Five months ago, Premier Kathleen Wynne admitted to the delegates at the annual Ontario Liberal Party convention her government “made a mistake” allowing electricity rates to rise so high. Those rates have actually soared, increasing by 80.9% from 2009.
Comparing Ontario electricity rates to other indicators such as inflation, shows just how bad the situation is. Comparing the IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) Monthly Summaries for January and February 2009 with the same two months in 2017, the combined costs of HOEP (hourly Ontario energy price) plus the Global Adjustment (GA) show costs per kilowatt hour (kWh) have increased from 5.85 cents/kWh to 10.58 cents/kWh. That is an 80.9% increase. Average inflation over the same time-frame has increased about 14%. (The reader should note the 2009 and 2017 costs are before HST so the 8% reduction commenced January 1st has had no effect on contracted or regulated electricity rates.)
So how bad? The cost of the basic commodity has increased by almost six times the inflation rate!
Commodity cost is way up
Reviewing the IESO Monthly Summaries for the two-month periods in 2009 versus 2017 also shows Ontario demand fell by 7% or 1,713,000 MWh (1.7 TWh). The Summary reports indicate the 24.43 TWh representing Ontario demand in 2009 cost $58.49 million/TWh or $1,429 million for January and February. The 22.7 TWh of Ontario demand in 2017 cost $105.78 million/ TWh or $2,330 million for the same two months. That represents an increase in the commodity cost of electricity of $901 million for 7% less electricity — an average monthly increase of $450 million.
One of the reasons was the drop in the market price as the HOEP fell from an average of $51.93/MWh in 2009 for the two months to $21.56/MWh in 2017 while the GA jumped from an average of $6.56/MWh in 2009 to $82.27/MWH in 2017. What that means is, the loss on exports from Ontario in 2009 cost Ontario ratepayers $13.1 million and in 2017 cost ratepayers $174.2 million as the GA costs are not included in the sale of exports via the HOEP.
OK, of that $900+ million increase, we have $174 million found … $727 million to go!
► Wind power
Another obvious cause of the big jump was generation and payment for curtailment of power from industrial wind turbines (IWT). Back in the early part of 2009, Ontario had approximately 800 MW of IWT capacity; in the early 2017 we have about 4,550 MW of capacity. According to my friend Scott Luft, who uses IESO data to estimate the generation and curtailment of IWTs, in 2009 the turbines delivered almost 395,000 MWh in January and February. In 2017, it’s a different story: generation and curtailment combined jumped to about 2,926,000 MWh.
The contracted wind power prior the passage of the Green Energy Act is estimated to be at the rate of $90/MWh, whereas wind power contracted for after the Act was at $135/MWh (plus a cost-of-living annual increase) meaning they currently are estimated at $140/MWh. The math on the 2009 generation therefore shows a cost of $35.5 million and the 2017 generation/curtailment cost becomes $409.6 million. The increased cost of wind from 2009 is ($409.6 million less $35.5 million) $374 million. Deducting the $374 million from $727 million leaves $353 million to find to get to $901 million!
Since 2009, more than 3,300 MW of gas plant capacity has been added to the Ontario grid. Its addition was basically to back up the wind and solar capacity (which is unreliable and intermittent) to ensure sufficient generation is available during renewables’ failure and high demand periods. The private sector companies investing in those plants are paid for their capital investments amortized over their life span. When generating electricity they receive fuel costs plus a nominal markup. Payments details are not available in the public domain, but it is understood payments contracted are per MW of capacity, and estimates given are $8/15,000 per MW per month. Assuming the 3,300 MW of capacity secured since 2009 is at the mid-range ($12,000 per MW) the cost to ratepayers is $79 million (3,300 X $12,000 X 2 months).
That $79 million means we are still looking for $274 million.
► Consuming less but paying more
IESO shows ratepayers consumed 1.7 TWh less in the first two months of 2017 than in 2009, but paid more. That is evident in OPG reports. As OPG has not released its 2017 1st Quarter report estimates are based on the 2016, 1st Quarter report. First we estimate spilled (wasted) hydro was 1.2 TWh at a reported cost of $44 million/TWh so that cost ratepayers $53 million. The 21.0 TWh produced by OPG in the 2016, 1st Quarter generated average revenue per TWh of $70.4 million. Estimating the first two months of 2017 generation at 14 TWh results in a cost of $985.6 million. In 2009 OPG generated 25.6 TWh at an average of $57.8 million/TWh. Again estimating the total cost of the 17 TWh generated by OPG in the first two months produces a cost of $982.6 million so adding the $3 million to the spilled water cost shows an increase of $56 million. Subtracting $56 million from $274 million means we are looking for the last $218 of the increase.
► Solar, conservation, bio-mass and sundry
We assume the balance of the increased 2017 versus 2009 costs came from solar and bio-mass with a portion from the conservation program. Based on Figure 23 “Total Global Adjustment by Components” of the IESO Summary report we can estimate the costs of each of those for the two months. It appears conservation spending (absent in 2009) represented about $50/55 million for the first two months of 2017 and bio-mass (incented by the FIT and MicroFIT programs) generated costs of around $40 million. Solar (low during winter months) generated a minimum of $100/$120 million in costs for the two months based on the IESO Figure 23. While those are “best” estimates to get to the increase of $901 million for the two months, we have not included increased costs from the IESO and OEB budgets which have both increased.
“No checks” in the system
An article recently appeared in the Globe and Mail written by George Vegh, former general counsel to the OEB. This paragraph is perhaps why Premier Wynne admitted to her “mistake”
“Generation procurements are determined entirely by the government. The system operator – the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) – implements government directives. Neither the Ontario Energy Board nor any other independent regulator reviews these procurements. There are no independent criteria, no cost-benefit analysis, no consideration of the need for the procurements, and no review of alternatives. In short, there is virtually no check on the power to procure supply.”
What we have in Ontario is a “mistake” that will continue to cost Ontario ratepayers and taxpayers billions for years to come.
Admitting a mistake is one thing, doing something about it is another: Premier Wynne needs to recognize the Ontario Liberal government’s error, kill the Green Energy Act, and halt continued procurement of power from unreliable and intermittent wind and solar generators!