If I were Ontario’s new Minister of Energy …


One initiative: look at why an expensive expansion to hydro isn’t being used

On June 8, after the Ontario election, Ontario’s new premier – whoever that is – will be thinking of selecting a new Minister of Energy. With the challenges in that portfolio, the immediate question for anyone considering accepting the job would be, how can one fix the electricity side of the portfolio after the damage done over the previous 15 years by my predecessors?

Here are a few “fixes” I would take that to try to undo some of the bad decisions of the past, if I were the new energy minister.

Green Energy Act

Immediately start work on cancelling the Green Energy Act


Knowing Ontario has a large surplus of generation we export for 10/15 per cent of its cost I would immediately cancel planned conservation spending. This would save ratepayers over $433 million annually.

Wind and solar contracts

I would immediately cancel any contracts that are outstanding, but haven’t been started and may be in the process of a challenge via either the Environmental Review Tribunal) or in the courts.                                 This would save ratepayers an estimated $200 million annually.

Wind turbine noise and environmental non-compliance

Work with the (new) MOECC Minister to insure they effect compliance by industrial wind developers both for exceeding noise level standards and operations during bird and bat migration periods. Failure to comply would elicit large fines. This would save ratepayers an estimated $200/400 million annually.

Change the “baseload” designation of generation for wind and solar developments

Both wind and solar generation is unreliable and intermittent, dependent on weather, and as such should not be granted “first to the grid rights”. They are backed up by gas or hydro generation with both paid for either spilling water or idling when the wind blows or the sun shines.

The cost is phenomenal.

As an example, wind turbines annually generate at approximately 30 per cent of rated capacity but 65 per cent of the time power generation comes at the wrong time of day and not needed.                                                                 The estimated annual ratepayer savings if wind generation was replaced by hydro would be $400 million and if replaced by gas, in excess of $600 million.

Charge a fee (tax) for out of phase/need generation for wind and solar

Should the foregoing “baseload” re-designation be impossible based on legal issues I would direct the IESO to institute a fee that would apply to wind and solar generation delivered during mid-peak and off-peak times. A higher fee would also apply when wind is curtailed and would suggest a fee of $10/per MWh delivered during off-peak and mid-peak hours and a $20/per MWh for curtailed generation.  The estimated annual revenue generated would be a minimum of $150 million

Increase LEAP contributions from LDCs to 1 per cent of distribution revenues

The OEB would be instructed to institute an increase in the LDC (local distribution companies) LEAP (low-income assistance program) from .12 per cent to 1 per cent and reduce the allowed ROI (return on investment) by the difference.  This would deliver an estimated $60/80 million annually reducing the revenue requirement for the OESP (Ontario electricity support program) currently funded by taxpayers.

Close unused OPG generation plants

OPG currently has two power plants that are only very, very, occasionally called on to generate electricity yet ratepayers pick up the costs for OMA (operations, maintenance and administration). One of these is the Thunder Bay, the former coal plant converted to high-end biomass with a capacity of 165 MW. It would produce power at a reported cost of $1.50/kWh (Auditor General’s report). The other unused plant is the Lennox oil/gas plant in Napanee/Bath with a capacity of 2,200 MW that is never used. The estimated annual savings from the closing of these two plants would be in the $200 million range.

Rejig time-of-use (TOU) pricing to allow opt-in or opt-out

TOU pricing is focused on flattening demand by reducing usage during “peak hours” without any consideration of households or businesses. Allow households and small businesses a choice to either agree to TOU pricing or the average price (currently 8.21 cents/kWh after the 17% Fair Hydro Act reduction) over a week.  This would benefit households with shift workers, seniors, people with disabilities utilizing equipment drawing power and small businesses and would likely increase demand and reduce surplus exports thereby reducing our costs associated with those exports.  The estimated annual savings could easily be in the range of $200/400 million annually.

Other initiatives

Niagara water rights

I would conduct an investigation into why our Niagara Beck plants have not increased generation since the $1.5 billion spent on “Big Becky” (150 MW capacity) which was touted to produce enough additional power to provide electricity to 160,000 homes or over 1.4 million MWh. Are we constrained by water rights with the U.S., or is it a lack of transmission capabilities to get the power to where demand resides?

MPAC’s wind turbine assessments

One of the previous Minister’s of Finance instructed MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corp,) to assess industrial wind turbines (IWT) at a maximum of $40,000 per MW of capacity despite their value of $1.5/2 million each.   I would request whomever is appointed by the new Premier to the Finance Ministry portfolio to recall those instructions and allow MPAC to reassess IWT at their current values over the terms of their contracts.  This would immediately benefit municipalities (via higher realty taxes) that originally had no ability to accept or reject IWT.

Do a quick addition of the numbers and you will see the benefit to the ratepayers of the province would amount to in excess of $2 billion dollars.

Coincidentally, that is approximately even more than the previous government provided via the Fair Hydro Act. Perhaps we didn’t need to push those costs off to the future for our children and grandchildren to pay!

Now that I have formulated a plan to reduce electricity costs by over $2 billion per annum I can relax, confident that I could indeed handle the portfolio handed to me by the new Premier of the province.

Parker Gallant


Quarterly stats show wind power blowing Ontario electricity costs higher

A power project that began operating in 2017 … wind power causes waste of other, less expensive sources of clean power due to lucrative contracts

A cold, windy winter cost Ontario electricity consumers. And if the first quarter of 2018 is typical, we’ll pay even more…

The IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) recently released the March Monthly Summary along with the Generator Output by Fuel Type Monthly Report, so that interested parties can see a year-to-year comparison for the first quarter of 2018 versus 2017.

What the “Generator Output” shows for the first three months of 2018 versus the same period in 2017 is, grid-connected generation output was up by over 600,000 MWh (+1.6%). That suggests the colder than normal winter created increased demand, which it did by just over 700,000 MWh.  As it turned out, gas generation increased year over year by about 750,000 MWh, while Hydro generation decreased by almost 200,000 MWh.

Grid-connected industrial-scale wind turbines (IWT) also generated almost 180,000 MWh* more in the first three months of 2018 versus 2017, and saw curtailed (paid for but not used) generation increase by over 50,000 MWh.

Both of those elements increased costs for ratepayers.

In 2017, the approximate cost of wind power generation in the first quarter, coupled with curtailed generation, was just shy of $532 million. In 2018 it was $30 million higher ($562 million). If the first quarter is typical, the cost to Ontario’s ratepayers for the full year could be over $2.2 billion — just for wind power! (Note the foregoing cost estimate does not include spilled water, steamed off nuclear or the high costs of back-up generation in the form of gas plants standing “at the ready” when the wind isn’t blowing.  On the latter issue a 2017 peer reviewed report by Marc Brouillette for the Council for Clean and Reliable Energy showed wind turbines produce power of value to the grid only 35% of the time.)

To reflect on what the IESO report suggests: even though winter months are considered high demand, the grid-accepted wind power presents 65% of the time when it’s not needed. Wind power, in addition to causing waste of other (clean) sources of power such as spilled hydro, steamed off nuclear, etc., results in the IESO selling surplus power to our neighbours at prices well below the cost of wind power production due to their lucrative contracts.  Proof? Look at the grid-accepted wind power versus Ontario’s net exports.   Grid-accepted wind in the first three months of 2017 was 3.46 terawatts (TWh) and net exports (exports less imports) were 2.92 TWh; the comparable period for 2018 saw grid-accepted wind generation of 3.64 TWh and net exports of 2.86 TWh.  In other words, the wind power, if all exported, was done with only partial recovery of its costs and was excess to actual demand.

That raises the question:

Why did Ontario contract for it in the first place and why was it given “first to the grid” rights? And, why don’t we cancel any outstanding contracts** that haven’t been started if what it generates is surplus?

Paying over $500 million per quarter and as much as $2 billion annually for wind power generation increases energy poverty and sends Ontario’s manufacturing jobs south.

Parker Gallant                                                                                                                                 May 1, 2018

*Thanks to Scott Luft for his data on wind generation and curtailment!

** The government awarded five contracts for almost 300 megawatts of new wind power in 2016, one of which has reached Renewable Energy Approval. The contracts will add $1.3B to Ontario’s electricity costs.


NextEra renewables sale to CPP speaks volumes

Canada Pension Plan’s investment in part of a wind-solar power portfolio seems to ignore a lot of negatives, including the energy poverty rising in Ontario due to electricity bills

Canada Pension Plan contribution rates are rising again, as reported by the Financial Post December 14, 2017: “the contribution rate (i.e., the CPP tax) has increased from 3.6 per cent when the CPP was launched in 1966 to its current rate of 9.9 per cent. It will increase further to 11.9 per cent beginning in 2019.”

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) is an active investor, looking for good rates of return without taking “excessive risk.” So they either searched for assets that pay guaranteed above market rates, or were approached by U.S. Power giant NextEra who sold them their Ontario portfolio of 396 MW of wind and solar contracts. CPPIB paid $1.871 million per MW for a total of $741 million CAD and also assumed the debt (US$689 million) attached to the NextEra portfolio. The press release associated with the acquisition had this quote from Bruce Hogg, Managing Director, Head of Power and Renewables: “As power demand grows worldwide and with a focus on accelerating the energy transition, we will continue to seek opportunities to expand our power and renewables portfolio globally.”

Perhaps Mr. Hogg was unaware “power demand” in Ontario has actually fallen from 153.4 TWh in 2004 to 132.1 TWh in 2017 despite an increase in our population of approximately 450,000.  He may also be unaware industrial wind turbines create health problems, cause property values to drop and kill birds and bats including those on the endangered species list.

What the CPP acquisition means is Ontario ratepayers will be indirectly contributing additional funds to the CPP without the benefit of reducing either their annual tax burden or increasing their future pension benefits. A “win, win” for CPP and a “lose, lose” for Ontario’s taxpayers. The sole redeeming feature is that the money will stay in Canada instead of flowing elsewhere.

Ironically, the CPP by acquiring and holding those assets will also be showing their support for energy poverty. The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) in their December 2014 report noted: “Using LIM* as a measuring tool, and relying on Statistics Canada household data, Ontario has 713,300 low-income households.” At that point in time the 713,300 households represented almost 16% of residential ratepayers in the province and one should suspect that number has increased over the past three years.

So, one should also wonder why NextEra, headquartered in Florida, sold those assets and their above market returns? The press related to their announcement of the sale speaks volumes: “As discussed during our earnings call in January, we expect the sale of the Canadian portfolio to enable us to recycle capital back into U.S. assets, which benefit from a longer federal income tax shield and a lower effective corporate tax rate, allowing NextEra Energy Partners to retain more CAFD** in the future for every $1 invested.”

No doubt the NextEra sale may be a sign of the future as the Canadian economy has shown serious signs of slowing as taxes rise and foreign investment falls. The bulk of the investment in the renewable energy sector in Ontario came from offshore companies who rushed to take advantage of the above market rates and guaranteed prices offered under the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) program available under the Green Energy Act.

Those investors will look to cash in on the sale of those assets, so we should expect to see more public and private Canadian pension funds stepping up to purchase them.

Parker Gallant

*Statistics Canada’s Low-Income Measure is simply defined as half of the median adjusted economic family income.

**Cash Available for Distribution

Ontario’s class distinction stings ordinary hydro customers

Electricity bill-payers are subsidizing business to the tune of over $1 billion, every year

 In early 2010, then Minister of Energy Brad Duguid 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.

That directive led to the creation of the two classes of ratepayers that now exist in Ontario.

Originally, Class A ratepayers were only the largest industrial clients (TX) whose peak hourly demand was 5 megawatts (MW) per hour, or higher.   Since the launch of the new distinction in January 2011, Class A clients have evolved further under Energy Ministers Chiarelli and Thibeault, to allow those with peak demand exceeding 500 kilowatts (kW) per hour.

That move leave the great unwashed “B” Class – you and me — to pick up the subsidy costs for  Ontario’s larger employers. The concern was (is) that those companies without subsidies might exit the province and take their jobs with them.

The algorithm that determines what a Class A customer pays is related to how successful they are at picking the top five hours of Ontario’s peak demand. The “A” class companies who fire up their own generators (usually natural gas) or close their plants/operations down and reduce demand on Ontario’s generation sources during the five highest peak-demand hours over the 12 months, will get the biggest discount.

The focus on “conservation” during those hours carries the political hope of achieving “peak” demand reduction.  The theory is the reduction should result in reduced need for new generation.*

While that goal may have been the intent, at the same time Ministers Duguid, Chiarelli and Thibeault were (are!) giving orders to contract for more and more renewable wind and solar contracts to the point where the “market price” or HOEP (Hourly Ontario Electricity price) continued a slow descent due to surplus generation.   The HOEP in May 2017 achieved a new low of $3.17 per MWh or 32/100th of 1 cent/kWh. In June 2008, it was $62.30/MWh.

Both classes of ratepayer equally pick up the full cost of the HOEP on a per kWh basis!

With the focus on the cost shift of the ratepayer classes tied to the GA (Global Adjustment), the higher the latter the greater the cost shift.   The addition of so many more businesses to the Class A group simply amplified the cross-class subsidy!

For an example of the growth in the dollar value of that shift, let’s look at some June numbers, now that IESO has released the June 2017 summary report.

The first year the B to A shift happened was in 2011: for June of that year the GA was $423.1 million and Class A ratepayers picked up $46 million of that cost. Unfortunately, IESO did not start disclosing the consumption by ratepayer class until 2015, so it is not possible to determine what percentage of the GA was being paid by Class A versus Class B ratepayers.

The June 2015 IESO webpage discloses consumption of 11.004 terawatt hours** (TWh) with Class A consumption of 2.061 TWh (23%), and GA paid by Class A ratepayers of $90.4 million. That’s 9.6% out of total GA costs of $943.1 million.  So, Class B ratepayers picked up $126.5 million to subsidize Class A ratepayers that month.  That translates to a GA cost per kWh for Class A of 4.4 cents versus 9.5 cents for Class B ratepayers. HOEP for June 2015 was $15.31/MWh!

IESO discloses total consumption of 11.509 TWh for June 2016 with Class A consumption of 2.308 TWh (20.05%). The GA for Class A was $121.6 million out of GA costs of $995.3 million. Had the GA been allocated on the 20.05% Class A consumption, they would have paid $200.4 million meaning Class B ratepayers subsidies were $78.8 million for the month.  HOEP for that month was $20.17.

June 2017 total consumption was 11.617 TWh, of which 2.482 TWh (21.36%) was for Class A ratepayers. The Class A GA totaled $137.9 million, but if they had been allocated the 21.36% of their consumption on the GA of $1.208.8 billion instead of the 11.4%, they would have paid $258.2 million.  Class B ratepayers provided a subsidy of $120.3 million.

The 5,055,000 (2015 OEB Yearbook of distributors) Class B ratepayers in the province each picked up an average of $23.80 of subsidy costs for June 2017.

If that becomes the norm, those ratepayers will pony up around $1.4 billion annually. 

Back before former Energy Minister Duguid issued his directive, the Association of Major Power Consumers of Ontario, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business were lamenting the rising costs of electricity in Ontario. Some companies left the province due to costs, so it was inevitable the Ontario Liberal government would finally hear their pleas for relief.  The result? The creation of the two rate classes.

In effect, the creation of the two rate classes and the subsidy shift from Class B to Class A ratepayers should be labeled “employment insurance” as it was needed to simply retain jobs in jeopardy because many companies were threatening to leave the province due to high uncompetitive electricity rates.

Why can’t our Energy Ministers come to the realization they should cease contracting for new, unreliable and intermittent wind and solar generation that produces power out of phase with demand?

*   The claim by the government is that by not contracting for new capital investment in generation, we ratepayers save future rate increases

**1 terawatt is equal to 1 billion kilowatts

Wind power waste not healthy for Ontario

A few days ago (July 11, 2017) Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Dr. Eric Hoskins issued a press release saying 131 hospitals would receive $175 million for “repairs and upgrades”.  That’s an average of $1.3 million per hospital to be doled out, apparently because the Wynne government finally produced a “balanced budget”.

The press release states: “Funding from the province allows hospitals to make critical improvements to their facilities, including upgrades or replacements to roofs, windows, heating and air conditioning systems, fire alarms and back-up generators.”

One wonders if Minister Hoskins ever chats with Minister of Energy Glenn Thibeault who doles out money to industrial wind turbine (IWT) developments at a pace that would make his $1.3 million per hospital look like small potatoes!   In the first six months of 2017, the bill to Ontario ratepayers was approximately $1.089 billion for accepted and curtailed industrial wind.  That works out to approximately $475,000 per turbine … for six months!  (That assumes there are about 2300 turbines with an average capacity of 2 MW or megawatts currently operating in the province.)

Also in the first six months of 2017, grid-connected and distributor-connected IWT collectively generated 6,143,000 MWh and curtailed 1,906,000 MWh* according to IESO data and curtailed estimates by Scott Luft.  That means the cost per grid-accepted MWh was about $177 or 17.7 cents/kWh! If the next six months are similar to the first six, each average 2-MW wind turbine will cost $950,000** generating or curtailing the intermittent and unreliable power they are famous for.

Those wind turbines require back-up by gas plants and frequently cause the spilling of hydro power and the steam-off of nuclear plants. The costs of these grid managing activities to ratepayers easily drive the costs per turbine well past the hospital repair allocations.

Kicking the can down the road under the Fair Hydro Act will see the foregoing incredible waste of ratepayer dollars accumulate within OPG, and result in rate increases as high as those we have experienced over the past 10 years, once 2021 arrives.

Try to imagine how much better our health care system would be with that estimated annual waste of $2 billion ($40 billion over the 20-year terms of the contracts) allocated towards health care instead of handing it over to mainly foreign industrial wind developers.

The time has come to stop signing those contracts!

Parker Gallant

* The average curtailed wind for the first 6 months of 2017 was 23.6% and for May was 43.8%.

** This assumes accepted generation is paid $140/MWh and curtailed wind is paid $120/MWh.

May power cost stats a harbinger of worse to come

If May is any indication, the Wynne government’s “Fair Hydro” plan costs will be considerable

The “Fair Hydro” plan ushered in by the Wynne government is setting up ratepayers for higher bills as soon as 2021 arrives. When the hiatus ends, limiting increases to ratepayer bills to no more than the “cost of living” (COL) over the next four years, the cumulative debt acquired by OPG to “refinance” the reported $50 billion of electricity assets will have to be repaid.

Early indications suggest the costs will be higher than the $2.5 billion being set aside for the next three years by Premier Wynne and Energy Minister, Glenn Thibeault.

Evidence? A look at May 2017 compared to May 2016 indicates the increase in the Global Adjustment (GA) costs for Class B ratepayers was 7.9% higher than 2016 and well above the May COL index of 1.4%.  Any increase in costs above the inflation rate will be added to the $2.5 billion being refinanced and become the responsibility of ratepayers to pay when the hiatus ends.

Demand drops but the cost goes UP

The IESO May 2017 Monthly Market Report indicates Ontario Class B ratepayers consumed 344,000 megawatt hours (MWh) less than they did in May 2016, which represents a 4% drop. That’s about the same as 460,000 average households would consume for the month. The Global Adjustment (GA) costs on the reduced amount of electricity consumed, however, increased by $82.7 million from $931.2 million in 2016 to $1,013.9 million in 2017.  Many will recall in May 2016, lower consumption during the prior six months caused the OEB to raise rates!

So, what caused the 7.9% spike ($82.7 million) in GA costs?   It appears there were two principal causes with one of them related to Ontario’s “Net Exports”.*

In 2017, net exports averaged 600 MW per hour higher than 2016, meaning they increased by 446,400 MWh (600MWh X 24 hours X 31 days) in May 2017 (enough to power almost 600,000 average households for the month). The buyers in New York, Michigan, Quebec, etc., paid only the Hourly Ontario Electricity Price (HOEP) of $3.17/MWh, while Ontario’s ratepayers were required to pay the GA costs of $54.8 million or $122.89/MWh.

The other major cause of the GA spike appears related to power generation from wind and its record curtailment in May 2017. My friend Scott Luft posts both the generation from TX (transmission connected) and DX (distributor connected) industrial wind turbines (IWT), and also conservatively estimates “curtailment”.  In May 2016 TX and DX connected IWT generated 699,371 MWh, not including 130,000 MWh of curtailed generation.

Combined: wind power in May 2016 cost ratepayers about $113 million or $162/MWh.  May 2017 saw 669,011 MWh of wind power delivered either to the grid (TX) or to local distribution companies (DX). Curtailed wind in May 2017 was a record as Scott estimated almost 524,000 MWh (enough to power almost 700,000 average households for the month) were curtailed.   The cost for generated and curtailed wind increased to slightly more than $158 million for the month, which raised the cost of accepted wind generation to $236/MWh.

$100 million added … for just one month

What this means is, wind-generated and curtailed costs in May 2017 were $45 million higher. Coupled with the increase in net exports of surplus generation and related costs, $100 million was added to the GA … for just one month.  If May 2017 is in any way representative of the four years of the rate freeze (tied to the COL index), the costs of refinancing those assets will be much more than the March 2, 2017 press release suggested it would be:  “These new measures will cost the government up to $2.5 billion over the next three years.”

Based on past forecasts by the Ontario’s Liberal government, keeping the costs at $2.5 billion over the next three years may be a “stretch goal”!

Parker Gallant

*“Net Exports” are total exports less total imports.


April winds blow in high wind power costs

How badly were ratepayers hit? Millions upon millions for power produced out of phase with demand…

The Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO’s 18 month outlook report uses theirMethodology to Perform Long Term Assessments” to forecast what industrial wind turbines (IWT) are likely to generate as a percentage of their rated capacity.

The Methodology description follows.

“Monthly Wind Capacity Contribution (WCC) values are used to forecast the contribution from wind generators. WCC values in percentage of installed capacity are determined from actual historic median wind generator contribution over the last 10 years at the top 5 contiguous demand hours of the day for each winter and summer season, or shoulder period month. The top 5 contiguous demand hours are determined by the frequency of demand peak occurrences over the last 12 months.”

 The most recent 18-month outlook forecast wind production at an average (capacity 4,000 MW growing to 4,500 MW) over 12 months at 22.2%, which is well under the assumed 29-30 % capacity claimed by wind developers. For the month of April, IESO forecast wind generation at 33.2% of capacity.

April 2017 has now passed; my friend Scott Luft has posted the actual generation and estimated the curtailed generation produced by Ontario’s contracted IWT.   For April, IESO reported grid- and distribution-connected IWT generated almost 703,000 megawatt hours (MWh), or approximately 24% of their generation capacity. Scott also estimated they curtailed 521,000 MWh or 18 % of generation capacity.

So, actual generation could have been 42% of rated capacity as a result of Ontario’s very windy month of April 2017, but Ontario’s demand for power wasn’t sufficient to absorb it! April is typically a “shoulder” month with low demand, but at the same time it is a high generation month for wind turbines.

How badly did Ontario’s ratepayers get hit? In April, they paid the costs to pay wind developers – that doesn’t include the cost of back-up from gas plants or spilled or steamed off emissions-free hydro and nuclear or losses on exported surpluses.

Wind cost=22.9 cents per kWh

For the 703,000 MWh, the cost* of grid accepted generation at $140/MWh was $98.4 million and the cost of the “curtailed” generation at $120/MWh was $62.5 million making the total cost of wind for the month of April $160.9 million.   That translates to a cost per MWh of grid accepted wind of $229.50 or 22.9 cents per kWh.

Despite clear evidence that wind turbines fail to provide competitively priced electricity when it is actually needed, the Premier Wynne-led government continues to allow more capacity to be added instead of killing the Green Energy Act and cancelling contracts that have not commenced installation.

* Most wind contracts are priced at 13.5 cents/kilowatt (kWh) and the contracts include a cost of living (COL) annual increase to a maximum of 20% so the current cost is expected to be in the range of $140/MWh or 14cents/kWh.