Premier Wynne’s Easter basket full of rotten eggs

Count the eggs! $50 million plus, lost in just 3 days!

The nice weather on Easter weekend in Ontario disguised the fact that April 14th, 15th and 16th were really bad days for electricity customers.

Scott Luft’s daily reports detailed the bad news, even before the Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO got out their daily summary for April 12th.   Some of the information in Scott’s reports are estimates, but they have always proven to be on the conservative side. These three reports paint a disturbing picture of what’s going on, and how badly the Ontario government is mismanaging the electricity file.

Here are a few of the events that our Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault and Premier Wynne should find embarrassing. They also confirm what many of us have been telling them for several years.

First, Thursday April 13th saw a disclosure from the Energy Ministry that Ontario paid out $28,095,332 including about $240,000 in interest to Windstream Energy to satisfy the award made to them under the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) tribunal, due to cancellation of  a 300-MW offshore industrial wind turbine project.

Second, the HOEP (hourly Ontario electricity price) market, traded all of Ontario’s generation over the three days at “0” (zero) or negative value. While total demand for electricity was 1,031,448 MWh over the three days the HOEP market valued it at -$869,220 or an average of -.84 cents/MWh.  The “0” and negative values for the HOEP lasted 77 continuous hours, breaking a prior record of 62 hours.

Wasted, unneeded wind power

Third, during the three days, ratepayers picked up the bill for 99,109 MWh of curtailed wind which exceeded the transmission (TX) and distribution (DX) connected wind by 60.2%. Curtailed wind at an estimated $120/MWh alone cost ratepayers $11.9 million, driving the price of delivered wind (61,882MWh) to a cost of $335.34/MWh or 33.5 cents a kWh.  Total wind costs were $20.8 million.

Fourth, solar power over the three days generated and curtailed (1,124 MWh) 35,539 MWh at a cost of   $16.8 million, which works out to $472.86/MWh or 47.3 cents/kWh.

Fifth was the cost of gas which in three days produced 18,433 MWh, but the cost was $12.5 million and $676.56/MWh or 67.7 cents/kWh.  The 9,943 MW of IESO grid-connected gas operated at 2.6% of actual capacity during the three days.

Sixth was the generosity shown to our neighbours in New York, Michigan and Quebec who took delivery of 157,768 MWh of free power along with a payment of $132,525.

The quick math on the above indicates a cost of wind, solar and gas generation plus the payment for exported power comes to $50.2 million.

Nuclear and hydro was all we needed

That’s bad enough, but if you look at nuclear and hydro generation during those three days, clearly the $50.2 million was “money for nothing” paid for by Ontario’s ratepayers.  Nuclear (including steamed-off of 49,118 MWh) was 688,981 MWh and combined with hydro generation of 324,001 MWh of could have provided 1,012,982 MWh versus Ontario’s demand over those three days of 869,232 MWh leaving 143,750 MWh of surplus.  Three days of nuclear and hydro cost $61.9 million or 6.1 cents/kWh.

Bottom line? Ontario ratepayers picked up the bill for not only the $28.1 million paid to Windstream for a canceled offshore wind project, but also another $50.2 million, making the past four days very expensive for everyone.

The $78.3 million could have been better spent on health care or so many other pressing needs!

It’s time to kill the Green Energy Act and cancel any uncompleted wind and solar contracts before all our weekends turn out like this one!

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.

 

Energy Minister’s promise of action causes concern

Past ministerial promises haven’t worked out so well. Why should we have faith in a minister who admits mistakes but then says he is planning major change?

Glenn Thibeault, Minister of Energy, spoke at a breakfast session for the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa and admitted that “Ontario” (not the Liberal Party or his predecessors in the energy portfolio)  screwed up by paying too much for renewable energy.

Shock.

While that was a significant admission by Mr. Thibeault, recall that only three weeks earlier he claimed “We have the system of the future paid with yesterday’s dollars.”

His Ottawa remarks claimed Ontario’s leadership position in green energy was “absolutely the right policy,” yet the attractive fixed-term contracts handed out “created a bonanza” for wind and solar providers but “left ratepayers with a hangover.”   Minister Thibeault’s many claims made in that speech about eliminating “heavily polluting coal-fired power plants,” how “we drove significant investment in the province,” how “demand for electricity plummeted in the steep recession” of 2008, and how “Ontario had taken a leadership position in green energy,” have all been disputed by many. As just one example, the Green Energy Act (GEA), the feed-in tariff program and time-of-use pricing mechanisms were all policies copied from Germany and Denmark, and not a leading position.

Billions spent without proper planning: AG

The apparent surprise, “Ontario was paying too much for renewable energy,” was already noted by Auditor General Jim McCarter in his December 5, 2011 report: “Billions of dollars of new wind and solar power projects were approved without many of the usual planning, regulatory, and oversight processes.”

The AG report came over a year after then Energy Minister Brad Duguid released his Long-Term Energy Plan, calling for 10,700 MW of  renewable energy from wind and solar. Minister Duguid also directed spending on the Niagara Tunnel ($1.5 billion) and the Lower Mattagami River ($2.6 billion) hydro projects which presumably are some of those “yesterday’s dollars” Thibeault mentions.   Just before his LTEP was released, Minister Duguid pulled the plug on the Oakville gas plant and said, “As we’re putting together an update to our Long-Term Energy Plan, it has become clear we no longer need this plant in Oakville.”  More “yesterday’s dollars”!

As the electricity rates started spiraling upwards, Minister Duguid gave us the OCEB (Ontario Clean Energy Benefit) in February 2011, which took 10% off electricity bills for the following five years, and also added over $5 billion to the province’s debt.

Now many critics (me included) of the GEA said renewable energy would drive up electricity prices soon after the GEA was passed. One of the first articles I pointed this out in appeared seven years ago (February 24, 2010) in the Financial Post where I commented,  “As expensive electricity coming from wind and solar power slowly works its way through the system, many more rate increases will follow.”  (Several months later Minister Duguid labeled me as  a “self-appointed guru” on the Goldhawk Live TV show.  Perhaps he considered my forecasts to be “fake news”.)

Promises, promises

Back to Minister Thibeault’s speech: the remark we should all be concerned about is, “In the coming weeks you’re going to hear about out plan, how it will impact businesses and families, and most importantly, how it will provide structural changes that ensure both immediate and lasting relief.”

We ratepayers have seen claims like that before. On February 17, 2011, Minister Duguid promised: Creating more than 50,000 jobs in the clean energy economy” and “Helping reduce costs for consumers and making the power system more efficient through conservation”. 

Those jobs were never created and we reportedly reduced our consumption by the 7,100 MW Duguid had as a target, but our electricity bills increased.  In February 2011, the average electricity rate was 6.84 cents/kWh; and in Feb. 2017 it is 11.1 cents/kWh — an increase of 62.2% in just six years.  Off-peak rates are up over 70%.

The “structural changes” promised by Minister Thibeault may well turn out like past promises and fail to deliver anything close to what is promised.

Minister Thibeault and the Wynne government should instead cancel unfulfilled wind and solar contracts, LRP II (currently suspended), move the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) to the Ministry of Community and Social Services, and stop the annual spending of $400 million on conservation programs.

Leave the planning to the experts!

 

Mr Thibeault needs to go to energy minister school

Ontario Energy Minister Thibeault: listening to the earbuds, not really in the know on energy
Ontario Energy Minister Thibeault: listening to the earbuds, not really in the know on energy

Ontario’s Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault was in Port Hope February 8, 2017 and delivered a speech to the local Chamber of Commerce.  Based on a few of his quotes appearing in the local paper, Northumberland Today, he needs basic training in the electricity system. Clearly, he doesn’t get it.

The article said, “Except for one question from the floor at the Port Hope and District Chamber of Commerce event, all of the queries from chamber members to Thibeault were solicited and chosen prior to his arrival.” I guess he needed help from bureaucrats in the Ministry to ensure he could answer the questions!

Looking at one of the Minister’s quotes along with a message from his speech, one is blown away by what appears to be either ignorance or fabrications he thinks ratepayers will believe.

“Thibeault supported the refurbishment of nuclear power plants in Ontario, a 30% source of power in this province, he said.”  Nuclear refurbishment was approved prior to Thibeault’s appointment so that’s a meaningless message.  But it also failed to deliver the correct facts!

According to IESO, while the capacity of nuclear was only 30% it produced 61% of total generation in 2016 and 67% (91.7 TWh) of Ontario’s total demand of 137 TWh (terawatts).

The quote that makes absolutely no sense is his remark, “We really have built the system of the future with yesterday’s dollars,” he said.”   Was he suggesting “yesterday’s dollars” were money in the bank already? If so,

Why have electricity rates risen over 100% under this government?

Why does Ontario have the highest electricity rates in Canada?

Why does Ontario have the fastest rising rates in North America? And

Why were almost 567,000 households (12% of households) in arrears on their electricity bills as of December 31, 2015?

We could go on and on about the damage done to the electricity system in the province by the current government meaning, the Thibeault’s claim “yesterday’s dollars” were used to “build the system of the future” is either a bogus boast or an outright lie.

The time has come for the Minister of Energy to admit his and his predecessor’s mistakes, and get some basic training.

Hard to see through the fog of Wynne government energy promises

On October 21, 2013 Premier Wynne wrote a letter “To the people of Ontario” with a few promises.

“We must also unlock public data so that you can help us solve problems and find new ways of doing things. I believe that government data belongs to the people of Ontario and so we will make government data open by default.”

and

“Our Open Government initiative will help create the transparent, accessible government that the people of Ontario deserve. Over the months and years to come, we’ll be bringing forward additional initiatives that will improve transparency, accountability, and connectivity.”

Almost a year later, possibly in an effort to augment her promise of “transparency” she wrote “mandate letters” to her Ministers. To her Minister of Energy, Bob Chiarelli she said, “We want to be the most open and transparent government in the country. We want to be a government that works for the people of this province — and with them. It is of the utmost importance that we lead responsibly, act with integrity, manage spending wisely and are accountable for every action we take.” [Italics mine]

Premier Wynne’s “mandate letter” to the current energy Minister, Glenn Thibeault, September 23, 2016 said nothing about transparency but does say:  “At this halfway mark of this government’s mandate, I encourage you to build on the momentum that we have successfully achieved over the past two years, to work in tandem with your fellow ministers to advance our economic plan”.

After almost three and a half years since Wynne’s letter to the people, perhaps it’s time to look at the promise to “unlock public data” and how the “Open Government” promise has delivered on  “transparency”!

  • Two months after Wynne’s letter to her Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli, in an appearance on TVO he claimed, “since 2008, the province of Ontario – and you can verify it with the IESO — has made a $6 billion profit on the trading of electricity.”
  • Current Energy Minister, Glenn Thibeault when asked in an interview with Global TV for information on how many ratepayers were behind in their hydro bills and how many had been disconnected, he had no idea! Neither did the OEB, or Ministry of Energy staff. Thibeault wouldn’t admit there was a crisis.
  • Less than two months after Thibeault refused to agree there was a crisis, Premier Wynne admitted rising hydro bills were “an urgent issue”. Loss of a critical byelection finally opened her eyes.

The IESO (Independent Electricity System Operators) website dazzles with the amount of data available. Search using the terms “transparency” or “transparent” you get 2,800 hits. Impressive, but as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words!

IESO fail to provide data on:

  • How much wind is curtailed or
  • How much water is spilled by hydro electric generators or
  • How much nuclear is “steamed off” by Bruce Nuclear or
  • How much wind or solar distributor connection energy was produced or
  • How much money was generated from sales of surplus exported power to our neighbours and
  • How much that exported power cost Ontario’s ratepayers

IESO is responsible for the financial aspects of settling (contracted and/or regulated) with each and every generator in the province either directly or via local distribution companies, and also must settle with the buyers and sellers of both our exported and imported energy. In effect they play a major role in determining the final cost of what each and every ratepayer are charged for the line on their bills reading either “electricity” and “GA” or Global Adjustment.

They should be the purveyors of all the “public data” from the energy sector Premier Wynne referenced in her letter to us in September 2013 but as noted, they are falling short.

A recent event made that obvious.

On January 18, 2017, IESO issued a News Release, “ Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator Releases 2016 Electricity Data”. The release had a table summarizing Ontario’s transmission connected generator output by fuel type, listing the outputs as: Nuclear 91.4 TWh (terawatt hours), Hydro 35.6 TWh, and Wind 9.0 TWh respectively.   Two days later, those three “outputs” were suddenly different with Nuclear at 91.7 TWh, Hydro at 35.7 and Wind at 9.3 TWh.

No apologies, no explanations or even a mention they altered the original News Release. The .7 TWh added to the output represents a cost of about $70 million ratepayers will pay, yet no explanation was posted about the change.

In Ontario today, transparency is shrouded in fog, and “spending wisely” has been forsaken by this government, in the badly managed electricity sector.

No natural gas, more natural gas: what is the Wynne government’s game?

February 6, 2017

In April 2015 Brad Duguid, then Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure issued a press release stating: “Increased natural gas access, through the $200 million Natural Gas Access Loan and $30 million Natural Gas Economic Development Grant, will attract new industry, make commercial transportation and agriculture more affordable, help to create jobs, provide more energy choices and will lower electricity prices for businesses and consumers across Ontario.”

The focus was expansion in rural communities and the money offered would do wonderful things including lowering “electricity prices.”  The Duguid statement appears to have flowed from the 2013 Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) released by Bob Chiarelli when he held the Energy Minister’s portfolio as noted in the OEB’s 2014-2017 Business Plan.

Just days ago, another press release was issued on the same issue by Bob Chiarelli, Minister of Infrastructure:  “Ontario is expanding access to natural gas for communities that do not currently have service, including those in rural and Northern Ontario and First Nations communities.”  It gave a “Quick Fact”: “Natural gas is the dominant heating source in Ontario and continues to be consistently less expensive than alternative sources such as electricity, heating oil and propane.” The Chiarelli announcement increased the “grant” amount to $100 million.

The recent announcement indicates the Duguid offer fell flat so perhaps Chiarelli’s announcement is an effort to see the claim he endorsed in the 2013 LTEP as one he is determined to follow through on, even if it raises Ontario’s debt by $100 million!

It is also ironic that Chiarelli is pushing expansion of natural gas consumption while our current Energy Minister, Glenn Thibeault is heading in the opposite direction. He recently instructed IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) to basically shut several of the NUG (non-utility generators) gas plants down. Minister Thibeault’s recent directive to IESO notes:  “Ontario has put in place legislation for its new cap and trade program to limit greenhouse gas pollution while moving to a low-carbon economy.”   Most NUG contracts are gas generation units whose original contracts (executed in the Peterson Liberal government days) are close to expiry, and are “take or pay” contracts.  With the  surplus of power today, Minister Thibeault considers them expendable.  As a result the directive instructed IESO to renew contracts but only: “if the IESO is able to negotiate replacement contracts (IESO Contracts) with OEFC NUGs that incentivize them to operate in a manner that is better aligned with the integrated power system’s needs.”

As noted by Scott Luft some of those NUG contracts have been renegotiated, others ended, (the plants will be closed or mothballed) while some are in the process of  renegotiation.  One of those cancelled contracts offered to produce and sell power for 5.9 cents/kWh, but that offer was rejected even though it was way under prices paid for generation from industrial wind turbines and solar panels. Both those forms of power generation are unable to generate power when needed.

Is the objective of the Energy Minister to reduce emissions from gas plants so Premier Wynne can claim the “cap and trade” tax is working?

Meanwhile, if Minister Chiarelli is successful at handing out the $100 million tax dollars as grants to expand natural gas use, emissions will increase! Any increase will generate additional cap and trade revenue to help pay for the grants and the early shutdown of those gas plants.

Here’s the game: reduce emissions in the (already clean) electricity sector while pushing them up elsewhere and capture additional taxes along the way.

The topsy-turvy world of power policy in Ontario continues.