Selling the furniture: what’s behind the Wynne government sell-off

SOLD! OPG HQ sale makes the profit report look good, but …

Back in April 2015, the Wynne-led Ontario Liberal government announced they had created the Trillium Trust and would be selling off assets to generate $130 billion dollars that would be allocated “across the province over 10 years to fund projects in public transit”.

The news release for the announcement stated an additional $200 million generated from the sale of the GM shares would be placed in the trust; it also announced plans to sell off Hydro One.

OPG’s 2nd Quarter report was released August 11, 2017. The media paid no attention despite a very successful quarter, reporting an after-tax profit of $307 million — well up from $132 million of the comparable 2016 quarter.

But if you look deeper into their results, you learn $283 million of the reported profit came from the sale of their head office.

What the OPG results signify is that profitability from their share of total Ontario power generation (52.2% or 18 TWh/terawatt hours out of the total 34.5 TWh) for those three months in that quarter produced only $24 million in after-tax profit. OPG blamed the reduced income on lower nuclear power generation.

I think there is much more to the story.

OPG, as I have said before, has become the “whipping boy” for the Ontario Liberal government and apparently it still is, as observations will confirm comparing their 2017 quarterly results with those of the same quarter in 2007. Here’s proof.

Renewables and Conservation
It would be remiss to not mention first that both the addition of renewable energy such as wind and solar (in excess of 6,700 MW) were granted “first to the grid” rights thereby superseding much of OPG’s (previously called “unregulated”) hydro (3,629 MW as of December 31, 2007) as well as other generation such as Lennox, an oil/gas fueled generating station with a capacity of 2,100 MW which is seldom called on to produce electricity. Likewise, biomass-converted coal plants in Atitikokan (180 MW) and Thunder Bay (165 MW) are idle most of the time. The other issue is the fact that consumption in 2007 was reported by IESO as 152 TWh; by 2016 that had dropped by 15 TWh (enough to supply about 1.7 million average households for a full year) supposedly due to conservation, but more likely due to the high prices.

Ten years later
Now let’s look at the ten-year comparisons for the 2nd Quarter.

  • Gross revenue in 2007 for the quarter was $1,393 million versus $1,146 million in 2017; a drop of $247 million or 17.7% and for the first six month (2017 versus 2007) was $691 million lower (-22.9%)
  • Spilled hydro generation in the 2nd Quarter of 2017 was 2.6 TWh (enough to power about 290,000 average households for a year) but not mentioned in 2007
  • Water fuel taxes in the 2nd Quarter of 2017 were $97 million to generate 8.2 TWh whereas in 2007 the 9.3 TWh generated resulted in water fuel taxes of only $67 million
  • Electricity generated in the 2nd Quarter of 2017 was 18 TWh (-25.4%) versus 25.4 TWh in the same quarter of 2007 and for the comparable six months generation was down from 54.2 TWh to
    36.6 TWh a drop of 17.6 TWh or more than the 2007/2016 consumption decline of 15 TWh
  • Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PIL) in the 2nd Quarter of 2017 were $97 million versus $29 million in the comparable 2007 Quarter.
  • Operations, maintenance and administration costs dropped from $776 million in the 2nd Quarter of 2007 to $711 million (-8.4%) in the comparable 2017 Quarter however the average costs of generation per kWh (kilowatt hour) increased from 4.6 cents/kWh to 4.83 cents/kWh
  • OPG were also listed as a participant in the recent “cap and trade” auction of “Greenhouse Gas Allowances” but their purchase or cost of allowances was not disclosed

All this suggests only a few ways the Ontario Liberal government and the Energy Ministry are removing money from ratepayers’ pockets to fund the Consolidated Revenue Fund, etc.

The sale of OPG’s head office is another. The fact that OPG produced an after-tax profit of $283 million by the sale of its head office will do nothing to reduce electricity rates as the following note from the 2nd Quarter 2017 report states:

“Pursuant to the Shareholder Declaration and Shareholder Resolution, and as prescribed in the Trillium Trust Act, 2014, OPG is required to transfer the proceeds from this disposition, net of prescribed deductions under the Act, into the Province’s Consolidated Revenue Fund.”

What that means is, the pre-tax profit on the sale of OPG’s head office of $378 million (including the PIL or payment in lieu of taxes) will do nothing to reduce electricity rates and instead will be applied to the budgetary deficit. Perhaps some of it will be spent on transit projects or even to pave a road in a (Liberal) riding.

The profit on the sale of OPG’s head office plus all the other payments extracted from them could have gone a long way to defray the costs that the Fair Hydro Plan will accumulate and which we will have to pay for in the near future.

Next up for OPG to sell off: per the Shareholder declaration from former Energy Minister, Bob Chiarelli is “the Lakeview Site”, comprised of an approximately 67-acre portion running along the shoreline and along the southwesterly portion of the Lakeview Site and the adjacent water lots, more particularly identified” and “the remaining approximately 110 acres of the Lakeview Site”.

The Wynne-led government is doing its best to sell off any remaining assets owned by Ontario’s taxpayers to the detriment of ratepayers.

Parker Gallant,
September 18, 2017

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Day of Judgment on the gas plant scandal: Parker Gallant and Tom Adams

Posted on The Financial Post website today here

The trial of two aides of former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty is likely to lay bare some inner workings behind the politicized management of Ontario’s power system over the past 10 years

On Monday, the criminal trial of David Livingston and Laura Miller, who served former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty as chief of staff and deputy chief of staff respectively, convenes in Toronto. They face charges of breach of trust and mischief in relation to the alleged destruction of government files dealing with power plants originally contracted for the Greater Toronto Area. The trial is sure to attract media attention, particularly since another trial related to alleged Election Act violations by prominent Ontario Liberals — Pat Sorbara, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s former chief of staff, and Liberal fundraiser Gerry Lougheed — is going on at the same time.

Read the entire article here

Where did the $50 billion go, Premier Wynne?

He said, she said: we say, where did the money GO? [Photo: Toronto Star]
Last September 13, Minister of Energy Glenn Thibeault issued a press release announcing the  Ontario Liberal government would reduce electricity bills for five million families, farms and small businesses.  The relief granted was equivalent to the 8% provincial portion of the HST. The press release also claimed Ontario had “invested more than $35 billion” in new and refurbished generation.

Fast forward to March 2, 2017 and that $35 billion jumped to $50 billion in a press conference the Premier jointly held with Minister Thibeault. An increase of $15 billion in six months!

The press conference was to inform us the 8% relief announced by Minister Thibeault would be added to, with a further 17% reduction. A Toronto Star op-ed Premier Wynne wrote March 7, 2017 reaffirmed the $50 billion investment claim made the previous week, and further claimed: “By delivering the biggest rate cut in Ontario’s history and holding rate increases to inflation for at least four years, this plan provides an overdue solution.”

That made history alright, but not the way she meant. What the Premier forgot to say was that her government had brought us the biggest rate increases in Ontario’s history.  In March 2011 the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) website shows the average electricity rate was 6.84 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) and on May 1, 2016 it had increased to 11.1cents/kWh.  In just over five years, the price of the commodity — electricity — increased 62%, a multiple of the inflation rate during that five years, which added about $400 to the average consumer bill.

Electricity price goes down, your bills go UP

From 2010 to 2015 Ontario demand fell by 5 TWh (terawatt hours) to 137 TWh.* That is enough to provide electricity to 550,000 “average” Ontario households for a year, yet the price for residential consumers increased 62%.   The increase was not driven by the trading value via the hourly Ontario electricity price (HOEP) market.  In fact, the market treated Ontario generated electricity badly as it fell from an average of 3.79 cents/kWh in 2010 to 1.66 cents/kWh in value for 2016 —  a 56.2% drop.

As to how they were achieving this “relief,” Wynne and Thibeault told us they were pushing the payback period for the 20-year contracts (wind and solar) out another 10 years. Those generation sources are the principal cause of the increase in electricity prices.  (For further proof of that, read  Scott Luft’s recent analysis on the costs of “other” generation in 2016 which confirms its effect on our rising electricity rates.)

Where did the money go?

What the Wynne/Thibeault announcement means is, ratepayers will pay for the intermittent and unreliable power for their 20-year contracted term(s), and continue to pay for the same contracts which, by that time use equipment that will be heading for, or already in the scrap yard.

It is time for Minister Thibeault to disclose what is behind his claim of $35 billion invested and for Premier Wynne to disclose the details of the $50 billion she says went to “necessary renovations” to rebuild “the system.”

Time to come clean.

* Ontario consumption remained at 137 TWh in 2016.

Where did our $50 billion go? Or, how Ontario citizens lost $18 mil in just 2 days

Premier Wynne making her announcement: no accounting for costs [Photo: PostMedia]
Almost a week after Premier Wynne announced her plan to reduce our electricity bills by 25%, the wind was blowing!  On March 8, six days after the cost shifting  announcement (from ratepayer to taxpayer), potential power generation from wind was forecast by IESO to produce at levels of 80/95% of their capacity, for many hours of the day.  IESO was concerned about grid stability and as a consequence, curtailed much of the forecasted generation.

When the Premier made her announcement about reducing hydro bills, she also claimed “Decades of under-investment in the electricity system by governments of all stripes resulted in the need to invest more than $50 billion in generation, transmission and distribution assets to ensure the system is clean and reliable.”

It is worth noting that much of that $50 billion was spent acquiring wind and solar generation and its associated spending on transmission, plus gas plants (to back them up because the power is intermittent), and distribution assets to hook them into the grid or embed them with the local distribution companies. It would have been informative if Premier Wynne had had Energy Minister Glen Thibeault provide an accounting of exactly what the $50 billion was spent on.

As it turned out the amount of curtailed wind generated on March 8 was 37,044 megawatt hours (MWh) was just short of the record of 38,018 MWh set almost a year ago on March 16, 2016 (estimated by my friend Scott Luft).  The curtailed wind on March 8, 2017 cost Ontario’s ratepayers $120/MWh or $4,445,280.

The cost on March 16, 2016 was $4,562,160.

What does it mean? Curtailing or restricting power output but paying for it anyway means a portion of the $50 billion spent was simply wasted money. It went to the corporate power developers that rushed to sign those above-market contracts for renewable power.

The other interesting aspect of the surplus power generation on March 16, 2016 and March 8, 2017 is revealed in IESO’s Daily Market Summaries: the hourly Ontario energy price (HOEP)  March 16, 2016 was negative at -$1.25/MWh and on March 8th, 2017 was also negative at -.49 cents/MWh. This meant ratepayers paid for surplus exports sold to our neighbours in New York and Michigan, etc. Net exports (exports minus imports) on March 16, 2016 were 52,368 MWh, and on March 8, 2017 were 37,944 MWh. Total costs of their generation (HOEP + GA) fell to Ontario’s ratepayers along with the cost of any spilled hydro, steamed off nuclear and idling gas plants.

Millions here, millions there = a whole lot of wasted money

So, bear with me here, if we price the cost of the net exports at $110/MWh for those two days, ratepayer costs were approximately $9.8 million with $5.7 million for March 16, 2016 net exports and $4.1 million for March 8, 2017 net exports, not including the $84,000 we paid our neighbours to take our power.

How much did it cost you? Two days out of 729 (2016 was a leap year) cost Ontario ratepayers about $18.1 million for power not delivered (curtailed wind) or needed (net exports).

I hope this helps Minister Thibeault in his calculations for a long overdue accounting to Ontario citizens as to where the other $49.982 billion went.

 

Ontario’s present and future lashed by electricity bills

Building Ontario Up

“Building Ontario Up” — a PR slogan doomed to failure

August 21, 2016

On July 18th Premier Kathleen Wynne bragged about Ontario’s  2016 first quarter GDP growth outpacing Canada, the U.S. and all other G7 countries via news release.  The Premier said,  “Our economic plan is working, and we are building a strong and prosperous future for our province.”

Three weeks later, StatsCan announced Ontario suffered job losses in July of 36,100 — almost 19,000 of them were full-time jobs.  In fact, Ontario’s job losses exceeded total job losses in Canada of 31,200 net jobs.  Needless to say, that didn’t merit a news release from the Premier’s office or Finance Minister Sousa either, about how the Ontario Liberal government might not be “building Ontario up”.

The StatsCan announcement also didn’t signal a change in Ontario’s unemployment rate which is mired at 6.4%. Compare that to the U.S. unemployment rate (June 2016) of 4.9%, or New York’s at 4.7%, and Michigan’s at 4.6%.

Why New York and Michigan love Ontario: cheap power

New York and Michigan are the two neighbours who are the major beneficiaries of Ontario’s management of its electricity system. In 2015, we exported 8,571 gigawatts (GWh) to New York and 10,248 GWh to Michigan at an average price of 2.36 cents per kilowatt hour (US $1.82 cents/kWh). Those sales generated revenue of $444 million but cost Ontario ratepayers $2.3 billion. The loss on those exports of almost $1.9 billion was included on our hydro bills.

That 18,819 GWh of power sold at huge costs to Ontario ratepayers. Here are the facts.

  • The power sold at a loss was enough to have supplied 2 million “average”1. residential ratepayers with power for a year
  • The losses on those exports could have paid the “Total dollar amount of arrears for eligible low income customer accounts in arrears at year end” December 31, 2015 for 146 years
  • The “total dollar amount ($172.6 million) of arrears for residential customer accounts in arrears at year end” could have been paid over 11 times
  • The “total dollar amount ($106 million) of arrears for Hydro One residential customer accounts in arrears at year end” could have been paid over 18 times
  • The power sold represented enough money2. to cover the full annual cost of 766,000 Hydro One, low-density “average” ratepayers

It is impossible to know what the generation sources were for the exported power, but with combined wind (10,765 GWh) and solar (3,026 GWh) generation representing 13,791 GWh in 2015, one must assume a lot of wind and solar power traveled to New York and Michigan. Evidence of that was highlighted in a recent study from the Canadian Nuclear Association: “Wind makes up 34% of the provincial night time surplus.”

Without those surplus exports, one could assume the Hourly Ontario Energy Price or HOEP would have been higher in that trading market, resulting in reduced costs to Ontario’s ratepayers.

Looking back to 2009 at the posted OEB average electricity price at the end of that year (6.07 cents/kWh) and comparing it with the average electricity price at the end of 2015 (10.70 cents/kWh), the annual increase was 12%.

It is worth noting that distribution rates have also increased as much (or more) for some distributors such as Hydro One.

If one examines U.S. residential electricity prices, we find the average all-inclusive (generation, transmission, delivery, state taxes) price in the U.S. at the end of 2009 was 9.82 cents/kWh and at the end of 2015 had increased to 12.67/kWh for residential clients. This suggests the average annual increase in the all-in price of electricity in the U.S. was 4.8% annually versus the Ontario 12% increase for just the “electricity” line.

Ontario has managed to raise the price of the raw commodity (electricity) almost three times faster than the U.S. has increased all-in rates.

It’s costing us a fortune, so —let’s buy more!

What does Ontario plan to do? The government continues to push ahead with their agenda to acquire more unreliable and intermittent wind and solar generation, with a new bid process beginning in 2017. That’s in spite of pricing Ontario out of the market to attract new industry, and creating “energy poverty” that now affects 12.4% (566,902 as reported by the OEB) of ratepayers. Many were in arrears on their electricity bills at the end of 2015.

 

Recently appointed Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault told Shirley Engel of Global TV News “I’m not using the word crisis” when asked about the massive response of emails and phone calls to Global following stories on painful electricity bills in Ontario.  Global was successful in getting the OEB to release the “arrears” statistics mentioned above.  In the “Backgrounder” to the release of those statistics, the OEB opened with this statement: “The Ontario Energy Board is the regulator responsible for protecting energy consumers in Ontario.”

Why has the OEB failed to protect energy consumers, in essence failing to do its job? You would be obliged to point the finger at the Ontario Liberal government for its their passing the Green Energy Act, and the more than 100 directives given to the Ontario Power Authority (merged with IESO January 1, 2015), IESO, Hydro One, OPG and the OEB by past and present Energy Ministers going back to Dwight Duncan.

Premier McGuinty and now Premier Wynne believe they know far more than the people running those organizations and have ensured their dictates are followed.

“Building Ontario up” is a PR slogan. Its realization is condemned to failure, mostly because of the damage done to a province that once could claim some of the cheapest electricity rates. With the most expensive electricity rates in North America now, the only thing the Ontario Liberal government can claim they are “building up” are the number of ratepayers living in energy poverty.

Parker Gallant

1.The OEB defines an average residential ratepayer as one consuming 750 kilowatt hours (kWh) per month.

2.The OEB’s “Bill Calculator” tells you the monthly cost is $206.64 so annually it is $2,479.68.