Ontario electricity ratepayers paid up big-time to reduce emissions

The “Ontario Energy Quarterly” is a report containing a myriad of information related to the Ontario electricity sector and seems to be a collective production of the Province, the OEB and IESO.  It includes a chart tracking Ontario’s electricity sector emissions from 2010.  The report always appears six or seven months after the actual reporting date.  Their recent report indicates as of the end of the 2nd Quarter of 2019 Ontario’s emissions had fallen from 20 megatonnes (MT) in 2010 to only 2 MT by June 30, 2019

To put the foregoing in perspective the Ontario Environment Commissioner in 2016 indicated Ontario’s emissions peaked at 208 MT in 2000 and according to the Federal Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Ontario’s emissions in 2017 had fallen to 158.7 MT.  So, Ontario’s emissions fell 49.3 MT meaning the 18 MT drop in emissions from the electricity sector represented 36.5% of it. At the end of the 2019 2nd Quarter, emissions from the electricity sector represented only 1.25% of total Ontario emissions in 2017 versus 11.5% in 2010 when total Ontario emissions were 174.1 MT.

The above was achieved without a “carbon tax” but it’s been an expensive proposition for ratepayers.

Costs of reducing 18 MT of emissions in the Ontario electricity sector

Many reports and articles related to reduction of emissions in Ontario’s electricity sector suggest wind and solar generation was responsible for eliminating coal generation in Ontario.  Those purveying the claims avoid the facts and fail to mention costs. The decade beginning in 2010 was the advent of above market contracts signed under the GEA for wind and solar that began to appear on our landscape.  Those contracts drove electricity costs up generating unreliable intermittent generation necessitating back-up from gas plants* including the TransCanada Oakville gas plant move which cost $1 billion.

Looking at generation for the past decade (2010-2019) from wind and solar is a relatively simple task as Scott Luft using IESO data, posted generation by source and estimated costs in charts (complete with text) starting with 2008.  He also charts our exports and its revenue over the same time period.

Wind: Let’s start with industrial wind turbine generation which in the ten-year period (2010-2019) resulted in accepted wind of 83.3 TWh and 10.5 TWh of curtailed wind.  The combined cost of the generation and curtailment was $12.760 billion representing an average cost per kWh of 15.32 cents.

Solar: Over the decade solar panels generated 21,9 TWh with most generation delivered to local distribution companies.  The costs of those 21.9 TWh was $10.504 billion or 48 cents/kWh.

Spilling water: As if to make matters worse, as Ontarians reduced their demand for electricity dropping it from 139 TWh in 2010 to 135.1 TWh in 2019 the generation coming from wind and solar created numerous situations causing SBG (surplus baseload generation) and IESO instructed OPG and other hydro generators to spill water rather than generate clean hydro power.  Once again Scott Luft has summarized available data and estimated the cost of the SBG for just OPG over the past five years. The cost was almost $500 million and was billed to ratepayers.

If one accepts the premise, wind and solar are responsible for the 18 MT reduction, then one must accept the emission reduction represented a cost to Ontario ratepayers of $23.764 billion including the $500 million from hydro spillage. That translates to an emission reduction cost of $1,320/tonne, well above the current carbon tax of $20/tonne and the one proposed by the Ecofiscal Commission of $210/tonne.

Exports: Over the past 10 years, IESO were busy selling our surplus power to NY, Michigan and other provinces and states.  In total, 182 TWh went south, east and west to our neighbours for the market price (HOEP).  Funds lost from those sales (net of transmission costs recovered) were the GA (Global Adjustment) costs of almost $12.5 billion or 6.8 cents/kWh.

It is worth noting; exports of 182 TWh were 173% of the 105.2 TWh of accepted wind and solar generation so, exporting less could have saved us that loss of $12.5 billion.

The foregoing clearly demonstrates the 83.3 TWh wind generated plus the 21.9 TWh solar generated power over the past 10 years wasn’t needed to reduce emissions in Ontario’s electricity sector!  We needed less intermittent unreliable generation as our nuclear and hydro generation (supported by less gas plant capacity) could have supplied our needs and we could still have exported 76.8 TWh.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford should demand the federal government recognize the above “facts” and reimburse the province’s ratepayers by either issuing 182 million tradeable “carbon credits” or pay the province the $23.7 billion we have paid to reduce our emissions. Either one would prove beneficial and when applied to the sector would serve to reduce Ontario’s electricity rates making the province more competitive, thereby improving our economic future.

Failing the above we residential ratepayers should all be looking forward to receipt of our rebate cheque even its only 90% of the $1,320 per tonne we have paid over the past 10 years!

*Gas plants generated 160.6 TWh from 2010 to 2019 at an estimated cost of $19.726 billion or about 12.3 cents/kW.

 

If I were Ontario’s new Minister of Energy …

 

One initiative: look at why an expensive expansion to hydro isn’t being used

On June 8, after the Ontario election, Ontario’s new premier – whoever that is – will be thinking of selecting a new Minister of Energy. With the challenges in that portfolio, the immediate question for anyone considering accepting the job would be, how can one fix the electricity side of the portfolio after the damage done over the previous 15 years by my predecessors?

Here are a few “fixes” I would take that to try to undo some of the bad decisions of the past, if I were the new energy minister.

Green Energy Act

Immediately start work on cancelling the Green Energy Act

Conservation

Knowing Ontario has a large surplus of generation we export for 10/15 per cent of its cost I would immediately cancel planned conservation spending. This would save ratepayers over $433 million annually.

Wind and solar contracts

I would immediately cancel any contracts that are outstanding, but haven’t been started and may be in the process of a challenge via either the Environmental Review Tribunal) or in the courts.                                 This would save ratepayers an estimated $200 million annually.

Wind turbine noise and environmental non-compliance

Work with the (new) MOECC Minister to insure they effect compliance by industrial wind developers both for exceeding noise level standards and operations during bird and bat migration periods. Failure to comply would elicit large fines. This would save ratepayers an estimated $200/400 million annually.

Change the “baseload” designation of generation for wind and solar developments

Both wind and solar generation is unreliable and intermittent, dependent on weather, and as such should not be granted “first to the grid rights”. They are backed up by gas or hydro generation with both paid for either spilling water or idling when the wind blows or the sun shines.

The cost is phenomenal.

As an example, wind turbines annually generate at approximately 30 per cent of rated capacity but 65 per cent of the time power generation comes at the wrong time of day and not needed.                                                                 The estimated annual ratepayer savings if wind generation was replaced by hydro would be $400 million and if replaced by gas, in excess of $600 million.

Charge a fee (tax) for out of phase/need generation for wind and solar

Should the foregoing “baseload” re-designation be impossible based on legal issues I would direct the IESO to institute a fee that would apply to wind and solar generation delivered during mid-peak and off-peak times. A higher fee would also apply when wind is curtailed and would suggest a fee of $10/per MWh delivered during off-peak and mid-peak hours and a $20/per MWh for curtailed generation.  The estimated annual revenue generated would be a minimum of $150 million

Increase LEAP contributions from LDCs to 1 per cent of distribution revenues

The OEB would be instructed to institute an increase in the LDC (local distribution companies) LEAP (low-income assistance program) from .12 per cent to 1 per cent and reduce the allowed ROI (return on investment) by the difference.  This would deliver an estimated $60/80 million annually reducing the revenue requirement for the OESP (Ontario electricity support program) currently funded by taxpayers.

Close unused OPG generation plants

OPG currently has two power plants that are only very, very, occasionally called on to generate electricity yet ratepayers pick up the costs for OMA (operations, maintenance and administration). One of these is the Thunder Bay, the former coal plant converted to high-end biomass with a capacity of 165 MW. It would produce power at a reported cost of $1.50/kWh (Auditor General’s report). The other unused plant is the Lennox oil/gas plant in Napanee/Bath with a capacity of 2,200 MW that is never used. The estimated annual savings from the closing of these two plants would be in the $200 million range.

Rejig time-of-use (TOU) pricing to allow opt-in or opt-out

TOU pricing is focused on flattening demand by reducing usage during “peak hours” without any consideration of households or businesses. Allow households and small businesses a choice to either agree to TOU pricing or the average price (currently 8.21 cents/kWh after the 17% Fair Hydro Act reduction) over a week.  This would benefit households with shift workers, seniors, people with disabilities utilizing equipment drawing power and small businesses and would likely increase demand and reduce surplus exports thereby reducing our costs associated with those exports.  The estimated annual savings could easily be in the range of $200/400 million annually.

Other initiatives

Niagara water rights

I would conduct an investigation into why our Niagara Beck plants have not increased generation since the $1.5 billion spent on “Big Becky” (150 MW capacity) which was touted to produce enough additional power to provide electricity to 160,000 homes or over 1.4 million MWh. Are we constrained by water rights with the U.S., or is it a lack of transmission capabilities to get the power to where demand resides?

MPAC’s wind turbine assessments

One of the previous Minister’s of Finance instructed MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corp,) to assess industrial wind turbines (IWT) at a maximum of $40,000 per MW of capacity despite their value of $1.5/2 million each.   I would request whomever is appointed by the new Premier to the Finance Ministry portfolio to recall those instructions and allow MPAC to reassess IWT at their current values over the terms of their contracts.  This would immediately benefit municipalities (via higher realty taxes) that originally had no ability to accept or reject IWT.

Do a quick addition of the numbers and you will see the benefit to the ratepayers of the province would amount to in excess of $2 billion dollars.

Coincidentally, that is approximately even more than the previous government provided via the Fair Hydro Act. Perhaps we didn’t need to push those costs off to the future for our children and grandchildren to pay!

Now that I have formulated a plan to reduce electricity costs by over $2 billion per annum I can relax, confident that I could indeed handle the portfolio handed to me by the new Premier of the province.

Parker Gallant

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.

Wind: worst value for Ontario consumers

The wind power lobby continues to claim power from wind is great value and contributes to “affordable” electricity bills. But the facts of October tell a different story.

Ontario turbines near Comber: not helping

Right after Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault released his version of the LTEP (Long-Term Energy Plan), “Delivering Fairness and Choice,” CanWEA (the Canadian Wind Energy Association) issued a news release with the following statement:  “New wind energy provides the best value for consumers to meet growing demand for affordable non-emitting electricity.”

To back up that claim, CanWEA president Robert Hornung had this to say: Ontario’s harnessing of wind power can help fight climate change while keeping electricity costs low. Without new wind energy, costs to electricity customers and carbon emissions will both continue to rise.”

Brandy Giannetta, CanWEA’s Regional Director for Ontario also had a quote: “CanWEA supports competitive, market-based approaches to providing flexible, clean, and low-cost energy supply, to meet Ontarians’ changing needs.”

The expression “I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard that,” immediately comes to mind but here’s the truth: industrial-scale wind turbines have failed miserably in producing anything resembling “low-cost” energy and is instead one of the reasons consumers’ electricity bills “will continue to rise”!

If Hornung and Giannetta had waited just five days, they could have visited my friend Scott Luft’s spreadsheet and noticed how wind performed in October.   They would have discovered it was pretty dismal: 37.9% of possible grid-connected (Tx) wind power generation was curtailed (paid for but not used).  

The IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) was concerned that too much wind power generation could cause repercussions such as a blackout or brownout, so 481,243 MWh (megawatt hours) were not accepted throughout the month. However, Ontario’s ratepayers will still pay for those undelivered MWh at a cost of $120 each, meaning the GA (global adjustment) increased by $57.7 million (481,243 MWh X $120. = $ $57,749,160).

Add that $57.7 million to the 787,627 MWh of the Tx  generation accepted into the grid, the total costs rise to $165 million or $208.32/MWh — the equivalent of 20.8 cents/kWh (kilowatt hour).   (That calculation is 787,627 X $135/MWh = $106,329,645 + $57,749,160 = $164,978,805.  Simply divide the latter amount by the Tx accepted generation and you get the $208.32 MWh or the 20.8 cents/kWh.)

It is important to note that the costs calculated and reported here do not include the transmission charge, delivery charge, regulatory charge or the HST.  Additionally, another 158,609 MWh of wind were delivered to local distribution companies (Dx) at a cost of $135/MWh, bringing IWT costs for the month to $185 million — for power we didn’t need.  No doubt during the month we were also steaming off clean nuclear power from Bruce Nuclear and spilling clean hydro power from OPG’s hydro generation units. In both cases the cost of the steamed off nuclear and the spilled hydro will be added to the Global Adjustment pot and find its way to our future bills.

I hope Mr. Hornung and Ms Giannetta will rethink their claims and simply admit wind power generation is high-cost, and frequently displaces low-cost non-emitting nuclear and hydro power.

You can’t hide October’s facts!

 

Wind power myths busted on one fall weekend

Beautiful … but costly. All that “free” wind power. [Photo: The Weather Network}
October 21 and 22 was a beautiful fall weekend in Southern Ontario with lots of sunshine, beautiful colours, mild temperatures and gentle breezes. That combination meant low electricity demand: power demand for the two days was slightly less than 603,000 MWh (megawatt hours) for all types and classes of Ontario ratepayers according to IESO’s (Independent Electricity System Operator) “Daily Summary Reports”.  As a result we exported surplus generation to New York, Michigan, etc. at an average two-day price of $2.65 per MWh, but at the same time, that cost Ontario’s ratepayers about $120/MWh*.

So, the “Net Exports” (exports less imports) of just under 98,000 MWh sold to our neighbours recovered about $260,000, but cost Ontario’s ratepayers almost $11.8 million … even more if we attribute it all to wind generation.

It turns out, the blame can easily be allocated to industrial wind turbines as they could have generated about 107,000 MWh, but were partially curtailed by IESO. As the weekend unfolded, 38,000 MWh were curtailed and 69,000 MWh were delivered to the grid.   Ontario’s ratepayers picked up the tab for the curtailed wind at $120/MWh and $135/MWh for the grid-delivered generation, bringing the weekend wind costs to almost $14 million ($13.875 million).  You should note curtailed and grid-accepted wind generation exceeded our net exports by 9,000 MWh — that’s enough to power 10,000 average households for a full year!

As it turned out, we didn’t need wind generation at all and we normally don’t. A look at our generation capabilities on the weekend via the IESO’s “Generators Output and Capability Reports” also shows IESO were busy controlling the grid to prevent blackouts or brownouts, and frequently did so by getting Bruce Nuclear to “steam off.” It must be assumed that OPG were also required to “spill hydro,” our cheapest form of generation!  Needless to say, we ratepayers were also paying for that!

Once again, the past weekend demonstrates power generation from industrial wind turbines wasn’t needed.

But the way the Ontario Liberal government has negotiated the contracts with wind power developers means Ontario’s ratepayers are required to pick up the bill for the unreliable and intermittent nature of power that often winds up creating a surplus of unneeded power that is exported at a substantial cost.

It is clearly time to end the charade — kill the GEA and cancel any outstanding unbuilt wind contracts.

 

* Due to the nature of grids, it is impossible to determine what source of generation was actually exported so the suggested cost reflects (approximately) the GA (Global Adjustment) plus the HOEP (hourly Ontario electricity price) of all types of generation either contracted or regulated.

Weekends or weekdays: wind is a waste

October 20, 2017

Proof of the need to repeal the Unfair Green Energy Act

Tuesday October 17, 2017 was a typical Ontario fall weekday with electricity demand relatively low.

Total Ontario demand for power was slightly over 335,000* MWh for the whole day, peaking at hour 19 (7 PM) at 16,318 MW, according to the IESO’s Daily Market Summary.

That hour has significance as during weekdays, it signals the time when off-peak hours start. That Tuesday, it also was the hour when the Hourly Ontario Electricity Price (HOEP) reached its high for the day, getting all the way up to $5.01/MWh or ½ cent per kWh.

All through the day the wind was blowing. Based on the IESO’s Generator Report and Capability and their “wind generation forecast” it could have produced just over 57,000 MWh — that could have met 17% of Ontario’s demand.  IESO only accepted 20,900 MWh, however, and the other 36,100 MWh were curtailed or cut back.

The collective cost of the grid-delivered and curtailed wind generation over the 24 hours was almost $7.2 million, making the cost of the grid-accepted wind $344.50/MWh or 34 cents/kWh. Also because of a surplus of generated power, Ontario exported 38,200 MWh (almost double what IESO accepted from wind generators), principally to New York and Michigan — they had to pay them an average of $1.13 per MWh to take it.

All this makes it clear: Ontario’s electricity ratepayers don’t need any of wind’s intermittent and unreliable power, but are forced to pay for it anyway. To make matters worse, that power we subsidize gets delivered to our neighbours at negative prices. Those costs wind up on our electricity bills, too.

It’s time for Premier Wynne to stop the bleeding and kill the Unfair Green Energy Act.

 

* Numbers are rounded

Ontario’s class distinction stings ordinary hydro customers

Electricity bill-payers are subsidizing business to the tune of over $1 billion, every year

 In early 2010, then Minister of Energy Brad Duguid issued a directive to the OPA (Ontario Power Authority) instructing them to create and deliver an “industrial energy efficiency program” specifically for large transmission connected (TX) ratepayers.

That directive led to the creation of the two classes of ratepayers that now exist in Ontario.

Originally, Class A ratepayers were only the largest industrial clients (TX) whose peak hourly demand was 5 megawatts (MW) per hour, or higher.   Since the launch of the new distinction in January 2011, Class A clients have evolved further under Energy Ministers Chiarelli and Thibeault, to allow those with peak demand exceeding 500 kilowatts (kW) per hour.

That move leave the great unwashed “B” Class – you and me — to pick up the subsidy costs for  Ontario’s larger employers. The concern was (is) that those companies without subsidies might exit the province and take their jobs with them.

The algorithm that determines what a Class A customer pays is related to how successful they are at picking the top five hours of Ontario’s peak demand. The “A” class companies who fire up their own generators (usually natural gas) or close their plants/operations down and reduce demand on Ontario’s generation sources during the five highest peak-demand hours over the 12 months, will get the biggest discount.

The focus on “conservation” during those hours carries the political hope of achieving “peak” demand reduction.  The theory is the reduction should result in reduced need for new generation.*

While that goal may have been the intent, at the same time Ministers Duguid, Chiarelli and Thibeault were (are!) giving orders to contract for more and more renewable wind and solar contracts to the point where the “market price” or HOEP (Hourly Ontario Electricity price) continued a slow descent due to surplus generation.   The HOEP in May 2017 achieved a new low of $3.17 per MWh or 32/100th of 1 cent/kWh. In June 2008, it was $62.30/MWh.

Both classes of ratepayer equally pick up the full cost of the HOEP on a per kWh basis!

With the focus on the cost shift of the ratepayer classes tied to the GA (Global Adjustment), the higher the latter the greater the cost shift.   The addition of so many more businesses to the Class A group simply amplified the cross-class subsidy!

For an example of the growth in the dollar value of that shift, let’s look at some June numbers, now that IESO has released the June 2017 summary report.

The first year the B to A shift happened was in 2011: for June of that year the GA was $423.1 million and Class A ratepayers picked up $46 million of that cost. Unfortunately, IESO did not start disclosing the consumption by ratepayer class until 2015, so it is not possible to determine what percentage of the GA was being paid by Class A versus Class B ratepayers.

The June 2015 IESO webpage discloses consumption of 11.004 terawatt hours** (TWh) with Class A consumption of 2.061 TWh (23%), and GA paid by Class A ratepayers of $90.4 million. That’s 9.6% out of total GA costs of $943.1 million.  So, Class B ratepayers picked up $126.5 million to subsidize Class A ratepayers that month.  That translates to a GA cost per kWh for Class A of 4.4 cents versus 9.5 cents for Class B ratepayers. HOEP for June 2015 was $15.31/MWh!

IESO discloses total consumption of 11.509 TWh for June 2016 with Class A consumption of 2.308 TWh (20.05%). The GA for Class A was $121.6 million out of GA costs of $995.3 million. Had the GA been allocated on the 20.05% Class A consumption, they would have paid $200.4 million meaning Class B ratepayers subsidies were $78.8 million for the month.  HOEP for that month was $20.17.

June 2017 total consumption was 11.617 TWh, of which 2.482 TWh (21.36%) was for Class A ratepayers. The Class A GA totaled $137.9 million, but if they had been allocated the 21.36% of their consumption on the GA of $1.208.8 billion instead of the 11.4%, they would have paid $258.2 million.  Class B ratepayers provided a subsidy of $120.3 million.

The 5,055,000 (2015 OEB Yearbook of distributors) Class B ratepayers in the province each picked up an average of $23.80 of subsidy costs for June 2017.

If that becomes the norm, those ratepayers will pony up around $1.4 billion annually. 

Back before former Energy Minister Duguid issued his directive, the Association of Major Power Consumers of Ontario, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business were lamenting the rising costs of electricity in Ontario. Some companies left the province due to costs, so it was inevitable the Ontario Liberal government would finally hear their pleas for relief.  The result? The creation of the two rate classes.

In effect, the creation of the two rate classes and the subsidy shift from Class B to Class A ratepayers should be labeled “employment insurance” as it was needed to simply retain jobs in jeopardy because many companies were threatening to leave the province due to high uncompetitive electricity rates.

Why can’t our Energy Ministers come to the realization they should cease contracting for new, unreliable and intermittent wind and solar generation that produces power out of phase with demand?

*   The claim by the government is that by not contracting for new capital investment in generation, we ratepayers save future rate increases

**1 terawatt is equal to 1 billion kilowatts