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!

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More Global Adjustment: what the costs are

February 21, 2017

The Global Adjustment (GA) charge in 2016 was responsible for 85% of the cost of electricity billed to all of Ontario’s ratepayers, less for large industrial clients.  The cost of the GA is for the cost of generation of electricity at the door (metaphorically) of the generation unit.  It does not include “line losses” which are found in the “delivery” lines of our bills and represented a cost of approximately $400 million at an average 3% line loss!

In dollar terms, IESO reported the 85% cost of the GA was $12.333 billion in 2016.  Because of the size of those GA costs the question on many minds is, what is it?   Steve Aplin of Canadian Energy Issues defines it this way: “It is simply a price recovery mechanism. It is the difference between the price the government promised any particular electricity generating company and the ‘market’ price of electricity.” 

So what are the relative parts of the GA which place the biggest burden on the climb in costs in the “electricity” line we have experienced.

The IESO published a News Release  on January 18, 2017 providing statistics on:  generation by fuel type and its percentage of contribution; ratepayer costs per kilowatt (kWh) for both the GA (9.66 cents per  kWh) and for the HOEP (1.66 cents/kWh) or market price;  and, imports and exports and provincial demand (137 TWh).  IESO don’t provide generation produced within the DX (distributor connected) sector.  The following are best estimates of some of the DX generated electricity and curtailed wind.

Wind

IESO report wind generated 9.3 TWh and Scott Luft reported 1.7 TWh were generated by DX connected wind turbines making total generated generation 11 TWh at a cost of $135 million per TWH (3.5 cents/kWh). An additional 2.2 TWh were curtailed at a cost of $120 million/TWh.

Total cost of wind capacity in 2016

11 TWh @ $135MM/TWh: $1,485 MM

2.2 TWh curtailed wind @$120MM/TWh: $264MM

TOTAL cost wind: $1,749 MM

LESS HOEP value of 11 TWh @$16.6MM/TWh: $183 MM

NET COST of wind to GA $1,566 MM

Solar

IESO reported solar generated .46 TWh in 2016 and the best estimate of DX generated solar at 15% of rated capacity for the 2,100 MW is 2.76 TWh for a total of 3.22 TWh. The average cost of solar generation in the province (roof and ground mounted) is about $480 million per TWh (48 cents/kWh).

Total cost of solar capacity in 2016:

3.22 TWh @480MM/TWh: $1,546MM

LESS HOEP value of 3.22 TWh @$16.6 MM/TWh: $53MM

NET COST of solar to GA: $1,493 MM         

Gas

Due to the intermittent and unreliable nature of wind and solar generation it must be backed up by other reliable generation capable of providing generation when the wind isn’t blowing or the clouds cover the sky. The back-up is generally provided by gas plants.  With 6,800 MW of wind and solar capacity the suggested replacement is 90% of capacity or about 6,120 MW of gas generation representing about 62% of its installed capacity (9,943 MW per IESO).  Gas plants are viewed as “peaking” plant capacity so contracts call for a monthly payment related to the amortized cost per MW and reputedly ranges from $10/15,000 per month per MW.   This calculation will use $10,000 per month/MW!

Total cost of gas generation as back-up for Wind and Solar in 2016

 6,120 MW @ $10,000 per month (6,120 X $10,000 X 12): $ 734 MM

Conservation

Another portion of money included in the GA is conservation spending allocated to all of the LDC based on commitments to reduce their demand over the 2015-2020 period. The total budget over those six years is about $2 billion so equates to $300 million per annum with a significant portion allocated to businesses and upgrades for low-income households.  The LDCs are allowed to apply for rate increases associated with their decline in revenue as a result of the conservation once achieved.

Total cost of conservation spending in 2016

Estimate based on 2015-2020 budget of $2B over 6 years: $ 300 MM

Ontario Electricity Support Program

The Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) launched on January 1, 2016 is aimed at low-income households who have suffered from the climb in electricity rates. The OEB study released in late 2014 estimated the cost of the program at $200/$225 million.  Logically, if the province was responsible for driving an estimated 571,000 ratepayers into energy poverty, the program’s cost should have been allocated to the Ontario Ministry of  Community and Social Services, but instead it has become another cost to all Ontario ratepayers.  At this point, the estimate of the first year’s costs are unknown, but if one assumes the OEB’s estimates were close they will impact all ratepayers.

Total cost of the OESP

 Estimate based on OEB’s study: $ 200 MM

GRAND TOTAL COST all of the above: $4,293 MM

Cost per terawatt hour of 14.22 TWh from wind, solar, conservation and OESP added to the GA  $302 million/TWh or 30.2 cents per kWh

 Missing from the above calculation is spilled hydro and nuclear power steamed off at Bruce Nuclear due to surplus base-load generation from wind and solar. The latter would add about another 5 TWh and another $300 million driving the per kWh cost to 32.5 cents per kWh.

If one deducts the 14.22 TWh from total Ontario generation (including DX) in 2016 one is left with 140.1 TWh and if the $4,293 million is deducted from the $12.333 billion of the 2014 GA cost the 140.1 terawatts from nuclear, hydro and gas generation cost was 19% of the GA or                   $57.38 million/TWh or 5.74 cents per kWh

The time has come to kill the Green Energy Act and return to sanity!

Hard to see through the fog of Wynne government energy promises

On October 21, 2013 Premier Wynne wrote a letter “To the people of Ontario” with a few promises.

“We must also unlock public data so that you can help us solve problems and find new ways of doing things. I believe that government data belongs to the people of Ontario and so we will make government data open by default.”

and

“Our Open Government initiative will help create the transparent, accessible government that the people of Ontario deserve. Over the months and years to come, we’ll be bringing forward additional initiatives that will improve transparency, accountability, and connectivity.”

Almost a year later, possibly in an effort to augment her promise of “transparency” she wrote “mandate letters” to her Ministers. To her Minister of Energy, Bob Chiarelli she said, “We want to be the most open and transparent government in the country. We want to be a government that works for the people of this province — and with them. It is of the utmost importance that we lead responsibly, act with integrity, manage spending wisely and are accountable for every action we take.” [Italics mine]

Premier Wynne’s “mandate letter” to the current energy Minister, Glenn Thibeault, September 23, 2016 said nothing about transparency but does say:  “At this halfway mark of this government’s mandate, I encourage you to build on the momentum that we have successfully achieved over the past two years, to work in tandem with your fellow ministers to advance our economic plan”.

After almost three and a half years since Wynne’s letter to the people, perhaps it’s time to look at the promise to “unlock public data” and how the “Open Government” promise has delivered on  “transparency”!

  • Two months after Wynne’s letter to her Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli, in an appearance on TVO he claimed, “since 2008, the province of Ontario – and you can verify it with the IESO — has made a $6 billion profit on the trading of electricity.”
  • Current Energy Minister, Glenn Thibeault when asked in an interview with Global TV for information on how many ratepayers were behind in their hydro bills and how many had been disconnected, he had no idea! Neither did the OEB, or Ministry of Energy staff. Thibeault wouldn’t admit there was a crisis.
  • Less than two months after Thibeault refused to agree there was a crisis, Premier Wynne admitted rising hydro bills were “an urgent issue”. Loss of a critical byelection finally opened her eyes.

The IESO (Independent Electricity System Operators) website dazzles with the amount of data available. Search using the terms “transparency” or “transparent” you get 2,800 hits. Impressive, but as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words!

IESO fail to provide data on:

  • How much wind is curtailed or
  • How much water is spilled by hydro electric generators or
  • How much nuclear is “steamed off” by Bruce Nuclear or
  • How much wind or solar distributor connection energy was produced or
  • How much money was generated from sales of surplus exported power to our neighbours and
  • How much that exported power cost Ontario’s ratepayers

IESO is responsible for the financial aspects of settling (contracted and/or regulated) with each and every generator in the province either directly or via local distribution companies, and also must settle with the buyers and sellers of both our exported and imported energy. In effect they play a major role in determining the final cost of what each and every ratepayer are charged for the line on their bills reading either “electricity” and “GA” or Global Adjustment.

They should be the purveyors of all the “public data” from the energy sector Premier Wynne referenced in her letter to us in September 2013 but as noted, they are falling short.

A recent event made that obvious.

On January 18, 2017, IESO issued a News Release, “ Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator Releases 2016 Electricity Data”. The release had a table summarizing Ontario’s transmission connected generator output by fuel type, listing the outputs as: Nuclear 91.4 TWh (terawatt hours), Hydro 35.6 TWh, and Wind 9.0 TWh respectively.   Two days later, those three “outputs” were suddenly different with Nuclear at 91.7 TWh, Hydro at 35.7 and Wind at 9.3 TWh.

No apologies, no explanations or even a mention they altered the original News Release. The .7 TWh added to the output represents a cost of about $70 million ratepayers will pay, yet no explanation was posted about the change.

In Ontario today, transparency is shrouded in fog, and “spending wisely” has been forsaken by this government, in the badly managed electricity sector.

Solar power: how much does it cost Ontario?

Solar: it costs plenty, too and has environmental "downsides" [Photo: IESO]
Solar: it costs plenty, too and has environmental “downsides” [Photo: IESO]
December 12, 2016

Earlier I deal with the question: “How much is wind power really costing Ontario?” Since then many have asked the same question about solar.

The actual generation of solar power is much harder to pin down on an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly basis as most of it is LDC (local distribution company) connected (DX), and the IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) doesn’t report it.

There appears to be only a single report, “Ontario’s System-Wide Electricity Supply Mix: 2015 Datawhere one can find solar information. That report is from the Ontario Energy Board and only produced annually. The OEB report for 2015 (dated July 21, 2016) doesn’t provide actual generation; instead it gives a percentage of its contribution (grid-connected and LDC-embedded) to total generation which then can be utilized to determine solar contribution to the supply mix. First, one must determine, via IESO, what actual generation was from all sources in Ontario.

The OEB report for 2015 indicates solar (grid-connected plus embedded) contributed 1.9% to Ontario’s total generation of 153.7 terrawatts (TWh). The 1.9% noted by the OEB would suggest combined generation for grid and LDC connected solar was 2.92 TWh for 2015.

The average price paid for solar (roof-top and ground mounted) is approximately $448.00/MWh or $448 million per TWh — that means the 2.92 TWh generated in 2015 cost ratepayers about $1.3 billion.

Not environmentally perfect

Unlike wind power projects, solar installations don’t appear to suffer a requirement to ensure either their decommissioning or recycling; the cost of either (or both) will presumably be a burden that eventually falls to taxpayers. A National Geographic article from November 2014, “How green are those solar panels, really?” had this to say: “As the world seeks cleaner power, solar energy capacity has increased sixfold in the past five years. Yet manufacturing all those solar panels, a Tuesday report shows, can have environmental downsides.”

When Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault recently suspended LRP II (the second phase of Large Renewable Procurement), trade association CanSIA (Canadian Solar Industries Association) expressed their disappointment: “…it represents a significant back-step from previously committed renewables procurement in the Province that we believe will be required to deal with supply and GHG emission risks, such as delayed nuclear refurbishment schedules, un-met conservation targets, or increased demand as a result of electrification to meet the province’s climate change targets.”

Needless to say, Ontario’s ratepayers were not disappointed. We would like to see Minister Thibeault fully “cancel” both LRP II and contracts awarded under LRP I, and any other contracts that have missed their agreed start dates.

13% of the costs for 1.9% of the power

The $1.3 billion for 1.9% of solar generation represents approximately 13% of the 2015 total Global Adjustment pot of $9,962.6 million and drives electricity costs up by almost $1 billion annually.

Further installations of solar generation in the latter part of 2015 and throughout 2016 such as the 100-MW Kingston Solar on 1,000 acres of land will add to the generation costs, increase our surplus generation, and further drive up the cost of electricity for ratepayers.

Parker Gallant

Wynne government in panic mode

First in a series of three

In July, Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault was pressed by Shirlee Engel of Global TV on the rising cost of electricity bills. He said, “While I’m still not using the word crisis,” said Thibeault. “I know it’s important. For one family if it’s a hundred bucks out of their own pocket that’s a crisis for them and I get that.”

In September Premier Wynne mentioned the word “hydro” at an international plowing match, and was instantly booed.

Now it appears we have a government in a panic mode trying to deal with a crisis of their own making.

The Throne Speech held promises about getting rid of the provincial portion of the HST on electricity bills. Then on September 13, 2016 a press release from Minister Thibeault confirmed the 8% reduction reducing bills $130 annually, and announced other actions such as, “Providing eligible rural ratepayers with additional relief, decreasing total electricity bills by an average of $540 a year or $45 each month”.

The press release did not detail what constitutes an “eligible” rural ratepayer; however, if it is just the 329,000 or so who are Hydro One’s “low-density” ratepayers the annual cost will be approximately $150 million. The press release went on to say: “Empowering businesses to reduce their bill by up to 34 per cent through the expansion of the Industrial Conservation Initiative” (ICI). 

Neither the Throne Speech nor the press releases say where the government is getting the money to pay for those initiatives, but removal of the 8% provincial portion of the HST will be on the backs of the taxpayers.

The electricity sector in the province is a $20-billion (before HST) business. That means $1.6 billion previously allocated to other ministries will now be unavailable, or the government will need to forgo balancing the budget or raise taxes/fees, etc. to cover off the lost tax revenue.

Minister Thibeault issued another press release in September related to “Empowering businesses to reduce their bill”.  This one had a “Customer Impact Example”:

“With more than a thousand new businesses soon eligible for ICI, cost impact across sectors and industries will vary. As an illustrative example of the impact, a plastics manufacturer with an average peak demand of 2 MW that participates in the ICI program could see its electricity price reduced from $154 per MWh to as low as $102 per MWh. This would result in energy cost savings of up to $42,000 per month.”

If you do the quick math on the above and assume each of those 1,000 plus businesses save $42,000 a month the reduction may be $500 million but once again, there is no indication where the funds will come from to cover those costs.

The above electricity bill reductions promised by the government total almost $2.2 billion and considerably more than the $1.5 billion in funds allocated to balancing the budget currently in dispute between the Ontario Auditor General and Liz Sandals, Ontario’s Treasury Board President.

So exactly how the governing party plans to pull off these bill reductions is not known.

Perhaps to create confusion amongst voters/taxpayers and inattentive media, Minister Thibeault issued another press release  September 27th announcing the “suspension” of LRP II to acquire 1,000 MW of renewable energy, principally in the form of wind, solar and biomass.  The press release declared  “This decision is expected to save up to $3.8 billion in electricity system costs relative to Ontario’s 2013 Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) forecast. This would save the typical residential electricity consumer an average of approximately $2.45 per month on their electricity bill, relative to previous forecasts.

It is unclear if Minister Thibeault is suggesting suspending future rate increases will somehow cover off the costs of his promises to reduce our electricity bills by $2.3 billion.

Or is it somehow related to the accounting dispute the government is engaged in with the Auditor General?

Parker Gallant