Rising costs of electricity generation not stopping in Ontario

Ontario’s six-month electricity summary shows that the new government’s promise of cutting costs is going to be tough to achieve. Is it impossible?

IESO finally released their June “Monthly Summary Report” allowing one to determine if Ontario ratepayers consumed more or less electricity in the first six months of 2019 compared to 2018.  As it turns out, grid-connected (TX) consumption was down by 270,000 megawatt hours (MWh), dropping from 66,847 GWh (gigawatt hours) to 66,577 GWh.

Ontario’s gross exports also dropped nominally from 9,791 GWh to 9,718 GWh, but the cost to Ontario ratepayers (due to a higher GA [global adjustment])* in 2019 is approximately $1 billion, and in 2018 up to the end of June, the cost was less at approximately $920 million. The combined average as at June 30th of the HOEP and the GA jumped by $7.14 per MWh for Class B ratepayers from 2018, meaning it added about $346 million in additional costs in the six months.  While most of those increased costs won’t suddenly show up in November when rates are reset by the OEB, it will accumulate in the “Global Adjustment Modifier”** and will hit ratepayers and taxpayers in the future.

Hydro One’s six-month results:                                                                            Comparing the consumption drop IESO reported to Hydro One’s six-month report is interesting: they noted “Electricity distributed to Hydro One customers” actually increased by 294 GWh from 13,517 GWh to 13,811 GWh or 2.2%.  Revenue (net of purchased power) from Hydro One’s local distribution customers however was up by $134 million*** or an impressive 17.7% mainly due to rate increases granted by the OEB.  Transmission revenue was down $49 million (5.8%) as Hydro One stated: “due to cooler weather in the 2nd Quarter” and “lower peak demand”. Despite the overall $85 million revenue jump, Hydro One’s net income was down $96 million as they took the hit for the aborted Avista acquisition along with increases in financing charges and higher OMA costs.

The net income drop meant Hydro One paid out 84.2% ($282 million) of their net income via dividends to shareholders. This was in excess of their targeted payout rate of 70% – 80%. Ratepayers should hope the OEB takes this into account during present and future rate application reviews as, to the best of my knowledge, municipally owned LDC (local distribution companies) payout ratios are in the 50%-60% range! Toronto Hydro, as one example earned $167.3 million in 2018 and paid out $93.9 million in dividends to the City of Toronto for a 56.1% dividend rate. Retaining equity helps keep rates down!

OPG’s six-month results:

Ontario Power Generation just released their financial results for the first six months of 2019 and it looks like they are back in business, generating more electricity and big profits.  For the first six months of the current year they generated 39.3 TWh versus 36 TWh in 2018 increasing their percentage of TX generation consumed by Ontario ratepayers from 53.9% to 59%.  As well, “Income before interest and income taxes” for the “Electricity generating business segments” was up by 44.4%  to $715 million from $496 million.  While some of the increase was due to increased generation, most of it was due to the fact that the OEB granted substantial increases for both nuclear (increased to 8.1 cents/kWh from 7.5 cents/kWh [+8%]) and hydro (increased to 4.5 cents/kWh from 4.2 cents/kWh [+7.1%]) having sat on the rate application approvals**** for a considerable time.  Additionally, OPG were paid for 2.2 TWh of spilled hydro in 2019 versus 2 TWh in 2018 adding $15 million to revenue; however, the real shocker in the reported results was the fact they show OMA costs dropped $35 million.

Industrial wind turbines six-month results:   Thanks to Scott Luft’s data, wind power’s contribution (if one can call it that) for the six months for 2019 was up all-in (TX and DX [distribution connected] plus curtailed) slightly to 7.3 TWh versus 6.9 TWh in 2018. The overall cost however, was higher jumping from approximately $955 million to $1.079 billion.  Coincidently, the 7.3 TWh of 2019 is 83% of gross exports versus 80.9% of 2018’s gross exports.  That simply demonstrates the fact that wind turbines do nothing more than add to the costs of generating electricity in Ontario.  We could have easily done without their generation and their added costs!  Many people who have experienced health problems caused by the audible and inaudible noises produced by the turbines would also welcome their demise.

Conclusion:                                                                                                                                     One can determine from all this that the rising cost of electricity generation in Ontario has not slowed or stopped despite the change of government just over one year ago.

The damage caused through implementation of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act in 2009 continues and it is difficult to see how the current government will reverse the harm the GEA caused.

PARKER GALLANT        

*The GA pot only affects Ontario ratepayers as the market price (HOEP) is the price surplus electricity is sold at in the export market.                                                                                                                                                **The Ontario Minister of Energy announced future rate increases would be held to the rate of inflation.                                                                                                                                             ***In the 6-month comparison Hydro One’s average “Delivery” charge increased from 5.59 cents/kWh to 6.44 cents/kWh or 15.3% for their 1.3 million customers.                                                                                                                                        ****This was noted by the Energy Minister when passing the “Fixing the Hydro Mess Act”.

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Former Ontario Liberal energy ministers: your turn to eat crow

More enlightening facts from the Lennox gas plant, and how billions have been wasted

There have been a few problems with wind power, former Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault told a business audience almost two years ago. We had no idea how bad.

My earlier article briefly described my recent tour of the Lennox natural gas power facility in Bath, Ontario, and also provided the costs of wind power generation—including what was “curtailed” (wasted; paid for but not used).

The period covered was nine years (2009 to 2017) during which grid-delivered wind power generation was 53.1 TWh* (terawatt hours) and its costs (including 6.9 TWh curtailed) were approximately $8 billion.

What I didn’t note earlier was, as we were paying for power generated by wind turbines and curtailed power, we were also paying for spilled hydro and steamed-off nuclear which added additional costs to the GA (Global Adjustment) pot, driving up electricity costs. We started paying for “spilled hydro” in 2011 when the OEB (Ontario Energy Board) allowed OPG to establish a “variance” account.  Since that time 18.7 TWh have been spilled by OPG and the cost of $875 million (4.7 cents/kWh) was placed in the GA and paid for by Ontario ratepayers.

Likewise, the cost of 2 TWh of steamed-off nuclear was (about) $140 million (7 cents/kWh) and also became part of the GA. Adding that to the $8 billion costs of wind power in those nine years brings the total to slightly more than $9 billion, as the hydro spilled and nuclear steam-off were due to “surplus baseload generation” (SBG)!

In 95 percent plus of the surplus events, SBG conditions were caused by wind power generation because it is granted “first to the grid” rights.

So, you might ask on reading this, is, how does/could Lennox fit into this situation?

Well, the fact is Lennox is treated as “the leper” in generation sources within the province and is called on only when something untoward or unusual happens, despite its ability to generate power at relatively low cost. Examples of Lennox doing more than idling include this past summer’s Lake Ontario algae problem which caused the shutdown of a Pickering nuclear unit (the water intake was clogged) and the winter of 2014 when we experienced the “polar vortex” causing gas prices to spike.  As it happens, wind wasn’t there for either event and Lennox was called on to provide the power necessary to keep our electricity system functioning.  (Wind turbines cannot be turned on when demand suddenly increases when the wind isn’t blowing.)

Ontario without wind

If the then Liberal Ontario government had decided not to proceed with the GEA (Green Energy Act) which focused on wind and solar sources, one could justififably wonder how the cost of electricity might have been affected.   If we had instead focused on reliability and reasonable costs, Lennox coupled with our other sources, could have easily replaced the intermittent and unreliable generation from wind turbines.

The math: Taking the wind power generation of 53.1 TWh over the nine years out of the picture would have meant those 18.7 TWh of spilled hydro and the 2 TWh of steamed-off nuclear could have reduced the net contribution of wind to 32.4 TWh. That would have saved ratepayers $1.8 billion i.e., (cost of 20.7 TWh of IWT generation @ $135 million/TWh = $2.8 billion, less the cost of 18.7 TWh of spilled hydro @ $46 million/TWh [$875 million] and less the cost of 2 TWh steamed off nuclear @ $70 million/TWh [$140 million])

The remaining 32.4 TWh of wind power generation could have been provided by generation from the OPG Lennox plant (capacity of 2,100 MW). It would have eliminated the $800 million cost of the 6.9 TWh of curtailed wind as it would have produced power only when needed.  Now if it ran at only 20 percent of its capacity (gas or oil,) it could have easily generated the remaining 32.4 TWh generated by IWY and accepted into the grid.

Note: No doubt much of that 32.4 TWh wind power generation was presented at times IESO were forced to export it at a substantial loss. For the sake of this calculation we will assume Ontario demand would have required it.

More math: As noted in the earlier article “idling” ** costs for Lennox are fixed at $4.200 per MW per month, making the annual idling costs about $106 million or $8.8 million per month. Running at 20 percent of capacity would result in idling costs per MWh of generation of about $30/MWh.

Adding fuel costs*** of about $40/MWh would result in total costs (on average) of approximately $70/MWh or 7 cents/kWh.  Generation at 300,000 MWh per month on average would have generated 32.4 TWh over those nine years (2009–2017).  The cost of that generation would be approximately $2.3 billion whereas the 32.4 TWh generated by IWT in those same nine years cost ratepayers about $4.4 billion.

So, without any wind power generation at a cost of $8 billion over the nine years, Ontario ratepayers would have saved almost $4.9 billion:

  • $1.8 billion using spilled hydro
  • $200 million using steamed-off nuclear
  • $800 million paying for curtailed IWT generation and
  • $2.1 billion by utilizing Lennox

Beyond the dollar savings, the lack of subsidized wind power would also have other effects like:

  • zero (0) noise complaints, instead of the thousands reported,
  • elimination of the slaughter of thousands of birds, bats and butterflies
  • prevented the possible disturbance/contamination of well water

Again, that cost-benefit study might have proved useful!

PARKER GALLANT                                                                

*1 TWh is about the amount of energy 110,000 average households in Ontario consume annually.

**Idling costs of the TransCanada gas plant next door to Lennox is $15,200 per month per MW or 3.7 times more costly than Lennox.

***Lennox has the ability to generate electricity using either natural gas or oil meaning if a fuel priced spikes, as natural gas did during the “polar vortex” in 2014, Lennox can shift to the cheaper fuel.

Quarterly stats show wind power blowing Ontario electricity costs higher

A power project that began operating in 2017 … wind power causes waste of other, less expensive sources of clean power due to lucrative contracts

A cold, windy winter cost Ontario electricity consumers. And if the first quarter of 2018 is typical, we’ll pay even more…

The IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) recently released the March Monthly Summary along with the Generator Output by Fuel Type Monthly Report, so that interested parties can see a year-to-year comparison for the first quarter of 2018 versus 2017.

What the “Generator Output” shows for the first three months of 2018 versus the same period in 2017 is, grid-connected generation output was up by over 600,000 MWh (+1.6%). That suggests the colder than normal winter created increased demand, which it did by just over 700,000 MWh.  As it turned out, gas generation increased year over year by about 750,000 MWh, while Hydro generation decreased by almost 200,000 MWh.

Grid-connected industrial-scale wind turbines (IWT) also generated almost 180,000 MWh* more in the first three months of 2018 versus 2017, and saw curtailed (paid for but not used) generation increase by over 50,000 MWh.

Both of those elements increased costs for ratepayers.

In 2017, the approximate cost of wind power generation in the first quarter, coupled with curtailed generation, was just shy of $532 million. In 2018 it was $30 million higher ($562 million). If the first quarter is typical, the cost to Ontario’s ratepayers for the full year could be over $2.2 billion — just for wind power! (Note the foregoing cost estimate does not include spilled water, steamed off nuclear or the high costs of back-up generation in the form of gas plants standing “at the ready” when the wind isn’t blowing.  On the latter issue a 2017 peer reviewed report by Marc Brouillette for the Council for Clean and Reliable Energy showed wind turbines produce power of value to the grid only 35% of the time.)

To reflect on what the IESO report suggests: even though winter months are considered high demand, the grid-accepted wind power presents 65% of the time when it’s not needed. Wind power, in addition to causing waste of other (clean) sources of power such as spilled hydro, steamed off nuclear, etc., results in the IESO selling surplus power to our neighbours at prices well below the cost of wind power production due to their lucrative contracts.  Proof? Look at the grid-accepted wind power versus Ontario’s net exports.   Grid-accepted wind in the first three months of 2017 was 3.46 terawatts (TWh) and net exports (exports less imports) were 2.92 TWh; the comparable period for 2018 saw grid-accepted wind generation of 3.64 TWh and net exports of 2.86 TWh.  In other words, the wind power, if all exported, was done with only partial recovery of its costs and was excess to actual demand.

That raises the question:

Why did Ontario contract for it in the first place and why was it given “first to the grid” rights? And, why don’t we cancel any outstanding contracts** that haven’t been started if what it generates is surplus?

Paying over $500 million per quarter and as much as $2 billion annually for wind power generation increases energy poverty and sends Ontario’s manufacturing jobs south.

Parker Gallant                                                                                                                                 May 1, 2018

*Thanks to Scott Luft for his data on wind generation and curtailment!

** The government awarded five contracts for almost 300 megawatts of new wind power in 2016, one of which has reached Renewable Energy Approval. The contracts will add $1.3B to Ontario’s electricity costs.

 

Ontario Power Generation report: good news and bad news

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) just released its annual report for the year ended December 31, 2016.

It’s a mix of good and bad news.

For example, gross revenue (net of fuel expenses) increased by $137 million and $34 million of that increase found its way to the bottom line, for a $436 million profit.

Generation from 2015 increased slightly from 78 terawatt hours (TWh) to 78.2 TWh, with nuclear generation increasing by 1.1 TWh and hydro decreasing by .9 TWh, which was further exacerbated (see next paragraph) by spillage due to surplus base-load conditions.

The bad news was that 4.7 TWh of hydro was “spilled” or wasted in 2016, up from 3.7 TWh in 2015. Those wasted 4.7 TWh of power could have supplied more than 500,000 (approximately 11% of all residential ratepayers) average Ontario homes with electricity for the full year.

The spillage by OPG didn’t affect their revenue, however, as they are paid for spillage at an average of about $44/MWh or $44 million/TWh. That means they received $207 million for wasted power and paid the Ontario Ministry of Finance the “water rental” fee for the spillage (although the latter wasn’t disclosed in the report).

Other “good/bad” news indicates OPG sold their Head Office on University Avenue in Toronto with closing scheduled for the second quarter of 2017. They expect the sale will generate an after-tax profit of $200 million.  The bad news is, OPG is obligated to turn over the profit to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The land, building and maintenance costs fell to the ratepayers of Ontario to pay for via the electricity rates, yet the profit generated on its sale will be tossed into the bottomless pit of the Finance Ministry, instead of going towards reducing OPG’s costs of generation which could have benefited ratepayers.  That $200 million won’t even pay the interest on Ontario’s debt for a week!

SOLD! But the money won’t help you ..

The previous Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli on June 9, 2016 (four days before he was replaced by Glenn Thibeault) also issued a “declaration” to OPG instructing them: “to transfer, sell, dispose of or divest all of the Corporation’s interest in the Lakeview Site, comprised of the Municipal Park Lands and the Uplands”.  The Lakeview site is 67 acres running along the Lake Ontario shoreline and the Municipal Park Lands are the remaining 110 acres of the Lakeview Site.  Any excess revenues associated with the sale is to be transferred to the Government (Consolidated Revenue Fund), again rather than going to reduce electricity rates.

Ontario’s ratepayers absorbed the impairment costs of closing the coal plants in 2003, absorbing a “loss of $576 million as a result of the termination of cash flows from these stations after 2007.” The ratepayers of the province deserve to benefit from any recovery resulting from the write-off of the plant closings!

All this is more evidence of the “shell game” being perpetrated on Ontario ratepayers and taxpayers and the continuing legacy of the McGuinty/Wynne-led governments.

More to come …