Report of power shortage in Ontario a Chicken Little story

October 16, 2018

IESO says the sky isn’t really falling. So why does the Globe and Mail say it is?

Reading the lead article in today’s Globe and Mail business section of October 16, 2018 headlined “Ontario faces electricity shortfall within five years” one would think the sky is falling.  The article references an IESO report which the Globe reporter suggests “In its forecast IESO concluded the projected summer peak shortfall will be about 1,400 megawatts in 2023 and will grow to 3,500 megawatts later in the decade”.

Wow!

But, spend some time reviewing the 130-page IESO document 2018 Technical Planning Conference and you will discover under the heading “Energy adequacy outlook-key observations” this statement from the IESO.

“Absent continued availability of existing resources post contract expiration, Ontario is expected to remain energy adequate until the late 2020s. Energy production shortfalls would begin to emerge in the late 2020s.”

The forecast goes on: “However, with continued availability of existing resources post-contract expiration, Ontario is expected to remain energy adequate throughout the planning outlook.”*

That means the IESO forecast, without existing expiring contracted generation, is that Ontario is “energy adequate” until the late 2020s and with continued availability until 2035!

Why the dire headline?

The IESO forecast of “Higher Demand” for Ontario starts in 2019 at about 143 TWh increasing to 163 TWh by 2035. The “Lower Demand” scenario starts at about 139 TWh in 2019 and drops to 134 TWh in 2035. To put that in context, total Ontario demand in 2017 was 136.55 TWh and generation 150.7 TWh.

On the generation side, IESO are forecasting “Energy adequacy outlook” (including exports) at 161 TWh dipping slightly after the Pickering nuclear closings and increasing to about 169 TWh in 2035. If the current generation capacity and “continued availability of existing resources” is to remain adequate and generate that output we appear to be in a comfortable position. The forecast clearly contains the caveat that shortages will occur in circumstances “Without continued availability of existing resources post contract expiry.”

What that means: any shortfalls will be occasional in nature and occur during a few peak hours. It appears IESO have plans to cover off those forecasted rare shortfalls via the Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI) etc., as they note “The current impact of ICI is estimated to be 1,400 MW.”

How and why the Globe’s energy reporter headline suggests the sky is falling is upsetting; the latter part of his article articulates some of the factual information outlined above, yet the headline paints a dire picture.

Perhaps scary headlines sell more newspapers?

PARKER GALLANT

*The outlook period in the forecast extends to 2035.

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Calculating the costs of Ontario’s electricity: which sources add the most to our bills?

More transparency in the Ontario Energy Ministry  would reveal important facts, sooner 

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) took more than nine months to compile and release what they label Ontario’s System-Wide Electricity Supply Mix: 2017 Data, a one-page document identifying the Electricity sources and the “Electricity Mix.”  The data includes both TX (transmission-delivered electricity) and DX (distributor-delivered electricity), but only in percentage terms. In order to determine the amount of electricity actually generated by the “Supply Mix” one must go through a mathematical exercise.

Lagging transparency

If one wonders why it takes nine months and why the OEB won’t supply the amount of electricity delivered by each of the “Electricity sources” you wouldn’t be alone.  Why have we spent billions on “smart meters” and the “smart grid” (developed by IESO) and the data can’t be provided within, say, the first Quarter of the following year?  That question should be raised by our elected politicians as the ratepayers of the province would like to know that all those billions weren’t wasted.

Digging deeper

Going though the math exercise isn’t unduly onerous; if one uses nuclear as the base (generating 60.1%) and the IESO “2017 Electricity Data” the information shows nuclear generated and delivered 90.6 TWh (terawatt hours), so the other percentages can be used to calculate the actual electricity delivered.  As all of nuclear generation is grid-connected, the total electricity generated (DX + TX) for 2017 was 150.7 TWh.  From that it is easy to determine solar with 2.2% generated 3.3 TWh, wind 10.85 TWh, hydro 38.6 TWh, biomass .6 TWh, natural gas 6.0 TWh and other .45 TWh. Add those figures to nuclear generation of 90.6 TWh and it comes to 150.7 TWh

The next step is determining the costs of those generation sources so we ratepayers can judge if they are giving us value for money. That is easier said than done; however, there are enough clues and information available to give us some reason to believe we will come close to disclosing costs.

Let’s start with the HOEP average for 2017 which was $15.81/MWh (megawatt hour) or $15.81 million per TWh meaning the 150.7 TWh of generation represents a cost of $2,282.6 million. The GA (Global Adjustment) inclusive of Class A and B for 2017 total was $11,851 million making total generation costs $14.233 billion for the 150.7 TWh.   Other costs such as transmission and wholesale market service charges add another $1.8 billion to total costs.  Adding the latter brings total cost to $16.033 billion.

If one than examines total Ontario demand for 2017, it would be the 132.1 TWh that IESO claim in their year-end report plus generation within the DX sector of 4.45 TWh making Ontario demand 136.55 TWh.

Finally, If one estimates the revenue generated from “net exports,”* reported as 12.471 TWh at the HOEP value of $15.81 million per TWh, the net revenue generated was $197 million reducing total electricity costs to $15.826 billion.

Putting total Ontario demand (136.55 TWh) in context, nuclear generation of 90.6 TWH and hydro’s 38.6 TWh together provided 94.6% (129.2 TWh). In 2017 OPG was forced to spill 6 TWh and Bruce Nuclear steamed off 1 TWh meaning those two generation sources could have supplied almost 100% (99.7%) of Ontario’s total demand.  Gas generation (10,548 MW capacity) could have easily supplied the balance including peak periods as they operated at only 6.5% of capacity.

So, what did wind and solar cost? 

Wind generated 10.85 TWh so at $135/MWh cost $1.465.000,000 + curtailment of 3.3 TWh at $120/MWh, added $396 million, making the total cost from wind generation $1,861,000,000. Solar generated 3.3 TWh so at an average of $448/MWh would add costs of $1,478,400,000

The two together — without including spilled hydro or steamed-off nuclear or gas back-up — totalled $3.339 billion.

The math calculation to get the actual cost of 2017 Ontario consumption therefore is simply dividing total electricity costs of $15.826 billion by 136.55 TWh, giving a per kWh cost of 11.6 cents kWh!

Without the total costs of wind and solar of $3.339 billion the costs of electricity consumed by Ontario electricity customers would have been $12.487 billion or 9.14 cents a kWh. That would have been 2.5 cents a kWh less than we experienced with wind and solar as generation sources.

The additional costs of wind and solar in 2017 added approximately $220.00 per average household to their electricity bills. Should wind and solar contribute similarly over the next 20 years the costs to Ontario ratepayers will be in excess of $66 billion.

The time has come to demand more transparency and to re-evaluate the details in long-term wind and solar contracts.

PARKER GALLANT

PS: Scott Luft has created pie charts that highlight much of what is contained in the foregoing article and they can be found here: https://twitter.com/ScottLuft/status/1050045294287745024/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Eembeddedtimeline%7Ctwterm%5Eprofile%3AScottLuft&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fcoldair.luftonline.net%2F

*exports less imports

 

Big Wind’s hyperbolic spin should not impress

Grand claims about wind power’s role in Ontario not borne out by the facts

September 18, 2018

The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) has a new web posting titled “Ontario Wind Energy Market Profile” that is pure hyperbolic spin.

The four-page report says: “Ontario is our nation’s leader in clean wind energy with an installed capacity of 5,076 MW, about 40 per cent of Canada’s total installed wind energy capacity. There are 2,577 wind turbines currently operating in Ontario at 96 separate facilities.” It goes on to say “Supplying 7.7 per cent of Ontario’s electricity demand today, wind energy helps to diversify Ontario’s electricity generation mix.”

What CanWEA’s report doesn’t say is that wind represents over 12% of grid-connected generation and that the 7.7% supply it adds to the grid is intermittent, unreliable and frequently (65% of the time it is actually generating power) out of sync with demand.   As an example, on Friday September 14, 2018 at hour 18 (6 PM), when demand in Ontario was near or at its peak, the 4,400 MW of grid-connected wind generated a miserly 10 MWh.

That’s 0.23% of capacity.

To put the 10 MWh in context, that is enough to supply one average household with electricity for a year.  At the same time as wind was probably consuming more electricity than the turbines were generating, gas plants (installed to back up wind capacity) were generating 3,862 MWh.

Total generation for hour 18 was 19,274 MWh, not including net imports (imports less exports) of 1,249 MWh, representing Ontario grid demand of 20,523 MWh.* That means the 12% of grid-connected wind generation contributed 0.05% of grid demand. For the full 24 hours of the 14th of September, wind generated just over 3,500 MWh which equates to 3.3% of their capacity. If that isn’t bad enough, 2,500 MWh of that generation occurred from 12 AM to 7 AM when demand is lowest.  Needless to say, nuclear, hydro and gas supplied the bulk of Ontario demand for the day.

What this all means is that industrial wind capacity does nothing more than add to the costs of the generation of electricity in Ontario, and, actually, pretty well everywhere else in the world.

Ontario can’t and shouldn’t fall for the hyperbolic self-interested wind spin, so hopefully our politicians recognize it for what it does—drive up the cost of electricity while killing birds and bats and inflicting harm to humans in rural communities due to the audible and inaudible noise emitted.

PARKER GALLANT

*IESO’s Daily Market Summary indicates Ontario’s peak demand was 20,845 MWh on September 14, 2018.

Is it time for Ontario to use more power?

A warm summer meant  electricity use went up and costs went down. Is there a lesson here?

Photo © Norris Wilson

With Ontario experiencing a relatively warm summer, I thought it might be interesting to look at three recent months, starting with May 2018, to see if power consumption had increased compared to the same period in 2017.

As it turned out, May, June and July in 2018 versus the same three months in 2017 resulted in an increase in total demand (Ontario consumption plus net exports [exports less imports]) of 1,447,000 MWh or 3.9%.   With “net exports” dropping by 1,120,000 MWh, Ontario consumption actually increased by 2,567,000 or 7%.  This increase occurred despite the continued spending of approximately $400 million annually on conservation initiatives.

You might expect that an increase in power consumption by that much in Ontario would have resulted in a substantial increase in the cost of electricity, but as it happens, the amount was a meager $73 million for that extra 2,567,000 MWh. Based on the average cost (GA + HOEP) of electricity over those three months, the additional cost should have been around $313 million. The additional consumption cost only 2.8 cents per kWh (kilowatt hour).

The question is: why did that additional consumption (enough to power 1.1 million average households for the three months) cost so little?

There are several reasons why! First, curtailed wind (paid for but not added to the grid) in 2018 was 416,400 MWh* less than 2017. That means the savings from lower curtailment was approximately $50 million.

As well, Ontario’s net exports were thus lower by 1,120,000 MWh — that saved Ontario ratepayers the full cost of the GA (the GA averaged about $101/MWh in 2018) or approximately $113 million.

And, the 3.4 million MWh of net exports in 2017 generated only about $8/MWh versus $20/MWh in 2017 (the approximate GA for the three months in 2017 versus 2018) for the 2,280,000 MWh of net exports in 2018 for a net benefit in 2018 of about $18 million.

If one totes up the additional costs of $73 million plus the wind curtailed savings of $50 million, the $113 million saved due to reduced net exports, and the $18 million extra earned on export sales due to a higher GA in 2018, it comes to $254 million or $59 million short of the $313 million noted above.

I suspect the unexplained $59 million is related to: spilled hydro, steamed-off nuclear, and a reduction in the Class B to Class A subsidy resulting from the higher average GA. Most of those latter details are not yet publicly available.

Interestingly, wind power — generated and curtailed — was equal to 80% of net exports in 2017 and 112% of net exports in 2018. That suggests wind power was surplus to demand in both years.

It time to acknowledge again that wind, as an intermittent and unreliable source of power, tends to present itself when not needed. That, along with the multiple millions spent by the previous government encouraging electricity consumers to conserve has a simple effect!

Together, they simply drive up the cost of electricity.  Perhaps we should increase consumption to drive costs down.

© PARKER GALLANT

*Thanks to Scott Luft for his data related to wind generation and wind curtailment.

What did we get for billions spent on electricity in Ontario?

It’s not over: Ontario taxpayers and ratepayers will be paying for the past government’s mismanagement for years to come. Here’s how… and how much.

Ontario wind turbines at Belle River project

The last in a series on the IESO

August 2, 2018

The two earlier articles about Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO revealed the fact that it could be “gamed” — and in fact, it was! To the tune of $100 million, by just one generator.

Needless to say, any gaming by a local distribution company (LDC) also may be happening. Why would I suggest that?  When I asked the IESO why the Fair Hydro Plan “Variance” amount was so high for May 2018, they said this:

“Please note that settlement data submitted to the IESO by the LDCs is not audited by the IESO (audit responsibilities reside with the OEB) and is processed as submitted.”

The May “Variance” amount was $309.9 million. More disturbing is that the first six months of the current year has rung up $1.180 billion in the “Variance” which could represent $2.360 billion for 2018 if the last six months are similar.

The results to date of the FHP “Variance” amount is well in excess of the calculations presented by the Ontario Financial Accountability Office (FAO) in their review, which had the following note:

“Figure 3-3 summarizes the FAO’s estimate of the annual cost of the FHP through to 2045-46. The FAO estimates the cost of the FHP to the Province will peak at $1.8 billion in 2020-21, after which the FAO assumes that the electricity relief programs will no longer be funded by the Province. The HST rebate is forecast to cost $0.9 billion in 2021-22, rising rapidly to $1.6 billion by 2028-29”.

The average suggested by the FAO per year was $1.750 billion, so, at the current rate of accrual, future Ontario ratepayers may be looking at total of almost $9.5 billion (without including interest costs) added to our electricity bills.

Taxpayers will be affected too: They’ll have to bear the costs of lost revenue of about $4.1 billion (plus interest costs) associated with the HST rebate and another $3 billion associated with “Adjusting Electricity Relief Programs”. The latter includes the RRRP (Regulated and Remote Rate Program) the OESP (Ontario Electricity Support Program) and a new First Nations On-Reserve Delivery Credit and Affordability Fund.

So, the 17-percent reduction on our electricity bills, coupled with the HST foregone tax revenue plus the cost of those “Relief Programs” represents $16.6 billion of spending, without interest costs.

What are we getting for $16B?

What are we getting for that $16.6 billion? No new power generation. No new transmission lines or upgrades to LDC infrastructure. Simply more wasted money, lots of it, as a result of the Green Energy Act.

Questions put to the IESO about the May Variance amount got the following response from them:

“Hi Parker– the increase in GA deferral in May is mainly due to most LDCs submitting settlement data to the IESO based on the second GA estimate which was unusually high (i.e., 13.2 cent/KWh) in May. LDCs submit May settlement data to IESO during the first four business days of June at which time the actual GA rate would not have been calculated yet as per IESO’s settlement schedule. Each month there is a true up when LDCs submit their data to the IESO for the previous month plus an estimate of the current month they are submitting for.”

Read that and you have to ask, Why? Why not settle the Variance account once IESO has determined “the actual GA rate” rather than go through a series of wasted financial maneuvers? Logic doesn’t seem to be a formula used or followed within the electricity sector.

Are the ratepayers and taxpayers being “gamed” or can we trust IESO with our hard-earned money and believe that each and every action by them is truly being “audited” by the OEB?

I will leave the foregoing question to be answered by an “Electricity Audit” that will hopefully be conducted by Ontario’s new government.

PARKER GALLANT

 

Ontario’s electricity export tariff

Special to The PostMedia Network, June 14, 2018

BY PARKER GALLANT, GUEST COLUMNIST

Former Energy Minister Chiarelli and his claim of a $6B profit on surplus electricity exports. “You can verify it.” No, you can’t.

Many will recall Bob Chiarelli, when in the position as Ontario’s Minister of Energy, was questioned on the costs of exporting our surplus electricity on TVO and stated: “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.”

Needless to say Minister Chiarelli was called out by the media and opposition parties for making such a spurious claim.

Let’s look at Ontario’s 2017 electricity exports and see what he would claim about them. The U.S. Energy Administration Information (EIA) in a recent release, had the following information posted from data supplied by Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB):

“Electricity accounts for a small, but locally important, share of bilateral trade. In 2017, the value of U.S. imports of electricity from Canada increased for the second straight year, reaching $2.3 billion*. The United States imported 72 million megawatt hours of electricity from Canada in 2017 and exported 9.9 million megawatt hours, based on data from Canada’s National Energy Board.”

As it turns out, Ontario’s exports of 19.1 million megawatt hours (MWh) in 2017 represents 26.5% of the 72 million MWh reported as exported by the NEB and those 19.1 million MWh generated “revenue” of $496.6 million (approximately) made up of the $15.80/MWh of the yearly average HOEP (hourly Ontario energy price) as reported by IESO and another $10.20/MWh for transmission** costs.

The implied revenue generated represented 16.6%* of total Canadian electricity revenue versus 26.5% of total Canadian electricity exports. The Ontario based generators of that 19.1 TWh of power were paid a yearly average of $115.5 million/TWh (yearly average includes HOEP plus global adjustment based on the IESO’s December 2017 monthly summary.

That means the cost to Ontario ratepayers for exported power was $1,709.5 billion and the credit (net of the monies to Hydro One of $194.8 million for transmission) resulted in Ontario’s ratepayers picking up the missing revenue of $1,507.7. Anyone with a small math knowledge would not refer to that as a profit as it would represent a cost of about $300 per Ontario household.

Export tariff?

The cost to ratepayers of electricity exports in 2017 at over $1.5 billion and prior years played a significant role in driving up electricity rates and represented almost 10% of total generation costs. To put that in current context, Ontario’s ratepayers were slapped with an “export tariff” by our Ontario government of 88% which greatly exceeds the US tariffs recently announced by the US government on Canadian manufactured steel and aluminum.

Getting slapped with only a 10% or 25% tariff would be a net benefit to Ontario’s ratepayers.

*Presumably US dollars so would represent approximately $3 billion CDN dollars at a $1.30/$1.00 exchange rate.

**A large part of these revenues ($194.8 million estimated) went to Hydro One who control about 99% of all transmission in the province.

Hydro One and “demonstrable consumer value”

Sorting out fact from fiction among Hydro One claims

The current media attention focusing on Hydro One and its executives is reminiscent of the not so distant past when Andre Marin was Ontario’s Ombudsman. In May 2015 an article in the Globe and Mail noted as a result of his report: “Hydro One issued faulty bills to more than 100,000 customers, lied to the government and regulators in a bid to cover up the problem, then spent $88.3-million in public funds to repair the damage.”

Hydro One installed Mayo Schmidt as CEO in 2015. Recent media reports have focused on why Mr. Schmidt was given a big raise ($1.7 million) to $6.2 million and how his termination (without cause) would cost $10.7 million. The current government signaled they were unaware of either the pay increases for the executives or the increased termination amount and the raises the Board of Directors gave themselves.

These issues were two of the items Hydro One’s Board of Directors had on the agenda for the Annual General Meeting (AGM) that required shareholder approval. As Andrew Willis of the Globe and Mail reported: “Shareholders voted 92 per cent in favour of Hydro One Ltd.’s executive compensation plan, which has faced intense scrutiny during the lead up to Ontario’s election campaign.” It appears that, of the shareholders who actually voted, only 8 per cent were against the increases.   But if the province had participated in the voting (they abstained) and used their 47 per cent shareholding, the motion could have been defeated with 55 per cent voting against it.

One wonders why they chose not to participate.

Christie Blatchford of the National Post was present at Hydro One’s AGM and took part in a short scrum after the AGM ended, with other reporters. The Chairman of the Board, David Denison, along with CEO. Mayo Schmidt represented Hydro One.  Blatchford’s article notes questioning from one aggressive reporter! Asked if he’d take a pay cut or resign, Schmidt said, “It isn’t about pay cuts.” The hellion reporter snapped, “Of course it is.” He then reminded the motley press that the company is committed to “building this high-performing champion,” that Hydro One has reduced costs by 31 per cent, and “turned the power back on for the desperate people.”

Now the only allusion Schmidt made to where those reduced costs came from at the AGM was reported by Andrew Willis who noted “management said the main drivers of earnings growth will come from consolidating local distribution companies in Ontario and cutting costs — the company got rid of 1,000 vehicles over the past year.”

While Schmidt (according to media coverage) was subdued and apolitical during the AGM, a couple of days later he lashed out as reported in the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business in an article by Tim Kiladze. Mr. Kiladze reported that “Schmidt is warning that threats from politicians in Ontario’s election campaign are weighing on the business and will have consequences.” Later in the article reporter Kiladze noted: “Speaking to Hydro One’s latest quarterly earnings, he noted that profit was up by 33 per cent from the year prior, and that Hydro One has added 400 jobs while delivering $114 million in cost savings since its IPO. “Those are remarkable statistics for a company that’s in transition,” Schmidt is reported to have said.

Despite Mr. Schmidt’s claim of improving profits and generating cost savings, the market has moved Hydro’s One’s stock price in the opposite direction. It reached a new low of $18.93 and closed the week at $19.10.   It appears investors are not impressed with either the quarterly earnings jump or the reported “cost savings.”

Examining the first Quarter report tells some of the story.

As CEO Schmidt noted, profit was up by 33 per cent or $55 million above the first quarter of 2017. It appears almost all of the increase was related to rate approvals for the transmission part of the business which increased $54 million due to rate increases approved by the regulator — the Ontario Energy Board (OEB). Electricity transmitted in the quarter was up by only one tenth of one per cent!

Go further into the quarterly report to Note 10, the possible reason for investor concern is significant and relates to the OEB’s Decision and Order in respect to the “transition from the payments in lieu of tax regime under the Electricity Act (Ontario) to tax payments under the federal and provincial tax regime”.

The following comes from that note: “On November 9, 2017, the OEB issued a Decision and Order that calculated the portion of the tax savings that should be shared with ratepayers. The OEB’s calculation would result in an impairment of Hydro One Networks’ transmission deferred income tax regulatory asset of up to approximately $515 million. If the OEB were to apply the same calculation for sharing in Hydro One Networks’ 2018-2022 distribution rates, for which a decision is currently outstanding, it would result in an additional impairment of up to approximately $370 million related to Hydro One Networks’ distribution deferred income tax regulatory asset.”

The conclusion from the OEB’s decision is that they were simply doing their job and honouring their first listed mission statement which reads: “Strengthening the focus on demonstrable consumer value during a period of sector evolution.”

The decision is being challenged by Hydro One’s executives and (presumably) their Board of Directors who are upset the $885 million may not wind up in shareholders pockets. As a result, in October 2017 the Company filed a Motion to Review and Vary (Motion) the Decision and filed an appeal with the Divisional Court of Ontario (Appeal). On December 19, 2017, the OEB granted a hearing of the merits of the Motion which was held on February 12, 2018.

In both cases, the Company’s position is that the OEB made errors of fact and law in its determination of allocation of the tax savings between the shareholders and ratepayers. To put the $885 million in context; it exceeds the annual after-tax profit of Hydro One for a full year!  The results of the OEB hearing will determine whether Hydro One proceed with the appeal to the Divisional Court of Ontario.

Perhaps Hydro One’s Board of Directors and senior executives don’t comprehend they operate a monopoly that is regulated for the express purpose of ensuring their focus is “on demonstrable consumer value during a period of sector evolution.”

As ratepayers, we should hope the OEB continues to place an emphasis on “demonstrable consumer value.” Ordinary ratepayers do not enjoy the benefits Hydro One’s executive have awarded themselves.

Parker Gallant

May 22, 2018