying for a reduction in electricity pricing by the Association of Major Power Consumers of Ontario (AMPCO) when Brad Duguid held the position of Minister of Energy.

The ICI model simply requires the “A” Class user to pick five “peak demand” hours over a year in order to gain a sizable discount to the price they pay.

An article written by yours truly, appeared shortly after the review’s release and pointed out the cost to Class B ratepayers, namely, residential and small/medium sized businesses. The article noted the failure by the OEB to act on its role which is: “The OEB supports and guides the continuing evolution of the Ontario energy sector by promoting outcomes and innovation that deliver value for all Ontario energy consumers.” The article noted it took the OEB seven (7) years to realize “the ICI as presently structured is a complicated and non-transparent means of recovering costs, with limited efficiency benefits.”

One should wonder if the recognition was a reflection of a change in government or, a realization the “value” didn’t apply to “all” of Ontario’s ratepayers the OEB is supposed to consider in its innocuous decisions!
The support of Class B to Class A ratepayers as of the end of 2017 “has shifted nearly $5 billion in electricity costs from larger consumers to smaller ones. In 2017, the ICI shifted $1.2 billion in electricity costs to households and small businesses—nearly four times greater than the amount in 2011.”

Almost six months have transpired since issuance of the MSP review and nothing has changed. Another year has gone by (the review reflected cost transfers to the end of 2017) and 2018 duplicated the shift of 2017 so add another $1.2 billion and push the total transfer to $6.2 billion since mid-September 2011.

What that represents is an average subsidy to Class A ratepayers of over $1,200 for each of the approximately 5.1 million Class B ratepayers over the 7 ½ years since the ICI came into existence.

The Market Surveillance Panel made several observations on how the ICI could be made more efficient and/or enhanced to make it fairer. The Panel’s first two observations would help to reduce the burden on Class B ratepayers so perhaps its time the OEB and/or the Ministry enable those changes which are:
*Costs that are not related to the fixed capacity costs of needed generation are removed from the Global Adjustment and recovered by other means.
*Only the cost of peaking generation is recovered based on consumption during peak demand hours; the cost of non-peaking generation should be allocated such that all consumers that benefit from that capacity pay for that capacity.”

Almost a year ago, many in Ontario voted for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, handing them a majority government. One of the chief reasons the Liberals were defeated was their mishandling of the energy file. Based on the foregoing, most voters anticipated the new Ford-led government would have tackled the file with all the might one would expect with the election promise that “help is on the way” followed by the declaration of Premier Ford in his victory speech stating; “My friends, help is here.”

The opportunities to demonstrate the “help” are there for all to see such as those recommended by the MSP.

The government could also use regulations to enforce noise controls (audible and inaudible) on industrial wind turbines, they should insist the UNIFOR wind turbine in Saugeen Shores be removed, they could cancel the 100 MW Nation Rise project to save future ratepayers hundreds of millions, and they could insist the OEB reflect its “vision” which claims it is responsible for: “promoting outcomes and innovation that deliver value for all Ontario energy consumers.”

Ontario’s Class B ratepayers are waiting for “help” to arrive and see the OEB deliver actual value!

Oh, and a thank you from the Class A ratepayers would be nice too!

PARKER GALLANT

MP traces Ontario electricity legacy in the House

The MP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke in Ontario, Cheryl Gallant, made remarks in the House of Commons recently about the role McGuinty government operatives might now play at the federal level. She quotes my recent article on this issue.

People who live in Ontario have seen this all before. Canadians who follow my speeches in the House of Commons will have been warned about disgraced former prime minister top aide Gerry Butts, who was forced to resign over his role in the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal. As a principal political operative for Dalton McGuinty and whatever backroom dealings he had with McGuinty’s defeated party replacement, by trashing the Ontario economy, disgraced former PMO operative Gerald Butts can share the credit for the Toronto Liberal policy of “heat or eat” among seniors and others on fixed incomes.

… Well-informed observer Parker Gallant said this in the blog “Energy Perspectives”:

For the benefit of those who didn’t follow Ontario politics during the McGuinty/Wynne era, it’s worth pointing out both Gerry Butts and Ben Chin played significant roles in Ontario, especially the ill-fated electricity file.

Butts is credited as the mastermind behind Dalton McGuinty’s election as Ontario’s Premier: Butts was, according to the Toronto Star, “the man they call ‘the brains behind the operation’ and policy architect of the Liberal government since 2003.”

Butts left the McGuinty government in mid-2008, after he and the Ontario Liberal team set the stage for the Green Energy Act, by pushing for renewable wind and solar projects and to close coal plants. Butts went off to lead the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) for four years before joining [the Prime Minister] as his political advisor.

The article continues:

Ben Chin, engaged as a “political advisor” to Dalton McGuinty, was the McGuinty candidate chosen to run against the NDP’s Peter Tabuns in a byelection in 2006. Chin lost, but returned as a “senior advisor” to Premier McGuinty’s office where he again worked with Gerry Butts. Chin left for the private sector and a short while later was hired back as Vice President Communications for the OPA (Ontario Power Authority). The OPA was the creation of Dwight Duncan when he was McGuinty’s Minister of Energy and became the Crown corporation to enact the myriad of things mired in the Green Energy & Green Economy Act (GEA).

Chin later became embroiled in the “gas plant” scandal as the Premier’s principal contact with the negotiating team dealing with TransCanada et al on compensation issues related to the cancellation. Ontario’s ratepayers know how that turned out! While Chin occupied his position with the OPA, [former executive director of the environmental group Energy Probe] Tom Adams and I were investigating the gas plant scandal by reviewing thousands of documents.

Mr. Gallant goes on:

The following reveals some of our findings in an article I wrote about the “smart grid” and a Brad Duguid directive.

Co-incidentally (noted by Tom Adams), the Duguid directive is dated the same day as the e-mail exchange between Alicia Johnston (formerly a senior political staffer for Energy Minister Brad Duguid, later promoted to the Premier’s Office) and Ben Chin (a senior Ontario Power Authority executive).

Read the full record of MP Gallant’s remarks in the House of Commons here.