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

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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.