The “Ontario Energy Quarterly” is a report containing a myriad of information related to the Ontario electricity sector and seems to be a collective production of the Province, the OEB and IESO. It includes a chart tracking Ontario’s electricity sector emissions from 2010. The report always appears six or seven months after the actual reporting date. Their recent report indicates as of the end of the 2nd Quarter of 2019 Ontario’s emissions had fallen from 20 megatonnes (MT) in 2010 to only 2 MT by June 30, 2019
To put the foregoing in perspective the Ontario Environment Commissioner in 2016 indicated Ontario’s emissions peaked at 208 MT in 2000 and according to the Federal Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Ontario’s emissions in 2017 had fallen to 158.7 MT. So, Ontario’s emissions fell 49.3 MT meaning the 18 MT drop in emissions from the electricity sector represented 36.5% of it. At the end of the 2019 2nd Quarter, emissions from the electricity sector represented only 1.25% of total Ontario emissions in 2017 versus 11.5% in 2010 when total Ontario emissions were 174.1 MT.
The above was achieved without a “carbon tax” but it’s been an expensive proposition for ratepayers.
Costs of reducing 18 MT of emissions in the Ontario electricity sector
Many reports and articles related to reduction of emissions in Ontario’s electricity sector suggest wind and solar generation was responsible for eliminating coal generation in Ontario. Those purveying the claims avoid the facts and fail to mention costs. The decade beginning in 2010 was the advent of above market contracts signed under the GEA for wind and solar that began to appear on our landscape. Those contracts drove electricity costs up generating unreliable intermittent generation necessitating back-up from gas plants* including the TransCanada Oakville gas plant move which cost $1 billion.
Looking at generation for the past decade (2010-2019) from wind and solar is a relatively simple task as Scott Luft using IESO data, posted generation by source and estimated costs in charts (complete with text) starting with 2008. He also charts our exports and its revenue over the same time period.
Wind: Let’s start with industrial wind turbine generation which in the ten-year period (2010-2019) resulted in accepted wind of 83.3 TWh and 10.5 TWh of curtailed wind. The combined cost of the generation and curtailment was $12.760 billion representing an average cost per kWh of 15.32 cents.
Solar: Over the decade solar panels generated 21,9 TWh with most generation delivered to local distribution companies. The costs of those 21.9 TWh was $10.504 billion or 48 cents/kWh.
Spilling water: As if to make matters worse, as Ontarians reduced their demand for electricity dropping it from 139 TWh in 2010 to 135.1 TWh in 2019 the generation coming from wind and solar created numerous situations causing SBG (surplus baseload generation) and IESO instructed OPG and other hydro generators to spill water rather than generate clean hydro power. Once again Scott Luft has summarized available data and estimated the cost of the SBG for just OPG over the past five years. The cost was almost $500 million and was billed to ratepayers.
If one accepts the premise, wind and solar are responsible for the 18 MT reduction, then one must accept the emission reduction represented a cost to Ontario ratepayers of $23.764 billion including the $500 million from hydro spillage. That translates to an emission reduction cost of $1,320/tonne, well above the current carbon tax of $20/tonne and the one proposed by the Ecofiscal Commission of $210/tonne.
Exports: Over the past 10 years, IESO were busy selling our surplus power to NY, Michigan and other provinces and states. In total, 182 TWh went south, east and west to our neighbours for the market price (HOEP). Funds lost from those sales (net of transmission costs recovered) were the GA (Global Adjustment) costs of almost $12.5 billion or 6.8 cents/kWh.
It is worth noting; exports of 182 TWh were 173% of the 105.2 TWh of accepted wind and solar generation so, exporting less could have saved us that loss of $12.5 billion.
The foregoing clearly demonstrates the 83.3 TWh wind generated plus the 21.9 TWh solar generated power over the past 10 years wasn’t needed to reduce emissions in Ontario’s electricity sector! We needed less intermittent unreliable generation as our nuclear and hydro generation (supported by less gas plant capacity) could have supplied our needs and we could still have exported 76.8 TWh.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford should demand the federal government recognize the above “facts” and reimburse the province’s ratepayers by either issuing 182 million tradeable “carbon credits” or pay the province the $23.7 billion we have paid to reduce our emissions. Either one would prove beneficial and when applied to the sector would serve to reduce Ontario’s electricity rates making the province more competitive, thereby improving our economic future.
Failing the above we residential ratepayers should all be looking forward to receipt of our rebate cheque even its only 90% of the $1,320 per tonne we have paid over the past 10 years!
*Gas plants generated 160.6 TWh from 2010 to 2019 at an estimated cost of $19.726 billion or about 12.3 cents/kW.