Honesty, virtue, and energy policy (2)

Yesterday’s post in respect to honesty and energy policy examined a small city in Texas and how its mayor has been courted around the world by proponents of renewable energy — because his actions sit into their narrative. However, I also showed how incomplete information given to the media can lead to bad results for those directly affected, the people who have to pay the bills for the “virtue signaling”.

What follows is how the two parties (politicians and energy proponents) collectively stomped on Ontario’s taxpayers/ratepayers!                                                                                                                

CanWEA spin

The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) recently published an article that carried this claim:  “The Pan Canadian Wind Integration Study – the largest of its kind ever done in Canada – concluded that this country’s energy grid can be both highly reliable and one-third wind powered.”

The annoying part of the “study” is that it was completed by biased parties and used considerable taxpayer funds!

Perhaps Ontario’s grid operator, IESO, did make wind generation reliable but at what cost? As it turned out, in 2017, wind turbines delivered only 24.9% (9.2 TWh) of their capacity and curtailed* over 26% (3.3 TWh) of what they could have actually delivered.  That generation also caused hydro spillage of 5.9 TWh and nuclear steam-off of one (1) TWh!

IESO’s 18 Month Outlook Report also indicates they only rate the capability** of wind turbines to deliver generation 12.9% of the time it may be needed. Wind power generation also contributes to a reduction in the “real market” (HOEP) price, meaning we sell our surplus generation into the export market well below its cost.

Virtue signaling from former Ontario Premier Wynne                                    

Just over three years ago Ontario’s Auditor General released her report that noted the billions of dollars in extra costs Ontario ratepayers had to pay for the Liberal government’s green energy. The AG’s report said consumers would pay $9.2 billion more for 20-year wind and solar contracts signed by the Liberals than they would have under the former procurement system.

Premier Wynne’s response was: “There’s a cost associated with getting out of coal, of putting more renewables in place, and we’ve got other jurisdictions looking to Ontario as a model for how to do that,” said Wynne. “I’m happy to defend the changes that we’ve made.” She went on to say: “You only have to look at other jurisdictions that are struggling with air quality, with particulate matter in their air, with families that don’t feel they can let their kids play outside,” she said. “I know we weren’t in those serious straits, but the fact is we have reduced our pollution in this province.“

Apparently lost on her was the concept of the costs her government later imposed on those “kids” when in an attempt to win the last election she kicked in the neighbourhood of $50 billion down the road for them to pay via the Fair Hydro Act.

Premier Wynne earlier (about five years ago) got a pat on the head from Al Gore the climate crusader, when the last Ontario coal plant was about to be shut down.  In her speech she also referenced the children who will be paying back the above costs when she said: “And I would contend it’s our moral duty to take action to protect our children, our grandchildren, and our fellow citizens. We’re lucky today to be in the presence of a man who’s been fighting on these fronts for many years.”

In another announcement with Al Gore present she claimed: “Becoming a coal-free province is the equivalent of taking up to seven million cars off the road, which means we’ll have cleaner air to breathe, while saving Ontario $4.4 billion in health, financial and environmental costs”

It has now been four years since Premier Wynne said that so it would be nice to know, from a ratepayer and taxpayer perspective, what has happened to that $17.6 billion, we were supposed to have saved?

We should suspect Premier Wynne’s remarks was simply political spin meant to preserve her position as Premier while driving up our cost of living for a necessity of life. Our health care system has not improved in the last four years and the province’s financial situation has only become worse!

The self-evident virtue signaling has simply resulted in increasing a future cost for “our children, our grandchildren and our fellow citizens”.

PARKER GALLANT

*Those 3.3 TWh of curtailed wind cost Ontario ratepayers almost $400 million or more than all of the curtailed wind in the UK which was estimated as costing them more than £100 million in 2017 to switch off their turbines and NOT produce electricity. The equivalent of the UK’s cost was about $174 million Canadian!

**Forecast capability of capacity for other major generating sources are:  nuclear 81.9%, hydroelectric 68.4%, gas/oil 81.4% and solar 10%.

NB: If one wants to view what former Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray knew about the Ontario energy sector have a look at his interview at the COP 20 Conference in Lima, Peru here.  You will see that Minister Murray gave many incorrect answers and even wrongly cites the Atikokan (200 MW) coal station as the largest in North America.  It was Nanticoke (3,964 MW!

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Former Ontario Liberal energy ministers: your turn to eat crow

More enlightening facts from the Lennox gas plant, and how billions have been wasted

There have been a few problems with wind power, former Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault told a business audience almost two years ago. We had no idea how bad.

My earlier article briefly described my recent tour of the Lennox natural gas power facility in Bath, Ontario, and also provided the costs of wind power generation—including what was “curtailed” (wasted; paid for but not used).

The period covered was nine years (2009 to 2017) during which grid-delivered wind power generation was 53.1 TWh* (terawatt hours) and its costs (including 6.9 TWh curtailed) were approximately $8 billion.

What I didn’t note earlier was, as we were paying for power generated by wind turbines and curtailed power, we were also paying for spilled hydro and steamed-off nuclear which added additional costs to the GA (Global Adjustment) pot, driving up electricity costs. We started paying for “spilled hydro” in 2011 when the OEB (Ontario Energy Board) allowed OPG to establish a “variance” account.  Since that time 18.7 TWh have been spilled by OPG and the cost of $875 million (4.7 cents/kWh) was placed in the GA and paid for by Ontario ratepayers.

Likewise, the cost of 2 TWh of steamed-off nuclear was (about) $140 million (7 cents/kWh) and also became part of the GA. Adding that to the $8 billion costs of wind power in those nine years brings the total to slightly more than $9 billion, as the hydro spilled and nuclear steam-off were due to “surplus baseload generation” (SBG)!

In 95 percent plus of the surplus events, SBG conditions were caused by wind power generation because it is granted “first to the grid” rights.

So, you might ask on reading this, is, how does/could Lennox fit into this situation?

Well, the fact is Lennox is treated as “the leper” in generation sources within the province and is called on only when something untoward or unusual happens, despite its ability to generate power at relatively low cost. Examples of Lennox doing more than idling include this past summer’s Lake Ontario algae problem which caused the shutdown of a Pickering nuclear unit (the water intake was clogged) and the winter of 2014 when we experienced the “polar vortex” causing gas prices to spike.  As it happens, wind wasn’t there for either event and Lennox was called on to provide the power necessary to keep our electricity system functioning.  (Wind turbines cannot be turned on when demand suddenly increases when the wind isn’t blowing.)

Ontario without wind

If the then Liberal Ontario government had decided not to proceed with the GEA (Green Energy Act) which focused on wind and solar sources, one could justififably wonder how the cost of electricity might have been affected.   If we had instead focused on reliability and reasonable costs, Lennox coupled with our other sources, could have easily replaced the intermittent and unreliable generation from wind turbines.

The math: Taking the wind power generation of 53.1 TWh over the nine years out of the picture would have meant those 18.7 TWh of spilled hydro and the 2 TWh of steamed-off nuclear could have reduced the net contribution of wind to 32.4 TWh. That would have saved ratepayers $1.8 billion i.e., (cost of 20.7 TWh of IWT generation @ $135 million/TWh = $2.8 billion, less the cost of 18.7 TWh of spilled hydro @ $46 million/TWh [$875 million] and less the cost of 2 TWh steamed off nuclear @ $70 million/TWh [$140 million])

The remaining 32.4 TWh of wind power generation could have been provided by generation from the OPG Lennox plant (capacity of 2,100 MW). It would have eliminated the $800 million cost of the 6.9 TWh of curtailed wind as it would have produced power only when needed.  Now if it ran at only 20 percent of its capacity (gas or oil,) it could have easily generated the remaining 32.4 TWh generated by IWY and accepted into the grid.

Note: No doubt much of that 32.4 TWh wind power generation was presented at times IESO were forced to export it at a substantial loss. For the sake of this calculation we will assume Ontario demand would have required it.

More math: As noted in the earlier article “idling” ** costs for Lennox are fixed at $4.200 per MW per month, making the annual idling costs about $106 million or $8.8 million per month. Running at 20 percent of capacity would result in idling costs per MWh of generation of about $30/MWh.

Adding fuel costs*** of about $40/MWh would result in total costs (on average) of approximately $70/MWh or 7 cents/kWh.  Generation at 300,000 MWh per month on average would have generated 32.4 TWh over those nine years (2009–2017).  The cost of that generation would be approximately $2.3 billion whereas the 32.4 TWh generated by IWT in those same nine years cost ratepayers about $4.4 billion.

So, without any wind power generation at a cost of $8 billion over the nine years, Ontario ratepayers would have saved almost $4.9 billion:

  • $1.8 billion using spilled hydro
  • $200 million using steamed-off nuclear
  • $800 million paying for curtailed IWT generation and
  • $2.1 billion by utilizing Lennox

Beyond the dollar savings, the lack of subsidized wind power would also have other effects like:

  • zero (0) noise complaints, instead of the thousands reported,
  • elimination of the slaughter of thousands of birds, bats and butterflies
  • prevented the possible disturbance/contamination of well water

Again, that cost-benefit study might have proved useful!

PARKER GALLANT                                                                

*1 TWh is about the amount of energy 110,000 average households in Ontario consume annually.

**Idling costs of the TransCanada gas plant next door to Lennox is $15,200 per month per MW or 3.7 times more costly than Lennox.

***Lennox has the ability to generate electricity using either natural gas or oil meaning if a fuel priced spikes, as natural gas did during the “polar vortex” in 2014, Lennox can shift to the cheaper fuel.

Electricity planning in Ontario: bad and getting worse

Ontario Energy Minister Thibeault: he really believes this stuff?

From all appearances, Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault sincerely believes Premier Wynne’s plan to reduce our hydro bills is the right one and the opposition parties have got it all wrong.

Shortly after Premier Wynne and her loyal servant Glenn Thibeault announced the Liberals’ “Fair Hydro Plan” Andrea Horwath, leader of the NDP, announced their plan. Thibeault had this to say about the NDP’s plans to repurchase Hydro One shares: “Buying back $4 billion in Hydro One shares is costly, he added, and ‘will not take one cent off electricity bills. What it will do is send billions to the stock market instead of making much needed infrastructure investments in communities across Ontario.’ ”

When PC MPP Vic Fedeli suggested diverting our surplus power to local businesses so they can create jobs, instead of exporting it to U.S. states at staggeringly low prices* Thibeault lashed out, saying that was  “back-of-the-napkin” thinking.  Thibeault did admit Ontario “doesn’t have sufficient electricity demand at home to use up the electricity we export to other markets.”

This begs the question: why does the Energy Minister not cancel contracts recently awarded (LRP 1) and permanently cancel plans (LRP 2) to add more renewables that will be surplus due to insufficient demand and plant closures.  In respect to the latter, demand will continue to be insufficient as the recent announcements about the closing of the Proctor and Gamble plant (500 employees) in Brockville and the Siemens plant in Tillsonburg (340 employees), just to name two, will further reduce demand.

The Siemens announcement undermines the Green Energy Act which the Liberals originally touted as destined to create 50,000 jobs, but fell miserably short of that goal. In fact it cost Ontario jobs as suggested by former Ontario Auditor General McCarter in his 2011 report.

Thibeault might also stop directing IESO to spend $400 million annually on conservation programs which further reduces demand, but at a cost that is added to ratepayer bills and negatively affects export sale prices.*

Now, when Minister Thibeault or Premier Wynne speak about the Liberal Plan, they revert to the main “Fair Hydro Plan” talking point which is “This is the largest rate cut in Ontario history”.  What Minister Thibeault always fails to note is Ontario’s ratepayers have experienced the largest rate increases in history thanks to the GEA’s passage in 2009!  He also fails to acknowledge the future costs due to the Fair Hydro Plan which will push rates up well past those before the “largest rate cut in Ontario history”.   That cost (subject to balanced budgets) according to the Financial Accountability Office will be $45 billion versus a benefit of $24 billion.  That $45 billion will easily drive up electricity rates and represents in excess of two years of current total electricity costs.

Amortized over 10 years we should expect annual rate increases well in excess of 10%.   At that time, all ratepayers will be exposed to the Ontario Liberal government’s incredibility bad planning!

Parker Gallant

* For the first six months of 2017 IESO report the sales price for surplus exports was $14.93 a megawatt hour (MWh) or 1.49 cents a kWh which is close to 10% of what it costs to produce. Ontario’s ratepayers pay for the losses via their monthly bills