Class distinctions in Ontario’s electricity sector

Ordinary consumers try to conserve while …

Ontario: where the energy ministry robs Peter to benefit Paul

April 15, 2018

The data is out for the first two months of 2018 for both the consumption of electricity as well as the costs to Ontario’s upper and lower class of consumers.

According to Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO, consumption increased by 4.7% or 1.084 terawatts (TWh). That’s what 725,000 average households would consume for two months.

The annoying thing about the increase in consumption, however, is while Class B (that is, regular folks) ratepayers reduced consumption by 729,000 MWh Class A ratepayers (customers with higher demand such as businesses) increased their consumption by 1.813 million MWh.

So, why did consumption increase? If you guessed, Ontario’s energy ministry launched a “Black Friday” or a post “Boxing Day” sale, you would be heading in the right direction!  To explain: if one travels back to the days when Brad Duguid was the Minister of Energy he 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. He issued that directive and, as they say, the rest is history.   The resulting ICI (Industrial Conservation Initiative) granted the “A” ratepayers the ability to reduce their consumption during the “high five” peak hours and the reward was the GA (Global Adjustment) component would drop significantly for them.

Originally, Class A ratepayers were only the largest industrial clients (approximately 170) whose peak hourly demand was 5 megawatts (MW) per hour, or higher.   Since the launch of the new class distinction in January 2011, however, Class A clients have evolved further, to allow those with peak demand exceeding 500 kilowatts (kW) per hour. In other words, because industrial jobs were fleeing Ontario and various associations such as the Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Association of Major Power Consumers of Ontario, etc., made their concerns known, the ability to “opt in”’ to Class A was lowered. The results should have been obvious: Class B electricity costs would climb higher!

January and February 2018 saw the “B” to “A” Global Adjustment or GA subsidy transfer increase to $201 million compared to $179 million in the same two months of 2017. The full cost of the transfer and the extra $22 million (+ 12.3%) is allocated to Class B ratepayers, and probably includes some newly classified “A” ratepayers.

When you review the GA subsidy Class B ratepayers provided in 2017 compared to 2016, the increase year over year is up $369 million or 30%.   In 2016 Class B ratepayers absorbed $1.222 billion of the GA subsidizing Class A ratepayers and that support jumped to $1.591 billion in 2017. The $369 million increase occurred despite Class B ratepayers reducing their consumption by 9,976,000 MWh (what 1.1 million average households would consume in a full year) while Class A consumption went up by 5.146 million MWh.

No doubt most of this increase can be attributed to the lower “A” qualification level but IESO does not disclose that information.

For those of you who like to “connect the dots” here’s the puzzle: the almost $1.6 billion annual Class B subsidy added to the $400 million spent on “conservation” comes to $2 billion.   That $2 billion annual cost of 2017 comes very close to the Financial Accountability Office’s estimate of the annual cost of the Fair Hydro Plan at $2.1 billion.

Coincidence?

As it turns out, the outcry from Class B ratepayers about high electricity costs started to result in negative media attention which presumably brought about the concept of the “Fair Hydro Plan” which actually kicks about $2 billion of annual costs down the road for the next ten years.

Despite the obvious Class B to Class A subsidy highlighted above, the Fraser Institute’s* recent report on Ontario’s electricity system notes in the Executive Summary: “In 2016, large industrial users paid almost three times more than consumers in Montreal and Calgary and almost twice the prices paid by large consumers in Vancouver.” So, even though Class B ratepayers contributed $1.222 billion in 2016 to help reduce electricity rates for Ontario’s large industrial users, they still paid almost three times more than their counterparts in Montreal and Calgary.

Parker Gallant

*From the Fraser Institute report: “The centerpiece of the GEA was a Feed-In-Tariff program, which provides long-term guaranteed contracts to generators with renewable sources (wind, solar, etc.) at a fixed price above market rates. In order to fund these commitments, as well as the cost of conservation programs, Ontario levied a non-market surcharge on electricity called the Global Adjustment (GA).”

Advertisements

Sales of public assets: benefits for Ontarians or kudos for bureaucrats?

Selling off assets shouldn’t mean bonus time for senior bureaucrats

SOLD! But where did the money go?

April 9, 2018

Back on December 14, 2015 Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli directed OPG to sell its head office on University Avenue in Toronto, also directing them to pay all of the net proceeds “to the government”.

Just before Minister Chiarelli was moved from the Energy portfolio he issued yet another directive to OPG: sell off the Lakeview lands and pay all of the net proceeds to the government, “subject to any requirements under the Trillium Trust Act (2014) Ontario”.

In both cases the minister was using his authority as an elected representative of the province with responsibility for managing certain government-owned assets, which the government had presumably decided were not core assets of OPG.

The Head Office was sold in 2017 as stated in OPG’s annual report where they noted: “Higher earnings of $377 million from the Services, Trading, and Other Non-Generation segment, primarily as a result of the gain on sale of OPG’s head office premises and associated parking facility, a non-core asset of the business. A gain on sale of $283 million, which is net of tax effects of $95 million, was recognized in net income upon completion of the transaction in the second quarter of 2017.”

So, the payment(s) under that sale to be made to the province were $283 million plus the PIL (payments in lieu of taxes) or $378 million.

OPG’s press release of January 9, 2017 announcing the sale said not much more than “OPG would lease back four floors plus ancillary space.”

A couple of weeks ago in 2018, OPG announced in a press release they had sold the Lakeview lands for $275 million, subject to closing adjustments, and stated “The net proceeds from the sale of Lakeview lands will be transferred to Ontario’s Trillium Trust to fund transit, transportation and other key infrastructure projects across the province.”

The press release went on with quotes from Finance Minister Charles Sousa, Ehren Cory, CEO of Infrastructure Ontario, the Mayor of Mississauga, the President of the buyers group, Lakeview Community Partners Limited and Jeff Lyash, OPG President and Chief Executive Officer. (No quote came from the current Minister of Energy.)

The quote from Jeff Lyash, OPG’s CEO, was particularly laudatory: “OPG is proud of its role to transform Lakeview, a major source of carbon emissions for over 40 years, to a vibrant mixed-use community that will become the jewel of Mississauga’s waterfront. This site is one of the largest undeveloped parcel of waterfront lands left in the GTHA and the fourth former OPG coal plant site to transition to a new, environmentally friendly use.”

All ratepayers, who are also taxpayers, should be upset with how the sale proceeds of OPG’s two properties, were/are either being paid into the Ontario Treasury or into Trillium Trust. Those assets were paid for by ratepayers through their electricity bills, but they will see no benefit as the $653 million generated from the sale presumably went towards balancing the budget just concluded on March 31st.

Is it too much to ask that the electricity system be managed for the benefit of ratepayers?

Parker Gallant

Side note: Mr. Lyash topped the Sunshine List and was paid $1,554,456.95 last year up almost $400,000 from the prior year while Ehren Cory, CEO of Infrastructure Ontario’s bump was $60,000 to $470,758. Both received nice year over year increases!

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

Ontario Power Generation report: good news and bad news

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) just released its annual report for the year ended December 31, 2016.

It’s a mix of good and bad news.

For example, gross revenue (net of fuel expenses) increased by $137 million and $34 million of that increase found its way to the bottom line, for a $436 million profit.

Generation from 2015 increased slightly from 78 terawatt hours (TWh) to 78.2 TWh, with nuclear generation increasing by 1.1 TWh and hydro decreasing by .9 TWh, which was further exacerbated (see next paragraph) by spillage due to surplus base-load conditions.

The bad news was that 4.7 TWh of hydro was “spilled” or wasted in 2016, up from 3.7 TWh in 2015. Those wasted 4.7 TWh of power could have supplied more than 500,000 (approximately 11% of all residential ratepayers) average Ontario homes with electricity for the full year.

The spillage by OPG didn’t affect their revenue, however, as they are paid for spillage at an average of about $44/MWh or $44 million/TWh. That means they received $207 million for wasted power and paid the Ontario Ministry of Finance the “water rental” fee for the spillage (although the latter wasn’t disclosed in the report).

Other “good/bad” news indicates OPG sold their Head Office on University Avenue in Toronto with closing scheduled for the second quarter of 2017. They expect the sale will generate an after-tax profit of $200 million.  The bad news is, OPG is obligated to turn over the profit to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The land, building and maintenance costs fell to the ratepayers of Ontario to pay for via the electricity rates, yet the profit generated on its sale will be tossed into the bottomless pit of the Finance Ministry, instead of going towards reducing OPG’s costs of generation which could have benefited ratepayers.  That $200 million won’t even pay the interest on Ontario’s debt for a week!

SOLD! But the money won’t help you ..

The previous Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli on June 9, 2016 (four days before he was replaced by Glenn Thibeault) also issued a “declaration” to OPG instructing them: “to transfer, sell, dispose of or divest all of the Corporation’s interest in the Lakeview Site, comprised of the Municipal Park Lands and the Uplands”.  The Lakeview site is 67 acres running along the Lake Ontario shoreline and the Municipal Park Lands are the remaining 110 acres of the Lakeview Site.  Any excess revenues associated with the sale is to be transferred to the Government (Consolidated Revenue Fund), again rather than going to reduce electricity rates.

Ontario’s ratepayers absorbed the impairment costs of closing the coal plants in 2003, absorbing a “loss of $576 million as a result of the termination of cash flows from these stations after 2007.” The ratepayers of the province deserve to benefit from any recovery resulting from the write-off of the plant closings!

All this is more evidence of the “shell game” being perpetrated on Ontario ratepayers and taxpayers and the continuing legacy of the McGuinty/Wynne-led governments.

More to come …

Michigan outperforms Ontario. And why not? They have our cheap power

Boating - St. Joseph. Courtesy of SW Michgan Tourist Council

Across the lake: cheap cheap power. [Photo Michigan Outdoors]

The state of Michigan is outperforming Ontario. That’s according to a recent study by the Fraser Institute. Since the end of the “’Great Recession” Michigan has out performed Ontario, increasing their GDP in 2013 by 2.8% versus Ontario’s growth of only 1.3%.  Unemployment levels in Michigan are currently at 4.6% versus Ontario’s 6.4%. Those are two very important  economic indicators.

That news plus the fact Ontario has become a “have not” province in Canada, it seems policies adopted by the Ontario Liberal government to “build Ontario up” is having the opposite effect.

One of those policies resulted in Ontario’s electricity sector focusing on acquisition of renewable energy from industrial-scale wind turbines, solar panels and biomass. The passing of the Green Energy Act (GEA) in 2009 resulted in adding intermittent and unreliable renewable energy that is unresponsive to demand (wind power is produced out-of-phase with demand in Ontario).   This had the effect of driving down the price of electricity.

The free market trading (HOEP) of electricity has resulted in Ontario exporting a rising percentage of our generation to buyers in Quebec, NY and Michigan, with the latter the biggest buyer.   In 2015 Michigan purchased 10,248 gigawatts (GWh) or enough to power1.1 million “average” Ontario residential households. We sold it at an average of 2.36 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) and were paid $242 million, but it cost Ontario’s ratepayers just over $1 billion.

Michigan doesn’t have to pay the Global Adjustment. You do.

Michigan appears delighted to be able to purchase our cheap subsidized electricity. Now they are seeking further transmission links to Ontario with an eye on the grid out of Sault Ste Marie.  Hydro One earlier this year announced they “entered into a purchase agreement to acquire Great Lakes Power Transmission LP from Brookfield Infrastructure for $222 million in cash plus the assumption of approximately $151 million in outstanding indebtedness.” One has to wonder, did Hydro One know about this, and see it as an opportunity to increase transmission revenue? 

This new transmission line could send both cheap hydro and expensive bio-mass generation to Michigan.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) operates 11 hydro stations with 680 MW of capacity and also two bio-mass facilities (Atikokan and Thunder Bay) converted from burning coal and now using wood pellets with a combined capacity of 358 MW in the region.   The latter two facilities were focused on by the Auditor General (AG) in her November 2015 report. In the case of Thunder Bay, the report indicated the cost of generation was “$1,600/MWh—25 times higher than the average cost at other biomass facilities in Ontario.”  For Atikokan the AG had this to say: “The plant is expected to generate 140,000 MWh for $74 million per year, putting the cost of electricity from this facility at $528/MWh—about eight times higher than the average cost of existing biomass from other facilities in Ontario.” Industrial wind turbines have also invaded the beautiful landscapes painted by the Group of Seven.

For the sake of Ontario ratepayers, one hopes Michigan will not access electricity from either of the two biomass plants as it will fall on us ratepayers to pick up the costs in excess of the HOEP price. In the case of Thunder Bay the cost to ratepayers could approach $1.60/kWh and for Atikokan it would be 55 cents/kWh.

Maybe the Ontario government staffers in communications should change their PR Slogan to “Building Michigan up”!

Parker Gallant

September 5, 2016

Ontario Power Generation report: waste and loss, more cost to consumers

Spilling, constraining, steaming off–Ontario’s surplus power situation is costing millions

August 14, 2016

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) just released their second quarter results and if you read the news release quickly you might think everything is wonderful — but it’s not.

OMA (operations, maintenance and administration) costs were up $59 million (9.1%) for the quarter compared to 2015, net income was down to $132 million from $189 million in the comparable quarter, and OPG are now the proud owners of Hydro One shares as this excerpt from the quarterly report indicates.

“In April 2016, OPG acquired nine million common shares of Hydro One at $23.65 per share as part of a secondary share offering by the Province through a syndicate of underwriters. The acquisition was made for investment purposes to mitigate the risk of future price volatility related to OPG’s future share delivery obligations to eligible employees under the collective agreements with the PWU and The Society renewed in 2015.”

The Hydro One share acquisition was of course one of the “net-zero” wage settlements touted by the Ontario Liberal government, and this one made specifically by former Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli when the announcement of a settlement with the employees at OPG was made.

Paid to waste power–and you pay them to do it

OPG also disclosed in the news release that they were again forced to spill hydro power which is normally sold into the grid for about 4.4 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). The amount they spilled in the quarter was 1.7 terawatts (TWh) and 3.4 TWh for the first six months, compared to 1.5 TWh in the comparable 2015 six month period.  If that information makes you feel bad for OPG, don’t — they are paid the same for spilling hydro as for delivering it to the grid.  A change in regulations by the government created the “pay for spilling” situation.  The 3.4 TWh spilled could have supplied about 750,000 “average” households meaning, we wouldn’t have needed other much more expensive power such as intermittent and unreliable wind and solar.

The cost to ratepayers for the spillage of the hydro is about $150 million and will wind up in our electricity bills under the Global Adjustment charge.

While OPG were busy spilling hydro, we were also curtailing wind in the first six months of this year; my friend Scott Luft (http://coldair.luftonline.net/) keeps a record of those curtailments. Curtailments for the first six months on his chart were estimated at 1.245 TWh, and have already surpassed IESO reported curtailments for the whole of 2015 of .733 TWh.   The latter cost ratepayers about $88 million at the reputed $120 per megawatt (MWh) wind generators are paid for curtailment.   Curtailment costs for 2016 so far are about $150 million.

There were other wastes of generation and ratepayers money in the first six months of 2016 too as Bruce Power was frequently asked to “steam off” nuclear generation at two of their units, but no disclosure is yet available to tell us how much. In 2015 it amounted to .897 TWh which cost ratepayers about $60 million; it is probably more in 2016 as demand is down.

So ratepayers for just the first six months of 2016 will pick up the costs for OPG buying Hydro One shares, spilling hydro, curtailing wind, and steaming off nuclear without one kWh delivered to the “average” household despite the ratepayers responsibility for costs of about $600 million.   We also picked up costs to promote conservation which was probably north of $200 million for the six months.

Ontario’s electricity customers should be “steamed” about the increasing waste we continue to pay for.

© Parker Gallant