Multi-million-dollar power contracts IESO style

Or, how the IESO could have saved Ontario ratepayers more than $400 million by cancelling one wind power project, but didn’t 

Surplus power in Ontario: why not get out of a contract if you could?[Photo: IESO]
February 6, 2018

On March 10, 2016 the Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO announced the outcome of the “Competitive Bids for Large Renewable Projects” via a news release which, among other issues claimed, they said they would award “five wind contracts totalling 299.5 MW, with a weighted average price of 8.59 cents/kWh”. The news release also described the contracting process: “The LRP process was administered by the IESO and overseen by an external fairness advisor. Robust and transparent public procurement practices were followed throughout the process, and each proposal was carefully evaluated for compliance against a list of specific mandatory requirements and rated criteria.”

Fast forward to October 26, 2017 and the release of Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault’s “Long-Term Energy Plan 2017 Delivering Fairness and Choice,” which offers some context for power contracts currently.

“Due to the substantial decline in the cost of wind and solar technologies over the last decade, renewables are increasingly competitive with conventional energy sources and will continue to play a key role in helping Ontario meet its climate change goals.”

and

“Ontario is Canada’s leader in installed wind and solar power.”

Economics of power procurement

Further on in the Plan are examples of how the Ministry, via the institutions under it, is working with communities. This one suggests the IESO is cognizant of the costs affecting ratepayers: “Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and Gull Bay First Nation (GBFN) are in the early stages of building an advanced renewable microgrid on the GBFN reserve on the western shore of Lake Nipigon. GBFN has an on-reserve population of 300 people and is one of the four remote First Nation communities that the IESO has determined to be economically unfeasible to connect to the provincial grid at this time.”

IESO recently issued their 18-Month Outlook for the period January 2018 to June 2019 and this report also noted the situation in respect to surplus power: “Conditions for surplus baseload generation (SBG) will continue over the Outlook period. It is expected that SBG will continue to be managed effectively through existing market mechanisms, which include intertie scheduling, the dispatch of grid-connected renewable resources and nuclear manoeuvres or shutdowns.”

Those manoeuvres or shutdowns in 2017 caused over 10 TWh (terawatt hours) to be wasted, but their costs were added to ratepayers’ bills and included 3.3 TWh of curtailed wind.

So, the province has a surplus of power, and the costs of wind and solar have become more competitive. Why would the IESO then not seize upon the opportunity to deal with a high-cost industrial-scale wind power project, when they had the ability to cancel it due to non-compliance with the original contract? At the very least shouldn’t they have renegotiated the contract to reduce the impact on ratepayers?

They did neither.

The White Pines story is a curious exercise in contract law, to be sure. A successful appeal* to the Environmental Review Tribunal by the community group the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County** resulted in the project being reduced from 59.45 MW to 18.45 MW last fall. IESO could have simply canceled it because it was clearly unable to meet a condition requiring delivery of 75% of the capacity agreed to in the contract. At the very least, IESO could have renegotiated the terms of the contract to fulfill the Energy Minister’s claim that “renewables are increasingly competitive”.

But the IESO amended the contract for the reduced project, and granted waivers to the original conditions of performance, it was learned in a Belleville courtroom recently.

Cancelling would save millions

If IESO had canceled the contract, the Ministry could have claimed they reduced future rate increases saving ratepayers $21 million annually or $420 million over the full 20-year term. Even if IESO had only renegotiated the contract to the 8.59 cents/kWh achieved via the competitive bidding process instead of the 13.5 cents/kWh of the original contract, the Ministry could have claimed savings of about $5 million over the full term of the contract based on the currently approved 18.45 MW of capacity.

Has the IESO forgotten this line in in its Mission Statement ?

“Planning for and competitively procuring the resources that meet Ontario’s electricity needs today and tomorrow”

Cancelling just this one project*** would have helped to reduce surplus baseload and therefore the costs kicked down the road under the Fair Hydro Plan to be paid for in the future.

 

 

*The appeal was one on the grounds that the project would cause serious and irreversible harm to wildlife

**Disclosure: I am a member of the community group

*** The IESO has five contracts for more wind power projects totaling $3 billion, for power Ontario does not need.

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Wind power lobby myth buster is busted

The opening sentence in a recent post on the Canadian Wind Energy Association’s (CanWEA) website states:  “Various pundits assert that the major reason for higher electricity bills in Ontario is the addition of renewable energy to the province’s electricity mix. This is a myth.”

The post was created by Brandy Giannetta, Ontario Regional Director of CanWEA. Ms. Giannetta holds a Master of Arts and Public Policy degree and was recently appointed to the Independent Electricity System Operator’s (IESO) Strategic Advisory Committee (SAC).  The Committee, says IESO, “gives senior stakeholder and community representatives the opportunity to provide policy-level advice and recommendations directly to the IESO Board of Directors and Executive on matters relating to the IESO’s mandate and other matters that may be of concern to stakeholders and the general public.”

I have trouble believing a representative of wind industry trade association CanWEA will represent the concerns of the general public.

Ms. Giannetta’s post on CanWEA’s website on April 24, 2017 underlines my worries.

Her article points to two articles that purportedly support the “myth” she is “busting,” but both require closer examination.   She cites Waterloo professor Natin Nathwani’s, (PhD in chemical engineering and a 2016 “Sunshine list” salary of $184,550) article of March 6, 2017, posted on the TVO website, which supports Premier Wynne’s dubious claims of “a massive investment, on the order of $50 billion, for the renewal of Ontario’s aging electricity infrastructure.”  Professor Nathwani offers no breakdown of the investment which suggests he simply took Premier Wynne’s assertion from her “Fair Hydro Plan” statement as a fact!  It would be easy to tear apart Professor Nathwani’s math calculations — for example, “The total electricity bill for Ontario consumers has increased at 3.2 per cent per year on average” — but anyone reading that blatant claim knows his math is flawed!

The second “study” cited is by Keith Brooks, Program Director at Environmental Defence (Masters degree in Environmental Studies from York) in which he claims “the average Ontario household pays about $11 per month for wind power, and $9 for solar power.”  Collectively it amounts to an annual cost of $240 for the “average Ontario household”.  Mr. Brooks and Ms. Giannetta apparently believe that, by providing a figure representing a small monthly amount, we will all buy into CanWEA’s spin that wind and solar are competitive with other generation sources.

In fact, Ms. Giannetta chose to ignore other more factual information that is readily available on other websites, including the Ontario Energy Board’s (OEB) semi-annual Regulated Price Plan, Price Report.  The following is a chart from the Price Report (May 1, 2017 to April 30, 2018) the OEB uses in setting TOU prices on a go-forward basis for the ensuing six months.  Note the chart provides a breakdown by percentage of generation supply and of the Global Adjustment (GA) and a per kWh cost of the specific generation:

Table 2: Total Electricity Supply Cost

  % of Total Supply % of Total GA Total unit cost (cents/kWh)
Nuclear 60% 40 6.9
Hydro 24% 12 5.8
Gas 6% 15 20.5
Wind 8% 18 17.3
Solar 2% 14 48.0
Bio Energy 0% 0 13.1

Source: Navigant NB: Hydro excludes NUGs and OPG non-prescribed generation. Gas includes Lennox, NUGs and OPG bioenergy facilities. Percentage (%) of Total GA excludes CDM costs.

Based on information in the OEB chart, it is relatively easy to calculate the individual generation supply costs* to the Global Adjustment or GA. The IESO provide the specific detail on the GA and for 2016 it totals $12.333 billion.  As noted, the chart indicates wind is forecast to represent 18% of the GA so the cost of wind should be around $2.220 billion, solar (14%) around $1.6 billion and gas (15%) $1.850 billion.

The OEB forecast is that wind and solar, (granted “base-load” status via their contacts) will cost ratepayers $3.820 billion over the next 12 months representing 32% of total GA costs, but will only deliver 10% of the power generation — often when it’s not needed!

To ensure wind and solar generation is backed up, gas plants (classified as “peaking plants”) stand at the ready and are estimated to impact the GA by $1.850 billion (15%) for a forecast 6 % of generation.

Collectively, wind solar and gas generation over the next 12 months are forecast to provide a meager 16% of total generation but will represent a cost of $5.670 billion of the Global Adjustment or 47% of total GA costs.

Most would agree $5.7 billion in annual costs is more than a “myth” and could have gone a long way in providing social, health, education and transit services for the people in Ontario, rather than creating wealth for wind and solar developers!

….

*In the prior year’s forecast wind was estimated to generate 8% of supply, solar 2% and gas 9% and represent 44% of the GA costs. Also note the IESO GA reports are on a calendar year (Jan. 1st to Dec. 31st) basis.