Ontario’s lavish, expensive electricity weekend

Enjoy the weekend and the balmy weather? Good: you paid millions for it.

Live it up, baby

Ontarians waited a while for Mother Nature to bless them with a good weekend and it finally happened. June 8th and 9th were beautiful days filled with sunshine and temperatures that were warm but not hot.   A nice breeze added to the two spring days.

So, while Mother Nature treated us nicely, that meant people were out enjoying the weather and electricity consumption was, as it usually is during the Spring and Fall, low. Consumption at its lowest (Ontario demand) point over the weekend was 10,564 MW during one hour, and average Ontario demand over the 48 hours was a very low 12,975 MW*.

The combination of nice weather and low electricity consumption however, created an expensive weekend for Ontario ratepayers. Those breezes were generating surplus wind power from industrial wind turbines and water was flowing through our rivers and through and over our dams. The combination cost Ontario ratepayers lots!

For example, wind which delivered 39,870 MWh but the IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) was, at the same time, getting IWT to curtail wind — that amounted to 58,870 MWh**. Those wind power operators were paid $120.00/MWh for curtailed wind and $135.00/MWh for grid-accepted wind.

Wind at 3.7 cents a kilowatt hour? How about 31?

So, collectively over the two days, wind generation and its curtailment alone cost ratepayer $12.448 million or over $312.00/MWh (31.2 cents/KWh).

Over those same two days our net exports (exports minus imports) were 123,960 MWh and most of it was sold at negative prices.   Those 123,960 exported MWh cost Ontario’s ratepayers an average price in excess of $115/MWH, so that was another $14.3 million added to the weekend’s expenses!

It also appears IESO were spilling quite a bit of hydro as well. Scott Luft estimates hydro spillage was somewhere around 50,000 MWh** which would add a further $2.3 million to our expensive weekend.

As if these costs weren’t enough, we also shut one nuclear plant down early Saturday morning and steamed-off nuclear power at Bruce Nuclear — that resulted in another waste of around 43,700 MWh at a cost of $2.884 million which Ontario’s ratepayers are obliged to pay.

And just to put some icing on the cake, our 7,925 MW of gas plants (backing up renewable intermittent wind and solar generation) were idling all weekend at a cost (estimated) of $10,000 per MW of capacity per month. That cost ratepayers about $5.2 million for those two days.

So add up the waste of the two days for curtailed wind of 58,870 MWh, steamed-off nuclear of 50,000 MWh, spilled hydro of 43,700 MWh and net exports of 123,960 MWh you will see Ontario’s ratepayers will pay for 276,530 MWh of unneeded power, or 44.4% of what was actually consumed.

That’s almost $26 million. For one weekend.

If one includes idling gas plants, total costs were north of $31 million to be paid for, but provided absolutely no benefit to Ontario ratepayers!

PARKER GALLANT

*Nuclear power alone could have supplied about 85% of total consumption over the 48 hours.

**Thanks to Scott Luft for this information.

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Why warm breezy spring days are horrible for Ontario

but New York and Michigan think they’re great. 

The Victoria Day weekend often brings nice weather and the recent weekend was no exception in Ontario.  Sunday was a beautiful day in most of the province, with temperatures in the high teens to low twenties.

Pleasant, but if you are an electricity customer? Horrible.

As a direct result of that really nice day on May 19, Ontario’s demand for electricity was low — according to IESO’s daily summary demand was just under 296,000 MWh.   Ontario’s nuclear plants combined with a little bit of hydro could easily have supplied all our electricity needs that day.

But, the wind was blowing and according to IESO’s forecast was expected to generate over 59,200 MWh of power or about 20% of Ontario’s demand.  Even though wind generation gets “first-to-the-grid” rights (because of the contracts the wind industry negotiated) the IESO only accepted 40% (23,700 MWh) of the forecast amount, presumably at standard contracted price of $135/MWh (plus cost of living increases since contract signing).

IESO curtailed the balance of 35,500 MWh and paid the CanWEA-negotiated price of $120/MWH.

So the total cost of power generation from wind was almost $7.5 million or about $315/MWH — about 31.5 cents/kWh.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, IESO were busy selling off surplus generation to our neighbours. Cheap.

Our net exports (exports minus imports) averaged 2,860/MWh for 24 hours, meaning net exports for the day were just over 68,600 MWh.  As a reminder, exports are sold at the market price or what is referred to as HOEP (Hourly Ontario Energy Price) and that averaged -$2.16 (negative) for the day, meaning it cost us about $150,000 to just get rid of our surplus power on top of paying for the HOEP and the GA (Global Adjustment).

The IESO in their April 2019 monthly summary said the combined HOEP and GA cost averaged $116.77/MWh* up to that date.  A quick calculation on this indicates Ontario’s ratepayers picked up costs of $8,150,000 for power shipped off (via transmission lines we pay for too) to New York (31,160 MWh), Michigan (19,180), Quebec, etc. That helps them to keep their costs down.

In summary, Ontario’s ratepayers picked up the costs for wind generation and curtailment of $7.5 million together with the cost of exports of $8.150 million without inclusion of solar, hydro spillage and nuclear steam-off costs. While we may have been outside enjoying a nice sunny spring day, Ontario’s ratepayers were being treated as scapegoats for the mess that permeates the electricity system.

The total damage was $15,650,000 for just one day.

This waste is offensive to both ratepayers and taxpayers — the time has come to stop.

PARKER GALLANT

*Scott Luft reported April set a new record for Class B ratepayers which IESO said was $138.90/MWH

Should the Pickering nuclear plant be closed? Not based on cost and performance…

Pickering: working at 95% capacity during the heat wave [Photo: OPG]
July 6, 2018

Wind power a failure during recent high demand during heat wave; dependable power needed

I got a call at 11 a.m. on June 25th from the producer of the Scott Thompson show on CHML 900 AM to appear on the show to discuss the suggestion by NDP leader Andrea Horwath about closing the Pickering Nuclear plant.

Essentially it was about her statement during the election campaign indicating the NDP’s position on Pickering:  “we will begin the decommissioning process immediately, which will bring more jobs to the area — as opposed to the Liberal plan, which is to mothball that facility for 30 years and allow the next generation to figure out the decommissioning”.

Doug Ford, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, on the other hand stated: “The Pickering plant can continue to safely operate until at least 2024. We can generate 14 per cent of Ontario’s power needs right here”.

The producer suggested Scott wanted to explore the opposing issues with me.

Aware I was scheduled to be on his show at 12:35 p.m., and remembering that a Brady Yauch article a few months earlier in the Financial Post had suggested closing Pickering, I felt I should do more research before the call back.  Brady’s principal point was Pickering was a poor performer and the estimated costs ($300 million) of the extension would prove to be negative for ratepayers.

OPG’s website describes Pickering as follows: “Pickering Nuclear has six operating CANDU® (CANadian Deuterium Uranium) reactors. The station has a total output of 3,100 megawatts (MW) which is enough to serve a city of one and a half million people, and about 14 per cent of Ontario’s electricity needs.”.

Pickering Nuclear traces its roots back to 1971 when it first commenced operation with four units and expanded to eight units in 1983.  Two of the first four units have been in voluntary lay-up since 1997.  The CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) awarded OPG’s Pickering and Darlington nuclear stations its highest safety rating in 2017.

Combined, the Pickering and Darlington nuclear stations generated 10.4 TWh (terawatts) of power for the 1st Quarter of 2018 at a combined cost of 7.2 cents/kWh (up from 5.8 cents/kWh in the comparable quarter).  The 10.4 TWh was sufficient to supply the 4.6 million average residential households in the province.

Directing my research to IESO’s hourly Generator Report I was able to discern Pickering at hour 10 of June 25th had just generated 2,308 MWh out of 10,457 MWh produced by all the nuclear plants in the province.  Pickering nuclear represented 22% of nuclear generation at that hour, 15.6% of Ontario demand and 14% of total demand (including exports).   At hour 10, wind turbines were generating 452 MWh or 10% of their capacity versus Pickering nuclear which was operating at about 74.5% of its capacity.

Both nuclear and wind are classified as “base-load” generation!

As it turned out, when I was on Scott’s show the bulk of our chat was related to his prior guest’s discussions about Premier Ford’s cancellation of the “cap and trade” tax.  Only a couple of questions were raised about Pickering which I responded to.

Interestingly enough, now that the Ontario July heat wave has passed, I felt the urge to look at the performance of Pickering and IWT over the seven days when peak demand was high.  Pickering nuclear performed well generating close to 3,000 MWh each and every hour over the period meaning it was operating at over 95% of capacity.  Wind power generation, however was all over the map reaching a high of 2,769 MWh (62% of capacity) at midnight July 1st and a low of 5 MWh (0.11% of capacity) at 10AM on July 4th!

It is obvious that wind fails miserably as “base-load” generation when needed and the relative cost of generating power (sans back-up costs) is over 17 cents/kWh.

It sure looks like we should keep Pickering nuclear operating, as Premier Ford suggested.

Parker Gallant

One spring day just cost you millions

A happy day for power importers south of the border. For you? Not so much…

April 9, 2017 was a perfect day to demonstrate the mess the current Ontario government could have expected if they had simply done a cost-benefit study of the electricity sector prior to imposing the GEA (Green Energy and Green Economy Act).

The April 9th IESO generator report and Daily Market Summary provide highlights of many of the mistakes the Liberal government has made, as does my friend Scott Luft’s “Daily Electricity Supply Estimates.”  IESO’s report fails to provide details of distributor connected (DX) generation (principally solar and wind) whereas Scott estimates those along with the curtailment of wind, solar, hydro and nuclear generation. His estimates have proven to be on the conservative side in the past.

IESO’s “Market Summary” shows Ontario Demand was only 294,600 MWh (megawatt hours) which Scott noted was the “3rd lowest Ontario Demand day in the history of the market” and that day, along with five other recent “lowest Ontario Demand” days have all occurred within the past 12 months.   How low is demand? Scott says the six low demand days were lower than any day during the massive blackout of 2003.

Seriously.

Demand in Ontario on April 9th of 294,600 MWh could have been easily supplied by nuclear generation (236,400 MWh including 14,800 MWh steamed-off) and hydro generation (101,900 MWh including 1,200 MWh spilled, and 2,600 MWh from DX).  Those two clean, emission-free power sources could have delivered 338,300 MWh, leaving 43,700 MWh available for sale to our neighbours.  The 338,300 MWh should have cost Ontario ratepayers $20,554,000 based on what we pay on average for nuclear and hydro generation.  That would equate to 6.1 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) combined!

As it happened, Sunday April 9 saw 51,400 MWh of net exports (exports less imports) sent to our neighbours in Michigan, New York and elsewhere, along with an average payment of $3.08/MWh. They gladly took those free MWh along with our payment of $158,312.00.

Sunday April 9th also saw Ontario’s ratepayers pick up the bill for transmission (TX) and DX-connected wind of 25,700 MWh and another 46,300 MWh of curtailed (one of the highest curtailed days ever) wind at a total cost of $9.290 million.  If we calculate the cost for just the accepted wind generation (25,700 MWh,) the cost per MWh becomes $361/MWh or 36.1 cents/kWh.

Ontario ratepayers also picked up the bill for the 10,533 MWh of solar generation (DX and TX) and the 667 MWh of solar estimated as curtailed. Solar’s costs were $5.280 million, which means the delivered generation cost last Sunday was $501.28/MWh or 50.1 cents/kWh.

Meanwhile, those same ratepayers picked up a $4.143 million bill for gas generators who delivered 5,773 MWh (TX and DX) at a delivered cost of $717.12/MWh or 71.7 cents/kWh. Scott Luft noted the 5,773 MWh delivered to the system by the gas plants set a record low.*

The cost of unnecessary power for ONE DAY?

The total cost of the unneeded supply of power on April 9th coming from wind, solar, gas and biofuel ($368,000) plus the payment made to export ($158,312.) came to over $20 million.

What that means is, this one day of generation, Ontario’s ratepayers are obliged to pay for, was $40.8 million or 13.6 cents/kWh yet the 294,000 MWh they actually consumed was produced at a cost of $17.9 million (not including the $2.7 million loss on exporting).

Premier Wynne has admitted her government has made mistakes on the energy file. The “mistake” on that Spring day turned out to be a burden on all of Ontario’s ratepayers (rich and poor) with the extra cost of over $20 million in order for the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and Premier Wynne to be able to claim the “cap and trade” tax is driving down emissions in the energy sector, by reducing generation from fossil fuels (gas).

They are not likely to mention that anyone using electricity from Ontario’s generators would have had to more than double — 13.8 cents/kWh instead of the 6.1 cents/kWh — so they could make that claim!

* Lower gas generation will allow Glen Murray, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change to claim the “cap and trade” tax is working.

Mr Thibeault needs to go to energy minister school

Ontario Energy Minister Thibeault: listening to the earbuds, not really in the know on energy
Ontario Energy Minister Thibeault: listening to the earbuds, not really in the know on energy

Ontario’s Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault was in Port Hope February 8, 2017 and delivered a speech to the local Chamber of Commerce.  Based on a few of his quotes appearing in the local paper, Northumberland Today, he needs basic training in the electricity system. Clearly, he doesn’t get it.

The article said, “Except for one question from the floor at the Port Hope and District Chamber of Commerce event, all of the queries from chamber members to Thibeault were solicited and chosen prior to his arrival.” I guess he needed help from bureaucrats in the Ministry to ensure he could answer the questions!

Looking at one of the Minister’s quotes along with a message from his speech, one is blown away by what appears to be either ignorance or fabrications he thinks ratepayers will believe.

“Thibeault supported the refurbishment of nuclear power plants in Ontario, a 30% source of power in this province, he said.”  Nuclear refurbishment was approved prior to Thibeault’s appointment so that’s a meaningless message.  But it also failed to deliver the correct facts!

According to IESO, while the capacity of nuclear was only 30% it produced 61% of total generation in 2016 and 67% (91.7 TWh) of Ontario’s total demand of 137 TWh (terawatts).

The quote that makes absolutely no sense is his remark, “We really have built the system of the future with yesterday’s dollars,” he said.”   Was he suggesting “yesterday’s dollars” were money in the bank already? If so,

Why have electricity rates risen over 100% under this government?

Why does Ontario have the highest electricity rates in Canada?

Why does Ontario have the fastest rising rates in North America? And

Why were almost 567,000 households (12% of households) in arrears on their electricity bills as of December 31, 2015?

We could go on and on about the damage done to the electricity system in the province by the current government meaning, the Thibeault’s claim “yesterday’s dollars” were used to “build the system of the future” is either a bogus boast or an outright lie.

The time has come for the Minister of Energy to admit his and his predecessor’s mistakes, and get some basic training.