In the billions: the cost of closing Ontario’s coal power plants

The annual cost of closing Ontario’s coal plants 

The first article in respect to Ontario’s decision to close our coal plants examined the MW (megawatt) capacity and the type of generating capacity added to our electricity grid since 2011. The added capacity replaced the 4,484 MW of coal-fired generation at the end of 2011 in anticipation of increasing demand.

What I’ve done is approximate the costs of the added capacity versus the 4.1 TWh generated by the 4,484 MW of coal-fired plants, which cost only $135 million (3.3 cents/kWh) in 2011. 

Nuclear instead of wind and solar

As an example, the 1,532 MW of emissions-free Bruce Nuclear refurbished generation, at a capacity factor of 90% supplying 12.08 TWh, easily covered the loss of 4.1 TWh of coal-fired generation and left 8.7 TWh for added demand due to its flexibility to steam off or bypass the turbines. The 12.08 TWh could have supplied most of the 2015 solar generation of 3.04 TWh and the 10.2 TWh of wind, which proved to be unneeded.   The latter two alone in 2015 added an additional $2.7 billion to generation costs before curtailment (wind) costs of $88 million.

Bruce Power supplies from the 1,532 MW would have cost ratepayers $800 million, reducing the ratepayer burden by almost $2 billion annually.  Additionally “nuclear maneuvers” (reductions),  of 897 gigawatt hours added about $60 million during surplus baseload periods, caused mainly by (unreliable) intermittent power generation from wind.

Too much gas? 

Let’s look at the gas plant addition of 602 MW:  In 2011 the 9,549 MW of gas generation produced 22 TWh,  operating at a capacity factor of 26.3%.  Fast forward to 2015: the 10,151 MW generated 15.5 TWh  operating at a capacity factor of 17.5%.  Gas plants are quite capable of operating at a capacity factor of 40% to 60% (combined or single cycle).  In either case, they are regarded as peaking plants and for that reason investors know they will be called on when needed. Their contracts pay them for simply being “at the ready.”  Those costs vary but generally payments are $7,000 to $15,000 per MW per month.  The additional 602 MW of gas added about $100 million annually to the costs.  With gas generation falling from 22 TWh in 2011 to 15.5 TWh in 2015, ratepayers were burdened with the costs of the drop of 6.5 TWh at a cost of approximately $100 million per TWh, raising the cost of gas generation by $750 million since 2011.

Adding costly hydro

The bulk of the 754 MW added to the grid since 2011 came from the Niagara tunnel, (“Big Becky”) with a promise of 150 MW, and the Mattagami expansion added 438 MW of run-of-river hydro. Both of these projects by OPG were hugely expensive, costing ratepayers $4.1 billion plus interest on the money borrowed to fund the projects. If one amortizes those costs over 50 years it adds about $80 annually to ratepayer bills and the interest costs annually add about $120 million at 3% per annum. So that is $200 million for those two projects, without adding their OMA (operations, management and administration) costs.

As well, OPG is frequently forced to “spill” water under SBG (surplus baseload generation) periods mainly due to excessive intermittent wind and solar generation. In 2015 the latter was 3.4 TWh which cost ratepayers $150 million.  The other event affecting hydro costs was an amendment to change “unregulated” hydro to regulated pricing.  This change added $474 million to ratepayers’ bills for 2015 for the 30.4 TWh generated by OPG versus 2011.  So hydro costs in the four years from 2011 jumped from a cost of $37.7 million/TWh to $53.3/TWh.  The total additional costs of hydro (OPG only) in 2015 was therefore over $800 million.

Coal conversion 

The Ontario Energy ministers also issued directives instructing conversion of the 200-MW Atikokan and the 300-MW Thunder Bay coal plants operated by OPG.  A 2005 directive from Dwight Duncan was the first and told OPG to convert Thunder Bay “to operate using a fuel source other than coal”.  Later on when Brad Duguid sat in the energy chair he ordered it converted to gas but in the end it became a shareholder direction from Bob Chiarelli, ordering it to be converted to “advanced biomass” and agreed to cover the annual $30 million operating costs.  As disclosed by the Auditor General, if Thunder Bay produces any power, it will cost $1,500 per megawatt hour (MWh).  In respect to the conversion of Atikokan it may produce cheaper power in the 20 cents/kWh range but will probably operate at 10% of capacity and generate an annual cost of about $35 million.  So collectively, both of these conversions will produce almost no power but will add approximately $65 million annually to ratepayers’ bills.

Conservation is expensive 

The long-term conservation budget for 2015-2020 is $2.6 billion, meaning IESO will allocate spending of $433 million annually to local distribution companies (LDC) to reduce consumption by 7 TWh.   Should the LDC be successful, their delivery revenue will drop.  Assuming the delivery charge represents about 35% (on average) the revenue drop for all LDC would be approximately $300 million.  Then the LDC will be entitled to apply for a rate increase based on the drop in revenue, meaning the $300 million may be fully recovered.  Adding that to the monies spent annually convincing us to reduce our electricity consumption via the “conservation budget” adds another $483 million annually ($433 million + [$300/6 years = $50 million] = $483 million).

$4 billion … a year

So the cost of replacing the 4.1 TWh of coal generated at a cost of about $135 million in 2011 is in excess of $4 billion annually.

Confirmation of the foregoing cost can be simply calculated. If one reviews the “average” cost of a kWh on the OEB “Historical Electricity Prices” as of November 1, 2011 was 7.57 cents/kWh versus 10.70 cents/kWh on November 1, 2015.  The increase of 3.13 cents/kWh (+41.3%) translates to an increase of $31.3 million per TWh and applied to the 143.6 TWh consumed in 2015 provides an annual cost increase of $4.5 billion to ratepayers since 2011.

The cost blows away the purported healthcare costs supposedly caused by coal generation.   At the same time, it removes about $1,000 of after-tax money from the pockets of the 4.5 million ratepayers in the province every year.

This is a sad commentary on what the Ontario Liberal government has done to Ontarians.

Parker Gallant,

August 29, 2016

 

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Replacing coal power in Ontario: what the government really did

There is so much mythology now around Ontario’s coal plants for power generation, it really is time to set the record straight on what really happened, how much it cost, and what was actually achieved. This is the first in a two-part series.

Back in 2011, Ontario had coal plant capacity of 4,484 MW but the plants really operated only occasionally, producing 4.1 terawatts (TWh) of power — just 10.5% of their capacity. The 4.1 TWh they generated in 2011 represented 2.7% of total power generation in Ontario of 149.8 TWh.  The cost  per TWh was $33 million or 3.3 cents/kWh, making the ratepayers’ bill for those 4.1 TWh $135 million.

As most Ontarians know, those coal plants were either closed (Lambton and Nanticoke) or converted to biomass (Atikokan and Thunder Bay). We were continually told closing or converting those coal plants would save Ontario’s health care system $4.4 billion, based on a study completed while Dwight Duncan was Ontario’s Energy Minister.  Duncan’s claim was a fictitious interpretation of the actual study, but it was repeated so often by Liberal ministers and MPPs that they all believed it and presumably felt the public believed it, too.  

Good PR but … the truth?

Whether one believes the Duncan claim, the fact is the coal plants were closed or converted and the ruling Ontario Liberal government made a big deal of it even to the point of obtaining an endorsement from Al Gore as the first jurisdiction in North America to end coal fired power generation.

The government never disclosed how much it cost the ratepayers/taxpayers of the province to close or convert those coal plants, and we certainly haven’t seen any improvement in our healthcare system since it happened, as one would expect from saving billions. So, was the claim of savings a falsehood? And what did closing the plants really cost?

Let’s start with looking at our electricity consumption level in 2011 and compare it to 2015. In 2011 Ontario generated 149.8 TWh and consumed 141.5 TWh.  In 2015 we generated 159.6 TWh, including 5.9 TWh of embedded generation, and we reportedly consumed 137 TWh, not including the 5.9 TWh of embedded generation consumed within the confines of your local distribution company (LDC).

The difference of 8.3 TWh in 2011 and 16.7 TWh in 2015 was exported.

Replacing coal-fired generation 

As noted, coal capacity was 4,484 MW in 2011 and in 2015 was zero — so what did we replace it with?   According to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) Ontario Energy Report for Q4 2015, since the end of 2011 we have added:

  1. Nuclear supply increased by 1,532 MW (Bruce Power)
  2. 754 MW of hydro
  3. Natural gas generation increased 602 MW
  4. 2,580 more MW capacity of industrial wind turbines (IWT)
  5. Solar up by 2,078 MW
  6. Bio-mass increased by 481 MW (principally conversions of Atikokan and Thunder Bay from coal)
  7. “Other” increased by 10 MW

As well, residential ratepayers conserved 1.184 GWh1. , equivalent to 450 MW of wind turbines operating at 30% of capacity (generating electricity intermittently and out-of-phase with demand).

So altogether, Ontario added 8,037 MW of capacity to cover the loss of 4,484 MW of coal which, in 2011, operated at only 10.5% of capacity.

Ratepayers also reduced consumption by 6,553 GWh with residential ratepayers representing 1,184 GWh of that reduction.

It would appear the variations of long-term energy planning emanating from the Ontario energy portfolio continually overestimated future demand by a wide margin. Their numerous ministerial directives to the Ontario Power Authority (merged with IESO January 1, 2015) with instructions to contract more and more unreliable intermittent wind and solar generation with “first-to- the-grid” rights at high prices produced surplus energy.

This stream of directives and the acquisition of excess capacity resulted in increasing electricity costs for ratepayers due to surplus generation and payment guarantees for displaced generation.

They also added other expensive policies such as conservation initiatives that simply piled on unneeded costs.

NEXT: The second in this series will examine the additional costs associated with the various policies applied and how generation additions to Ontario’s energy mix continue to drive up Ontario’s electricity costs

Parker Gallant

August 28, 2016

  1. Interestingly, the OEB in a revision to the “average” residential ratepayers monthly consumption reduced it from 800 kWh to 750 kWh, yet suggests conservation achieved (2011 to 2014) was 1,184 gigawatts (GWh).   The total number of residential ratepayers suggests that consumption has declined by 2,739 GWh (4,564,835 residential ratepayers at December 31, 2015 X 50kWh [montly] X 12 = 2,739 GWh) since 2009.
Replacing coal power generation (which only operated at 10% capacity) resulted in a doubling of Ontario power exports
Replacing coal power generation (which only operated at 10% capacity) resulted in a doubling of Ontario power exports

Ontario’s present and future lashed by electricity bills

Building Ontario Up

“Building Ontario Up” — a PR slogan doomed to failure

August 21, 2016

On July 18th Premier Kathleen Wynne bragged about Ontario’s  2016 first quarter GDP growth outpacing Canada, the U.S. and all other G7 countries via news release.  The Premier said,  “Our economic plan is working, and we are building a strong and prosperous future for our province.”

Three weeks later, StatsCan announced Ontario suffered job losses in July of 36,100 — almost 19,000 of them were full-time jobs.  In fact, Ontario’s job losses exceeded total job losses in Canada of 31,200 net jobs.  Needless to say, that didn’t merit a news release from the Premier’s office or Finance Minister Sousa either, about how the Ontario Liberal government might not be “building Ontario up”.

The StatsCan announcement also didn’t signal a change in Ontario’s unemployment rate which is mired at 6.4%. Compare that to the U.S. unemployment rate (June 2016) of 4.9%, or New York’s at 4.7%, and Michigan’s at 4.6%.

Why New York and Michigan love Ontario: cheap power

New York and Michigan are the two neighbours who are the major beneficiaries of Ontario’s management of its electricity system. In 2015, we exported 8,571 gigawatts (GWh) to New York and 10,248 GWh to Michigan at an average price of 2.36 cents per kilowatt hour (US $1.82 cents/kWh). Those sales generated revenue of $444 million but cost Ontario ratepayers $2.3 billion. The loss on those exports of almost $1.9 billion was included on our hydro bills.

That 18,819 GWh of power sold at huge costs to Ontario ratepayers. Here are the facts.

  • The power sold at a loss was enough to have supplied 2 million “average”1. residential ratepayers with power for a year
  • The losses on those exports could have paid the “Total dollar amount of arrears for eligible low income customer accounts in arrears at year end” December 31, 2015 for 146 years
  • The “total dollar amount ($172.6 million) of arrears for residential customer accounts in arrears at year end” could have been paid over 11 times
  • The “total dollar amount ($106 million) of arrears for Hydro One residential customer accounts in arrears at year end” could have been paid over 18 times
  • The power sold represented enough money2. to cover the full annual cost of 766,000 Hydro One, low-density “average” ratepayers

It is impossible to know what the generation sources were for the exported power, but with combined wind (10,765 GWh) and solar (3,026 GWh) generation representing 13,791 GWh in 2015, one must assume a lot of wind and solar power traveled to New York and Michigan. Evidence of that was highlighted in a recent study from the Canadian Nuclear Association: “Wind makes up 34% of the provincial night time surplus.”

Without those surplus exports, one could assume the Hourly Ontario Energy Price or HOEP would have been higher in that trading market, resulting in reduced costs to Ontario’s ratepayers.

Looking back to 2009 at the posted OEB average electricity price at the end of that year (6.07 cents/kWh) and comparing it with the average electricity price at the end of 2015 (10.70 cents/kWh), the annual increase was 12%.

It is worth noting that distribution rates have also increased as much (or more) for some distributors such as Hydro One.

If one examines U.S. residential electricity prices, we find the average all-inclusive (generation, transmission, delivery, state taxes) price in the U.S. at the end of 2009 was 9.82 cents/kWh and at the end of 2015 had increased to 12.67/kWh for residential clients. This suggests the average annual increase in the all-in price of electricity in the U.S. was 4.8% annually versus the Ontario 12% increase for just the “electricity” line.

Ontario has managed to raise the price of the raw commodity (electricity) almost three times faster than the U.S. has increased all-in rates.

It’s costing us a fortune, so —let’s buy more!

What does Ontario plan to do? The government continues to push ahead with their agenda to acquire more unreliable and intermittent wind and solar generation, with a new bid process beginning in 2017. That’s in spite of pricing Ontario out of the market to attract new industry, and creating “energy poverty” that now affects 12.4% (566,902 as reported by the OEB) of ratepayers. Many were in arrears on their electricity bills at the end of 2015.

 

Recently appointed Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault told Shirley Engel of Global TV News “I’m not using the word crisis” when asked about the massive response of emails and phone calls to Global following stories on painful electricity bills in Ontario.  Global was successful in getting the OEB to release the “arrears” statistics mentioned above.  In the “Backgrounder” to the release of those statistics, the OEB opened with this statement: “The Ontario Energy Board is the regulator responsible for protecting energy consumers in Ontario.”

Why has the OEB failed to protect energy consumers, in essence failing to do its job? You would be obliged to point the finger at the Ontario Liberal government for its their passing the Green Energy Act, and the more than 100 directives given to the Ontario Power Authority (merged with IESO January 1, 2015), IESO, Hydro One, OPG and the OEB by past and present Energy Ministers going back to Dwight Duncan.

Premier McGuinty and now Premier Wynne believe they know far more than the people running those organizations and have ensured their dictates are followed.

“Building Ontario up” is a PR slogan. Its realization is condemned to failure, mostly because of the damage done to a province that once could claim some of the cheapest electricity rates. With the most expensive electricity rates in North America now, the only thing the Ontario Liberal government can claim they are “building up” are the number of ratepayers living in energy poverty.

Parker Gallant

1.The OEB defines an average residential ratepayer as one consuming 750 kilowatt hours (kWh) per month.

2.The OEB’s “Bill Calculator” tells you the monthly cost is $206.64 so annually it is $2,479.68.

Hydro One bills driving people into poverty

August 17, 2016

Thanks to the persistence of Global TV it appears the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) was obligated (transparency?) to release information on rising electricity bills and how people are being driven into energy poverty.

While the information contained in the PDF file shows a variety of arrears*-related information, and covers all of the local distribution companies (LDC) in the province, the Hydro One data is particularly striking. It is also in keeping with some of the 2015 Ombudsman’s report.

It is important to realize that Hydro One claimed 1,141,369 residential ratepaying customers as of December 31, 2015, representing exactly 25% of total Ontario residential ratepayers according to the Yearbook of Electricity Distributors on the OEB website.

So, focusing on Hydro One only, here are some of the interesting statistics gleaned from the OEB “arrears” report as of December 31, 2015:

  • Hydro One had 59,233 ratepayers in arrears which represented 7.1% of their residential customer base and 68.8% of all residential ratepayers in arrears (86,090) as of that date.
  • Hydro One claimed just over $97 million1. of billing arrears which represented 89% of the total billing arrears reported by all LDC (just over $109 million) as of December 31, 2015.
  • Hydro One’s arrears of $97 million represented 12.5% of their outstanding receivables as at the date of their year end.
  • Hydro One had 17,811 canceled “arrears payment agreements” due to non-payment out of 25,670 for all LDC and that represented 69.4% of all cancellations.
  • Hydro One wrote off $16,504,125.00 of receivables which represented 46.9% out of $35,172,817.00 in arrears written off by all LDC.
  • Hydro One had 7,570 eligible “low-income” households out of 19,914 households for all LDC which represented only 38% of those presumably eligible for the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) which came into effect January 1, 2016

Why…?

Based on the above one would have to ask some pertinent questions such as:

Why did Hydro One have so many ratepayers in arrears when they identified only 7,570 customers as low-income and eligible for the OESP?

Why did Hydro One have such dominance of the number of ratepayers in arrears?

Why did Hydro One represent such a huge portion (89%) of the dollar value in arrears?

If you believe it is related to Hydro One’s excessive delivery rates you would be entirely correct. That was recently reported by writer Scott Luft.

A quick glance at the second Quarter results for Hydro One shows they distributed 6.2 terawatt hours (TWh) versus 6.7 TWh in the comparable 2015 Quarter — that’s a drop of 8% — yet their distribution revenue showed a slight increase of $2 million year over year. What we can determine from those results is in 2015 the “distribution” business of Hydro One generated $51.8 million per TWh and it increased to $56.3 million/TWh in 2016 for an increase of 8.7% per TWh.

The upside-down world of Ontario

In other words, for Hydro One declining demand results in increased revenue. Thanks to their monopoly and the unique cooperation of the OEB, Hydro One has turned the economic model of  “supply and demand” on its head.

One has to wonder now if the sale of shares in Hydro One was driven not only to help achieve a balanced budget in 2018, but also to rid the Ontario Liberal government of even more anticipated bad news about the electricity file and their ownership of Hydro One. Holding a minority interest at the date of the next election might have the Ontario Liberals pointing the finger at the OEB for constantly granting Hydro One’s distribution arm rate increases exceeding inflation by a wide margin.  With that in mind they might just pretend they would do something to right the wrong if re-elected.

Only time will tell if Hydro One is allowed to maintain their lofty position as the generator of the highest arrears levels amongst the ratepayers of the province and continue to be granted the rate increases applied for.

Parker Gallant

  • Average arrears level for Hydro One’s residential ratepayers as at December 31, 2015 was $1,638.59 and the OEB defines arrears as:  “ … an account that is 30 or more days past the 16-day minimum payment period .”

How to get electricity bills down: letter to Ontario’s Energy Minister (2)

Parker Gallant

August 16, 2016

OPEN LETTER TO:

The Honourable Glen Thibeault, Minister of Energy,

Legislative Building, Queen’s Park, Toronto ON, M7A 1A1

Dear Minister Thibeault:

Re: Taxing the wind

While I have not as yet received a response to my letter to you of July 17, 2016 I recognize that you are probably still trying to digest the complexities of your portfolio before responding so I will be patient.

I have just read an interesting article1. about the State of Wyoming and specifically the state legislature who asked the question: “who owns the wind?” and I just had to send you my suggestion based on what they have done to increase their tax base.

Well as it turns out the state legislature answered the question quickly and claim ownership of the wind in their state. Wyoming’s lawmakers quickly enacted legislation levying a tax on a per megawatt hour (MWh) basis at $1 per MWh but are looking at increasing it to $12.00/MWh.

It seems to me this is an opportunity for you to do two things! The first is to increase tax revenue and the second would be to use the increased tax revenue to defray future rate increases.

Recognizing that Ontario is far more generous with the long term wind and solar contracts than the U.S. state governments’ my recommendations would be to simply levy the tax as a percentage of the contract price and/or the curtailment price. I would suggest a 10% tax for delivered MWh and a 15% tax for curtailed generation. The latter is based on the fact that wind generated electricity is often only available when its not needed so the higher suggested tax rate.

Just looking at the first six months of the current year I see it shaping up as follows:

  1. Delivered MWh were 4,581,770 according to IESO and at say $13.50/MWh would generate tax of $61.2 million.
  2. Curtailed MWh from wind developments in the 1st 6 months of the current year were 1,234,000 and at 15% of $120.00/MWh (estimated) would generate $22.4 million.Together the two could generate tax revenue of approximately $165 million annually and if applied to the average ratepayer bill would reduce it by about $37.00 annually.

Now if you applied a tax to solar generation (perhaps the 15% rate) you would generate additional tax revenue of $210 million2. and that could reduce residential ratepayers bills by an additional $47.00 annually.

The latter would entail the Ontario legislation claiming they own the sunlight reaching the province allowing that generation but it doesn’t seem like a major obstacle.

The Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray has basically claimed the ability to tax carbon emissions (even though they may be emitted by transport trucks, etc. licensed elsewhere using Ontario’s highways) so if he can do it so can you!

Alternatively you could simply do what the State of Nevada did as noted in the same article referenced above which claims: “the Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted unanimously to increase a monthly fee on solar customers by 40% while reducing the amount they get paid for excess power sold to the grid.

Good luck and I look forward to your response to my original letter in due course. I do hope you will take my letter seriously as I know you have been inundated with numerous complaints about the rising costs of electricity in the province since you have assumed the “energy” portfolio.

Yours truly,

Parker Gallant

  1. Link to the article is here: http://www.activistpost.com/2016/08/state-now-claims-owns-wind-taxing-renewable-energy-existence.html]
  2. This assumes an average rate of $448.00/MWh or 44.8 cents a kilowatt hour for all solar contracts.

Ontario Power Generation report: waste and loss, more cost to consumers

Spilling, constraining, steaming off–Ontario’s surplus power situation is costing millions

August 14, 2016

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) just released their second quarter results and if you read the news release quickly you might think everything is wonderful — but it’s not.

OMA (operations, maintenance and administration) costs were up $59 million (9.1%) for the quarter compared to 2015, net income was down to $132 million from $189 million in the comparable quarter, and OPG are now the proud owners of Hydro One shares as this excerpt from the quarterly report indicates.

“In April 2016, OPG acquired nine million common shares of Hydro One at $23.65 per share as part of a secondary share offering by the Province through a syndicate of underwriters. The acquisition was made for investment purposes to mitigate the risk of future price volatility related to OPG’s future share delivery obligations to eligible employees under the collective agreements with the PWU and The Society renewed in 2015.”

The Hydro One share acquisition was of course one of the “net-zero” wage settlements touted by the Ontario Liberal government, and this one made specifically by former Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli when the announcement of a settlement with the employees at OPG was made.

Paid to waste power–and you pay them to do it

OPG also disclosed in the news release that they were again forced to spill hydro power which is normally sold into the grid for about 4.4 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). The amount they spilled in the quarter was 1.7 terawatts (TWh) and 3.4 TWh for the first six months, compared to 1.5 TWh in the comparable 2015 six month period.  If that information makes you feel bad for OPG, don’t — they are paid the same for spilling hydro as for delivering it to the grid.  A change in regulations by the government created the “pay for spilling” situation.  The 3.4 TWh spilled could have supplied about 750,000 “average” households meaning, we wouldn’t have needed other much more expensive power such as intermittent and unreliable wind and solar.

The cost to ratepayers for the spillage of the hydro is about $150 million and will wind up in our electricity bills under the Global Adjustment charge.

While OPG were busy spilling hydro, we were also curtailing wind in the first six months of this year; my friend Scott Luft (http://coldair.luftonline.net/) keeps a record of those curtailments. Curtailments for the first six months on his chart were estimated at 1.245 TWh, and have already surpassed IESO reported curtailments for the whole of 2015 of .733 TWh.   The latter cost ratepayers about $88 million at the reputed $120 per megawatt (MWh) wind generators are paid for curtailment.   Curtailment costs for 2016 so far are about $150 million.

There were other wastes of generation and ratepayers money in the first six months of 2016 too as Bruce Power was frequently asked to “steam off” nuclear generation at two of their units, but no disclosure is yet available to tell us how much. In 2015 it amounted to .897 TWh which cost ratepayers about $60 million; it is probably more in 2016 as demand is down.

So ratepayers for just the first six months of 2016 will pick up the costs for OPG buying Hydro One shares, spilling hydro, curtailing wind, and steaming off nuclear without one kWh delivered to the “average” household despite the ratepayers responsibility for costs of about $600 million.   We also picked up costs to promote conservation which was probably north of $200 million for the six months.

Ontario’s electricity customers should be “steamed” about the increasing waste we continue to pay for.

© Parker Gallant

 

And the winner is : Hydro One! Most expensive residential power rates in North America

Transmission System ProjectsUntil recently the only jurisdiction in North America with higher all-in residential electricity rates than Ontario was Hawaii. The website for Hawaiian Electric in a media release March 14, 2016  bragged about their electricity rates being at a six-year low, even though Oahu had an effective rate of 22.6 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) and that rate included their distribution costs.

The title for most expensive rates now belongs to Hydro One, whose low-density clients pay 25.9 cents per kWh and medium-density clients pay 22.6 cents per kWh effectively, in a tie with Oahu. Add in the HST and the price jumps to over 27 cents per kWh for low-density ratepayers.

Hydro One’s website has a chart outlining their Delivery Rates for “Medium” and “Low Density” ratepayers — the differences are significant compared to “Urban High Density”.  As an example, the Distribution service charge for medium-density is $8.02 higher per month ($96.00 annually) and $20.46 higher ($245.00 annually) for low-density ratepayers.  On top of that the claimed “line losses” for low-density ratepayers is almost double that for urban ratepayers at over 10%. That means people are charged for kilowatt hours they didn’t consume.

Hydro One’s definitions of Medium and Low Density are: Medium Density – contains 100 or more customers, with at least 15 customers for every kilometer of power line used to supply energy to the zone. Low Density – the remaining area not covered by Urban or Medium Density areas.”

It’s not clear exactly how or when densities are reviewed to determine whether the rate classification should change as it is not outlined in OEB’s approvals for rate increases.

27 cents/kWh for the average user in Ontario today

Now examining just the delivery costs for the three “average”1. residential ratepayer definitions,  Urban customers pay 6.6 cents/kWh, medium-density pay 9.05 cents/kWh and low-density 12.55 cents/kWh.  The latter is a higher cost per kWh than the electricity supplied and as noted above combined with the cost of electricity and HST brings the price to over 27 cents/kWh for the “average” residential low-density ratepayer.

Looking back to an Ontario Energy Board (OEB) ruling on March 15, 2005 in respect to increased Hydro One Distribution rates, the OEB granted them rate increases related to regulatory assets and conservation spending.  The calculation of their delivery rates from the OEB’s approval disclosed:  urban customer rates were set at 3.4 cents/kWh, medium density at 4.25 cents/kWh and low density 8.2 cents/kWh.

Since then, delivery rates from Hydro One have jumped 94% for urban, 113% for medium-density and 53% for low-density ratepayers in that 11 years.

Not stopping here

We should expect more OEB-approved increases.

According to Hydro One’s annual report, the “net-zero” settlement claim with their workers will shortly become a submission for a further rate increase, that will again raise delivery rates as this excerpt from the Annual 2015 Report indicates: “Share-based Compensation-The Company recognizes costs associated with stock-based compensation in a regulatory asset as management considers it probable that stock-based compensation costs will be recovered in the future through the rate-setting process.”

No need to wonder what is causing “energy poverty”2. in Ontario — all you need to do is examine the books of Hydro One, their submissions to the OEB, and the blessing of all their requests by the OEB.

© Parker Gallant

August 10, 2016

  1. The average “residential” ratepayer is classified by the OEB as consuming 750 kWh per month or 9 megawatt hours (MWh) annually.
  2. Energy Poverty is generally defined as spending 10% of household income on home energy as this article link to the Homeless Hub notes: http://homelesshub.ca/toolkit/subchapter/what-energy-poverty