Just two days ago, on March 1, 2021 at Hour 22 (hour ending at 10 PM) Bruce Nuclear’s Unit G-3 with a capacity of 784 MW was shut down for major component replacements (MCR) and will not return to service until sometime in 2026. Daily that unit has been supplying enough generation for 12% (627,000) of Ontario households with (18,800 MWh) their electricity needs. The refurbishment of that unit brought down Ontario’s nuclear baseload to just under 8,000 MW so coupled with all of Ontario’s run of river hydro it is insufficient to meet our peak needs and we can’t count on Quebec to always be there to cover our shortfalls. The Society of United Professionals pointed out why we can’t count on Quebec to help us out in a February 2021 report in which they stated: “importing firm baseload power from Quebec is not as simple as signing a contract and flipping a switch. As a result of bottlenecks in Ontario’s transmission system, pressures on Quebec’s power supply and Ontario’s ongoing reliance on Quebec for summer peak power, there are multiple reasons that imports are not the simple solution they may seem.“
Likewise, even though Ontario has grid connected IWT (industrial wind turbines) with a reported connected capacity of about 4,900 MW (6 times the G-3 unit) their average annual generation is only in the 29/30% range. Further because of their intermittency they cannot be counted on to generate power when it is actually needed. March 2nd is a perfect example as over the full day they only generated 11.6% (13,619 MW) of their capacity with a peak at Hour 18 of 957 MW (19.5% of capacity) and a low of 275 MW (5.6% of capacity) at Hour 1.
Fortunately, yesterday was a relatively speaking; a mild winter day in Ontario and Quebec and peak demand came at hour 20 when it reached its high for the day at 18,579 MW and those IWT contributed only 2.6% (486 MW) of demand at that hour. Because it was a somewhat mild winter day Hydro Quebec was able to supply around 38,000 MWh while we were busy selling about 24,000 MWh to Michigan. Had it been a cold winter day Quebec would have needed the power they supplied Ontario via our intertie connections. As it turned out we were a net importer of power for twenty-two hours and a net exporter for only two hours of the day which is a big turnaround from when our nuclear baseload was higher in the 10,000 MW range only a month or so ago.
What really stepped up to the plate for Ontario yesterday was our natural gas generation thanks to its flexibility and over the 24 hours it supplied us with 68,552 MWh or about what 2.3 million average Ontario households (45% of Ontario households) consume daily. At our peak hour it provided 3,957 MWh or 21.3% of demand and over eight times what those IWT generated. It should also be noted the abilities of natural gas generation to be so flexible presumably resulted in the HOEP (hourly Ontario energy price) remaining relatively stable throughout the day in the $30/MWh range.
The good news is Bruce Nuclear’s Unit 6, the first unit to be refurbished under the MCR project, is scheduled to return to service later in 2023 and its life cycle will be extended to the early 2060s! Perhaps by then politicians will have abandoned the concept of wind and solar being a reliable supply of electricity and the eco-warriors will have returned to their caves!