Hydro One’s new electricity bills: so pretty, so empty

The Ontario government was recently questioned about advertising in electricity bills and got this response from the Energy Minister: “Hydro One has a pilot project under way in which they’re doing a new bill redesign, helping customers right across the province who are Hydro One customers understand their bills and some of the complexity of the bills. Knowing that they’re getting a 25% reduction on their bills is important.”

The Minister’s added, “It is important that all rate-payers in the province know what is on their bills”. 

The “pilot project” referred to by the Minister was the $15-million spend by Hydro One to design their new bill. This has recently received a lot of media attention with an emphasis on how Hydro One used “behavioural science”* in its design. The government has previously said it uses behavioural science research to “improve services and outcomes.” (See it here)

I’ve already noted the planned spending of $15 million by Hydro One last December in an article: “According to Hydro One they will have ‘A fresh new look to serve you better’. Hydro One appears to be in the process of spending $15 million dollars to make that happen, as explained on page 2032 of one of the dozens of documents filed with the OEB seeking several rate increases.”

The media reported that so far, Hydro One has spent $9 million reinventing their bill and are fully intent on spending the balance of $6 million. So the question is, do the changes add value, make our bills more easily understandable and tell us where all the money is being spent?

If you are curious as to what the new bills look like, Hydro One posted a sample bill (two pages) on their website. Compare your old bill to the new one — developed with the assistance of “behavioural science” — you will immediately notice it is much more colourful!   But finding new or meaningful information is virtually impossible unless you think the box on the right hand side of page one telling you how much Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan saved you is important, even though it is already shown and highlighted on existing bills.

What’s not there? Plenty: the new bills don’t disclose your “service type” which has a significant bearing on what you pay for “delivery” costs, nor do they tell you your average daily consumption over the previous five months.  They don’t disclose the cost of subsidization of Class A ratepayers, how much it cost for curtailed wind or spilled hydro, or how much it cost to sell our surplus energy to our neighbours in New York, Michigan and Quebec, etc.  New understanding of the bills’ “complexity” as suggested by the government is sadly lacking.

Essentially what the new electricity bills demonstrate is “bad behaviour” on the part of Hydro One and the government by spending $15 million for colourful bills!

Parker Gallant

January 17, 2018

 

* “behavioural science” is defined by Merriam Webster as “A science that deals with human action and seeks to generalize about human behaviour in society”

 

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Ka-ching! Windy days blow away ratepayer dollars

Consumers pay: wind power is surplus, and expensive — emissions-free power is wasted

Wind power on two recent windy days cost Ontario electricity customers three times the current rate … and the surplus meant emissions-free hydro and nuclear was wasted

 

A simple Google search “wind power is cheapest energy” will generate 1.2 million hits.

If you search “wind power is most expensive energy” you get 2.1 million hits.

Two days last week in Ontario are real-world proof of the cost of wind power, no matter what the government or wind power industry spin tells you. Tuesday, December 5th and Wednesday December 6th were two very windy days, an excellent opportunity to examine both the power generation from industrial wind turbines in Ontario and their delivered cost of power to the grid.

The numbers for those two days:

$$$   IESO forecasts indicated that wind could have delivered 23.8% (177,100 MWh) of total Ontario demand (755,200 MWh) via the 4,200 MW of grid-connected wind capacity.

But wind turbines have a bad habit of generating power when it’s not needed (middle of the night, spring and fall) so the intermittent power must often be curtailed (constrained/wasted but paid for).  It was!

$$$   The IESO curtailed 41.8% of their forecast generation meaning 74,000 MWh were not used!

Via the contracts in place with wind power companies, IESO is obliged to pay for both delivered and curtailed power at prices for grid-accepted power at $135/MWh and $120/MWh for curtailed power.

$$$   Quick math: the cost for grid-accepted wind on those two days meant Ontario ratepayers got charged approximately $22.8 million or $221.14/MWh for grid-accepted wind. That means it cost ratepayers 22.11cents/kWh (kilowatt hour), well above what the average time-of-use rates would be for the average Ontario ratepayer!  The cost of the delivered wind power for those two days was almost three times the current levied* “average” cost of 8.22 cents/kWh, and 3.7 times the off-peak cost of 5.9 cents/kWh.

There’s more (sorry): be assured IESO instructed OPG to spill water over the hydro dams and Bruce Nuclear to steam off nuclear power — so power from our two reliable, emissions-free sources of power generation was also wasted.   OPG and Bruce will be paid for that waste and the cost will be added to our bills.  At the same time gas plants (backing up wind and solar) were being paid for idling.

Those two December days also saw sales of surplus power of 93,700 MWh to our neighbours in New York, Michigan, and others for pennies of the actual cost. In all probability, we recovered around 15% of their generation costs meaning, we bit the bullet for another $10/11 million.

Total: too much

Just the cost of the curtailed and grid-accepted wind and the losses on our surplus exports for those two days was $32/33 million for absolutely no benefit to any of us ratepayers. If every day of the year was like those two days last week, Ontario’s ratepayers would be shelling out over $6 billion annually, due to the abysmal planning and management of the electricity sector by the current Ontario government.

Imagine how far $6 billion would go to improve our health care system.

Parker Gallant,

December 10, 2017

 

* This price reflects the 17% deferral under the Fair Hydro Act.

Ontario’s energy poverty: how we got here and why government plans won’t work

 

Former Energy Minister Chiarelli told us not to worry about costs — now hundreds of thousands live in ‘energy poverty’

An OEB report dated December 22, 2014, completed at the request of the then Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli opened with this remark: “The Minister asked the Board to provide advice on the development of an Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP), which would assist low-income customers who are spending a disproportionate amount of their income paying for electricity.”

The report used various methods to determine the potential number of households in the province in that category and concluded: “Using LIM (Low Income Measure) as a measuring tool, and relying on Statistics Canada household data, Ontario has 713,300 low-income households. The OESP is estimated to reach 571,000. This estimate recognizes that not all low-income households in the province pay their electricity bills directly (i.e. utilities included in rent).”

It went on further to state: “Using LICO, (Low-Income Cut-Off) Ontario has 606,100 low-income households, and the OESP would reach only 484,900. Using LICO plus 15 per cent, the current LEAP (Low-income Energy Assistance Program) measure of low-income, the number of households would be 687,300 and 550,000, respectively.” 

What that suggests is that, at the time of the OEB report the StatsCan data in 2014, using LICO, indicates approximately 13,5% of households were “spending a disproportionate amount of their income paying for electricity”. Using LIM, the number jumps to 15.8%! Rate increases from November 2014 to November 2016; according to the OEB, were 1.6 cents/kWh (+17%) for an average residential household, so we would expect more households were thrown into “energy poverty”!*

So what did the Ontario government do to alleviate the problem?

The LEAP (Low-income Energy Assistance Program) kicked off in 2010 requiring all local distribution companies (LDC) to contribute 0.12% of distribution revenue (net of the cost of power).  The total amount allocated for this program is less than $5 million annually.

The RRRP (Rural and Remote Rate Protection) has been around since 2003 and provided relief to some rural and remote residential ratepayers.  The annual cost of $170 million was paid by other ratepayers and was recently (January 2017) expanded by the current government to cover more Hydro One customers increasing the annual cost to an estimated $243 million now paid from tax revenues.

The OESP (Ontario Electricity Support Program) as noted above was triggered by a directive from Bob Chiarelli when he was the Minister of Energy and was estimated to cost between $175/225 million to support those hundreds of thousands of households living in energy poverty.  The program was initiated in January 2016 and paid for by all Ontario ratepayers via the regulatory charge on hydro bills. The program has been expanded to provide more support to low-income households and the costs are now paid out of tax revenues.  The projected cost increased to approximately $300 million per annum!

The First Nations On-Reserve Delivery Credit is a new incentive providing approximately 21,500 customers with free delivery charges (estimated at $85.00 per month) at an annual cost of $21 million.

The Affordability Fund is also a new program funded by taxpayers to provide qualifying households with: LED lights, appliance upgrades, insulation, heat pumps, etc., all for free at the taxpayers’ expense, estimated at $100 million.  It’s not clear if this is to be an annual or a one-time fund!

All of the above initiatives, with the exception of the LEAP program, are now funded by taxpayers, so about $370 million was transferred from ratepayers to taxpayers and annual funding costs increased to approximately $660 million!

That’s on top of the $40 billion deferred under the Fair Hydro Plan!

How was so much energy poverty caused?

The quick answer to the above question is, it was caused by the Green Energy Act (GEA) which gave long-term contracts to mainly foreign industrial wind and solar developers. Wind and solar provide unreliable and intermittent generation and must be backed-up by gas plants doubling up on the costs.  The results have been evident since those power sources were added to our grid in larger and larger quantities.   The following highlight some of the estimated costs for the first nine months of 2017:

  • Nine months of curtailed (could have been generated but wasn’t needed) wind of 2,209,000 MWh (megawatt hours) were paid $120/MWh so cost ratepayers $265 million.
  • Nine months of spilled (over the dam but not through the turbines) hydro power of 4,500,000 MWh by OPG cost ratepayers almost $185 million.
  • Nine months of subsidized surplus power of net exports (exports minus imports) of slightly over 9 million MWh to our neighbours cost ratepayers about $800 million.
  • Nine months of “conservation” spending is estimated to have cost Ontario ratepayers $300 million.

Totalling up the above, and forgetting about the costs of steamed-off nuclear or money paid for idling gas plants to back-up wind and solar, gets this result: Ontario’s electricity system paid for 15.7 million MWh that provided no power for Ontario’s ratepayers.

That 15.7 million MWh could have supplied over 1.7 million average Ontario households with power for a full year, but instead added their costs to our electricity system.   Those costs of an estimated $1.550 billion were 2.3 times the relief provided to households living in energy poverty!

To conclude, what created more “energy poverty” in the province is to simply point to bad planning (no cost/benefit analysis) by the incumbent government. Their plan to resolve it? I will simply repeat former Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli’s promise, “it’s just the price of a Timmies cup of coffee”—every day of the year for many, many years!

 

* Energy poverty is generally defined as 10% or more of disposable income is spent on heat and hydro!

May power cost stats a harbinger of worse to come

If May is any indication, the Wynne government’s “Fair Hydro” plan costs will be considerable

The “Fair Hydro” plan ushered in by the Wynne government is setting up ratepayers for higher bills as soon as 2021 arrives. When the hiatus ends, limiting increases to ratepayer bills to no more than the “cost of living” (COL) over the next four years, the cumulative debt acquired by OPG to “refinance” the reported $50 billion of electricity assets will have to be repaid.

Early indications suggest the costs will be higher than the $2.5 billion being set aside for the next three years by Premier Wynne and Energy Minister, Glenn Thibeault.

Evidence? A look at May 2017 compared to May 2016 indicates the increase in the Global Adjustment (GA) costs for Class B ratepayers was 7.9% higher than 2016 and well above the May COL index of 1.4%.  Any increase in costs above the inflation rate will be added to the $2.5 billion being refinanced and become the responsibility of ratepayers to pay when the hiatus ends.

Demand drops but the cost goes UP

The IESO May 2017 Monthly Market Report indicates Ontario Class B ratepayers consumed 344,000 megawatt hours (MWh) less than they did in May 2016, which represents a 4% drop. That’s about the same as 460,000 average households would consume for the month. The Global Adjustment (GA) costs on the reduced amount of electricity consumed, however, increased by $82.7 million from $931.2 million in 2016 to $1,013.9 million in 2017.  Many will recall in May 2016, lower consumption during the prior six months caused the OEB to raise rates!

So, what caused the 7.9% spike ($82.7 million) in GA costs?   It appears there were two principal causes with one of them related to Ontario’s “Net Exports”.*

In 2017, net exports averaged 600 MW per hour higher than 2016, meaning they increased by 446,400 MWh (600MWh X 24 hours X 31 days) in May 2017 (enough to power almost 600,000 average households for the month). The buyers in New York, Michigan, Quebec, etc., paid only the Hourly Ontario Electricity Price (HOEP) of $3.17/MWh, while Ontario’s ratepayers were required to pay the GA costs of $54.8 million or $122.89/MWh.

The other major cause of the GA spike appears related to power generation from wind and its record curtailment in May 2017. My friend Scott Luft posts both the generation from TX (transmission connected) and DX (distributor connected) industrial wind turbines (IWT), and also conservatively estimates “curtailment”.  In May 2016 TX and DX connected IWT generated 699,371 MWh, not including 130,000 MWh of curtailed generation.

Combined: wind power in May 2016 cost ratepayers about $113 million or $162/MWh.  May 2017 saw 669,011 MWh of wind power delivered either to the grid (TX) or to local distribution companies (DX). Curtailed wind in May 2017 was a record as Scott estimated almost 524,000 MWh (enough to power almost 700,000 average households for the month) were curtailed.   The cost for generated and curtailed wind increased to slightly more than $158 million for the month, which raised the cost of accepted wind generation to $236/MWh.

$100 million added … for just one month

What this means is, wind-generated and curtailed costs in May 2017 were $45 million higher. Coupled with the increase in net exports of surplus generation and related costs, $100 million was added to the GA … for just one month.  If May 2017 is in any way representative of the four years of the rate freeze (tied to the COL index), the costs of refinancing those assets will be much more than the March 2, 2017 press release suggested it would be:  “These new measures will cost the government up to $2.5 billion over the next three years.”

Based on past forecasts by the Ontario’s Liberal government, keeping the costs at $2.5 billion over the next three years may be a “stretch goal”!

Parker Gallant

*“Net Exports” are total exports less total imports.

 

Where did the $50 billion go, Premier Wynne?

He said, she said: we say, where did the money GO? [Photo: Toronto Star]
Last September 13, Minister of Energy Glenn Thibeault issued a press release announcing the  Ontario Liberal government would reduce electricity bills for five million families, farms and small businesses.  The relief granted was equivalent to the 8% provincial portion of the HST. The press release also claimed Ontario had “invested more than $35 billion” in new and refurbished generation.

Fast forward to March 2, 2017 and that $35 billion jumped to $50 billion in a press conference the Premier jointly held with Minister Thibeault. An increase of $15 billion in six months!

The press conference was to inform us the 8% relief announced by Minister Thibeault would be added to, with a further 17% reduction. A Toronto Star op-ed Premier Wynne wrote March 7, 2017 reaffirmed the $50 billion investment claim made the previous week, and further claimed: “By delivering the biggest rate cut in Ontario’s history and holding rate increases to inflation for at least four years, this plan provides an overdue solution.”

That made history alright, but not the way she meant. What the Premier forgot to say was that her government had brought us the biggest rate increases in Ontario’s history.  In March 2011 the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) website shows the average electricity rate was 6.84 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) and on May 1, 2016 it had increased to 11.1cents/kWh.  In just over five years, the price of the commodity — electricity — increased 62%, a multiple of the inflation rate during that five years, which added about $400 to the average consumer bill.

Electricity price goes down, your bills go UP

From 2010 to 2015 Ontario demand fell by 5 TWh (terawatt hours) to 137 TWh.* That is enough to provide electricity to 550,000 “average” Ontario households for a year, yet the price for residential consumers increased 62%.   The increase was not driven by the trading value via the hourly Ontario electricity price (HOEP) market.  In fact, the market treated Ontario generated electricity badly as it fell from an average of 3.79 cents/kWh in 2010 to 1.66 cents/kWh in value for 2016 —  a 56.2% drop.

As to how they were achieving this “relief,” Wynne and Thibeault told us they were pushing the payback period for the 20-year contracts (wind and solar) out another 10 years. Those generation sources are the principal cause of the increase in electricity prices.  (For further proof of that, read  Scott Luft’s recent analysis on the costs of “other” generation in 2016 which confirms its effect on our rising electricity rates.)

Where did the money go?

What the Wynne/Thibeault announcement means is, ratepayers will pay for the intermittent and unreliable power for their 20-year contracted term(s), and continue to pay for the same contracts which, by that time use equipment that will be heading for, or already in the scrap yard.

It is time for Minister Thibeault to disclose what is behind his claim of $35 billion invested and for Premier Wynne to disclose the details of the $50 billion she says went to “necessary renovations” to rebuild “the system.”

Time to come clean.

* Ontario consumption remained at 137 TWh in 2016.

Where did our $50 billion go? Or, how Ontario citizens lost $18 mil in just 2 days

Premier Wynne making her announcement: no accounting for costs [Photo: PostMedia]
Almost a week after Premier Wynne announced her plan to reduce our electricity bills by 25%, the wind was blowing!  On March 8, six days after the cost shifting  announcement (from ratepayer to taxpayer), potential power generation from wind was forecast by IESO to produce at levels of 80/95% of their capacity, for many hours of the day.  IESO was concerned about grid stability and as a consequence, curtailed much of the forecasted generation.

When the Premier made her announcement about reducing hydro bills, she also claimed “Decades of under-investment in the electricity system by governments of all stripes resulted in the need to invest more than $50 billion in generation, transmission and distribution assets to ensure the system is clean and reliable.”

It is worth noting that much of that $50 billion was spent acquiring wind and solar generation and its associated spending on transmission, plus gas plants (to back them up because the power is intermittent), and distribution assets to hook them into the grid or embed them with the local distribution companies. It would have been informative if Premier Wynne had had Energy Minister Glen Thibeault provide an accounting of exactly what the $50 billion was spent on.

As it turned out the amount of curtailed wind generated on March 8 was 37,044 megawatt hours (MWh) was just short of the record of 38,018 MWh set almost a year ago on March 16, 2016 (estimated by my friend Scott Luft).  The curtailed wind on March 8, 2017 cost Ontario’s ratepayers $120/MWh or $4,445,280.

The cost on March 16, 2016 was $4,562,160.

What does it mean? Curtailing or restricting power output but paying for it anyway means a portion of the $50 billion spent was simply wasted money. It went to the corporate power developers that rushed to sign those above-market contracts for renewable power.

The other interesting aspect of the surplus power generation on March 16, 2016 and March 8, 2017 is revealed in IESO’s Daily Market Summaries: the hourly Ontario energy price (HOEP)  March 16, 2016 was negative at -$1.25/MWh and on March 8th, 2017 was also negative at -.49 cents/MWh. This meant ratepayers paid for surplus exports sold to our neighbours in New York and Michigan, etc. Net exports (exports minus imports) on March 16, 2016 were 52,368 MWh, and on March 8, 2017 were 37,944 MWh. Total costs of their generation (HOEP + GA) fell to Ontario’s ratepayers along with the cost of any spilled hydro, steamed off nuclear and idling gas plants.

Millions here, millions there = a whole lot of wasted money

So, bear with me here, if we price the cost of the net exports at $110/MWh for those two days, ratepayer costs were approximately $9.8 million with $5.7 million for March 16, 2016 net exports and $4.1 million for March 8, 2017 net exports, not including the $84,000 we paid our neighbours to take our power.

How much did it cost you? Two days out of 729 (2016 was a leap year) cost Ontario ratepayers about $18.1 million for power not delivered (curtailed wind) or needed (net exports).

I hope this helps Minister Thibeault in his calculations for a long overdue accounting to Ontario citizens as to where the other $49.982 billion went.

 

What’s in your hydro bill? November-December dates

Since the Premier of Ontario has admitted her government has made a “mistake” and she is now concerned about rising electricity bills in Ontario, there is a lot of attention being paid to these bills.

I have been invited to speak at two Town Hall events coming up in the next few weeks.

• Saturday, Dec. 3: 10 a.m. to noon at the Kinburn Community Centre, 3045 Kinburn Side Rd., Kinburn.

• Saturday, Dec. 3: 2 to 4 p.m. at the Intercultural Dialogue Institute, 335 Michael Cowpland Dr. unit 112, Kanata.

Here is a news story about last week’s event.

parkergallanttownhall-metrolandpic