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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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

 

Smart meters, smart grids, conservation campaigns: how well does IESO watch your money?

More on Ontario’s IESO…

August 1, 2018

Yesterday, I examined IESO’s responsibility in respect to the “financial settlement” associated with the various public and private electricity generation sources in the province, and their ability to execute those, considering all the variables connected with the GA (Global Adjustment) and the HOEP (hourly Ontario energy price).

I contemplated not only their ability to handle that responsibility, but also to deal effectively with the FHP (Fair Hydro Plan) and the HST rebate the prior Ontario government created.

Soon, the IESO will be further burdened with the financial aspects of the additional 12% reduction in residential electricity bills that the newly elected Premier Ford government has promised. IESO denies responsibility for any audit-associated issues and simply pays money to the LDC (local distribution companies), based on the data associated with the billing submitted.

The question today is this: is it possible possibility the IESO can be “gamed” as they already were by one of the gas generators for $100 million, as reported in December 2017?

IESO deals directly with all grid connected (TX) generators, plus approximately 70 LDCs in Ontario.  Those 70 LDCs in turn deal with well over 26,000 generators under the various MicroFIT programs, carrying a variety of contracted payment amounts. So, “gaming” IESO under their unaudited procedures should not be seen to be difficult.

Additionally, those LDCs are responsible for implementing campaigns associated with the numerous conservation programs, which annually dole out more than $400 million.  For example, Hydro One uses their five-year allotment of $338 million to basically do whatever they wish with the money, as long as they report back to IESO that they have reduced consumption via conservation programs. Toronto Hydro’s allocation is even higher than Hydro One’s at $396 million.   Strong “gaming” possibilities.

Now if you bother to look at past predictions of both data development and spending on that development, you would find aspirations speaking to “smart meters” and a “smart grid” as a means to take data and configure it in such a way to allow all of us to experience utopia! Presumably that “utopia” would make life easy for IESO to handle the financial aspects of managing day to day activities associated with generating power and bringing it to our households or businesses along with the many variables included in the Global Adjustment!

The facts, since the advent of both smart meters and smart grids however, dispel those notions of a forward-looking “cars will fly” utopia. As the Auditor General reported, the “smart meters” cost Ontario $2 billion which, as it turned out was twice as much as planned. The “smart grid” was advocated by a 10-member Smart Grid Forum in February 2009 with objectives loosely defined as “It is necessary change; change from a one-way ‘dumb’ grid to an interactive, intelligent smart grid.”   The Forum reached a consensus in respect to the costs of this “smart grid”: “The preliminary cost estimate by the Forum is that incremental capital spending over the initial five years would be $1.6 billion.”

Well, those five years have come and gone. To the best of my knowledge, there is no report indicating how far we are along in developing the “smart grid” or how much of the $1.6 billion has been spent, but what we do see on each and every electricity bill we get is a charge for its development.

So, “smart” meters, “smart” grids and all that data and the fact the IESO was “gamed.” It is still looking like a one-way “dump” on ratepayers.

Tomorrow, in Part 3 in this series, I look at what the Fair Hydro Plan has accomplished in the first year of its existence.

PARKER GALLANT

Is the IESO finally trying to get it right?

The baby’s not happy… are his parents being scammed?

One of the IESO’s responsibilities is to ensure Ontario ratepayers are billed fairly. That’s been a challenge with more than 100 “directives” from the former Liberal government. First in a series

July 30, 2018

Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) is responsible for monthly settlement (dollars in and dollars out) with all LDC (local distribution companies), transmission companies (Hydro One) and with thousands of generators of various stripes connected to the TX (transmission gird) and DX (distribution grid).

In order to capture the vagaries of what the monthly settlement encompasses, the IESO have a 164-page market manual entitled, “Settlements Part 5.5 Physical Markets Settlement Statements Issue 69”.  Its effective date was March 7, 2018, the fifteenth update of the manual over the last three years!

I’m confident the 15 recent updates were a result of directives emanating from the desks of former Liberal Ministers of Energy, namely Messrs. Bob Chiarelli and his successor Glenn Thibeault, and include the actions related to the Fair Hydro Act and the rebate of the 8% Provincial portion of the HST.

The directives and the changes they entail indicate the IESO is trying to “get it right” in their responsibility in dealing with the variables. Those variables were created by the Liberal government as it toyed with the energy portfolio over the last 15 years in so many ways via those directives (117 to OPA/IESO alone).  As an example, IESO in 2017 was responsible for settling about $16 billion related to the costs of generating electricity (what the public is charged for the combination of the HOEP (hourly Ontario electricity price) and the GA (Global Adjustment).

Ensuring ratepayers are correctly billed and generators are paid no more than they deserve places a lot of responsibility on IESO to ensure ratepayers are not being scammed!

On the latter point it is worth noting a CBC article from just seven months ago stated:  “Hydro customers shelled out about $100 million in ‘inappropriate’ payments to a natural gas plant that exploited flaws in how Ontario manages its private electricity generators”. The article said “gaming” of the system was discovered by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) and contained this statement about the IESO: “the investigation found IESO did little checking into the details of Goreway Power Station’s billings.

Data not audited

That is somewhat disconcerting. When I recently asked IESO about the Fair Hydro Plan’s “variance account” for the month of May 2018 being very high ($309.9 million), they answered “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.”

In viewing IESO’s December 31, 2017 financial statements, their independent auditors (KPMG) attempt to capture their responsibilities, listing 30 of them as if they were simply the Ten Commandments. The one directing the activities associated with the money movement related to the FHP (Fair Hydro Plan) says: “engaging in activities related to making payments to and receiving payments as contemplated under the FHP and related settlement activities”.

The disconcerting part of this is that the Fair Hydro Plan alone will (according to the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario) amount to approximately $1,750 million on an annual basis — the 8% HST provincial rebate will add another $1 billion annually.  That certainly leaves the taxpayers and ratepayers of the future exposed to any one of the LDC “gaming” the system, or inadvertently submitting incorrect information.

Can we current and future ratepayers trust that Hydro One and all of the other LDC will submit correct “data” to IESO and that it will be properly audited by the Ontario Energy Board?

Stay tuned!

Second installment to appear tomorrow

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.

Quarterly stats show wind power blowing Ontario electricity costs higher

A power project that began operating in 2017 … wind power causes waste of other, less expensive sources of clean power due to lucrative contracts

A cold, windy winter cost Ontario electricity consumers. And if the first quarter of 2018 is typical, we’ll pay even more…

The IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) recently released the March Monthly Summary along with the Generator Output by Fuel Type Monthly Report, so that interested parties can see a year-to-year comparison for the first quarter of 2018 versus 2017.

What the “Generator Output” shows for the first three months of 2018 versus the same period in 2017 is, grid-connected generation output was up by over 600,000 MWh (+1.6%). That suggests the colder than normal winter created increased demand, which it did by just over 700,000 MWh.  As it turned out, gas generation increased year over year by about 750,000 MWh, while Hydro generation decreased by almost 200,000 MWh.

Grid-connected industrial-scale wind turbines (IWT) also generated almost 180,000 MWh* more in the first three months of 2018 versus 2017, and saw curtailed (paid for but not used) generation increase by over 50,000 MWh.

Both of those elements increased costs for ratepayers.

In 2017, the approximate cost of wind power generation in the first quarter, coupled with curtailed generation, was just shy of $532 million. In 2018 it was $30 million higher ($562 million). If the first quarter is typical, the cost to Ontario’s ratepayers for the full year could be over $2.2 billion — just for wind power! (Note the foregoing cost estimate does not include spilled water, steamed off nuclear or the high costs of back-up generation in the form of gas plants standing “at the ready” when the wind isn’t blowing.  On the latter issue a 2017 peer reviewed report by Marc Brouillette for the Council for Clean and Reliable Energy showed wind turbines produce power of value to the grid only 35% of the time.)

To reflect on what the IESO report suggests: even though winter months are considered high demand, the grid-accepted wind power presents 65% of the time when it’s not needed. Wind power, in addition to causing waste of other (clean) sources of power such as spilled hydro, steamed off nuclear, etc., results in the IESO selling surplus power to our neighbours at prices well below the cost of wind power production due to their lucrative contracts.  Proof? Look at the grid-accepted wind power versus Ontario’s net exports.   Grid-accepted wind in the first three months of 2017 was 3.46 terawatts (TWh) and net exports (exports less imports) were 2.92 TWh; the comparable period for 2018 saw grid-accepted wind generation of 3.64 TWh and net exports of 2.86 TWh.  In other words, the wind power, if all exported, was done with only partial recovery of its costs and was excess to actual demand.

That raises the question:

Why did Ontario contract for it in the first place and why was it given “first to the grid” rights? And, why don’t we cancel any outstanding contracts** that haven’t been started if what it generates is surplus?

Paying over $500 million per quarter and as much as $2 billion annually for wind power generation increases energy poverty and sends Ontario’s manufacturing jobs south.

Parker Gallant                                                                                                                                 May 1, 2018

*Thanks to Scott Luft for his data on wind generation and curtailment!

** The government awarded five contracts for almost 300 megawatts of new wind power in 2016, one of which has reached Renewable Energy Approval. The contracts will add $1.3B to Ontario’s electricity costs.

 

Questions unanswered on northern Ontario transmission project

A much needed connection for remote First Nation communities brings questions about funding

What connection is there between Dutton Dunwich township in Southwestern Ontario and Deer Lake First Nation of Northern Ontario? Deer Lake First Nation is 180 km north of Red Lake, or 1,915 km from Dutton Dunwich by road, so the two communities are far apart. What connects them is how the Ontario government manages the electricity sector.

Ontario’s Energy Minister issued a directive to the Ontario Energy Board or OEB on July 29, 2016, stating “the construction of the Remotes Connection Project, including the Line to Pickle Lake, is needed as a priority project.”

Deer Lake First Nation and three other of the 16 First Nation communities to benefit from being connected to the recently announced $1.6-billion Wataynikaneyap (Watay) Power grid, are also named as partners in the Strong Breeze Wind Farm (57.5MW) in Dutton-Dunwich. They were brought into the project by U.S.-based Invenergy LLC which resulted in a points advantage in the procurement bid process administered by the Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO.

The Watay Power Project is a different story: it will be a much-needed connection for 16 First Nations to the Ontario power transmission grid. The 16 First Nations represent a population of over 14,000 who currently rely on diesel for power generation. It will be owned by 22 First Nations.

Who is putting up the cash, and is it a loan or a grant?                                                                                                                    

There appears to be a disconnect on the announcements associated with the $1.6-billion project as MP Bob Nault’s website stated: “Today, the Honourable Bob Nault, along with the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services Canada, announced $1.6 billion in federal funding for Wataynikaneyap Power to connect 16 First Nations to the provincial power grid.”

The CBC’s report had a different view of the funding, however: “Premier Kathleen Wynne and Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault along with the Minister of Indigenous Services Canada, Jane Philpott, announced an investment of $1.6 billion dollars to connect 16 First Nations in Northwestern Ontario to the electrical grid.”

The report quoted Ontario’s Premier, who said “We are putting the money up front and then the federal government is coming in and back filling that money, so the province is putting up over $1.3 billion in order to facilitate the project … in order for the project to get going, someone had to take the risk.”

There is a lack of clarity for taxpayers in the federal and provincial statements. Who is really providing the money? And is it $1.6 or $1.3 billion? Is it a loan or is it a grant? Taxpayers should be told.

Delivery costs

Grid-connected electricity for the 14,000 residents of the 16 First Nations communities works out to about $114,000 each and (assuming 3.5 residents per household) $400,000 per household. If one assumes a lifespan of 40 years* for the transmission system the delivery cost annually is $10,000 per household, without factoring in either electricity or interest costs on the debt (if it is debt).  Somehow, I doubt the 14,000 residents of the 16 First Nations will get the bill; will it fall on the taxpayers or ratepayers in Ontario, or all Canadian taxpayers to pick up the bill?  If it is Ontario ratepayers, should not the cost of this initiative properly be part of an indigenous support and development program, rather than adding to already beleagured ratepayers’ bills? Clarity on this issue would be appreciated from both the federal and provincial governments.

Environmental and health impacts                                                                                                 

An IESO “Panel Discussion: Engagement at the Local Level indicated grid connection to Ontario’s remote First Nation’s communities would: “Save $1 billion compared to diesel generation (PWC Study)” and that $472 million of the social value includes the “present value” of 6.6 million tonnes of avoided CO2 equivalent and $304 million of “adverse health impacts” over 40 years in the $1 billion reputedly saved, according to the PWC report of June 17, 2015.

What Watay Power won’t provide                                                                                                  

The website for Watay Power has a “Frequently Asked Questions” page, where two interesting questions posed. One concerns future power outages and the other asks whether the $1.6-billion transmission system will connect to the undeveloped Ring of Fire?

The first intriguing question was, “What options do communities have for back-up power during outages?” The answer was “A back up study is being prepared to develop options on how each community local distribution plans to address outages. The Wataynikaneyap Transmission Project is solely responsible for transmission.”

The second question was: “Will this line connect to the Ring of Fire?”** The answer to that question was, “The Wataynikaneyap Transmission Project is not proposing a connection to the Ring of Fire at this time.”

So, it would appear no backup plan is included in the estimated $1.6 billion cost, nor is a connection planned to the Ring of Fire which is regarded as “ Ontario’s version of the Oil Sands, the deposit has been said to contain $60-billion in mineral wealth.”

The Watay Power project poses many questions for Ontarians and Canadians. While the project is worthy in connecting remote communities to the power grid, Queens Park and Ottawa need to provide more details on who is really paying for it.

Parker Gallant                                                                                                                                 April 16, 2018

* “Studies have shown that building the transmission infrastructure to these remote communities would save over $1 billion compared to continued diesel generation over the next 40 years.”

**”Ten years after a large chromite deposit in Ontario’s James Bay lowlands was first discovered and declared a “game-changer” for the Canadian economy, the Ring of Fire mining development is flaming out in a dispute over who is talking to whom.”

Parker Gallant is an independent commentator on energy issues