Just released 2018 electricity data: are things finally looking up in Ontario?

Why ‘down’ is actually ‘up’ in topsy-turvy Ontario

Last month, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) released the grid-connected 2018 Electricity Data. Under the “Price” heading the IESO said this: “The total cost of power for Class B consumers, representing the combined effect of the HOEP [2.43 cents/kWh] and the GA [9.07cents/kWh] was 11.50 cents/kWh”.

In 2017, that combined price was 11.55 cents/kWh, so there has been a slight decline. That slight decline represents an annual savings to the average household consuming 9,000 kWh per annum of—wait for it—$5.00.

If Bob Chiarelli was still Minister of Energy, he would probably suggest you could now purchase two “Timmies” with that much money!

The price drop isn’t very much but, the question is, how or why did the average price drop?

Ontario’s overall consumption in 2018 increased from 2017 by 5.3 TWh (terawatt hours) or 4%.  In 2017 the IESO reported grid-connected consumption was 132.1 TWh and in 2017 it increased to 137.4 TWh.  This is increase is a “good thing.” Here’s why:

  • Curtailed (paid for but not used) wind power fell by 1.207 TWh, which saved around $145 million!
  • Nuclear maneuvers (steam-off) or shutdowns declined by 791 GWh (gigawatt hours) and saved approximately $60 million.
  • Net exports (exports less imports) also fell by 2.318 TWh and, combined with the higher HOEP average for the year, saved ratepayers approximately $320 million.
  • Foregone hydro generation was probably lower as the first three quarters reported by OPG show it dropped from 4.5 TWh to 2.4 TWh (down 2.1 TWh). That saved around $90 million.

Taken together, that $615 million ratepayers had to absorb in 2017 comes to much more than Class B residential ratepayers benefited in 2018. There are only 4,665,000 of them so total net savings was only about $25 million.* Other Class B ratepayers presumably received some very minor benefits, too.

The reason these benefits were not more is because additional costs were levied in 2018, absorbing most of the remaining $590 million. The Ontario Energy Board approved large rate increases for OPG for the regulated hydro and nuclear generation segments.  The rates for the latter rose substantially and will also increase further in 2019 and 2020 before falling back in 2021 as the OEB used their power to attempt to “smooth” the nuclear refurbishment costs over several years.

Despite the fact that increased consumption in 2018 helped to, ever so slightly, reduce costs, the IESO continued their efforts to get us to reduce consumption by spending upwards of $350 million on conservation programs.

Why?

The small price drop for Class B ratepayers turns the economic law of “supply and demand” which is: increased demand will increase prices.  Somehow that law works in reverse in Ontario’s electricity sector!

Enjoy your two extra “Timmies” this year!

PARKER GALLANT

*These savings have nothing to do with the 25% reduction under the Fair Hydro Act which eliminated the 8% provincial portion of the HST and provides a 17% reduction for residential ratepayers. The FHA amortized assets over a longer timeframe than normal in the rest of the electricity generation world.

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The good old days of electricity prices in Ontario

… when supply and demand meant something, and electricity costs weren’t skewed by overpriced FIT contracts and “first-to-the-grid” rights

October 21, 2018

The good old days… just 11 years ago

My friend and energy analyst Scott Luft posted some interesting charts on his twitter account about generation on October 16, 2018, noting the wind was blowing and also that we used very little fossil fuel for power generation — the gas plants were basically all idling!

As is often the case in our fall and spring months, Ontario’s demand for power was low and IWTs (industrial wind turbines) were spinning. In fact the TX (transmission-connected) IWT delivered about 44,850 MWh and had another 26,760 MWh curtailed.  The corporate wind power operators were paid for potentially operating at 66% of their capacity — well above their annual average of 29 or 30%.  The cost of the generation they delivered, along with the curtailed (wasted) generation, put $9,265,000 into the pockets of the developers and all but approximately $84,000 found its way into the GA (Global Adjustment) account, as did the cost of hydro spills and those idling gas plants.

On a fall day when Ontario demand was only 343,680 MWh, as noted by IESO in their “Daily Market Summary”, we had net exports (exports less imports) of just under 50,000 MWh for which we received the market price (HOEP) of $1.88/MWH.  Those exports returned about $94,000 for generation that cost Ontario ratepayers north of $5.6 million.  As IESO reported, the total value of our consumption and exported electricity had a market value (HOEP) of only $749,000, but a cost of about $45 million.

Nostalgia about the good old days took me back to 2007 when the Global Adjustment Mechanism* was first introduced, so I looked at the IESO’s “Daily Market Summary” of October 16, 2007 to see what that day’s HOEP was.  On that day there were few wind and solar “renewables” in place and Ontario demand was higher at 393,000 MWh.  The HOEP for the day was $54.47/MWh or 5.5 cents per kWh. That is slightly higher than what IESO said the cost of electricity was in 2007 in the year-end report when they noted “The average weighted electricity price in 2007 was 5.05 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh)”.

The good old days of supply and demand

Compare that to the IESO Monthly Market Report for August 2018 which came in at $113.32 (HOEP + GA) or 11.32 cents/kWh — that’s 124% higher than 2007 just 11 years later! Put another way, before we added intermittent and unreliable wind and solar in large amounts to our generation sources, the market operated in a way that properly reflected supply and demand economics!

All this serves to demonstrate how intermittent renewable energy sources in the form of wind turbines and solar panels which have been granted guaranteed prices under FIT (Feed-in-Tariff) prices and “first to the grid”** rights, can distort Ontario’s electricity market.

A cost/benefit study, recommended by two Auditors General in the past, might have proved useful.

It is time for the incumbent government to cancel the acquisition of any more wind or solar power generation that have not commenced construction or are fighting actions before the ERT or the courts.

PARKER GALLANT

*The GA was originally called the “Provincial Benefit” but the name changed when the ruling Ontario Liberal Party introduced the “Ontario Clean Energy Benefit” reducing hydro bills by 10%.

**Wind and solar generation ranks at the same level as non-dispatchable nuclear power so when generated must be accepted or if not needed due to low demand will still be paid.

 

Forecast for April 2017: the news on electricity bills will be terrible

Reducing electricity bills is hard when you keep signing contracts for more power Ontario doesn't need. (Photo:THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch)
Reducing electricity bills is hard when you keep signing contracts for more power Ontario doesn’t need. (Photo:THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch)

November 29, 2016

The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) just released the Monthly Summary for October 2016. Comparing the prices to their report for October 2015 will make you weep.

Comparing the two months one year apart, you’ll see Ontario’s consumption decreased by almost 170,000 megawatts (MWh), but the costs of consuming less increased the commodity cost by over $176 million.

What that means: the 1% drop in consumption from 10.7 TWh (terawatts) to 10.5 TWh will probably result in the OEB (Ontario Energy Board) raising prices in the spring of 2017.

Here’s why. In 2016 we exported 1.4 TWh of power, one full TWh more than in 2015.  The 2015 hourly Ontario energy price (HOEP) was also $10/MWh higher than 2016, and so for that reason our 2016 net exports cost us $110 million more.  Coupling that drop in HOEP and the additional exports, my friend Scott Luft also estimated a wind curtailment* increase by the Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO (year over year) of 180,000 MWh.  The cost of that curtailment added an estimated $22 million to October’s costs of electricity.

October is a bad sign

If October is just the beginning of five months of increases, the news in mid-April 2017 when the OEB announces the price of electricity for the following six months will be terrible.

The “mistake” Premier Wynne admitted to at the Ontario Liberal Party Convention in Ottawa just days ago will loom even larger by mid-April 2017 as any increase will create more energy poverty. I would remind all at the convention she noted: “In the weeks and the months ahead, we are going to find more ways to lower rates and reduce the burden on consumers.”  Those “ways to lower rates” are getting harder to find as the government continues to sign new long-term power contracts.

I believe electricity ratepayers in Ontario would welcome some relief from the burden of our electricity bills, but I fear the damage caused by the Green Energy Act will take a decade or more before Ontarians see it.

Cancel, now

Premier Wynne should immediately cancel plans to acquire any more wind and solar power generation as planned under Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) I and LRP II as a demonstration of genuine concern for energy poverty and the citizens of Ontario.

*Curtailment: reduction in scheduled capacity or energy delivery