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!

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How much did Premier Wynne’s hydro “mistake” actually cost?

Five months ago, Premier Kathleen Wynne admitted to the delegates at the annual Ontario Liberal Party convention her government “made a mistake” allowing electricity rates to rise so high.  Those rates have actually soared, increasing by 80.9% from 2009.

Comparing Ontario electricity rates to other indicators such as inflation, shows just how bad the situation is. Comparing the IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) Monthly Summaries for January and February 2009 with the same two months in 2017, the combined costs of HOEP (hourly Ontario energy price) plus the Global Adjustment (GA) show costs per kilowatt hour (kWh) have increased from 5.85 cents/kWh to 10.58 cents/kWh. That is an 80.9% increase.  Average inflation over the same time-frame has increased about 14%.   (The reader should note the 2009 and 2017 costs are before HST so the 8% reduction commenced January 1st has had no effect on contracted or regulated electricity rates.)

So how bad? The cost of the basic commodity has increased by almost six times the inflation rate!

Commodity cost is way up

Reviewing the IESO Monthly Summaries for the two-month periods in 2009 versus 2017 also shows Ontario demand fell by 7% or 1,713,000 MWh (1.7 TWh). The Summary reports indicate the 24.43 TWh representing Ontario demand in 2009 cost $58.49 million/TWh or $1,429 million for January and February. The 22.7 TWh of Ontario demand in 2017 cost $105.78 million/ TWh or $2,330 million for the same two months.  That represents an increase in the commodity cost of electricity of $901 million for 7% less electricity — an average monthly increase of $450 million.

So, why?

Exports

One of the reasons was the drop in the market price as the HOEP fell from an average of $51.93/MWh in 2009 for the two months to $21.56/MWh in 2017 while the GA jumped from an average of $6.56/MWh in 2009 to $82.27/MWH in 2017. What that means is, the loss on exports from Ontario in 2009 cost Ontario ratepayers $13.1 million and in 2017 cost ratepayers $174.2 million as the GA costs are not included in the sale of exports via the HOEP.

OK, of that $900+ million increase, we have $174 million found … $727 million to go!

Wind power

Another obvious cause of the big jump was generation and payment for curtailment of power from industrial wind turbines (IWT). Back in the early part of 2009, Ontario had approximately 800 MW of IWT capacity; in the early 2017 we have about 4,550 MW of capacity.   According to my friend Scott Luft, who uses IESO data to estimate the generation and curtailment of IWTs,  in 2009 the turbines delivered almost 395,000 MWh in January and February. In 2017, it’s a different story: generation and curtailment combined jumped to about 2,926,000 MWh.

The contracted wind power prior the passage of the Green Energy Act is estimated to be at the rate of $90/MWh, whereas wind power contracted for after the Act was at $135/MWh (plus a cost-of-living annual increase) meaning they currently are estimated at $140/MWh. The math on the 2009 generation therefore shows a cost of $35.5 million and the 2017 generation/curtailment cost becomes $409.6 million.  The increased cost of wind from 2009 is ($409.6 million less $35.5 million) $374 million.   Deducting the $374 million from $727 million leaves $353 million to find to get to $901 million!

Gas

Since 2009, more than 3,300 MW of gas plant capacity has been added to the Ontario grid. Its addition was basically to back up the wind and solar capacity (which is unreliable and intermittent) to ensure sufficient generation is available during renewables’ failure and high demand periods.  The private sector companies investing in those plants are paid for their capital investments amortized over their life span. When generating electricity they receive fuel costs plus a nominal markup. Payments details are not available in the public domain, but it is understood payments contracted are per MW of capacity, and  estimates given are $8/15,000 per MW per month.  Assuming the 3,300 MW of capacity secured since 2009 is at the mid-range ($12,000 per MW) the cost to ratepayers is $79 million (3,300 X $12,000 X 2 months).

That $79 million means we are still looking for $274 million.

Consuming less but paying more

IESO shows ratepayers consumed 1.7 TWh less in the first two months of 2017 than in 2009, but paid more. That is evident in OPG reports.  As OPG has not released its 2017 1st Quarter report estimates are based on the 2016, 1st Quarter report.  First we estimate spilled (wasted) hydro was 1.2 TWh at a reported cost of $44 million/TWh so that cost ratepayers $53 million.   The 21.0 TWh produced by OPG in the 2016, 1st Quarter generated average revenue per TWh of $70.4 million.  Estimating the first two months of 2017 generation at 14 TWh results in a cost of $985.6 million.  In 2009 OPG generated 25.6 TWh at an average of $57.8 million/TWh. Again estimating the total cost of the 17 TWh generated by OPG in the first two months produces a cost of $982.6 million so adding the $3 million to the spilled water cost shows an increase of $56 million.  Subtracting $56 million from $274 million means we are looking for the last $218 of the increase.

Solar, conservation, bio-mass and sundry

We assume the balance of the increased 2017 versus 2009 costs came from solar and bio-mass with a portion from the conservation program. Based on Figure 23 “Total Global Adjustment by Components” of the IESO Summary report we can estimate the costs of each of those for the two months.  It appears conservation spending (absent in 2009) represented about $50/55 million for the first two months of 2017 and bio-mass (incented by the FIT and MicroFIT programs) generated costs of around $40 million.  Solar (low during winter months) generated a minimum of $100/$120 million in costs for the two months based on the IESO Figure 23.  While those are “best” estimates to get to the increase of $901 million for the two months, we have not included increased costs from the IESO and OEB budgets which have both increased.

“No checks” in the system

An article recently appeared in the Globe and Mail written by George Vegh, former general counsel to the OEB.  This paragraph is perhaps why Premier Wynne admitted to her “mistake”

“Generation procurements are determined entirely by the government. The system operator – the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) – implements government directives. Neither the Ontario Energy Board nor any other independent regulator reviews these procurements. There are no independent criteria, no cost-benefit analysis, no consideration of the need for the procurements, and no review of alternatives. In short, there is virtually no check on the power to procure supply.”

 

What we have in Ontario is a “mistake” that will continue to cost Ontario ratepayers and taxpayers billions for years to come.

Admitting a mistake is one thing, doing something about it is another: Premier Wynne needs to recognize the Ontario Liberal government’s error, kill the Green Energy Act, and halt continued procurement of power from unreliable and intermittent wind and solar generators!

Premier Wynne’s $50-billion elephant

Do a Google search of “premier wynne+elephant in the room” you get 1,140,000 hits while a search for just “premier wynne” only gets 486,000 hits. The word “elephant” has been used by Ontario’s premier on a number of occasions. For example, the “elephant” popped up at one of the expensive Ontario Liberal Party fundraising dinners a year ago where she declared, referring to the provincial deficit, “So while some want to characterize Ontario’s deficit as the elephant in the room, I think a panda is the more appropriate metaphor,” she said. “Truly, Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue [visiting pandas at the Toronto Zoo] were adorable. But the pandas are leaving Ontario in 2018, and in 2017-18 our deficit will be gone, too.”

The “elephant” has returned for her government in the form of high electricity prices but instead of cute little “pandas,” Premier Wynne was forced to call them her “mistake”!

Let’s look at that elephant now.

The recent release of Ontario Power Generation (OPG) 2016 annual report provides enough information to allow one to figure out exactly what created the elephantine mistake and where to point the finger.   To do that we will compare the results of 2016 to 2009* and show the cause of the above market climb in electricity prices.

Price Comparison

IESO’s (Independent Electricity System Operator) data discloses the cost of electricity generation in 2009 was 6.22 cents/kWh or $62.20 per megawatt hour (MWh) or $62.2 million/TWh (terawatt hour) and in 2016 was 11.32 cents/kWh or $113.20/MWh or $113.2 million/TWh. The increase from 2009 to 2016 represents a jump of 82% in only seven years and in simple terms, is a jump of 11.7% annually.

Using the above prices to show the full cost of electricity generation in those two years is accomplished by multiplying total generation by the cost per TWh so:

Total generation 2009: 148 TWh X $62.2 MM= $9,205 MM

Total generation 2016: 149.5 TWh X $113.2 million = $16,923 MM

(Source: IESO)

That means an increase of $7,718 million (+83.8%) in the raw cost of the commodity-electricity.

Finding the “mistake”

Why did the cost jump 83.8%?

Let’s start with the generation produced by OPG who, according to their 2009 annual report generated 92.5 TWh and 78.2 TWh in 2016. Bruce Nuclear in 2009 generated 35.7 TWh and in 2016 they generated 46.1 TWh.  Collectively OPG plus Bruce generated 128.2 TWh in 2009 and that represented 86.6% of total generation (148 TWh) by all generators that year.  In 2016 the collective total was 124.3 TWh which represented 83.1% of all generation (149.5 TWh) in that year as reported by IESO.

Costing the generation 

2009

For OPG: The costing of generation coming from OPG is a relatively simple task requiring only their gross revenue for the year divided by the generation they reported.  For 2009 gross revenue was $5,640 million for the 92.5 TWh delivered making the all-in cost $61 million/TWh.

For Bruce Nuclear: The reported price paid to Bruce was $65.90/MWH.   So, for the 35.7 TWh they generated, the gross revenue generated was $2,352 million or $65.9 million /TWh.

The combined costs of $5,640 million from OPG plus the $2,352 million from Bruce was $7,992 billion to produce 128.2 TWh making the combined cost per TWh $62.34 million or 6.23 cents/kWh.

As noted above, total costs for all generation reported by IESO for 2009 was $9,205 million meaning $1,213 million ($9,205 million less OPG/Bruce combined of $7,992 million) was spent to acquire the 19.8 TWh generated by the other private generators, making their costs per TWh $61.3 million or 6.13 cents/kWh.  (Note: 9.8 TWh was generated by OPG’s coal plants in 2009.)

2016

For OPG: As noted above OPG in 2016 generated 78.2 TWh and their gross revenue was $5,653 million making their generation cost per TWh $72.3 million (7.23 cents/kWh).  Included in OPG’s gross revenue was a $207 million payment for hydro spillage of 4.7 TWh due to SPG2. (surplus base-load generation).

For Bruce Nuclear: Bruce in 2016 generated 46.1 TWh at a reported cost of $66 million/TWh making so gross revenue was $3,043 million including the cost of steaming off almost 1 TWh due to SBG.  

The combined costs of $5,653 from OPG plus the $3,043 million from Bruce was $8,696 million to produce 124.3 TWh making the combined cost per TWh $70 million or 7.0 cents/kWh.

Cost of the “other” generation

The all-in costs for generation for 2016 was, as noted above, $16,923 million. If one deducts the combined costs of OPG and Bruce Nuclear for their generation in 2016 ($8,696 million) the balance of $8,227 million went to pay for the 25.2 TWh produced by other generators.   Simply dividing the $8,227 million by the 25.2 TWh creates a cost per TWh of $326.5 million or 32.7 cents/kWh. ***

Had the 25.2 TWh cost ratepayers $70 million/TWh, or the same as the OPG/Bruce Nuclear generation combination (25.2 TWh X $70 million = $1,764 million), Ontario ratepayers would not be on the hook for the $6.9 billion in excess costs! ($8,227 million – $1,764 million= $6,932 million or the very high $326.5 million/TWh)

In just one year’s data, compared to 2009, we have located many of the reasons for higher electricity costs. The Premier now claims $50 billion was needed to invest in transmission and generation but her “mistake” was in not seeing the costs would go up more than 83%, principally related to the acquisition of intermittent, unreliable renewable energy from wind and solar!

There may be even more elephants in this particular room.

 

*The choice of 2009 is related to the Legislative passage of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA) in the Spring of that year creating the FIT and MicroFIT programs and subsequent acquisition of renewable energy at above market prices.

**Surplus Base-load Generation is simply anticipated “base-load less Ontario demand”.

***The per TWh cost reflects the FIT contracted generation for industrial wind turbines, solar panels, bio-mass along with curtailed wind, conservation spending, the cost of selling our surplus power to other jurisdictions at only 15% of its cost, etc. etc.

How to get those electricity bills down

(Or not make them worse)

In my volunteer work with Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of community groups, individuals and families concerned about the impact of industrial-scale wind power generation in Ontario, I was pleased to be asked by Global TV News to provide an opinion on what needs to be done to help the citizens of this province with their electricity bills.

Here is our contribution to the feature, published on Global’s website:

The following is by both Parker Gallant, a retired banker who now analyses Ontario’s energy sector and is the author of the blog “Energy Perspectives” as well as Jane Wilson, the president of Wind Concerns Ontario.

The Ontario government undertook its program to add renewable power without proper cost-benefit or impact analysis.

Now we have electricity bills that are the fastest rising in North America. The rich contracts awarded to huge corporate wind power developers are a factor.

Here’s what we suggest:

Immediately cancel Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) II that is currently “suspended.” With its target of acquiring 1,000 megawatts (MW) of more renewable capacity — it’s not needed and will further add to consumers’ power bills.

Cancel the five wind power contracts awarded in 2016 under LRP I and save electricity customers about $65 million annually or $1.3 billion over 20 years. Cancellation costs will amount to a small fraction of the annual cost. Cancelling approved but not yet built wind power projects and the new FIT 5.0 program will also save money.

Cancel “conservation” spending of $400 million annually. Ontario has already cut back on power use by more than 12 per cent since 2005 when consumption was 157 tWh to 2015 when it had fallen to 137 tWh. Do this and save immediately on electricity bills.

Forecast for April 2017: the news on electricity bills will be terrible

Reducing electricity bills is hard when you keep signing contracts for more power Ontario doesn't need. (Photo:THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch)
Reducing electricity bills is hard when you keep signing contracts for more power Ontario doesn’t need. (Photo:THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch)

November 29, 2016

The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) just released the Monthly Summary for October 2016. Comparing the prices to their report for October 2015 will make you weep.

Comparing the two months one year apart, you’ll see Ontario’s consumption decreased by almost 170,000 megawatts (MWh), but the costs of consuming less increased the commodity cost by over $176 million.

What that means: the 1% drop in consumption from 10.7 TWh (terawatts) to 10.5 TWh will probably result in the OEB (Ontario Energy Board) raising prices in the spring of 2017.

Here’s why. In 2016 we exported 1.4 TWh of power, one full TWh more than in 2015.  The 2015 hourly Ontario energy price (HOEP) was also $10/MWh higher than 2016, and so for that reason our 2016 net exports cost us $110 million more.  Coupling that drop in HOEP and the additional exports, my friend Scott Luft also estimated a wind curtailment* increase by the Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO (year over year) of 180,000 MWh.  The cost of that curtailment added an estimated $22 million to October’s costs of electricity.

October is a bad sign

If October is just the beginning of five months of increases, the news in mid-April 2017 when the OEB announces the price of electricity for the following six months will be terrible.

The “mistake” Premier Wynne admitted to at the Ontario Liberal Party Convention in Ottawa just days ago will loom even larger by mid-April 2017 as any increase will create more energy poverty. I would remind all at the convention she noted: “In the weeks and the months ahead, we are going to find more ways to lower rates and reduce the burden on consumers.”  Those “ways to lower rates” are getting harder to find as the government continues to sign new long-term power contracts.

I believe electricity ratepayers in Ontario would welcome some relief from the burden of our electricity bills, but I fear the damage caused by the Green Energy Act will take a decade or more before Ontarians see it.

Cancel, now

Premier Wynne should immediately cancel plans to acquire any more wind and solar power generation as planned under Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) I and LRP II as a demonstration of genuine concern for energy poverty and the citizens of Ontario.

*Curtailment: reduction in scheduled capacity or energy delivery

The Premier’s mandate letters: no sign of plans to resolve a crisis

Premier Wynne: just do what I tell you. Not sure it will work, but do it. (Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Premier Wynne: just do what I tell you. Not sure it will work, but do it. (Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Part I

September 26, 2016

Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne just issued 35 “mandate letters” to each Cabinet Minister in the government on September 23, 2016. The letters range from three to six pages, and carry platitudes about ministerial accomplishments and directions as to what she expects them to accomplish in the next two years under her premiership. (“Mandate” is defined as an authoritative command.)

One such platitude can be found in her six-page mandate letter to Finance Minister Sousa wherein she notes we (the collective we):  “Worked with the federal government to ensure the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) would not be a taxable benefit.”

Any sensible person would say that money given to support low-income households in the payment of their electricity or other bills should not be a “taxable benefit.”   The OESP is levied as a charge to all of the non-qualifying ratepayers of the province via the Global Adjustment (GA) and becomes a cost of the basic commodity–electricity! So in effect, it is a charitable gift from other ratepayers who pay their escalating electricity bills every month.

Perhaps this “charitable donation” should be recognized by your local distribution company (LDC) who should be required to issue a charitable receipt that you can use when filing your tax return. The government should instruct the LDC to identify that on our monthly bills just as they tell us how much we have saved by not paying the debt retirement charge (DRC).

Interestingly, the same mandate letter to Minister Sousa notes another accomplishment: “Ontario will continue to fulfill its commitment to upload social assistance benefit programs, as well as court security and prisoner transportation costs, off the property tax base. This will ensure that municipalities have more property tax dollars to invest in local priorities.”

Electricity customers carrying the load?

That pronouncement should leave you shaking your head. In one paragraph Premier Wynne suggests the OESP isn’t a “social assistance benefit” but did require federal government approval to ensure it would not be a “taxable benefit,” and later the Premier brags about the wonderfulness of uploading social assistance benefit programs like court security and prisoner transportation costs from municipalities.  Is the reason the province could afford to “upload” those social assistance benefits  because the OESP is being paid by Ontario’s ratepayers without notice or consultation?

If the Wynne government is really looking for more money for municipalities, why didn’t the Premier instruct Sousa to tell MPAC to assess industrial wind turbines (IWT) at their real value rather than the $40,000/MW they are capped at now? Now, that would have increased property tax dollars for municipalities.

The fact is, if the costs of the OESP were properly allocated, they would be under the Community and Social Services Ministry, not the Energy Ministry.   As the ongoing news series from Global TV has noted, the number of people living in energy poverty in Ontario is growing at an alarming rate.

Premier Wynne has publicly noted the “crisis” in respect to the rising cost of electricity and the rise of energy poverty households, yet instructions to the Minister of Community & Social Services fail to respond to the crisis. Her mandate directs the Minister to: “Support the transformation of income-based and other benefit programs, with the Minister of Finance, Minister of Government and Consumer Services and human services system partners, focusing on client-focused delivery and information sharing.”

And in the Premier’s mandate letter to the Minister Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy the instructions are:  “Support the transformation of income-based and other benefit programs, with the Minister of Finance, Minister of Government and Consumer Services and human services system partners, focusing on client-focused delivery and information sharing.”

It is very unclear how her mandated transformation designed to focus on “delivery and information sharing” will resolve poverty.

It is clear she depends on Ontario’s electricity ratepayers as the new charitable organization!

Parker Gallant