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.

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