Free power is really expensive!

Stumbling over the IESO weekly summary* for May 24th to May 30th came with a shocking discovery that the HOEP (Hourly Ontario Electricity Price) for the week had descended to a low of $1.05 /MWh (megawatt hour) or 0.11 cents /kWh (kilowatt hour).

As it turns out, there is probably nothing you could buy for eleven one hundredths of a cent except for what was surplus to Ontario’s electricity demand for the week.

If you were looking to buy power from Ontario while living elsewhere it was much better than a Boxing Day or Black Friday sale! During that week IESO exported 278,712 MWh to NY, Michigan, Quebec, etc., which could have supplied 1.6 million average Ontario households with their electricity needs for the whole week for 19 cents.   Yes, you read that right!  The 278,812 MWh cost Ontario ratepayers the GA (Global Adjustment) which IESO’s 2nd estimate for May suggests will be $127.76/MWh (12.8 cents /kWh)!

What that means is, Ontario’s ratepayers will pick up $35.6 million in GA costs reducing electricity rates for our neighbours. Our neighbours can use that cheap power to lure small and medium sized businesses to their state or province. The businesses being lured away provide employment for many Ontarians.

Now, so surprised was I by the foregoing I fired off an e-mail to my friend Scott Luft about the meager amount of the HOEP for that week. Scott quickly responded suggesting a look at the prior week which he said was even more egregious.  So egregious, that the HOEP for the week of May 17th to May 23rd was negative at -0.48 /MWh or -0.5 cents /kWh.  He closed with the thought provoking “free power is really expensive” alluding to wind and solar as a fuel having virtually no cost!

It turned out the 308,616 MWh exported to NY, Michigan, etc., for the week commencing May 17th required Ontario ratepayers to pick up almost the full costs of our surplus and unneeded** generation and to also pay our neighbours to take it off our hands.  The cost of the latter was $148,134. and the cost of the generation based on the second IESO estimate of the GA for May was $39.4 million!  Those exported 308,616 MWh were equivalent to the “average” consumption of 1.8 million Ontario ratepayers for one week.  Those 1.8 million ratepayers if they lived in Ontario, unburdened by the GA costs, would have been paid .83 cents for their average weekly consumption.

Instead of a benefit, those ratepayers were obliged to pay 12.8 cents /kWh for power they didn’t consume and also pay $20.00 for their own “average” consumption of 172 kWh for the week.

Conclusion

In just two weeks of May Ontario ratepayers subsidized the generation and export of 587,328 MWh at a cost of $75 million (excluding costs of curtailed wind, spilled hydro, etc.) to ensure our grid was stable and not cause blackouts or brownouts.

What the foregoing highlights is the complete mess our various Ministers of Energy have made of Ontario’s electricity system by catering to the whims of the many unqualified environmental groups who have led our government down the path of contracting for intermittent and unreliable wind and solar generation at high rates to save the world without even so much as a cursory cost/benefit analysis.

Just those two weeks of May 2017 make it obvious: Free power is really expensive!

Parker Gallant,

June 6, 2017

* IESO’s weekly summaries commence Wednesday running to Tuesday of the following week.

**Unneeded generation costs include: spilled hydro, curtailed wind, steamed-off nuclear and idling gas plants.

What good is wind power?

April brought high winds, record curtailment of wind power, and record low consumer demand. Wasted and exported power could have supplied half the homes in Ontario for a month.

The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) recently released their April 2017 Monthly Market Report with information on power consumption, market pricing, exports and a host of other data.  What the April report revealed was Ontario’s average demand was low — so low that when energy analyst Scott Luft searched IESO’s records, he found the total demand for the month was a record low. He searched back to 1994, which is as far back as available.

The total demand reported by IESO for April 2017 was 9,788,614 megawatt hours (MWh): Ontario ratepayers are conserving, or we have lost many industrial clients, or both!

Another significant fact appearing on IESO’s website is that April was a pretty good month for Class A ratepayers. They consumed 21.9% of Ontario’s demand, but were only charged 11.4% of the Global Adjustment (GA), $965.7 million.  Class B ratepayers (that’s you and me, and small businesses) were charged with paying 88.6% of the GA, but represented only 78.1% of Ontario’s demand.

Cost: $160 million for revenue of $14 million

The other disturbing fact about April was our net export sales of power. That totaled 1,311,120 MWh sold at an average price of $11.14/MWh for a revenue of just $14.6 million for power that cost ratepayers $160 million. The loss of $145.4 million for the month contributed to the GA total of $965.7 million.

That 1.3 million MWh of exported power — which you paid for — could have provided power for more than 1.7 million average Ontario households at a cost of 1.11cents/kWh or just $8.35 for the month! (Assuming average use of 750 kilowatt hours/kWh of electricity for the month.)

Reviewing the IESO stats provides relatively current information but it doesn’t disclose the source of the generation, or what caused the hourly Ontario electricity price (HOEP) to be so low. Did we, for example, have to curtail wind?

Wind power: wasted. Again.

For that information I depend on my friend Scott Luft, who keeps a monthly data file which includes not only actual industrial wind generation, but also an estimate (always conservative) of curtailed wind power which we pay for but isn’t delivered to the electricity grid.  For the month of April 2017, wind power generated and curtailed (521,056 MWh) was 1,374,873 MWh, for a cost of  approximately $182 million.

Curtailed wind in April was the highest on record since we began paying for it back in September 2013!

Here’s the fatal math:

net exports of 1.3 million MWh +

the 521,000 of curtailed wind = 18.7% of total Ontario demand.

Combined, the 1,832,176 MWh at the HOEP price of $11.14/MWh and 1.11 cents/kWh and what do you get? Enough power for more than 2.4 million average households (over 50% of all households in the province) with their average need for power at a cost of only $8.35 — for the whole month.

Why doesn’t Premier Wynne simply cancel the Green Energy Act and the contracts for projects not yet built?

Either math is a problem for the Premier or she doesn’t want to admit to another “mistake”!

Parker Gallant

May 28, 2017

*Please note the GA is the can Premier Wynne is “kicking down the road” under her “Fair Hydro Plan” where she will refinance assets the Province doesn’t own by getting Ontario Power Generation to accumulate the debt for the uncoming 25% reduction in our monthly bills for the next four years. Look forward to a reappearance of the DRC (Debt Retirement Charge) but on a bigger scale in 2021!

How much is wind power really costing Ontario?

For the cost to provide a small portion of Ontario’s power, wind is no bargain

Not a chance ...
Not a chance …

Most electricity ratepayers in Ontario are aware that contracts awarded to wind power developers following the Green Energy Act gave them 13.5 cents per kilowatt (kWh) for power generation, no matter when that power was delivered. Last year, the Ontario Auditor General’s report noted that renewable contracts (wind and solar) were handed out at above market prices; as a result, Ontario ratepayers overpaid by billions.

The Auditor General’s findings were vigorously disputed by the wind power lobbyist the Canadian Wind Energy Association or CanWEA, and the Energy Minister of the day, Bob Chiarelli.

Here are some cogent facts about wind power. The U.K. president for German energy giant E.ON stated wind power requires 90% backup from gas or coal plants due to its unreliable and intermittent nature.  The average efficiency of onshore wind power generation, accepted by Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) and other grid operators, is 30% of their rated capacity; the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) supports that claim.  OSPE also note the actual value of a kWh of wind is 3 cents a kWh (fuel costs) as all it does is displace gas generators when it is generating during high demand periods.  On occasion, wind turbines will generate power at levels over 90% and other times at 0% of capacity.  When wind power is generated during low demand hours, the IESO is forced to spill hydro, steam off nuclear or curtail power from the wind turbines, in order to manage the grid.  When wind turbines operate at lower capacity levels during peak demand times, other suppliers such as gas plants are called on for what is needed to meet demand.

Bearing all that in mind, it is worth looking at wind generation’s effect on costs in the first six months of 2016 and ask, are the costs are reflective of the $135/MWh (+ up to 20% COL [cost of living] increases) 20 year contracts IESO, and the Ontario Power Authority awarded?

As of June 30, 2016, Ontario had 3,823 MW grid-connected wind turbines and 515 MW distributor-connected. The Ontario Energy Reports for the 1st two quarters of 2016 indicate that wind turbines contributed 4.6 terawatts (TWh) of power, which represented 5.9% of Ontario’s consumption of 69.3 TWh.

Missing something important

Not mentioned in those reports is the “curtailed” wind. The cost of curtailed wind (estimated at $120 per/MWh) is part of the electricity line on our bills via the Global Adjustment, or GA.  Estimates by energy analyst Scott Luft have curtailed wind in the first six months of 2016 at 1.228 TWh.

So, based on the foregoing, the GA cost of grid-accepted and curtailed IWT generation in the first six months of 2016 was $759.2 million, made up of a cost of $611.8 million for grid-delivered generation (estimated at $133 million per TWh) and $147.4 million for curtailed generation. Those two costs on their own mean the per kWh cost of wind was 16.5 cents/kWh (3.2 cents above the average of 13.3 cents/kWh).  The $759.2 million was 12% of the GA costs ($6.3 billion) for the six months for 5.9% of the power contributed.

But hold on, that’s not all. We know that wind turbines need gas plant backup, so those costs should be included, too. Those costs (due to the peaking abilities of gas plants) currently are approximately $160/MWh (at 20% of capacity utilization) meaning payments to idling plants for the 4.6 TWh backup was about $662 million. That brings the overall cost of the wind power contribution to the GA to about $1.421 billion, for a per kWh rate of 30.9 cents.   If you add in costs of spilled or wasted hydro power to make way for wind (3.4 TWh in the first six months) and steamed off nuclear generation at Bruce Power (unknown and unreported) the cost per/kWh would be higher still.

So when the moneyed corporate wind power lobbyist CanWEA claims that the latest procurement of IWT is priced at 8.59 cents per kWh, they are purposely ignoring the costs of curtailed wind and the costs of gas plant backup.

22% of the costs for 5.9% of the power

 Effectively, for the first six months of 2016 the $1.421 billion in costs to deliver 4.6 TWh of wind-generated power represented 22.5% of the total GA of $6.3 billion but delivered only 5.9% of the power.  Each of the kWh delivered by IWT, at a cost of 30.9 cents/kWh was 2.8 times the average cost set by the OEB and billed to the ratepayer.  As more wind turbines are added to the grid (Ontario signed contracts for more in April 2016),  the costs described here will grow and be billed to Ontario’s consumers.

CanWEA recently claimed “Ontario’s decision to nurture a clean energy economy was a smart investment and additional investments in wind energy will provide an increasingly good news story for the province’s electricity customers.” 

There is plenty of evidence to counter the claim that wind power is “a smart investment.” But it is true that this is a “good news story” — for the wind power developers, that is. They rushed to Ontario to obtain the generous above-market rates handed out at the expense of Ontario’s residents and businesses. And we’re all paying for it.