Ontario’s fond hopes for wind power dashed by reality

Ontario’s energy minister will likely crow about the $146 million in revenue from selling surplus power recently … too bad it cost consumers $892 million

 If you visit the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) website, the first page has the message:  “Wind is delivering clean, reliable and low-cost electricity”.  Anyone following my recent postings on how wind has either delivered almost no power or way too much, may have a different view.  You can also find this homily in the Energy Ministry’s just released 2017 Long-Term Electricity Plan, Delivering Fairness and Choice: “Wind power is also being produced more efficiently,” which distorts the truth!

Recent facts:

One day of wind power

Tuesday October 24, 2017 was a day when the wind was blowing strongly for 24 hours. IESO had forecast the approximately 4,220 MW of Tx (transmission-connected) capacity could have delivered 88,200 MWh of generation, meaning they would operate at over 86% of capacity.  Using that capacity value for the 580 MW of Dx (distributor-connected) turbines, another 12,080 MW were no doubt being generated at the same time — that meant almost 30% of Ontario’s total demand could have been supplied by wind.

As it stands, however, Ontario’s demand suggested we didn’t need all that power so IESO directed Tx connected turbine generators to curtail over 52,000 MWh. So, that same day, Ontario exported 40,300 MWh of free power to New York and Michigan, 11,700 MWh less than IESO curtailed.

The delivered and curtailed (paid for but not delivered) wind power on October 24th that wasn’t needed cost Ontario ratepayers $13.5 million or $280.60/MWh (28.1 cents/kWh).  If that happened every day the annual cost to Ontario’s ratepayers would be in excess of $5 billion.

Nine months of wind power

Let’s look at the nine months starting January 1, 2017 to the end of September and see what wind has contributed — and cost — Ontario ratepayers.  In the first nine months of 2017, industrial wind turbines could have produced about 9,820,000 megawatt hours (MWh) from Tx and Dx connected capacity — if curtailed generation was included! IESO however, forced curtailment of over 2,209,000* megawatt hours (MWh) or 22.5% of forecast generation to avoid compromising our grid and causing blackouts or brownouts.  Ontario ratepayers picked up the cost of curtailed power at $120 per/MWh costing them more than $265 million. The grid-accepted wind (7,620,395 MWh) cost; at $135/MWh added to the cost of curtailed wind brought the cost to ratepayers to almost $1.3 billion and more than $170/MWh (17cents/kWh). We would note when wind generation is high, IESO frequently instructs OPG to “spill water” and Bruce Nuclear to “steam off” power. Ratepayers also pick up those costs.

Nine months of (net) exports

From January 1, 2017 to September 30, 2017, Ontario’s net exports (exports minus imports) were 9,058,008 MWh. Those net exports were sold at somewhere close to the HOEP or hourly Ontario electricity price which to the end of September averaged $16.15MWh, so net exports sales generated about $146 million in revenue.  The sale price does not include the GA or Global Adjustment (the difference between contracted or regulated rates and the HOEP), meaning Ontario’s ratepayers picked up the average GA costs to the end of September.  The GA averaged $98.48/MWh for the first nine months of the current year, so the 9,058,008 MWh of net exports cost Ontario’s ratepayers just over $892 million dollars!   That is the equivalent of almost $200 per average residential ratepayer.

And the year isn’t over.

To put those net exports in context, Ontario’s net exports represented slightly over 92% of both the curtailed and delivered wind generation in the first nine months of the year, yet we were burdened with the cost of $892 million dollars for them, along with the costs of wind curtailment of $265 million.

The foregoing makes CanWEA’s claim of “low-cost electricity” and the Energy Ministry’s comments about wind power “being produced more efficiently” look to be simply fond hopes!



* My thanks to Scott Luft for his ability to generate reliable wind data using IESO’s files.