From all appearances, Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault sincerely believes Premier Wynne’s plan to reduce our hydro bills is the right one and the opposition parties have got it all wrong.
Shortly after Premier Wynne and her loyal servant Glenn Thibeault announced the Liberals’ “Fair Hydro Plan” Andrea Horwath, leader of the NDP, announced their plan. Thibeault had this to say about the NDP’s plans to repurchase Hydro One shares: “Buying back $4 billion in Hydro One shares is costly, he added, and ‘will not take one cent off electricity bills. What it will do is send billions to the stock market instead of making much needed infrastructure investments in communities across Ontario.’ ”
When PC MPP Vic Fedeli suggested diverting our surplus power to local businesses so they can create jobs, instead of exporting it to U.S. states at staggeringly low prices*Thibeault lashed out, saying that was “back-of-the-napkin” thinking. Thibeault did admit Ontario “doesn’t have sufficient electricity demand at home to use up the electricity we export to other markets.”
This begs the question: why does the Energy Minister not cancel contracts recently awarded (LRP 1) and permanently cancel plans (LRP 2) to add more renewables that will be surplus due to insufficient demand and plant closures. In respect to the latter, demand will continue to be insufficient as the recent announcements about the closing of the Proctor and Gamble plant (500 employees) in Brockville and the Siemens plant in Tillsonburg (340 employees), just to name two, will further reduce demand.
The Siemens announcement undermines the Green Energy Act which the Liberals originally touted as destined to create 50,000 jobs, but fell miserably short of that goal. In fact it cost Ontario jobs as suggested by former Ontario Auditor General McCarter in his 2011 report.
Thibeault might also stop directing IESO to spend $400 million annually on conservation programs which further reduces demand, but at a cost that is added to ratepayer bills and negatively affects export sale prices.*
Now, when Minister Thibeault or Premier Wynne speak about the Liberal Plan, they revert to the main “Fair Hydro Plan” talking point which is “This is the largest rate cut in Ontario history”. What Minister Thibeault always fails to note is Ontario’s ratepayers have experienced the largest rate increases in history thanks to the GEA’s passage in 2009! He also fails to acknowledge the future costs due to the Fair Hydro Plan which will push rates up well past those before the “largest rate cut in Ontario history”. That cost (subject to balanced budgets) according to the Financial Accountability Office will be $45 billion versus a benefit of $24 billion. That $45 billion will easily drive up electricity rates and represents in excess of two years of current total electricity costs.
Amortized over 10 years we should expect annual rate increases well in excess of 10%. At that time, all ratepayers will be exposed to the Ontario Liberal government’s incredibility bad planning!
* For the first six months of 2017 IESO report the sales price for surplus exports was $14.93 a megawatt hour (MWh) or 1.49 cents a kWh which is close to 10% of what it costs to produce. Ontario’s ratepayers pay for the losses via their monthly bills
A Globe and Mailarticle of November 11, 2002 reported that Dalton McGuinty, leader of the Ontario Liberal Party (OLP), then in Opposition, was upset because Premier Ernie Eves had promised legislation to cap electricity prices.
Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty said the true cost of the Conservative government’s hydro bungling will add billions of dollars to the debt.
“Now that families and businesses have been scared to death, now that new investment in supply has been scared off, now that everyone knows hydro has been completely mismanaged, Ernie Eves is going back to square one,” Mr. McGuinty said in a news release on Monday.
“The government should have had its act together before the market opened. And the bill for its failure to do that hasn’t been cancelled — it’s just been put off.”
Mr. McGuinty said the Ontario Liberals have been calling for action for months, but the Eves government has not acted until now to freeze electricity prices and increase supply.
The Liberal Leader said his real concern is what Ontarians will have to pay over the long term.
Fast forward to September 14, 2005 when Dalton McGuinty was Ontario’s Premier. In a keynote speech to the Ontario Energy Association, he bragged about what the OLP had accomplished and their plans for the future. Let’s examine the promises made in that speech.
McGuinty: “We won’t gamble away Ontario’s future prosperity because of what the next poll might or might not say...”
A noble thought, but discarded by the OLP. When seeking re-election in 2011 McGuinty cancelled the Mississauga and Oakville gas plants and plans to contract for offshore wind developments. Polling in ridings affected by the foregoing showed several Liberal seats in jeopardy. More recently, shortly after a poll indicated Premier Wynne’s approval rating was at 20 %, she announced hydro rates would be cut by 25 %. Policy by polls…
McGuinty: … Or because of what new technology might or might not be developed.
The launch of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA) in 2009 focused on wind and solar generation at above market prices, without a cost/benefit study as pointed out by the Ontario Auditor General in his December 5, 2011 report. Both wind and solar were old technologies promoted by ENGO and wind and solar associations and known to be intermittent and unreliable sources of generation.
McGuinty: That’s why we asked the OPA to report on a long-term plan.
The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) produced a viable plan with limited wind and solar capacity to be contracted for in a competitive environment, but the plan was suspended by Energy and Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman before approval via his directive to the OPA dated September 17, 2008.
McGuinty: That’s why we acted to take the politics out of pricing.
The recent Fair Hydro Act and the gas plant moves dispel the notion that politics has been removed from pricing, as do the FIT and MicroFIT programs that past Minister Smitherman enabled via a directive issued September 24, 2009 to the OPA which included a domestic content requirement. The latter resulted in a challenge before the World Trade Organization which Canada lost and taxpayers picked up the costs.
McGuinty: This spring, the Ontario Energy Board, a truly arms-length public agency will set the price of power for small consumers. The OEB sets the price based on what electricity costs, not on what politicians think it should cost, or wish it would cost.
While those homilies are correct, the prices are set based on input costs which the OEB has no control over. In simple terms, they divide the input costs accumulated (Global Adjustment + Hourly Ontario Electricity Price + transmission) and divide it by kilowatt hours consumed. The impact of above market (highlighted by the Auditor General reports) contracts with wind, solar, and other generators and the plethora of other spending (e.g., conservation $400 million per year, etc.) dictated by the Energy Minister, plus above market salaries and benefits for OPG and Hydro One employees etc., are all part of those costs.
McGuinty: We could require our businesses and families to subsidize the price of electricity through their taxes.
Premier McGuinty did just that when he moved the gas plants and part of the cost was paid by taxpayers. The Liberal government also drove up the price of hydro and put 600,000 household into energy poverty. It fell on charities, supported by Ontario taxpayers, to help those households. Tax dollars from those households also supplied grants to buyers of expensive Tesla automobiles and those grants continue today!
McGuinty: But, having finally put our province on a sound financial footing, we choose to ensure the price of electricity reflects the true cost of electricity.
The “sound financial footing” didn’t last long, and during the Liberals’ reign Ontario’s debt has increased from $132 billion to over $300 billion. Ontario has seen only one budget in the last decade that will seemingly balance and that was the most recent one.
McGuinty: We can’t guarantee price certainty –; that just isn’t realistic, given the nature of the challenges before us.
The Fair Hydro Act just passed by the Wynne government guarantees price certainty for four years for certain classes of ratepayers. This isn’t realistic: refinancing those assets may conflict with their ability to continue to generate electricity for an additional ten years. Amortization of fixed assets is based on the longevity of those assets, but the Wynne government has decreed that they can extend their life so that our children will be stuck with the replacement costs.
McGuinty: But I can assure you that we will do everything we can to ensure safe, clean, affordable electricity is always in full supply in the Province of Ontario.
When the OLP became the government, the average price of a kilowatt hour was 4.3 cents. By 2016 it averaged 11.2 cents — a 160% increase. The 25% reduction touted by Premier Wynne as the largest in Ontario’s history followed. The subsidy to cover that 25% will accumulate within the confines of OPG and at the end of increases held to “the rate of inflation for the next four years,” that subsidy will rise well above that benchmark in the years following that moratorium.
McGuinty: We won’t subsidize prices or cap prices –; that would mean more debt or higher deficits. Both of which would lead ultimately to higher taxes.
By deferring debt to subsidize hydro prices for four years within OPG’s balance sheet (guaranteed by the Province), the plan is to hide (temporarily) the impact from ratepayers while supposedly balancing the budget.
So, what happened to all those lofty promises of “affordable” electricity costs for consumers and business, that is immune to politics?
Was this what all those promises really meant?
“The true cost of the Liberal government’s hydro bungling will addtens ofbillions of dollars to the debt.”
Glaring omissions from the OEB about the “Fair Hydro Plan”
The June 22, 2017 news release from the Ontario Energy Board tells Ontario ratepayers about the wonders of the “Fair Hydro Plan” and how much rates would have increased without it.
But other related information on the OEB website discloses cherry-picked data and, on examination, reveals shortcomings. One small example is a chart comparing Ontario residential rates with other cities in Canada and the U.S. San Francisco is at the top; Hydro One low-density in fourth place; and Toronto Hydro is in sixth place. The lowest five cities on the chart are all Canadian cities including Montreal; comparing their cost of electricity shows Hydro One’s (low density) costs are 232% higher!
The average monthly cost for U.S. cities are converted into Canadian dollars at $1.3046, pushing them up the scale to create the impression that Ontario’s electricity rates are competitive. What isn’t disclosed is average household income and what percentage of the income is consumed by electricity bill(s) on a comparative basis. In San Francisco, 1.3% of household income (US$104,879) goes to pay for the comparable “average” electricity bill, whereas in Toronto (household income $75,270) it consumes over 2% of household income. Household incomes in rural Ontario are lower (20% or more) than large urban centres such as Toronto, etc., as Statscan noted in an extensive report. Hydro One’s billings in some cases, for their serviced areas, represents 5 to 10% of pre-tax household income.
The news release said if the Fair Hydro Plan hadn’t kicked in, rates per household were scheduled to increase 3.2% May 1st or about $33 annually for the “average” residential ratepayer. That would have increased total costs of power (COP) by almost $200 million over 12 months for just residential ratepayers, and another $3/400 million (estimated) for the rest of the Class A and Class B ratepayers. That money will now be part of the 30 year refinancing flowing from the “Fair Hydro Plan.” Many of those “refinanced” assets will have reached their best before date so ratepayers will be paying for assets with little or no value requiring replacement.
Instead of the rate increase that would have occurred, the average household will see a monthly reduction of almost $22 ($263 a year) commencing July 1, 2017. The foregoing monthly decrease reflects the reduction in time-of-use (TOU) rates taking effect on that date based on the OEB’s standards of usage calculations. The decrease includes prior announcements moving the OESP (Ontario Electricity Support Program) and the RRRP (Rural or Remote Rate Protection) allocation to the provincial treasury, instead of on the backs of ratepayers. This was contained in the directive given to the OEB by Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault April 10, 2017. The latter (OESP + RRRP) are estimated (by the writer) to have cost ratepayers about $5/600 million in 2016, and will increase as the OESP and the RRRP have both been expanded. Those costs will become the responsibility of Ontario’s taxpayers. Taxpayers will also bear the burden of the foregone revenue previously generated from the 8% provincial portion of the HST on electricity bills, removed as of January 1, 2017 the same time as “cap and trade” charges began.
More conflicting information in the OEB news release was the sentence: “With the new RPP prices that will start to apply on July 1, the total bill for the proxy customer described under the Fair Hydro Act, 2017 will be about $121. That is about $41 or 25% lower than it would have been without the following mitigation*” That suggests the “proxy customer” was paying $162 per month, yet the “chart” referenced in the second paragraph contains what is shown as a “Median Ontario Utility (OEB regulated)” with a monthly bill (as of November 2016) of $130.46. The OEB does not clarify what a “proxy customer” is and the “Fair Hydro Act 2017” contains no reference to a “proxy customer”!
With all this conflicting information from the OEB, it is hard to understand how they are fulfilling item number three in their “Mission” statement which reads: “Making the consumer’s own usage, and the broader energy issues, easier to understand”.
If the OEB was attempting to add clarity to the messages from Premier Wynne and the Minister of Energy, Glenn Thibeault about the Fair Hydro Plan, they have failed!
* “Mitigation” includes the OESP, RRRP, removal of the 8% provincial portion of the HST and the “refinancing of a portion of the costs of the Global Adjustment”
Ontario news in May focused on record rainfalls in many areas of the province, records were being set elsewhere, too: in Ontario’s our electricity sector.
While one of those records occurred on May 27 when the 4,500 MW capacity of industrial wind turbines generated a record low of one (1) megawatt hour, there were others. They won’t make you proud.
Highest “B” Class GA per MWh ever @ $123.07/MWH – What the $123.07 represents is a Global Adjustment cost to all Class B ratepayers of 12.3 cents /kWh without including the HOEP (Hourly Ontario Electricity Price) at a time when Premier Wynne has told us her government is reducing our electricity bills by 25%* so the difference between what the cost of electricity was in May and other months and the TOU rates (to be announced) will be “kicked down the road” to be paid at a future date.
Highest “B” Class total dollar GA cost ever @ $1,013.9 million – The Class “B” ratepayers got stung badly in May 2017 as their portion of the GA reached record levels.
Highest OPA contracted GA monthly cost ever @ $838.3 million – The Ontario Power Authority (since merged with IESO) was created by Dwight Duncan when Minister of Energy and contracted for all new power contracts, including those above market ones for renewable energy (wind, solar and biomass). Those contracted generation sources set a new record for contribution to the GA representing 73.2% of the total amount as noted under # 5. below.
Lowest “B” Class consumption for May (in evidence) @ 8.310 TWh – It would appear that Class “B” ratepayers did their best to reduce consumption and based on data on the IESO website consumption levels set a record low in May 2017.
Highest overall total GA costs ever @ $1,144.5 million – The total GA costs for May 2017 for the combination of Class B and A ratepayers achieved this record level since the GA was first created.
Based on what happened in May, it would appear that holding future rate increases in the next four years to the inflation index will result in huge increases when the hold-back (financed by taxpayers via the OPG) is slated for recovery.
That could make the Debt Retirement Charge look like chump change!
* The OEB has not yet announced the TOU rates that will apply effective July 1, 2017 as a result of the passing of the “Fair Hydro Plan” Act in the Ontario Legislature.
To: The Honourable Glenn Thibeault, Minister of Energy, Ontario
EB-2017-0049 Hydro One Rate Increase application
My views/thoughts and “What the OEB needs to consider”
The OEB must consider the fact Hydro One has publicly declared1(a) their intent to pay 70% to 80% of their net income after taxes as dividends to shareholders. No other publicly owned LDC pays out at that level. Toronto Hydro has recently informed the City of Toronto they will reduce their dividend.(b) It should be a point of the review by the OEB to limit the payout dividend rate by Hydro One to no more than the average of all of the other LDC dividend payout rates as the higher payout rate increases borrowing needs and resulting interest payments thereby increasing the need for the raising of distribution rates!
The OEB is currently in the process of endeavouring to have the distribution rates become more of a “fixed” cost moving away from variable rates currently embedded within the rate application system. Hydro One’s application ventures away from that path even though they cite the move to fixed rates on their website!(a) The OEB needs to re-establish their regulatory purpose.
A review of the Yearbook of Distributors(a) filings on the OEB website comparing Hydro One’s filings for 2014 with 2015 (2016 filings not posted yet) indicates OMA costs fell by $103 million from 2014 to 2015 while depreciation increased by $14 million. One would suspect the reported drop in OMA costs would have caused a drop in Hydro One’s distribution costs but no reduction was forthcoming. One must assume the increased depreciation was due to the OEB approving the completion of capital spending moving previously approved spending within a variance account to current rate recovery status. Presumably due to the drop in OMA costs; Hydro One reported an after-tax profit in their distribution business of $257.3 million an increase of $68,1 million in fiscal 2015.
We would note either Hydro One has been effective at getting ratepayers to conserve OR their out of line distribution rates have driven ratepaying households into “energy poverty”. The foregoing is evident in comparing the year ended December 31, 2015 with the comparable year ended December 31, 2016. Distribution volumes fell 8.6% whereas Transmission volumes increased 1.7% signaling distribution rates are out of line with other LDC! A further 1.1% reduction in distributed electricity is evident in reviewing the 1st Quarter of 2017 as compared to the 1st Quarter of 2016! NB:
We would note that asset classifications of: “Goodwill” and “Intangible Assets” now cumulatively represent $676 million having increased from $400 million in 2012. Those assets now represent 6.7% of Hydro One’s equity base and in line with the OEB’s annual setting of the ROE allowed by the LDC has the effect of inflation of Hydro One’s rate increases. It is time to discount the $676 million when considering the current application. Hydro One has inflated the goodwill (in particular) by enticing local councils to sell their LDC to Hydro One at prices that exceed normal acquisition activities in the private market. That in turn impacts not only the ratepayers of the acquired LDC but also (via the inclusion of the goodwill) impact all other Hydro One ratepayers.
Of note in respect to the OEB’s responsibility is the January 14, 2016 “Review of the Cost of Capital for Ontario’s Regulated Utilities”(a) wherein we find the following under the heading “Electricity Distributors” and labeled # 4) under “The differences between the OEB approved and the actual results can be attributed to the following:”: is the following: “4) The utility’s ability to manage its costs leading to under or over spending, and demand pressures”! Ontario’s ratepayers should rightly expect the OEB to not only “attribute” differences between “approved and the actual results” for the foregoing reason but to also bear that in mind on a comparative basis with all LDC ensuring that “over spending” is not granted the freedom given to Hydro One in the past and in the future!Costs for the same relative activities should be similar for all LDC!
NB: What that suggests is having the highest distribution rates during a time when the grid has a large surplus of electricity has two negative effects on ratepayers. The first is that reducing consumption will have a detrimental impact on the HOEP driving it down further particularly during the shoulder seasons when demand is low and secondly the reduced revenue to Hydro One will cause them to apply for rate increases associated with the revenue drop thereby increasing distribution rates. It is a downward spiral for ratepayers! We would also point out that while Hydro One experienced an 8.6% drop in consumption the IESO report that consumption from 2015 to 2016 remained flat at 137 TWh.
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”!
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 many homes could have benefitted from the excess power Ontario wastes, or sells off cheap?
Recently reading comments on an article related to the cost of wind power generation in Ontario, I was struck by a simple message.
The commenter had obviously visited the IESO “Data Directory” and reviewed one item labeled Intertie Flows; he observed that IESO had exported 3,000 MWh (megawatt hours) in an hour. He then observed that the exported power could have supplied 4,000 homes with free power for a month. (Here’s the math: 3,000 MWh equals 3 million kWh; the “average” Ontario household consumes 750 kWh per month, so divide the 3 million by 750 and the answer is 4,000.)
This simple fact has not been picked up on by the media and yet, it is an easy way to shed more light on Premier Wynne’s “mistake” and our rising electricity rates. The commenter also suggests going further and examining a full quarter to determine how many Ontario households would benefit from no exported power.
Excess wind and solar costs us
To be fair, while Ontario has frequently exported 3,000 MWh, we also import electricity generated elsewhere presumably at similar market prices. Those net exports or net imports (very infrequent for Ontario) are contained in the Intertie* hourly reports posted by IESO. Let’s look at the first three months of the current year.
To begin, IESO’s Monthly Market Reports for January, February and March of 2017 indicate Ontario’s “average net intertie schedule” for the first quarter of the current year totaled 2,909,000 MWh. While that was happening, industrial-scale wind turbines were generating over 3.9 million MWh in the same three months, and were also required (by IESO) to curtail (and be paid for) another 536,000 MWh. So, the wind power developers picked up about $620 million for those three months.
To make matters worse, the average of the Hourly Ontario Electricity Price (HOEP) received (via the traded market) over those three months was only $22.72 per MWh or 2.27 cents per kWh. That means Ontario received $66.1 million for the sale of the 2.9 million “intertie” MWh, while the average cost paid by ratepayers at 11.1 cents/kWh means the cost of those exports was almost $324 million.
Reducing power bills by 25% is peanuts—kill the contracts
Let’s go farther: if 1.3 million (28% of all residential households) of Ontario’s average ratepayers could have purchased those net exported kWh over the three months at the same price they were sold for, the 2250 kWh they consumed would have cost them $51 instead of the $250 they were billed. That would have reduced their cost of electricity by 390%. That makes Premier Wynne’s supposed 25% electricity bill reduction pale in comparison.
If the Premier really wants to lessen the burden on future ratepayer bills she should immediately cancel any wind and solar contracts that have not broken ground, and suspend any all future procurement of these unreliable and intermittent generation sources.
*Intertie is defined as an interconnection permitting passage of current between two or more utility systems.