Ontario Power Generation: where more means less

Back in late 2013, I noted that Ontario Power Generation or OPG had become the whipping boy for the Ministry of Energy. Now, it’s almost six years later, and not much has changed.  Just before my article appeared on Energy Probe, OPG had applied for a change to their “unregulated hydro”. They wanted it changed to “regulated hydro” which they got approved.  What that meant was they no longer would be dependent on receiving just the HOEP (Hourly Ontario Energy Price) market price for unregulated hydro.  The HOEP by then, had fallen due to the Liberal Government’s creation of the GEA (Green Energy Act) and the climb of the Global Adjustment which fell outside of the HOEP market price.

OPG recently released their 1st Quarter 2019 results. Both revenue and generation were up, marginally, by $19 million (1.3%) and .3 TWh (1.6%) respectively.  Nuclear generation was down, but regulated hydro was up with the latter increasing from 7.7 TWh to 8.2 TWh.

Those 8.2 TWh were produced by OPG’s 7475 MW of hydroelectric capacity in service. If one looks back to their 2008 1st Quarter* it indicated OPG had 3,332 MW of regulated hydro and 3,640 MW of unregulated hydro. In 2008 they generated 9.1 TWh; that means the 6,972 MW in service operated at 59.9% of their capacity and in the 2019 comparable quarter they operated at only 50% of their capacity.

In 2008 there was no spilling of hydro reported, but in 2019 they reportedly spilled 0.3 TWh. Producing less hydroelectric generation with a higher capacity seems strange. OPG spent $2.6 billion increasing capacity on the Mattagami River system and another $1.5 billion to increase generation capacity via “Big Becky” on the Niagara River system.  So, an additional 500 plus MW of clean hydroelectric capacity costing $4.1 billion was added but resulted in less generation (0.9 TWh less) than 2008.

Why?

The higher generation of hydroelectric power in 2008 had nothing to do with water levels as peak levels that year reached 75.3 metres versus 75.9 metres in 2019. In other words, there was no shortage of “fuel” for OPG’s hydroelectric plants in either 2008 or 2019.

What really happened was back in late 2008 former Premier McGuinty bragging about how the Melancthon EcoPower Centre (199.5 MW of wind capacity) had vaulted Ontario up to the point where it had 617.5 MW of wind capacity in operation. The following year Energy Minister George Smitherman rammed through the GEA (Green Energy and Green Economy Act) which led to the 2010 Long Term Energy Plan (LTEP), released by then Energy Minister, Brad Duguid. The LTEP sought 10,500 MW of renewable energy (7,500 MW of wind plus 2,500 MW of solar and the balance in biomass). The LTEP promised utopia with the creation of 50,000 permanent jobs. Duguid also promised us electricity rates would increase by 3.5% per annum and to help defray that increase they gave residential ratepayers a 10% reduction referenced as the OCEB (Ontario Clean Energy Benefit) which has since ended and was sort of replaced with the Fair Hydro Plan. We now know how those plans and events turned out!

As an example if one looks at the May “off-peak”** rate in 2008 and compare it to 2019 you would note it jumped from 2.7 cents/kWh to 6.5 cents/kWh which is a 140.7% increase and almost five times what Duguid told us rates would increase.

The advent of wind and solar contracts granted “first to the grid” rights at astronomical prices drove up the costs of electricity and their intermittent and unreliable nature required excess generation (generally gas plants) to sit at the ready for when the wind wasn’t blowing or the sun wasn’t shining. Those changes drove up the costs of electricity and coupled with the requirement to grant those “first to the grid” rights to wind generation meant hydro was, and still is, treated as “less qualified” renewable energy.

Ontario could have considerably more clean hydroelectric generation if we were devoid of expensive, above market wind and solar contracts! Instead, because of the lack of a cost benefit analysis by the previous government, Ontario’s ratepayers are stuck with expensive electricity until those contracts expire. At the same time, the taxpayer owned entity OPG suffers from revenue shortfalls for the $4.1 billion it spent to increase their hydro capacity, yet we ratepayers must still pick up the costs of that spending without any of the benefits.

The time has come to let OPG use their full hydroelectric capacity!

PARKER GALLANT

 

*The year before the GEA was passed and the recession occurred.

**Off-peak averages approximately 66% of most residential bills.

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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

Dalton McGuinty: ex-premier “Dad” is still preaching

A shorter version of this article appeared in The Financial Post on March 7, 2019.

Mr. McGuinty’s energy policies brought higher electricity bills and industrialized rural communities with wind turbines–not everyone was happy.

Dalton McGuinty is back, but did he ever really go away?

Former Ontario Premier, Dalton McGuinty has recently reappeared in public. He has launched a university lecture tour with the theme “Climate Change: Can We Win This? Be Honest”. He has already addressed audiences at University of Toronto, Queens and more recently at the University of Windsor. He is scheduled to appear at Western University in March.

Having resigned in disgrace as Ontario’s Premier in October 2012 due to the gas plant scandal, McGuinty has kept a very low profile since. Perhaps he now feels Ontarians have forgotten not only that affair but all the other bad policies he brought us. Those other policies included the promise of no tax increase which was followed by the imposition of a health tax, the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA), which resulted in Ontario having the highest electricity prices in Canada and a doubling of Ontario’s debt. There were others.

McGuinty was recently honoured by a Liberal colleague, Ottawa Mayor, Jim Watson who promised him the “key to the city” in 2019. Mayor Watson of course held various cabinet positions in the McGuinty government before abandoning the ship to return to Ottawa.

Mr. McGuinty’s seminars demonstrate he is still a firm believer in “climate change” and is convinced he and the province’s taxpayers should do more. In a CTV Windsor news report, he is quoted as saying that while current Premier Doug Ford is fighting the carbon tax,: “we should embrace it” because “it is the most effective and efficient way to demonstrate a commitment to addressing climate change”.

He must view taxpayers as bottomless pits with surplus cash.

Not only has McGuinty re-entered public view, he has also accepted appointments as a director to several corporations. He is on the Boards of Innergex Renewable Energy Inc, Pomerleau Inc., and Electrovaya Inc. He also became a lobbyist for Desire2Learn as well as being appointed “a special advisor”.

The latter two companies; Desire2Learn and Electrovaya both received substantial Government of Ontario grants during McGuinty’s time in office as the Premier. Desire2Learn were awarded a $4.25 Million Grant from the Government of Ontario in January 2011 and Ekectrovaya received their $17 million dollar Grant in August 2009. Desire2Learn also received $3 million from the education ministry. In 2014 McGuinty was caught red-handed trying to lobby on behalf of Desie2Learn to certain members of the Wynne led government and was forced to register as a lobbyist.

While Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. is a Canadian company it is headquartered in Montreal and depends on Ontario for only 6% of its revenue. Its asset base in Ontario consists of one solar generation unit of  33.2 MW and three small hydro generation units totaling 36 MW. Its unclear what Ontario’s former premier brings to their Board of directors unless they were seeking a politician of his ilk.

Pomerleau Inc is a private Quebec headquartered civil works and building company and it appears McGuinty joined them as a member of their Board of Directors in the early part of 2016. They have been quite successful at winning contracts in Ontario including those with Provincial funding. A large waste water treatment plant in Kingston was one such win. A report to Kingston Council October 5, 2010 contained the following: “The funded portion, as per the agreement, was reviewed with respect to the award of contract to Pomerleau Ontario Inc. and was considered to fairly represent the defined works. The total projected budget for the engineering and construction remains within the $116,325,000 approved budget envelope, which includes electrical co-generation, on-site biosolids storage, staff costs and allowances for furnishings and equipment to be purchased outside the construction contract.” And: “In June 2005, the Province of Ontario announced project funding of $25,000,000.”

There are more interesting connections: former Mayor of Kingston, John Gerretsen, who served in the McGuinty Cabinet and Gerretsen’s son was Kingston’s Mayor from 2010-2014 and is now an MP In the Justin Trudeau Liberal government. Pomerleau is working with SNC-Lavalin and other companies on the first “Infrastructure Bank” investment in respect to the $6.3 billion Montreal REM project. As reported, “Construction on the project is already underway. SNC-Lavalin, Dragados Canada, Inc., Aecon Group Inc., Pomerleau Inc. and EBC Inc. were all part of the winning consortium and broke ground on the project in April.” As the SNC-Lavalin Federal controversy unfolds it will be interesting to see what eventually happens to this project.

On April 7, 2017 Dalton McGuinty, joined the Electrovaya Board of Directors. At that time Electrovaya was being investigated by the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC). In the OSC Proceedings one finds the following: “Between May and September 2016, Electrovaya issued five news releases that announced significant new business relationships in unbalanced terms. Electrovaya also did not disclose in its MD&A that revenue estimates announced in two previously announced commercial arrangements would not be realized.”

Just over two months later the OSC reached an agreement requiring Electrovaya Inc.’s CEO to pay a $250K penalty over OSC disclosure violations as noted in the Financial Post on June 30, 2017. Is it possible Electrovaya’s new Board Member played a role in getting their CEO and the OSC to reach that agreement?

Clearly Mr. McGuinty has value to those companies he handed out grants to, and perhaps they saw the value he could add to their business if appointed as a member of their board or as an “advisor”. One might assume he is being rewarded monetarily for both his board/advisory positions and for those speaking engagements. The former appears to be the case as the December 31, 2017 Annual Information Form for Innergex Renewable Energy discloses that Mr. McGuinty is the holder of 8,505 Deferred Share Units with a current value of approximately $121,000.

Mr. McGuinty is presenting himself to the younger generation and university audiences as a father and grandfather who is simply interested in preserving the environment and influencing positive climate change. Many Ontarians however, will recognize him for the damage his Premiership created both in terms of making the province the most indebted sub-national government in the world as well as the province decimated with industrial wind turbines and solar panels causing electricity prices to be among the highest in North America.

PARKER GALLANT

 

P.S. The resignation of Gerald Butts from the PMO February 18, 2019 is noteworthy also for his role in both getting the Ontario Liberals elected in 2003 and for setting their policies: “Butts largely wrote the platform McGuinty successfully campaigned on during the 2003 Ontario election. It contained more than 100 promises, including pledges to cancel proposed tax cuts and increase social spending. It was also heavy on environmental protection: McGuinty promised incentives for renewable energy, and to phase out Ontario’s coal-fired power plants.”

 

Ben Chin and Gerry Butts: we’ve seen this show before

After watching and reading the former Attorney General’s testimony before the House of Commons Justice Committee, Yogi Berra’s famous quote “it’s deja vu all over again” immediately came to mind. The former AG, Jody Wilson-Raybould (JWR) in the 30 minutes of her opening remarks mentioned two names: Ben Chin (seven times) and Gerry Butts (five times).

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 Justin Trudeau as his political advisor. As we now know, Butts was the director leading the “drama teacher” Justin Trudeau, to a win as Canada’s Prime Minister.

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, Tom Adams and I were investigating the gas plant scandal by reviewing thousands of documents. Tom and I uncovered interesting details in exchanges between him and a political staffer in the Energy Ministry headed up, at that time, by Brad Duguid.

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).  That e-mail exchange contained Ms Johnston’s suggestion to engage Tyler Hamilton, a contributor to Toronto Star, as an “expert” to counter the Adams and Gallant duo who “are killing me”; Chin agreed. Shortly after, Hamilton received a contract from the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) for a report on the smart grid.

The spin emanating from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Prime Minister himself is not all that different than what we were hearing several years ago during the gas plant scandals days. The following is one such quote from the mouth of the former Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty when queried as to the costs of the gas plants move: “I am waiting for the day when somebody says, ‘Actually it’s $400 trillion,’ because, as I say, ‘If Elvis says it, I’ve got to print it.’ What was the latest number? $1.3 billion? Do I hear 1.7? When are we going to get to 2.8? It’s kind of an interesting game . . . In total we are talking a $230-­million cost.”

Those two unelected individuals (Butts and Chin) originally involved in the Ontario electricity muddle now find themselves named as two (out of eleven) of the bullies pressuring JWR to grant SNC-Lavalin a DPA (deferred prosecution agreement). In the case of the GEA and the gas plant scandal it took much longer to surface in the public eye than the current SNC/JWR scandal so it would appear the Chin/Butts team has lost some of the spin abilities they displayed in the past. Not to usurp of malign the mainstream media, the following are a few excerpts from the JWR testimony related to Ben Chin and Gerald (Gerry) Butts.

The Chin former AG dialogue:

“Two days later, on September the sixth, one of the first communications about the DPA was received from outside of my department. Ben Chin, Minister Morneau’s chief of staff, emailed my chief of staff and they arranged to talk. He wanted to talk about SNC and what we could do, if anything, to address this. He said to her, my chief, that if they don’t get a DPA, they will leave Montreal and it’s the Quebec election right now so we can’t have that happen. He said that they have a big meeting coming up on Tuesday and that this bad news may go public.

And:

“A follow-up conversation between Ben Chin and a member of my staff, Francois Giroux, occurred on Sept. 11.Mr. Chin said that SNC had been informed that the PPS — or by the PPSC — that it cannot enter into a DPA, and Ben again detailed the reasons why they were told that they were not getting a DPA. Mr. Chin also noted that SNC legal counsel, Frank Iacobucci, and further detailed what the terms were that SNC was prepared to agree to, stating that they viewed this as part of a negotiation.” And:

To be clear, up to this point, I had not been directly contacted by the prime minister, officials in the prime minister’s office or the Privy Council Office about this matter. With the exception of Mr. Chin’s discussions, the focus of communications had been internal to the Department of Justice.”

And:

On Sept. 20, my chief of staff had phone calls with Mr. Chin and Justin To, both members of the minister of finance’s office, about DPAs and SNC.”

The Butts former AG dialogue:

“On Dec. 5, 2018, I met with Gerry Butts. We had both sought out this meeting. I wanted just to speak about a number of things, including bringing up SNC and the barrage of people hounding me and my staff. Towards the end of our meeting, which was in the Chateau Laurier, I raised how I needed everybody to stop talking to me about SNC, as I had made up my mind and the engagements were inappropriate. Gerry then took over the conversation and said how we need a solution on the SNC stuff. He said I needed to find a solution. I said no and I referenced the preliminary inquiry and the judicial review. I said further that I gave the clerk the only appropriate solution that could have happened and that was the letter idea that was not taken up. Gerry talked to me about how the statute was a statute passed by Harper and that he does not like the law. I said something like that is the law that we have.”

And:

“On Dec. 18, 2018, my chief of staff was urgently summoned to a meeting with Gerry Butts and Katie Telford to discuss SNC. They wanted to know where I — me — am at in terms of finding a solution. They told her that they felt like the issue is getting worse and that I was not doing anything. They referenced a possible call with the prime minister and the clerk the next day.”

And the foregoing led to this:

“I will now read to you a transcript of the most relevant sections of a text conversation between my chief of staff and I almost immediately after that meeting.

Jessica: Basically, they want a solution, nothing new. They want external counsel retained to give you an opinion on whether you can review the DPP’s decision here and whether you should, in this case. I told them that would be interference. Gerry said: “Jess, there is no solution here that does not involve some interference.” At least they are finally being honest about what they’re asking you to do. Don’t care about the PPSC’s independence. Katie was like, “We don’t want to debate legalities anymore.” They keep being like, we aren’t lawyers, but there has to be some solution here. MOJAG — I text — so where were things left, Jessica? Jessica: So unclear. I said, what? Of course, let you know about the conversation, and they said that they were going to kick the tires with a few people on this tonight. The clerk was waiting outside when I left, but they said that they want to set up a call between you and the prime minister and the clerk tomorrow. I said that of course, you’d be happy to speak to your boss. They seem quite keen on the idea of you retaining an ex-Supreme Court of Canada judge to get advice on this. Katie Telford thinks it gives us cover in the business community and the legal community and that it would allow the prime minister to say we were doing something. She was like, “If Jody is nervous, we would, of course, line up all kinds of people to write op-eds saying that what she is doing is proper.”

The foregoing highlights the unmitigated gall of two unelected individuals who, for whatever reason, see themselves as “king makers” much as they did for the McGuinty government in Ontario. Presumably they reasoned, it worked once so we will try it again.

The voters and believers of democracy in Canada should be grateful for the intestinal fortitude displayed by Jody Wilson-Raybould!

PARKER GALLANT

P.S. If the reader would like to see the damage done to Ontario in respect to the electricity sector my 2012 writings over 10 Chapters referenced as “Electricity and the Liberals Hansard History” Chapter 1 through 10 can be found on the WCO website: http://www.windconcernsontario.ca/?s=ELECTRICITY+AND+THE+LIBERALS+HANSARD+HISTORY%2C+CHAPTER

Ontario Energy Board looked the other way on rising electricity bills

After seven years, the Ontario Energy Board has determined that a move by the McGuinty government to shift the burden of electricity costs to smaller ratepayers was “complicated and non-transparent.” What took them so long to find out that out, when it cost Ontario citizens billions?

Where your money went [Shutterstock photo]
Back in 2011, the Dalton McGuinty government introduced the Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI) with the idea of changing the way Global Adjustment (GA) costs were allocated to different classes of consumers. “The stated purpose of the ICI is to provide large consumers with an incentive to reduce consumption at critical peak demand times. The resulting reductions in peak demand were expected to reduce the need to invest in new peaking generation and imports of electricity from coal-reliant jurisdictions.”

The government had been lobbied hard by the Association of Major Power Consumers of Ontario (AMPCO) who had been feeling the effects of climbing power rates brought on by the Green Energy Act (GEA) and the resulting FIT (feed-in-tariff) contracts for renewable energy (wind and solar).

Needless to say, the Liberal government caved, the ICI was born and officially started September 2011.

Just over a week ago the Ontario Energy Board released a report titled: The Industrial Conservation Initiative: Evaluating its Impact and Potential Alternative Approaches. What struck me immediately was this sentence in the Executive Summary: “In the Panel’s view, the ICI as presently structured is a complicated and non-transparent means of recovering costs, with limited efficiency benefits.”

It took the OEB seven years to come to this conclusion. And they are supposed to be the regulators for the energy sector. Their vision 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.”

So, it took seven years to determine the ICI wasn’t delivering value?

The ICI was created via a change in the Regulations* and was posted August 27, 2010 on the Environmental Registry with this statement:  “As a result of the consultation, there was general agreement that the proposed changes would result in a net benefit to electricity consumers, the electricity system and the broader Ontario economy.”

The new OEB report noted the Class B to Class A shift commencing in 2011 “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.”

Wondering what 2018 would bring in respect to the B to A shift and, knowing IESO now posts both consumption and costs of the GA by customer class on their website, it was worth an exercise to determine if the $1.2 billion shift of 2017 would increase or decrease.  Using IESO’s data it appears the subsidy for the first 11 months was about $35.4 million per TWh (terawatt hour).  Based on 36.9 TWh consumed by Class A ratepayers the cost shift is $1.306 billion.  The 4,665,000 residential ratepayers who use 9 MW of electricity annually will absorb approximately 30% of those costs — in other words, it represents an annual subsidy to Class A customers of almost $100 from each ratepayer.

Small and medium sized businesses will pay a lot more absorbing the remaining 70%, or about $900 million!

Now you know why the price of that hamburger and everything else went up!

Electricity price increases have hit all classes of ratepayers in the province and now that we see the shift of costs, it is helpful to look at the cause!

Renewable energy in the form of wind and solar** power generation has played a big part in rising electricity bills, so it is an interesting exercise to do a simple calculation to determine what wind generation and curtailment have cost in the first 11 months of 2018.   My friend, Scott Luft posts actual wind generation and curtailment for grid-connected (TX) and distributor-connected (DX)*** wind.  Calculating the TX, wind generated (9.655 TWh) and curtailed (1.940 TWh) for the 11 months indicates costs were $1.305 billion for grid-accepted generation and $230 million for curtailed (paid for but not used) wind.

That brings total costs of intermittent and unreliable wind to more than $1.5 billion. ****

What this simple exercise really does of course is demonstrate how our costs would be much less without intermittent wind power generation, which is produced out-of-phase with demand in Ontario. Considering first-to-the-grid rights for wind power operators means it also results in spillage or waste of hydro (5.9 TWh in 2017) and nuclear steam-off (1 TWh in 2017) and must be backed up with gas generation — all of which we pay for — wind power simply increases our electricity bills without any significant benefit to the environment or power system.

If solar costs were also included in these calculations, we would be in the $3 to 4 billion range.

Short story: Without all that waste, all classes of Ontario ratepayers would have reasonable and cost-competitive electricity rates.

Conclusion                                                                                                                                       The OEB should have stood up for consumers a lot sooner and called out the government for NOT delivering the “outcomes and innovation that deliver[d] value for all Ontario energy consumers.”  Instead, the OEB simply watched while billions of dollars were removed from ratepayers’ pockets for foreign-owned wind power developments and stood by for seven years while residential, small and medium sized businesses provided increasing subsidies to large industrial companies for a program “with limited efficiency benefits.”

PARKER GALLANT

* Class A was limited to very large consumers with an average monthly peak demand of more than 5 MW (primarily large industrial consumers). Since then, the government has expanded eligibility such that Class A now includes all consumers with an average monthly peak demand of more than 1 MW, as well as consumers in certain manufacturing, industrial and agricultural sectors with an average monthly peak demand of more than 0.5 MW.

**IESO do not disclose solar generation until early the following year                                                                                                                                                      ***Estimated for grid connected but generally very close to actual generation.

****Generated wind at $135/MWH and curtailed at $120/MWh.

Hydro One’s scorecard: not a winner

Lose, lose, lose … and more losses to come

Hydro One 2016 Scorecard highlights shortfalls

 

 On several occasions, I’ve expounded on the decision by then Energy Minister Dwight Duncan in July 2004 to direct the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) to instruct all LDC (local distribution companies) to install “smart meters”*   The Premier’s October 2005 throne speech included the comment:  “Consumers can look forward to getting smart meters that will help them save money by telling them when they can pay less.” 

I believe most ratepayers know how McGuinty’s claim worked out: over the past 12 years, our electricity bills have shot up and the Hydro One billing problems were top of mind in the media for many Hydro One in the province, thanks to Andre Marin when he was Ombudsman and thanks to  Ontario’s Auditor General. Those billing problems were caused by the inability of Hydro One to read many smart meters; and, installation costs were double ($2 billion) the budgeted costs, as noted by in the AG in her December 2014 report.

While Hydro One customers have been assuaged with claims the problems with smart meters have been fixed, if one examines their 2016 Scorecard submitted to the OEB it is obvious they are still dealing with issues.  Under the heading “Billing Issues” is this: “The Company’s continued improvement is mainly attributable to ongoing business process optimization, investing in the smart meter network to expand and replace various network support tools, and a continued focus on addressing smart meters that do not meet the necessary quality levels.”

Oh dear.

Further on, under the heading “Asset Management” is this remark in respect to why Hydro One exceeded its planned investment: “Hydro One is replacing meters because its service provider is phasing out network cellular technology by April 2018. The new meters align with the service provider’s new technology and prevent loss of data communication between Hydro One and its customers.”   

Garbage day

Hydro One obviously doesn’t want to encounter the negativity of future billing problems so, now, the expensive meters they installed just a few years ago are being tossed in the waste bin. The cost of the replacements has caused them to ask for further rate increases.

Despite the spending on “smart meters” past and present, Hydro One’s “Customer Satisfaction Survey Results” keep trending down despite their claim of higher billing accuracy according to the Scorecard.

Hydro One also shows a lack of leadership in the “Scorecard’s” System Reliability in both the “Average Number of Hours that Power to a Customer is Interrupted” and the “Average Number of Times that Power to a Customer is Interrupted.”

Scoring high in one area, at least

Yet another very disconcerting leadership role in evidence in the Scorecard is under “Financial Ratios” where Hydro One shows their “Leverage: Total Debt (includes short-term and long-term debt) to Equity Ratio” at 1.46 to 1. That means it ranks as the sixth highest leveraged LDC.   With their plans to purchase Avista their debt will increase substantially ($4 billion), raising this ratio further, and impacting Ontario’s ratepayers in respect to possible credit rating downgrades and the resulting increased borrowing costs.

So far, we see no discernible benefits to Hydro One’s ratepayers — only more costs.

 

Sidebar: Amazingly, Hydro One claims on the Scorecard they scored brilliantly in hooking up MicroFit contracted parties where the excessive cost of what the parties are paid are picked up by all of the other ratepayers of Ontario.

* For more background view this article: Hydro One’s failure to communicate rewarded with rate increase