5 reasons you can’t believe the wind power lobby spin

Part 1 of an analysis of the lobbyist’s claims for low power prices and good times ahead

Since the new Government of Ontario announced it would repeal the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA), the wind power trade association and lobbyist CanWEA, together with the Ontario NDP, Ontario Green Party and numerous environmental groups such as Environmental Defence, Greenpeace Canada, etc., have been throwing temper tantrums.

The consistent claim was “it will have a chilling effect on job creation and investors in the clean economy.” CanWEA have been one of the most outspoken complainers issuing several press releases  with spurious claims about wind power.

One blog post, on October 11, 2018, was the most blatant of the propaganda campaign.  It was titled “Five reasons why wind energy is Ontario’s best option for new electricity supply” and, then, in case you missed it, or to support a new PR onslaught in Ontario, it was reposted via their Facebook page March 31, 2019. The post references selected CanWEA and AWEA claims, including some prepared by others but paid for by CanWEA.

Let’s examine their claimed “five reasons” to choose wind power, starting with two

  1. CanWEA claim: “Wind energy is now the lowest-cost new electricity source” and note: “Alberta recently agreed to procure power from four wind generation projects at an average contract price of 3.7 cents per kilowatt hour – a price that is considerably below the cost of power generation in Ontario today.”

CanWEA fails to disclose that for each MWh of power, wind generators are given a REC (renewable energy certificate) which can be sold to anyone required to either reduce their emissions or purchase a carbon credit/REC. Valuations vary with demand but RECs generally have a value of $15/50 MWh or 1.5/5.0 cents/KWh. If the value of that REC was included in the CanWEA claim, they would have to say the “average contract price” was from 5.2 cents/kWh to 8.7 cents/kWh. Wind power generation in Alberta, as in Ontario, gets “first to the grid rights” meaning whatever is produced, no matter the need, must be accepted by the Alberta Electric System Operator/AESO.

If the wind power isn’t needed, AESO disperses other generation, which they presumably pay for, adding electricity generation costs to ratepayer bills. To make that clearer — In Alberta the AESO in a report notes wind generation negatively impacts pricing. A chart of wind’s capacity factor during “AIL (Alberta Internal Load) peak demand” (in the report) in 2017 shows wind reflected at 6% of its capacity!

That is a clear message that wind cannot be counted on to deliver power when needed.

Those same issues/problems are found in Ontario (wind rated at 12% of capacity) and most other regions around the world where industrial wind turbines represent a minor or major part of grid-connected capacity.

2.CanWEA claim: “Wind energy provides significant economic benefits” and states: “Ontario leads Canada in wind energy operations and wind energy supplies almost 8 per cent of the province’s electricity demand.”

One assumes the 8% refers to 2017, as 2018 results for Ontario were unknown at the time of the CanWEA post in October 2018. Total grid-connected generation, including gross exports in 2017, were 151.2 TWh. Wind accepted generation was 9.2 TWh which represents 6.1% of total demand.

If you include the 3.3 TWh of curtailed wind the wind power owners were paid for, the percentage rises to 8.1% .

That makes the delivered price for grid-accepted wind 17.8 cents/kWh.

And, that 17.8 cents/kWh doesn’t include the 6 TWh of spilled hydro or the 1 TWh of steamed-off nuclear, or the costs of idling gas plants (for when the wind doesn’t blow) which would add another $860 million more driving wind costs to ratepayers to over 27 cents/kWh.

CanWEA’s claim includes several other assertions.

Thousands of well paying, much-needed jobs in manufacturing, construction and local services” and provides a link to a report commissioned by CanWEA by Compass Renewable Energy Consulting Inc. In the Compass report, a chart indicates the economic benefits the 5,552 MW of industrial wind turbines in the province will create. Over the years (2006-2030) “Direct and Indirect Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) [of] 64,500”. They define FTEs as: “Full Time Equivalents refers to full time employment for one year. One FTE = 2,080 hours.” If one calculates the annual jobs the forecast of 64,500 FTE over 20 years (normal FIT contract terms) for 5,552 MW of wind power results in an average of 322.5 jobs annually. This is hardly something to be bragging about.

A stable source of income for landowners” which fails to mention the landowner is committed to a “non-disclosure agreement” meaning if adverse effects occur such as health problems experienced by the landowner families or animals, they can say nothing. Also, if the developer has incurred debt to erect the turbines, the lender will frequently register a lien on the property which may affect the ability of the landowner to borrow funds using the property as security. The landowner is also usually committed to extend the terms of the lease via the agreement for further periods of time in the event the developers contract may be extended.

Property tax revenue for municipalities” which is true, but … the revenue is nominal as the wind turbines are subject to industrial rates that have no connection to their capital costs (approximately $1.5 million per megawatt [MW]) whereas all other industry in a municipality, pay taxes on the full value of their invested capital. This means the decree by former Minister of Finance, Dwight Duncan to MPAC to assess IWT at only $40K per MW is still enforced with only minor adjustments.   The “tax revenue” to municipalities is often much less due to the declined values of households affected by the closeness of those turbines. It frequently causes a net tax loss to municipalities.

Funding for community-based initiatives” is something that was forced on wind developers as many communities wanted to fight back, but were thwarted in Ontario by the GEA. They tried using existing by-laws under their control but usually lost. In order for the developers to proceed with limited objection they proffered “community funding”! The funding was normally less than one half a percent (0.5%) of anticipated revenue so many municipalities accepted the tokenism.

New and sustainable revenue for Indigenous partners” which the Ontario Liberal Government built into the FIT program presumably to suggest support for First Nations by offering higher subsidies if some ownership was held by them. This allowed the developers to negotiate use of First Nations land for the erection of those IWT similar to the “Funding for community-based initiatives”.

Last, this assertion.

Ontario’s wind energy industry is at the heart of a growing wind turbine operations and maintenance business for Canada’s 6400+ wind turbines”. This claim came about because CanWEA established an     O & M (operations and maintenance)“ program to bring together stakeholders to address key challenges facing Canadian wind farm operators. Its key areas of focus are determined by program participants, and include benchmarking data, health and safety best practices, improved networking, and information sharing on critical issues like wildlife and the environment.” Why CanWEA brags about normal maintenance issues is beyond the pale, but claiming “improved networking and information sharing” should be read as their ability to lobby hard for the developers in respect to those “critical issues” that actually connect with the public like noise emissions and health problems, and the killing of birds and bats.

PARKER GALLANT

Soon: Part 2 in this series will deal with the remaining three claims made by CanWEA

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Wind power lobbyist spins numbers to its advantage

Too bad the facts show that actually, wind power isn’t needed in Ontario

Comber wind project with 72 turbines: add up ALL the costs for the truth

The trade association and lobbyist for the wind power development industry, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), loves to provide its audience with information that only shows them in a good light. Their audience, “environmental” organizations and gullible politicians are easily sold.

Once again CanWEA has put the spin out.

A recent short post is titled “A Canadian Success Story” and it claims “Wind energy met approximately 6 per cent of Canada’s electricity demand in 2017 – and more than that in jurisdictions such as P.E.I. (28 per cent), Nova Scotia (12 per cent), Ontario (8 per cent), Alberta (7 per cent) and New Brunswick (7 per cent).”

It is curious as to why CanWEA would have used 2017 as their “success story” as it was an expensive one for Ontario’s ratepayers. Wind generation, the curtailment of excess generation, the need for backup gas plants, and the inability of wind to deliver actual power when needed, all played a significant role in continuing to drive up costs for Ontario electricity consumers.

Power arriving on the grid when demand was low was a big factor in the creation of the Fair Hydro Plan by the former government. IESO reported grid-connected wind delivered 9.2 TWh (terawatt hours) which was only 6.4% of total grid-connected generation — not the 8% claimed by CanWEA. Another 3.3 TWh of wind generation was curtailed in 2017 which added costs.

The 9.2 TWh delivered to the grid cost ratepayers $1,242 million and the 3.3 TWh curtailed added another $396 million, bringing the total cost of wind generation to Ontario’s ratepayers to $1.638 billion or 17.7 cents/kWh! If spilled hydro of 6 TWh and 1 TWh of steamed-off nuclear caused by wind due to surplus baseload generation (SBG) conditions, their costs of about $330 million bring the total cost of wind generation to $1.968 billion. And that is without gas plant idling costs for when wind is absent.

The total costs for all grid-supplied electricity in 2017 amounted to approximately $16 billion. So, the cost of wind power generation, along with the wasted hydro and nuclear, represented about 12.3% of all costs for 6.4% of their grid-accepted generation. If costs of our exports were included, wind generation effects on our electricity bills would be even higher. In 2017, nuclear and hydro supplied 97.1% of Ontario’s demand; with the spilled (wasted) hydro of 6 TWh and the 1 TWh of steamed-off nuclear, they could have supplied 102%.

In other words, wind wasn’t needed.

Scanning stats for a couple of months in 2018 shows that during the hot and high demand summer months of July and August, wind generation does what it generally does — falls flat. Data supplied by Scott Luft and the IESO monthly summaries shows wind provided only 4% of Ontario’s demand in July and 4.4% in August. In May 2018, a low demand month, grid-connected wind supplied 5.7% of Ontario demand. It could have supplied 9.1%, but almost 40% of what it could have generated was curtailed due to the month’s low demand.

What this all demonstrates, again, is the intermittency and unreliability of power from wind turbines. Wind power forces ratepayers to simply hand out money without any benefit.

Our politicians need to recognize spin when they see it, and understand that wind turbines provide almost no value in reducing emissions, or providing a reliable supply of electrical power.

PARKER GALLANT

 

Ontario Energy Board looked the other way on rising electricity bills

After seven years, the Ontario Energy Board has determined that a move by the McGuinty government to shift the burden of electricity costs to smaller ratepayers was “complicated and non-transparent.” What took them so long to find out that out, when it cost Ontario citizens billions?

Where your money went [Shutterstock photo]
Back in 2011, the Dalton McGuinty government introduced the Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI) with the idea of changing the way Global Adjustment (GA) costs were allocated to different classes of consumers. “The stated purpose of the ICI is to provide large consumers with an incentive to reduce consumption at critical peak demand times. The resulting reductions in peak demand were expected to reduce the need to invest in new peaking generation and imports of electricity from coal-reliant jurisdictions.”

The government had been lobbied hard by the Association of Major Power Consumers of Ontario (AMPCO) who had been feeling the effects of climbing power rates brought on by the Green Energy Act (GEA) and the resulting FIT (feed-in-tariff) contracts for renewable energy (wind and solar).

Needless to say, the Liberal government caved, the ICI was born and officially started September 2011.

Just over a week ago the Ontario Energy Board released a report titled: The Industrial Conservation Initiative: Evaluating its Impact and Potential Alternative Approaches. What struck me immediately was this sentence in the Executive Summary: “In the Panel’s view, the ICI as presently structured is a complicated and non-transparent means of recovering costs, with limited efficiency benefits.”

It took the OEB seven years to come to this conclusion. And they are supposed to be the regulators for the energy sector. Their vision is: “The OEB supports and guides the continuing evolution of the Ontario energy sector by promoting outcomes and innovation that deliver value for all Ontario energy consumers.”

So, it took seven years to determine the ICI wasn’t delivering value?

The ICI was created via a change in the Regulations* and was posted August 27, 2010 on the Environmental Registry with this statement:  “As a result of the consultation, there was general agreement that the proposed changes would result in a net benefit to electricity consumers, the electricity system and the broader Ontario economy.”

The new OEB report noted the Class B to Class A shift commencing in 2011 “has shifted nearly $5 billion in electricity costs from larger consumers to smaller ones. In 2017, the ICI shifted $1.2 billion in electricity costs to households and small businesses—nearly four times greater than the amount in 2011.”

Wondering what 2018 would bring in respect to the B to A shift and, knowing IESO now posts both consumption and costs of the GA by customer class on their website, it was worth an exercise to determine if the $1.2 billion shift of 2017 would increase or decrease.  Using IESO’s data it appears the subsidy for the first 11 months was about $35.4 million per TWh (terawatt hour).  Based on 36.9 TWh consumed by Class A ratepayers the cost shift is $1.306 billion.  The 4,665,000 residential ratepayers who use 9 MW of electricity annually will absorb approximately 30% of those costs — in other words, it represents an annual subsidy to Class A customers of almost $100 from each ratepayer.

Small and medium sized businesses will pay a lot more absorbing the remaining 70%, or about $900 million!

Now you know why the price of that hamburger and everything else went up!

Electricity price increases have hit all classes of ratepayers in the province and now that we see the shift of costs, it is helpful to look at the cause!

Renewable energy in the form of wind and solar** power generation has played a big part in rising electricity bills, so it is an interesting exercise to do a simple calculation to determine what wind generation and curtailment have cost in the first 11 months of 2018.   My friend, Scott Luft posts actual wind generation and curtailment for grid-connected (TX) and distributor-connected (DX)*** wind.  Calculating the TX, wind generated (9.655 TWh) and curtailed (1.940 TWh) for the 11 months indicates costs were $1.305 billion for grid-accepted generation and $230 million for curtailed (paid for but not used) wind.

That brings total costs of intermittent and unreliable wind to more than $1.5 billion. ****

What this simple exercise really does of course is demonstrate how our costs would be much less without intermittent wind power generation, which is produced out-of-phase with demand in Ontario. Considering first-to-the-grid rights for wind power operators means it also results in spillage or waste of hydro (5.9 TWh in 2017) and nuclear steam-off (1 TWh in 2017) and must be backed up with gas generation — all of which we pay for — wind power simply increases our electricity bills without any significant benefit to the environment or power system.

If solar costs were also included in these calculations, we would be in the $3 to 4 billion range.

Short story: Without all that waste, all classes of Ontario ratepayers would have reasonable and cost-competitive electricity rates.

Conclusion                                                                                                                                       The OEB should have stood up for consumers a lot sooner and called out the government for NOT delivering the “outcomes and innovation that deliver[d] value for all Ontario energy consumers.”  Instead, the OEB simply watched while billions of dollars were removed from ratepayers’ pockets for foreign-owned wind power developments and stood by for seven years while residential, small and medium sized businesses provided increasing subsidies to large industrial companies for a program “with limited efficiency benefits.”

PARKER GALLANT

* Class A was limited to very large consumers with an average monthly peak demand of more than 5 MW (primarily large industrial consumers). Since then, the government has expanded eligibility such that Class A now includes all consumers with an average monthly peak demand of more than 1 MW, as well as consumers in certain manufacturing, industrial and agricultural sectors with an average monthly peak demand of more than 0.5 MW.

**IESO do not disclose solar generation until early the following year                                                                                                                                                      ***Estimated for grid connected but generally very close to actual generation.

****Generated wind at $135/MWH and curtailed at $120/MWh.

Wind power: separating truth from spin

The quote “A lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth” is attributed to Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945.

Ontarians have been lied to by politicians (although none has held the title “Minister of Propaganda”) particularly related to electricity. Here are some examples.

Job creation                                                                                                                                           Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy and Infrastructure George Smitherman, in a speech to the Toronto Board of Trade February 20, 2009 at the launch of the Green Energy Act had this gem: “Mimicking the impressive employment growth in various European jurisdictions, economic modeling projects that the GEA will create more than 50,000 jobs in the next three years.”

Those jobs never materialized despite repeating that claim (lie?). Instead as electricity costs climbed many good manufacturing jobs were actually lost inOntario.

Low cost renewables                                                                                                                                           Smitherman also made an interesting claim to the Ontario Standing Committee on Estimates on May 27, 2009.  He said: “Through our projected investments and expenditures as part of the Green Energy Act, electricity prices are expected to rise approximately 1% annually, on average, over the next 15 years for ratepayers.”

Wow, 1% annually over the next 15 years! What really happened was that at the end of 2008, electricity prices were 5.2 cents/kWh, and by the end of 2017 they were 11.55 cents/kWh for an increase of 122% for residential ratepayers over the nine years. Not quite the 9% increase Smitherman promised (under oath) to the Committee. Needless to say, those claims were repeated over and over again to presumably make us believe it was the truth.

CanWEA’s role                                                                                                                                                                         One can only assume fabrications like these were developed as part of a communications strategy either by politicians or by stakeholders who stood to reap financial benefits from the passage of the Green Energy Act. The spin by lobbyist and trade association the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) and by “environmentalists” has been constant in order to get buy-in from gullible politicians! The spin has been highlighted in the past by many including me. A couple of examples are:

  1. A 2016 Pan Canadian Wind Integration Study (partially funded with tax dollars) in an article titled: Wind power industry claims Canada needs more wind power–with a hefty price tag for electricity customers and more recently another
  2. One titled Wind Power in Panic Mode as a new Ontario Government signaled the end of lucrative wind energy contracts and another more recent one titled
  3. CanWEA makes promises it can’t keep which suggested Canada could get one third of its power from industrial wind turbines (IWT)

Still spinning

CanWEA’s spin hasn’t stopped as their President Robert Hornung once again is singing the praises of that biased Pan Canadian Study in a recent posting on their website titled: Wind Energy: A Reliable Part of Today’s Energy Mix. Hornung’s article on wind power has Hornung describing it as “low-cost” twice, as “reliable” eight times and he even makes the claim that wind turbines would “help grid operators maintain reliability in the case of system imbalances or emergencies – services wind energy can often supply to the grid more quickly and cost-effectively than conventional generation.”

As if that wasn’t enough of a blatant distortion of reality, Hornung suggests the Pan Canadian “study found that if Alberta increased its wind energy capacity from 1,500 MW to 17,700 MW, reserves would need to increase by only 430 MW or 2.4 per cent of total wind energy capacity. In most of the rest of Canada the percentage would be even lower.”

What he doesn’t mention in the same context is the billions and billions of dollars needed to augment the grid via transmission spending for the many times wind turbines simply don’t generate sufficient power. The net result would mean Alberta and “most of Canada” would need to depend on neighbours to supply them with electricity should the wind be dormant—that would require those major transmission enhancements. As an alternative wind power could be backed up with gas plants as we do in Ontario and as elsewhere around the world.

It certainly appears CanWEA is hoping to convince Premier Notley or her successor that Alberta should believe his spin just as the Ontario government did under former Premiers McGuinty and Wynne. As if Alberta (and Canada) is not suffering enough due to the restricted ability for the province to build even one to pipeline to get a natural resource (oil) to a competitive market.

“Politics preys on people’s naivete,” wrote Bangambiki Habyarimana, in his book Pearls of Eternity.

Many people have taken advantage of Ontarians’ wish to do what’s right for the environment by using “feel good” promises and claims for power and profit.

In the future it is likely those who were preyed upon will realize the benefits promised by wind power proponents was simply “spin” meant to capitalize on their naivete.

PARKER GALLANT

OPG: generating less power, but earning more

Lots more. A record, in fact.

K2 Wind: first-to-the-grid rights for wind and solar, and lucrative 20-year contracts added to costs

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) released its 3rd Quarter report in mid-November, and it was impressive!

Revenue was up $156 million to $1,373 million (+12.8%) and after-tax income was 113% higher, increasing from $131 million to $279 million. For the first nine months of 2018, OPG reports RoE (return on equity) of 10.8% and will easily generate record after-tax profits for the full year of well over $1 billion. Nine-month profits sit at $948 million, up 84% or $433 million—that’s a record.

Revenue is also poised to crack the $5 billion-dollar level (nine-month revenue is $4,062 million) as it has many times in the past; however, after-tax profits have never been this high since the creation of OPG in 1999 when Ontario Hydro was broken up into several different entities.

What’s interesting about those record profits? OPG is record profits despite a substantial decline in generation.

Look at year-end December 31 2000: OPG generated and sold (into the grid) 139.8 TWh (terawatt hours) and earned revenue of $5,978 million for an after-tax profit of $605 million.   What that means is, back in 2000, OPG’s approximate cost to generate 1 TWh was $42.7 million (4.3 cents/kWh). In 2018 (so far) the cost has jumped to $74.8 million (7.5 cents/kWh) for the 54.3 TWh delivered in the first 9 months.

The 54.3 TWh delivered so far in 2018 is down from the comparable 2017 period by 1.7 TWh or 3% and from 2000 (9 months) by 49.4 TWh* or 46%!   Comparing the first nine months of 2018 to 2000, net income is up $405 million or 74.6%

With such significant drops in generation one would expect net income to drop so what happened?

Some five years ago (December 4, 2013) an article I wrote for Energy Probe was headed up: “OPG-whipping boy for the Ministry of Energy” and it outlined how the GEA (Green Energy Act) had a detrimental effect on OPG’s electricity generation and its revenue, which resulted in declining profits.

I noted how their many “unregulated hydro” assets received only the HOEP (hourly Ontario energy prices) which produced revenue of just over 2 cents/kWh, and how they had been instructed to build “Big Becky” (cost of $1.5 billion) and the Mattagami run-of-river project (cost of $2.6 billion).  Falling out of the GEA also was the rise in prices caused by wind and solar generation with first-to-the-grid rights and had resulted in declines in consumption. That meant much of OPG’s power generation was called on less and less.

OPG were also instructed by the Liberal Minister of Energy to convert power plants such as Atikokan and Thunder Bay from coal to biomass and to close the remaining coal-fired plants, one of which required a multi-million dollar write-down for prior expenditures on “scrubbers” to eliminate emissions.

As all this was happening, over the subsequent years, OPG applied for rate increases such as being paid “regulated prices” for all of their hydro assets and for revenue when they were forced to spill hydro. Those were eventually approved along with other increases to cover pension contribution shortfalls, increases in operational management and administrative costs (OMA), and for refurbishment of some nuclear plants.

OPG’s capacity has fallen from 25,800 MW in 2000** to 16,218 MW today, yet in 2000 they generated electricity at a capacity level of almost 62%. So far in 2018, they are operating at a capacity level of just under 51%.

OPG power could have eliminated excessive costs for wind and solar

If OPG were granted the rights to operate at the 62% level of capacity as they did in 2000, they could have generated 65.8 TWh easily, replacing all the generation produced by industrial wind turbines and solar panels. That generation would have resulted in a cost of electricity of less than 7.5 cents/kWh and eliminated the excessive costs for wind and solar under those 20-year contracts!

Today, OPG seems to no longer look like the “whipping boy” but still produces power at prices well below the costs of contracted generation under the GEA and should earn over $1 billion for 2018!

PARKER GALLANT

*Enough to power all of Ontario’s 4.9 million households for a full year with over 5 TWh left over.         **Staffing levels have dropped from 12,250 (including 650 under contract) in 2000 to 7,700 in 2018 meaning the ratio of employees to capacity has remained static at 2.1 employees per MW.

IESO wants you to get “cosy”

IESO wants residential ratepayers to “Set the mood”

Maybe IESO wants you to use a cat to stay warm [Photo: SaveONenergy]
It’s true! Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) in a recent posting on their SaveOnEnergy site suggested we “Cut the lights and light some candles to set the mood for a cozy evening.”

IESO spends approximately $400 million annually on conservation initiatives, and they come up with this? They even go so far as to describe the event as a “Hygge, a Danish word: (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special.”

I personally find it ironic that the word chosen by IESO is Danish. Denmark is where electricity prices for residential homes is the most expensive in Europe* at EURO per kWh of 0.3126 or Canadian 0.48 cents per kWh.  Doesn’t that make all Ontario residents feel cosy!

Denmark is home to VESTAS and their product line is exclusively wind turbines. Vestas employs over 24,000 people which makes them one of the 10 largest employers in the country.  Vestas’s website claim they have installed 97 GW (97,000 MW) of industrial wind turbines (IWT) globally.  All those noise-emitting, bird- and bat-killing, intermittent and unreliable wind turbines might make the Danes “cosy” but somehow I doubt it, with the price they are paying for electricity.

The IESO post suggests we: turn off the phone, unplug appliances and devices, eat comfort food and use energy-efficient cooking methods like a pressure cooker! ** The message to the reader goes on to suggest pulling on wool socks and using our favourite blanket to get cosy and then to “get lost in the moment” by reading our favourite book!

IESO should stop the wasted spending on conservation efforts of this ilk. Does IESO not understand we are all billed monthly for our cost of electricity usage and have been doing our best to “stay cosy”?  For many it has been an effort to simply avoid energy poverty.

Stop lecturing us, stop wasting our money and focus your efforts on managing the grid in a manner that will reduce the costs of electricity.

PARKER GALLANT

*Demark has the highest prices for residential electricity out of 41 European countries listed by Eurostat.

**Full disclosure—my wife’s pressure cooker recently blew up and created a mess in our kitchen which we now must repair.

Parker Gallant eats crow on gas power generation (really!)

An eye-opening tour of the Lennox plant in Eastern Ontario leads to starting calculations, too

Lennox power station in Bath–fast, efficient, low cost …what the heck did we need wind power for? [Photo: OPG]
Back in late May and just before the Ontario provincial election, I wrote a “what if” post titled; “If I were Ontario’s new Minister of Energy ” which was suggested how I would undertake to reduce the costs of electricity.

So far, a few of my recommendations have actually happened.

I won’t linger over the enacted or missed ones but I will focus instead on my suggestion that we close the “Lennox oil/gas plant in Napanee/Bath with a capacity of 2,200 MW that is never used.”

I received an invitation to tour the Lennox plant and I accepted! The tour was led by John Hefford, VP Regional Operations-Eastern Region, who has responsibility for not only Lennox but for all the hydro generating facilities located in the eastern part of Ontario, which (including Lennox), totals about 4,800 MW — that’s about 30% of OPG’s total capacity.

Driving toward the Lennox plant one can’t help but notice, in the distance, the industrial wind turbines (IWTs) recently built on Amherst Island (“owl capital” of North America).  That project is considered one of the most divisive wind power projects ever awarded a contract by IESO under the McGuinty/Wynne  governments.

The tour combined with a takeaway “Overview” of Lennox was truly enlightening.  The most noteworthy bits of information picked up were related to the ability of each of the four 525-MW turbines to ramp up quickly from their minimum load point of only 28 MW or 5%.  To put that into perspective, the other gas plants operating in Ontario are mainly CCGTs (Combined Cycle Gas Turbines) and they have to idle at minimum loads that are six to 14 times higher.

The ramping load point at Lennox logically translates to much lower emissions than the units added to Ontario’s grid(s) backing up industrial wind turbines (IWT) and solar under the FIT (feed-in-tariff) program.

The other significant difference between the CCGTs and single-cycle Combustion Turbines (CTs) is in respect to idling costs: for Lennox the cost is about $4,200 MW per month versus CCGT generators with costs of $10,000 MW per month to $20,000 MW per month, and CTs which average about $10,000 MW.

Another impressive piece of information picked up on the tour is the ability of the units to operate on either natural gas or residual oil (or both). That means, if a fuel cost spikes due to high demand (e.g., gas in the “Polar Vortex” winter of 2014) Lennox can switch to the other fuel. Lennox was also recently called on when a Pickering nuclear unit was shut down due to the 2018 Lake Ontario algae situation.

IESO forecasted shortfall                                                                                                         It appears likely Lennox will be called on to provide the capacity during the shortfall that  the IESO projects during the upcoming nuclear refurbishment years. From a ratepayer perspective, it makes sense.

Carbon tax calculations

Completing the tour and driving home led me to the questions of how much Ontario’s ratepayers might have saved if Lennox had been deemed the back-up for wind and solar power generation or had been used to generate electricity instead of handing out high priced 20-year contracts under the FIT program.  The first question would take an inordinate amount of research, so I opted for the latter!

A report (IESO prepared?) titled the Ontario Energy Report has a chart showing emissions generated by the electricity sector and the report for year-end 2017 indicated emissions in Ontario were 14 mt* in 2009 and 3 mt in 2017, for a decline of 11 mt in 9 years. The decline was touted by the Wynne government as attributable to renewable energy in the form of wind and solar.

Looking only at the wind power generation and its associated cost in those nine years provides an indication of just how much Ontario’s ratepayers have paid on a per ton basis to achieve that 11 mt drop! According to the IESO, from 2009 to 2017, wind turbines generated 53.1 TWh (terawatt hours) and since we commenced paying for curtailed power (paid for but not used), ratepayers picked up those costs for about 6.9 TWh.

So, the approximate costs of the grid-accepted wind power generation was about $7.2 billion, and for the curtailed generation was another $800 million. That brings the overall costs of the 11 mt reduction to about $8 billion!

The cost of that reduction of 11 mt looking at IWT (generation and curtailed) only and without solar, works out to $655/ton!

Ontario’s ratepayers have obviously done their bit to reduce emissions and will continue to pay more until the wind turbines and those 20-year FIT contracts finally expire.

We don’t need a carbon tax.

PARKER GALLANT

P.S. The second in this two-part series about Lennox will follow shortly, covering off how much we might have saved without wind power

*mt denotes “megaton” equal to one million tons.