Hydro One’s shopping list: new Smart Meters”!

Ka-ching! And, Hydro One is considering asking you to pay for electricity up-front …

Electricity: soon to be a luxury in Ontario? More families choose between heat, or eat

It was just a couple of years ago when then Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin issued his damning report about Hydro One’s billing errors. As quoted by the Globe and Mail, “Hydro One issued faulty bills to more than 100,000 customers, lied to the government and regulators in a bid to cover up the problem, then spent $88.3-million in public funds to repair the damage.”

The Office of the Ombudsman cannot now report on Hydro One due to partial privatization, so ratepayers obtaining their electricity from them should be prepared for this monopoly to do whatever it wants.

Prior to the release of the Ombudsman’s report the OEB said this:  “On March 26, 2015, the OEB issued a Decision and Order to amend Hydro One’s distribution license to include an exemption from the requirement to apply TOU pricing to approximately 170,000 Regulated Price Plan customers that are outside the smart meter telecommunications infrastructure. The exemption expires December 31, 2019.”

Those 170,000 RRP customers represented about 14% of Hydro One’s customer base. In December of 2015 the Ontario Auditor General in her annual report noted: “Hydro One installed 1.2 million smart meters on its distribution system at a cost of $660 million”. The math on that indicates a probable cost per meter of $550 each, including the 170,000 meters that aren’t working as they should. Now, Hydro One is back in front of the OEB seeking rate increases that will impact their ratepayers for the next five years. They are submitting thousands of pages of documents to justify their needs to increase distribution rates by 1.56cents/kWh for their rate-paying clients.

Looking at one of the Hydro One application documents, you find the following (untenable) claim related to smart meters: “There is a significant increase in projected spending in 2022, which reflects the anticipated commencement of smart meter replacement, as the current population of smart meters approach end of service life.”

This should alarm Hydro One customers—should we once again be concerned about billing problems? Will the replacements once again fall short of being able to communicate data?

Ontario’s record with smart meters is not stellar. A report issued in August 2016 by The Brattle Group report notes: “Besides Italy, Ontario is the only region in the world to roll-out smart meters to all its residential customers and to deploy TOU rates for generation charges to all customers who stay with regulated supply.” The old mechanical meters were much cheaper and longer lasting as an article from 2010 states: “Itron, which formerly produced mechanical meters and now makes smart meters, said that older instruments generally have a lifespan of about 30 years before they start to slow down.”

Another disturbing issue is found on page 2038 in yet another of the documents submitted for the rate increase discloses Hydro One’s plans when it comes to ratepayers who are slow to pay their bills:

“One method of enabling customer control of their electricity consumptions, while in arrears condition, and minimizing Hydro One Network’s financial risk, is through the use of pre-paid meters. Pre-paid meters are a type of energy meter that requires users to pay for energy before using it. This is done via a smartcard, token or key that can be ‘topped up’ at a corner shop, via a smartphone application or online. For customers who are high collection risk, the financial risk will be minimized by rolling out this type of meter. With a pre-paid meter, electricity is paid up-front. Once the pre-paid amount is used up, power is cut-off until the customer is able to load the meter with more credits.”

 If the OEB backs off on their muscle flexing and grants Hydro One’s wishes, ratepayers should expect they will have to prepay their anticipated electricity usage or have their power cut off.

Sad times for Ontario as power becomes a luxury, and many more households face the “heat or eat” dilemma!



Electricity in Ontario: save more, pay more

Consumption went down, costs went up!

The IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) released their July 2017 Monthly Market Report several days ago, including Class B ratepayer consumption levels along with the cost of electricity by MWh (megawatt hour) and kWh (kilowatt hour).

Compared to the July 2016 report, it shows Ontario’s ratepayers used 910,000 MWh less (down 7.2%) in 2017 than 2016 (enough to power 100,000 average residential homes for one year) yet the cost* of the electricity generated jumped, from $106.47/MWh (10.6 cents/kWh) to $126.41/MWh (12.6 cents/kWh) or 18.7%!

To put this in context, Ontario’s Class B ratepayers reduced their consumption from 10.495 TWh (terawatt hours) in 2016 to 8.858 TWh (down 15.6%), while Class A ratepayers increased their consumption from 2.284 TWh to 3.062 TWh (up 34.1%). The cost of power consumed by both Class A and Class B ratepayers increased substantially year over year.

The impact on Class B ratepayers is being tempered by the debt being accumulated under the Fair Hydro Act that will eventually result in a new and higher debt retirement charge. Some of the additional costs can be attributed to losses on our export of surplus power increasing its cost from $88 million in 2016 to $105 million in 2017.   Wind curtailed (21.3% of potential generation in 2017) costs also increased from $13.2 million to $14.4 million in 2017.

What it means: despite a reduction in consumption of 15.6 %, total costs increased!

Looking at the IESO’s “Global Adjustment Components and Costs” for July 2017, you see that dividing the published Class B costs of the GA for July of $913.4 million by the consumption figure of 8.858 TWh results in a GA cost of $103.11/MWh (10.3 cents/kWh). That cost is $9.71/MWh less than the GA Monthly Market Report of $112.80.  The difference of $86 million** in additional costs was allocated to Class B ratepayers for the month of July.

When I saw that apparent difference, I inquired why.   What I got back was this:

“Regarding the discrepancy you’ve identified on the Global Adjustment Components and Costs web page, the reason for the difference is because of adjustments between Preliminary Settlement Statements and Final Settlement Statements for previous months. Page 28 of Market Manual 5.5 explains this. The rate as posted in the monthly market report, is not the Class B GA amount divided by TWh. Rather, it is set to cover all payments made through GA including those held in the variance account.”

The “variance account” referenced in the response from the IESO spokesperson is cleared every six months when the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) set future rates and would have been cleared when they reset the new rates under the Fair Hydro Act that applied to Class B ratepayers as of May 1, 2017. As a result of the reply, I undertook similar calculations for other months as a test and all of them wound up within pennies … not the almost $10/MWh difference for July 2017.

What I get from all this is, transparency may not be all it is claimed to be when a mistake is made, or alternately $86 million for one month being billed to ratepayers is considered a rounding error!  What is obvious is that “conservation” costs Class B ratepayers a lot of money.

Parker Gallant,

September 3, 2017


* GA (Global Adjustment) + HOEP (Hourly Ontario Energy Price).

** Calculation is 8.858 TWh X $9.71 million/TWh

Ontario’s class distinction stings ordinary hydro customers

Electricity bill-payers are subsidizing business to the tune of over $1 billion, every year

 In early 2010, then Minister of Energy Brad Duguid issued a directive to the OPA (Ontario Power Authority) instructing them to create and deliver an “industrial energy efficiency program” specifically for large transmission connected (TX) ratepayers.

That directive led to the creation of the two classes of ratepayers that now exist in Ontario.

Originally, Class A ratepayers were only the largest industrial clients (TX) whose peak hourly demand was 5 megawatts (MW) per hour, or higher.   Since the launch of the new distinction in January 2011, Class A clients have evolved further under Energy Ministers Chiarelli and Thibeault, to allow those with peak demand exceeding 500 kilowatts (kW) per hour.

That move leave the great unwashed “B” Class – you and me — to pick up the subsidy costs for  Ontario’s larger employers. The concern was (is) that those companies without subsidies might exit the province and take their jobs with them.

The algorithm that determines what a Class A customer pays is related to how successful they are at picking the top five hours of Ontario’s peak demand. The “A” class companies who fire up their own generators (usually natural gas) or close their plants/operations down and reduce demand on Ontario’s generation sources during the five highest peak-demand hours over the 12 months, will get the biggest discount.

The focus on “conservation” during those hours carries the political hope of achieving “peak” demand reduction.  The theory is the reduction should result in reduced need for new generation.*

While that goal may have been the intent, at the same time Ministers Duguid, Chiarelli and Thibeault were (are!) giving orders to contract for more and more renewable wind and solar contracts to the point where the “market price” or HOEP (Hourly Ontario Electricity price) continued a slow descent due to surplus generation.   The HOEP in May 2017 achieved a new low of $3.17 per MWh or 32/100th of 1 cent/kWh. In June 2008, it was $62.30/MWh.

Both classes of ratepayer equally pick up the full cost of the HOEP on a per kWh basis!

With the focus on the cost shift of the ratepayer classes tied to the GA (Global Adjustment), the higher the latter the greater the cost shift.   The addition of so many more businesses to the Class A group simply amplified the cross-class subsidy!

For an example of the growth in the dollar value of that shift, let’s look at some June numbers, now that IESO has released the June 2017 summary report.

The first year the B to A shift happened was in 2011: for June of that year the GA was $423.1 million and Class A ratepayers picked up $46 million of that cost. Unfortunately, IESO did not start disclosing the consumption by ratepayer class until 2015, so it is not possible to determine what percentage of the GA was being paid by Class A versus Class B ratepayers.

The June 2015 IESO webpage discloses consumption of 11.004 terawatt hours** (TWh) with Class A consumption of 2.061 TWh (23%), and GA paid by Class A ratepayers of $90.4 million. That’s 9.6% out of total GA costs of $943.1 million.  So, Class B ratepayers picked up $126.5 million to subsidize Class A ratepayers that month.  That translates to a GA cost per kWh for Class A of 4.4 cents versus 9.5 cents for Class B ratepayers. HOEP for June 2015 was $15.31/MWh!

IESO discloses total consumption of 11.509 TWh for June 2016 with Class A consumption of 2.308 TWh (20.05%). The GA for Class A was $121.6 million out of GA costs of $995.3 million. Had the GA been allocated on the 20.05% Class A consumption, they would have paid $200.4 million meaning Class B ratepayers subsidies were $78.8 million for the month.  HOEP for that month was $20.17.

June 2017 total consumption was 11.617 TWh, of which 2.482 TWh (21.36%) was for Class A ratepayers. The Class A GA totaled $137.9 million, but if they had been allocated the 21.36% of their consumption on the GA of $1.208.8 billion instead of the 11.4%, they would have paid $258.2 million.  Class B ratepayers provided a subsidy of $120.3 million.

The 5,055,000 (2015 OEB Yearbook of distributors) Class B ratepayers in the province each picked up an average of $23.80 of subsidy costs for June 2017.

If that becomes the norm, those ratepayers will pony up around $1.4 billion annually. 

Back before former Energy Minister Duguid issued his directive, the Association of Major Power Consumers of Ontario, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business were lamenting the rising costs of electricity in Ontario. Some companies left the province due to costs, so it was inevitable the Ontario Liberal government would finally hear their pleas for relief.  The result? The creation of the two rate classes.

In effect, the creation of the two rate classes and the subsidy shift from Class B to Class A ratepayers should be labeled “employment insurance” as it was needed to simply retain jobs in jeopardy because many companies were threatening to leave the province due to high uncompetitive electricity rates.

Why can’t our Energy Ministers come to the realization they should cease contracting for new, unreliable and intermittent wind and solar generation that produces power out of phase with demand?

*   The claim by the government is that by not contracting for new capital investment in generation, we ratepayers save future rate increases

**1 terawatt is equal to 1 billion kilowatts

Wind power waste not healthy for Ontario

A few days ago (July 11, 2017) Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Dr. Eric Hoskins issued a press release saying 131 hospitals would receive $175 million for “repairs and upgrades”.  That’s an average of $1.3 million per hospital to be doled out, apparently because the Wynne government finally produced a “balanced budget”.

The press release states: “Funding from the province allows hospitals to make critical improvements to their facilities, including upgrades or replacements to roofs, windows, heating and air conditioning systems, fire alarms and back-up generators.”

One wonders if Minister Hoskins ever chats with Minister of Energy Glenn Thibeault who doles out money to industrial wind turbine (IWT) developments at a pace that would make his $1.3 million per hospital look like small potatoes!   In the first six months of 2017, the bill to Ontario ratepayers was approximately $1.089 billion for accepted and curtailed industrial wind.  That works out to approximately $475,000 per turbine … for six months!  (That assumes there are about 2300 turbines with an average capacity of 2 MW or megawatts currently operating in the province.)

Also in the first six months of 2017, grid-connected and distributor-connected IWT collectively generated 6,143,000 MWh and curtailed 1,906,000 MWh* according to IESO data and curtailed estimates by Scott Luft.  That means the cost per grid-accepted MWh was about $177 or 17.7 cents/kWh! If the next six months are similar to the first six, each average 2-MW wind turbine will cost $950,000** generating or curtailing the intermittent and unreliable power they are famous for.

Those wind turbines require back-up by gas plants and frequently cause the spilling of hydro power and the steam-off of nuclear plants. The costs of these grid managing activities to ratepayers easily drive the costs per turbine well past the hospital repair allocations.

Kicking the can down the road under the Fair Hydro Act will see the foregoing incredible waste of ratepayer dollars accumulate within OPG, and result in rate increases as high as those we have experienced over the past 10 years, once 2021 arrives.

Try to imagine how much better our health care system would be with that estimated annual waste of $2 billion ($40 billion over the 20-year terms of the contracts) allocated towards health care instead of handing it over to mainly foreign industrial wind developers.

The time has come to stop signing those contracts!

Parker Gallant

* The average curtailed wind for the first 6 months of 2017 was 23.6% and for May was 43.8%.

** This assumes accepted generation is paid $140/MWh and curtailed wind is paid $120/MWh.

Ontario’s cyclonic wind costs keep heading higher

Compare power output from wind and the cost to consumers between 2010 and 2016 and we learn this: we’re paying more for intermittent wind power, produced out-of-phase with demand

More wind=more cost [Photo: Dorothea Larsen]

In 2010, industrial wind turbines (IWT) in Ontario represented total installed capacity of approximately 1,200 megawatts (MW); they generated 2.95 terawatt hours (TWh*) of transmission (TX) and distributed (DX) connected electricity.  The power from wind cost Ontario’s ratepayers about $413 million for those 2.95 TWh, about 2.1% of total 2010 consumption.  The cost of IWT generation in 2010 was 3.1% of total generation costs (Global Adjustment [GA] + Hourly Ontario Energy Price [HOEP]) and represented 33.5% of “net exports”** of electricity to our neighbours in Michigan, New York, and others.

Wind was over 90% of exported power

Jump to 2016: wind turbines represented installed capacity of almost 4,500 MW, and generated and curtailed*** TX and DX connected electricity totaling 13.15 TWh.  The cost to Ontario’s ratepayers jumped to $1,894.3 million — about 12.2 % of total generation costs.  The 13.15 TWh of generation was 7.9% of Ontario’s total consumption but 94.9% of net exports.

The cost per kilowatt hour of electricity generated by wind in 2010 was 14 cents and in 2016 it had increased to 17.5 cents, despite downward adjustments to the contracted values between 2010 and 2016.   That cost doesn’t include the back-up costs of gas generation when the wind doesn’t blow and we need the power, nor does it include costs associated with spilled hydro or steamed off nuclear, but it does include the cost of curtailed wind, which was 2.33 TWh in 2016 and just shy of total wind generated electricity in 2010.

In the seven years from 2010 to 2016, Ontario’s electricity ratepayers picked up total costs of $7.746 billion for 56.9 TWh of grid-accepted and curtailed (4.9 TWh) wind-generated electricity.   The actual value given to those 56.9 TWh by the HOEP market was just shy of $570 million meaning ratepayers were forced to pick up the difference of $7.166 billion for power that wasn’t needed.  The foregoing is based on the fact we have continually exported our surplus generation since the passing of the Green Energy Act and contracted for IWT generation at above market prices.

During those same seven years, Ontario had “net exports” of 85.95 TWh while curtailing wind, spilling hydro and steaming off nuclear. And, at the same time, we were contracting for gas plant generators that are now only occasionally called on to generate electricity yet are paid considerable dollars for simply idling!

Refinancing wind payments

As noted above the cost of wind generation in 2016 was almost $1.9 billion and represented 15.3% of the Global Adjustment pot. That cost was close to what was inferred in an Energy Ministry press release headlined: “Refinancing the Global Adjustment” but suggesting it was taxpayer owned “infrastructure”:  “To relieve the current burden on ratepayers and share costs more fairly, a portion of the GA is being refinanced. Refinancing the GA would provide significant and immediate rate relief by spreading the cost of electricity investments over the expected lifecycle of the infrastructure that has been built.”

What’s really being refinanced is a portion of the guaranteed payments to the wind and solar developers who were contracted at above market rates! So, what is being touted as a 25% reduction includes the 8% provincial portion of the HST and a portion of annual payments being made to wind and solar developers for their intermittent (and unreliable) power.

Premier Wynne’s shell game continues!

(C) Parker Gallant

May 22, 2017

Note: Special thanks to Scott Luft for his recent chart outlining the data enabling the writer to complete the math associated with this Liberal shell game!

*    One  TWh equals 1 million MWh and the average household in Ontario reputedly consumes 9 MWh annually, meaning 1 TWh could power 111,000 average household for one year.

**   Net exports are total exports less total imports.

*** Ontario commenced paying for “curtailed” wind generation in September 2013.

Wynne spin and the Fair Hydro Plan, Part 3

The recent 2017/2018 budget speech from Finance Minister Sousa had this to say about the Fair Hydro Plan.

“People from across the province shared their concerns about rising electricity bills. We listened and we are responding. Recognizing that there needed to be a fairer way to share the costs of building a cleaner, more modern and reliable electricity generation system, we are taking action to reduce electricity costs. Through Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan, starting this summer, household electricity costs would be lowered by an average of 25 per cent. We are also capping rate  increases to inflation for the next four years. Low‐income families, and those living in rural, remote or on-reserve First Nation communities, would receive additional relief as well.”

Impressive words signaling reallocation of charges to taxpayers previously paid by ratepayers as well as direct relief. The budget’s forecast however doesn’t jibe with the words contained in the speech from Premier Wynne when she announced the relief March 2, 2017 and said, “Although the refinancing occurs within the electricity system and is accounted for separately, the overall fiscal impact of this relief and restructuring will cost the province about $2.5 billion over the next three years.”

The Premier’s remarks suggest relief will cost about $833 million annually but the budget notes the “Electricity Rate Relief Programs” are forecast to cost $1.438 billion.

The budget estimate(s) presumably include the costs associated with the OESP (Ontario Electricity Support Program) for low-income families. Those “heat or eat” households were driven to that situation by climbing electricity rates caused by lucrative contracts handed out by the current and past energy ministers.  As well, free delivery costs for First Nations communities will become standard and taxpayer supported as will the RRRP (Rural or Remote Rate Protection) in low-density regions.  Also added to the pot is an “Affordability Fund” for households who can’t afford energy efficiency upgrades.  Finance Minister Sousa’s budget obviously forecasts those costs to taxpayers at over $600 million more than the Premier!  So what are Ontario’s taxpayers/ratepayers to believe?

Based on the foregoing we must assume the Premier’s $2.5 billion over three years are to only cover the programs moved to other ministries and will cost taxpayers about $4.5 billion if the relief ends three years hence.  Based on the record of this government we shouldn’t expect the relief programs to end in three years!

The other part of the Premier’s statement was: “In addition, this rate relief is designed to last. After we bring bills down by 25% we will hold them there with rates rising only with inflation — or roughly 2% — for at least four years.”  Once again the Premier avoids telling us the whole story. Other associated documents the general public have a difficult time locating tell another story.  One such document was the “Technical Briefing” appendix attached to a directive dated March 2, 2017 sent to the OEB by Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault.  Under a heading labeled “Refinancing the Global Adjustment” we find:  “Under current forecasts, the immediate reduction (i.e., the financed portion) in the GA would be about $2.5 billion per year on average over the first ten years,  with a maximum annual interest cost of $1.4 billion.”

What that means is, they are “kicking the can down the road” by refinancing $25 billion of contract and adding $14 billion in interest costs. At some point in the not too distant future (year 5?) electricity rates will need to jump to accommodate the $39 billion of accumulated debt within the portfolio.  What is being refinanced are those 20-year contracts for wind, solar and gas generation, yet the contracts will have expired and should, yet we don’t know if they will still be operational!

Interestingly enough, if we include the taxpayer-related relief costs of at least $4.314 billion ($1,438 million X 3 years) “kicking the can down the road” will labour taxpayers/ratepayers with $43.3 billion in costs. That $43.3 billion exceeds what was supposed invested in electricity generation ($35 billion) and is only $6.7 billion short of what they claim has been invested in the electricity system as this quote from the “Technical Briefing” notes:  Between 2005 and 2015, government invested more than $50 billion in the electricity system, including $35 billion in electricity generation to restore reliability, replace coal and meet environmental objectives.

So what are taxpayers and ratepayers seeing when they look ahead? First, a new debt associated with the electricity system will burden us with an additional $43.3 billion on top of the reputed $50 billion the Premier Wynne led government claims has been invested.  That accumulated debt will require payback which will drive rates and taxes higher.   Secondly many of the $35 billion investments in electricity generation and the $15 billion of investments in the electricity system will have reached their end of life and will require replacement.

The forecast for ratepayers is they should expect to see a new charge on their future hydro bills. Logic suggests the new charge should be referred to as the LDRC (Liberal Debt Retirement Charge)!




Premier Wynne’s Easter basket full of rotten eggs

Count the eggs! $50 million plus, lost in just 3 days!

The nice weather on Easter weekend in Ontario disguised the fact that April 14th, 15th and 16th were really bad days for electricity customers.

Scott Luft’s daily reports detailed the bad news, even before the Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO got out their daily summary for April 12th.   Some of the information in Scott’s reports are estimates, but they have always proven to be on the conservative side. These three reports paint a disturbing picture of what’s going on, and how badly the Ontario government is mismanaging the electricity file.

Here are a few of the events that our Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault and Premier Wynne should find embarrassing. They also confirm what many of us have been telling them for several years.

First, Thursday April 13th saw a disclosure from the Energy Ministry that Ontario paid out $28,095,332 including about $240,000 in interest to Windstream Energy to satisfy the award made to them under the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) tribunal, due to cancellation of  a 300-MW offshore industrial wind turbine project.

Second, the HOEP (hourly Ontario electricity price) market, traded all of Ontario’s generation over the three days at “0” (zero) or negative value. While total demand for electricity was 1,031,448 MWh over the three days the HOEP market valued it at -$869,220 or an average of -.84 cents/MWh.  The “0” and negative values for the HOEP lasted 77 continuous hours, breaking a prior record of 62 hours.

Wasted, unneeded wind power

Third, during the three days, ratepayers picked up the bill for 99,109 MWh of curtailed wind which exceeded the transmission (TX) and distribution (DX) connected wind by 60.2%. Curtailed wind at an estimated $120/MWh alone cost ratepayers $11.9 million, driving the price of delivered wind (61,882MWh) to a cost of $335.34/MWh or 33.5 cents a kWh.  Total wind costs were $20.8 million.

Fourth, solar power over the three days generated and curtailed (1,124 MWh) 35,539 MWh at a cost of   $16.8 million, which works out to $472.86/MWh or 47.3 cents/kWh.

Fifth was the cost of gas which in three days produced 18,433 MWh, but the cost was $12.5 million and $676.56/MWh or 67.7 cents/kWh.  The 9,943 MW of IESO grid-connected gas operated at 2.6% of actual capacity during the three days.

Sixth was the generosity shown to our neighbours in New York, Michigan and Quebec who took delivery of 157,768 MWh of free power along with a payment of $132,525.

The quick math on the above indicates a cost of wind, solar and gas generation plus the payment for exported power comes to $50.2 million.

Nuclear and hydro was all we needed

That’s bad enough, but if you look at nuclear and hydro generation during those three days, clearly the $50.2 million was “money for nothing” paid for by Ontario’s ratepayers.  Nuclear (including steamed-off of 49,118 MWh) was 688,981 MWh and combined with hydro generation of 324,001 MWh of could have provided 1,012,982 MWh versus Ontario’s demand over those three days of 869,232 MWh leaving 143,750 MWh of surplus.  Three days of nuclear and hydro cost $61.9 million or 6.1 cents/kWh.

Bottom line? Ontario ratepayers picked up the bill for not only the $28.1 million paid to Windstream for a canceled offshore wind project, but also another $50.2 million, making the past four days very expensive for everyone.

The $78.3 million could have been better spent on health care or so many other pressing needs!

It’s time to kill the Green Energy Act and cancel any uncompleted wind and solar contracts before all our weekends turn out like this one!