One (megawatt) is the loneliest number

On one day recently, for one hour, Ontario’s thousands of towering wind turbines delivered just one megawatt of power. And still, Ontario  had a surplus that was sold off cheap.

May 27 was a Saturday which is usually a “low demand” day for electricity in Ontario, compared to weekday power demand and assuming weather patterns are close to average. The temperature on the recent May 27 was slightly below historic averages in Toronto; as people woke up and set about their activities that day, the demand for electricity built slowly.

According to the IESO’s (Independent Electricity System Operator) Daily Market Summary, Ontario demand peaked at 14,069 MW and averaged 12,751 MW (total Ontario demand was 306,024 MWh for the whole day).  If anyone checked IESO’s “Power Data” page at, say, just after 11 AM, they would have noted demand was 13,208 MW at 10 AM and the HOEP (Hourly Ontario Energy Price) was indicating a negative price of -$4.00 /MWh.   If one had also looked at the “Generator Output and Capability” and scrolled down to “Wind Total” they would have seen that under the heading “Output” the number appearing on the screen was “1”!

As in, one single megawatt of power.

About half the capacity of one ordinary wind turbine.

So, at 10 AM on May 27, 2017 the approximately 4,500 MW capacity of the more than 2,000 wind turbines installed throughout the province by the McGuinty/Wynne governments with lucrative, 20-year contracts, were delivering one megawatt of power.

And yet, to the best of my knowledge, Ontario didn’t experience a blackout or brownout because intermittent wind power generation was almost completely absent, nor did our emissions increase, as we got all the power needed from nuclear and hydro resources.   In addition, the almost 9,000 MW of gas generation was idling, operating at an average of about 2% of capacity almost all day.

Despite wind only producing an average hourly output of 75 MW for the day and just the “1” for hour 10, Ontario still exported 43,584 MW of power at a cost to ratepayers of $5.6 million*.

Despite the lackluster performance of industrial wind turbines May 27 and on many other occasions, a visit to the home page of CanWEA still claims:  “Wind is delivering clean, reliable and low-cost electricity”!

Sure!

Perhaps with another 4,500 MW of capacity in Ontario, the industrial wind turbines may have delivered TWO MW of power at 10 AM on May 27?

 

*Cost estimate assumes the second IESO estimate of May’s Global Adjustment of $127.76 holds up.

CanWEA wants to “reap” more “benefits” from wind energy

The wind industry association claims wind power is the “least-cost” option. The numbers tell a different story [Photo: IESO]
The past few days presented a couple of conflicting news events that made you want to scratch your head in wonderment.

First was a CTV news item June 5 headlined “Wasted green power tests China’s energy leadership”. The article stated: “In western China’s Gansu province, 43 per cent of energy from wind went unused in 2016, a phenomenon known in the energy industry as ‘curtailment.’ In the neighbouring Xinjiang region, the curtailment figure was 38 per cent and in northeast China’s Jilin province it was 30 per cent. The nationwide figure, 17 per cent, was described by Qiao’s organization as ‘shockingly high’ after increasing for several years in a row.”  It went on to say: “The problem threatens to slow China’s progress in clearing its air and controlling the greenhouse gas emissions that make it the top contributor to climate change.”

A CanWEA blog (Canadian Wind Energy Association) by Brandy Giannetta, also on June 5,  was headlined:  “Adding more wind to the Ontario grid: no problem!”

Ms. Giannetta made these claims:  

“Ontario could reliably integrate about 16,000 megawatts of wind energy (which would be able to meet more than a third of electricity demand in the scenario studied).

The additional amount of electricity generation reserves required to back up that 16,000 MW of wind (beyond the reserve capacity already in the system) would be as small as 196 megawatts, or 1.2 per cent of the wind energy capacity.

Wind energy, which is now the least-cost option for new electricity generation available in Ontario, would avoid about $49 per megawatt-hour of production costs within the electricity system if it supplied 35 per cent of Ontario’s electricity demand.”

The claims made on the blog supposedly used information from a partially taxpayer-funded, three-year study released in July 2016 co-sponsored by CanWEA and Natural Resources Canada and carried out by GE Energy Consulting, a subsidiary of General Electric. (GE’s website claims  “Our portfolio of turbines feature rated capacities from 1.7 MW to 3.8 MW (Onshore) and 6MW (Offshore), we are uniquely suited to meet the needs of a broad range of wind regimes.”)  As one would expect there is a “legal notice” (disclaimer) at the start of the report which names CanWEA as their client.

Needless to say, the report is extensive but looking at the 62-page Section 1, Summary Report, I noted the following, suggesting CanWEA suggest the small “reserve capacity” of  only 196 MW is required to back up the 11,000 MW of new wind capacity and could be integrated:

“1.11.9 Reduced Reserves from Conventional Generation    — This sensitivity examined the impact of reducing the level of spinning reserves obtained from conventional generation resources (thermal and hydro). Instead the reserves could be obtained from demand response, storage devices, or other nonconventional resources. This approach could reduce curtailment during periods where conventional generation resources are dispatched to their minimum output limits.”

The suggested CanWEA small 196-MW “reserves” being all that would be needed is a huge “stretch goal” (to use a phrase once favoured by the ruling Ontario government) and highly improbable!  It suggests dispatching existing “conventional generation resources” will allow wind to contribute a lot more of its intermittent and unreliable generation.

The same section contained a stumbling block in respect to containing further cost increases as it notes: “Production simulation results show no significant reduction in curtailment. This indicates that the system is not constrained by the commitment of conventional generation units for reserve services.”

What that means is, curtailment will remain as is, as long as ratepayers pick up the costs of constraining conventional generation. It infers industrial wind generation be treated as “base-load” with “first to the grid” rights!   Somehow, CanWEA view the expensive: “demand response, storage devices or other nonconventional resources” along with dispatch of conventional generation as an unrelated cost ratepayers must pay for unreliable and intermittent generation from industrial wind turbines, yet they claim “wind is now the least-cost option”.  This appears to be CanWEA’s contribution to the “Fair Hydro Plan” kicking wind’s integration costs to the ratepayers bills!

Now with two conflicting perspectives about IWT curtailment from China and CanWEA, let’s look at recent Ontario history sourced from IESO and Scott Luft’s Monthly Wind data.

IESO reported in their 2016 Year-End Data they dispatched 2,244,230 MWh  “representing 19 per cent of the total amount of wind energy produced in the province.So, 2% more than China’s “shockingly high” amount garnered no attention in Ontario!   Dispatched wind in 2016 added approximately $270 million to the GA for undelivered power, and no doubt caused nuclear steam-off and spilled hydro adding additional costs to the GA pot.

Scott’s files contain TX (transmission connected) and DX (distributor connected) wind generation as well as what has proven to be relatively conservative estimates of “curtailed” generation. For the first five months of the current year, curtailed wind was 1,580,629 MWh, which represented 22.3% of grid delivered and curtailed wind. It looks like the current year will easily surpass the record amount dispatched in 2016 in MWh and percentage terms.

Combining the average costs of wind generated MWh along with dispatched MWh suggests an average cost of a kWh from industrial wind turbines for the first five months of 2017 was 17.5 cents /kWh and for May 2017 was 23.4 cents /kWh.

Those costs to Ontario ratepayers makes it relatively easy to understand Ms. Giannetta’s closing paragraph on her blog where the “we” in the following sentence suggests she is clearly speaking for the members of CanWEA!

“It’s increasingly obvious that we are only beginning to reap the benefits of wind energy in Ontario.”

© Parker Gallant

Energy stakeholders to the Wynne government: the new plan should focus on costs

January 11, 2017

Last October, Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault launched the “Discussion Guide to Start the Conversation” with the objective of “Planning Ontario’s Energy Future”. The Long-Term Energy Plan or LTEP when presented in 2017 will be the sixth LTEP (including 1 and 1[a], discarded by Smitherman) developed by the current government in the past nine years, which says a lot about “long-term” planning.

Naturally when an opportunity to contribute to policy comes along, organizations offer their views on the direction the plan should take. I have prepared a review of some of the comments made to the Ministry of Energy on the LTEP.

First we have Robert Hornung (MA, Political Science), president of wind power trade association and lobbyist the Canadian Wind Energy Association or CanWEA, who suggested “The only way to meet those goals [reducing carbon emissions] is to increase the use of electricity, particularly electricity generated from sources that don’t emit carbon. Wind is well-positioned to meet that need.”

Then Jack Gibbons (former Toronto Hydro commissioner) of Ontario Clean Air Alliance said: “While the world shifts to green sources, Ontario is doubling down on nuclear, rebuilding ten aging reactors, while pushing renewable energy to the fringe. This is a bad plan and an economically disastrous direction . . . Ontario should set a target or moving to 100 per cent renewable energy by 20150.” [sic]

Now that is what I call “long-term planning”!

On the other hand we have organizations who are interested in ensuring electricity rates stop rising at multiples of the inflation rate.

Canadian Federation of Independent Business – The CFIB suggested in their comments to the Energy Ministry that “Ontario Hydro rates are out of control”; they met with the Minister of Energy and made the following recommendations.

• Eliminate all time-of-use (Smart Meter) rates for small businesses and implement a lower cost rate system on the first 3,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity consumed per month.
• Accelerate the removal of the Debt Retirement Charge from commercial hydro bills, which is currently slated for April 1, 2018.
• Require the display of the “Global Adjustment” on all hydro bills to increase transparency.
Canadian Taxpayers Federation – The Canadian Taxpayers Federation website posting shows their concern:
“If Hydro Rates are ‘Urgent Issue’ for Wynne, She Must Repeal Green Energy Act” and also, “Ontario customers have seen the largest increase in electricity prices anywhere in Canada – more than 60 per cent higher than the national average between 2006 and 2015.”

Ontario Chamber of Commerce – The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) were more subdued but their report of July 2015 commented: “The price of electricity is a major factor in the overall cost of doing business for many companies. As such, it is also a critical component of a jurisdiction’s competitiveness in the global economy. Jurisdictions with high electricity prices are at a disadvantage when it comes to creating jobs and attracting investment.”
The OCC’s submission on this LTEP noted in muted tones: “the addition of renewable energy resources under the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program has contributed to overall systems costs by guaranteeing long-term and above-market payouts to generators.”

Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters – The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) were much more aggressive in their submission on the LTEP. “We are calling for immediate relief for manufacturers from Ontario’s sky-high electricity rates and a longer term plan to use the system as a tool for economic development” said Ian Howcroft, Vice President of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) Ontario Division. And “we urge the government to push further and faster to bring rates in line with competing jurisdictions.”
CME’s priorities for reductions included several recommendations including: Providing relief targeting smaller to medium sized manufacturers that aren’t covered by existing programs, and eliminating the Debt Retirement Charge (DRC), and “Offering more surplus capacity to manufacturers” among other suggestions.
Finally, they added this grave warning: “Lower manufacturing rates are necessary to retain and attract investment in Ontario rather than seeing it go to other jurisdictions.”

Ontario Society of Professional Engineers – A September 2016 article by Terence Corcoran of the Financial Post noted “Experts and analysts have been warning of the excess wind and solar expansions for years. The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers’ Paul Acchione warned in 2012 that wind expansion is ‘costly’ and ‘technically difficult to integrate’ into the Ontario system.” OSPE’s submission on the LTEP is a focused document that carries a lot of interesting facts. For example, they say this about power generation from wind:
“Wind generation has relatively little economic value in Ontario’s low emission power system.”

OSPE’s recommendations on ways to reduce the price of electricity are: Reduce operating costs or increase revenue from the sale of surplus electricity; Move existing costs not directly associated with producing electricity into tax-supported accounts; Transfer market risks from electricity consumers to investors; and, Remove government sales and water use taxes on electricity.
While the recommendations appear short and simple people “in the know” will recognize the seriousness subtly expressed in each of those four recommendations.

Strategic Policy Economics – Marc Brouillette’s excellent submission on behalf of Bruce Nuclear also carries some sane observations such as “Wind generation has not matched demand since its introduction in Ontario” and, “Over 70% of wind generation does not benefit Ontario’s supply capability.” And this one, which is becoming more evident as ratepayers are forced to pay for curtailed generation: “Wind generation will not match demand in the OPO Outlook future projections as 50% of the forecasted production is expected to be surplus.”

The recommendation that will cause the most handwringing will be: “The LTEP should integrate the objectives of Ontario’s environmental, energy, industrial, and economic policies for the long-term future benefit of Ontarians.”

Wind Concerns Ontario – The coalition of community groups and individuals throughout Ontario had this to say by way of advice to the Ministry: “The government policy to promote “renewables” such as wind and solar have been a critical factor in the grave economic situation today. Wind power for example, now represents 22% of electricity cost, while providing only 5.9% of the power. Worse, that power is produced out-of-phase with demand, as has been detailed by two Auditors General; so much of it is wasted. This is unsustainable.

“Clearly,” WCO continued, “the direction for the Ministry of Energy is to formulate a new Long-Term Energy Plan that will take immediate action on reducing electricity costs. Those actions must include a review of all contractual obligations for power generation from wind, and action to mitigate further costs to the system, and the over-burdened people of Ontario.”

WCO called for cancellation of all the wind power contracts given in 2016, the FIT 5.0 program, and further, cancellation of all contracts for projects not yet built or which are not going to make a critical commercial operation date. In fact, all wind power contracts should be reviewed and paid out, as Ontario can save money by eliminating the need to dispose of the surplus electricity.

 

Time will tell what the Long-Term Energy Plan will look like, but if it doesn’t include direct action to reduce actual costs to the system, it will be no plan at all.