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

Free power is really expensive!

Stumbling over the IESO weekly summary* for May 24th to May 30th came with a shocking discovery that the HOEP (Hourly Ontario Electricity Price) for the week had descended to a low of $1.05 /MWh (megawatt hour) or 0.11 cents /kWh (kilowatt hour).

As it turns out, there is probably nothing you could buy for eleven one hundredths of a cent except for what was surplus to Ontario’s electricity demand for the week.

If you were looking to buy power from Ontario while living elsewhere it was much better than a Boxing Day or Black Friday sale! During that week IESO exported 278,712 MWh to NY, Michigan, Quebec, etc., which could have supplied 1.6 million average Ontario households with their electricity needs for the whole week for 19 cents.   Yes, you read that right!  The 278,812 MWh cost Ontario ratepayers the GA (Global Adjustment) which IESO’s 2nd estimate for May suggests will be $127.76/MWh (12.8 cents /kWh)!

What that means is, Ontario’s ratepayers will pick up $35.6 million in GA costs reducing electricity rates for our neighbours. Our neighbours can use that cheap power to lure small and medium sized businesses to their state or province. The businesses being lured away provide employment for many Ontarians.

Now, so surprised was I by the foregoing I fired off an e-mail to my friend Scott Luft about the meager amount of the HOEP for that week. Scott quickly responded suggesting a look at the prior week which he said was even more egregious.  So egregious, that the HOEP for the week of May 17th to May 23rd was negative at -0.48 /MWh or -0.5 cents /kWh.  He closed with the thought provoking “free power is really expensive” alluding to wind and solar as a fuel having virtually no cost!

It turned out the 308,616 MWh exported to NY, Michigan, etc., for the week commencing May 17th required Ontario ratepayers to pick up almost the full costs of our surplus and unneeded** generation and to also pay our neighbours to take it off our hands.  The cost of the latter was $148,134. and the cost of the generation based on the second IESO estimate of the GA for May was $39.4 million!  Those exported 308,616 MWh were equivalent to the “average” consumption of 1.8 million Ontario ratepayers for one week.  Those 1.8 million ratepayers if they lived in Ontario, unburdened by the GA costs, would have been paid .83 cents for their average weekly consumption.

Instead of a benefit, those ratepayers were obliged to pay 12.8 cents /kWh for power they didn’t consume and also pay $20.00 for their own “average” consumption of 172 kWh for the week.

Conclusion

In just two weeks of May Ontario ratepayers subsidized the generation and export of 587,328 MWh at a cost of $75 million (excluding costs of curtailed wind, spilled hydro, etc.) to ensure our grid was stable and not cause blackouts or brownouts.

What the foregoing highlights is the complete mess our various Ministers of Energy have made of Ontario’s electricity system by catering to the whims of the many unqualified environmental groups who have led our government down the path of contracting for intermittent and unreliable wind and solar generation at high rates to save the world without even so much as a cursory cost/benefit analysis.

Just those two weeks of May 2017 make it obvious: Free power is really expensive!

Parker Gallant,

June 6, 2017

* IESO’s weekly summaries commence Wednesday running to Tuesday of the following week.

**Unneeded generation costs include: spilled hydro, curtailed wind, steamed-off nuclear and idling gas plants.

Free power for a month for 4,000 Ontario families? Here’s how we missed that

How many homes could have benefitted from the excess power Ontario wastes, or sells off cheap?

Recently reading comments on an article related to the cost of wind power generation in Ontario, I was struck by a simple message.

The commenter had obviously visited the IESO “Data Directory”  and reviewed one item labeled Intertie Flows; he observed that IESO had exported 3,000 MWh (megawatt hours) in an hour.   He then observed that the exported power could have supplied 4,000 homes with free power for a month.  (Here’s the math: 3,000 MWh equals 3 million kWh; the “average” Ontario household consumes 750 kWh per month, so divide the 3 million by 750 and the answer is 4,000.)

This simple fact has not been picked up on by the media and yet, it is an easy way to shed more light on Premier Wynne’s “mistake” and our rising electricity rates.   The commenter also suggests going further and examining a full quarter to determine how many Ontario households would benefit from no exported power.

Excess wind and solar costs us

To be fair, while Ontario has frequently exported 3,000 MWh, we also import electricity generated elsewhere presumably at similar market prices. Those net exports or net imports (very infrequent for Ontario) are contained in the Intertie* hourly reports posted by IESO. Let’s look at the first three months of the current year.

To begin, IESO’s Monthly Market Reports for January, February and March of 2017 indicate Ontario’s “average net intertie schedule” for the first quarter of the current year totaled 2,909,000 MWh. While that was happening, industrial-scale wind turbines were generating over 3.9 million MWh in the same three months, and were also required (by IESO) to curtail (and be paid for) another 536,000 MWh.  So, the wind power developers picked up about $620 million for those three months.

To make matters worse, the average of the Hourly Ontario Electricity Price (HOEP) received (via the traded market) over those three months was only $22.72 per MWh or 2.27 cents per kWh.   That means Ontario received $66.1 million for the sale of the 2.9 million “intertie” MWh, while the average cost paid by ratepayers at 11.1 cents/kWh means the cost of those exports was almost $324 million.

Reducing power bills by 25% is peanuts—kill the contracts

Let’s go farther: if 1.3 million (28% of all residential households) of Ontario’s average ratepayers could have purchased those net exported kWh over the three months at the same price they were sold for, the 2250 kWh they consumed would have cost them $51 instead of the $250 they were billed. That would have reduced their cost of electricity by 390%. That makes Premier Wynne’s supposed 25% electricity bill reduction pale in comparison.

If the Premier really wants to lessen the burden on future ratepayer bills she should immediately cancel any wind and solar contracts that have not broken ground, and suspend any all future procurement of these unreliable and intermittent generation sources.

 

*Intertie is defined as an interconnection permitting passage of current between two or more utility systems.

Premier Wynne’s $50-billion elephant

Do a Google search of “premier wynne+elephant in the room” you get 1,140,000 hits while a search for just “premier wynne” only gets 486,000 hits. The word “elephant” has been used by Ontario’s premier on a number of occasions. For example, the “elephant” popped up at one of the expensive Ontario Liberal Party fundraising dinners a year ago where she declared, referring to the provincial deficit, “So while some want to characterize Ontario’s deficit as the elephant in the room, I think a panda is the more appropriate metaphor,” she said. “Truly, Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue [visiting pandas at the Toronto Zoo] were adorable. But the pandas are leaving Ontario in 2018, and in 2017-18 our deficit will be gone, too.”

The “elephant” has returned for her government in the form of high electricity prices but instead of cute little “pandas,” Premier Wynne was forced to call them her “mistake”!

Let’s look at that elephant now.

The recent release of Ontario Power Generation (OPG) 2016 annual report provides enough information to allow one to figure out exactly what created the elephantine mistake and where to point the finger.   To do that we will compare the results of 2016 to 2009* and show the cause of the above market climb in electricity prices.

Price Comparison

IESO’s (Independent Electricity System Operator) data discloses the cost of electricity generation in 2009 was 6.22 cents/kWh or $62.20 per megawatt hour (MWh) or $62.2 million/TWh (terawatt hour) and in 2016 was 11.32 cents/kWh or $113.20/MWh or $113.2 million/TWh. The increase from 2009 to 2016 represents a jump of 82% in only seven years and in simple terms, is a jump of 11.7% annually.

Using the above prices to show the full cost of electricity generation in those two years is accomplished by multiplying total generation by the cost per TWh so:

Total generation 2009: 148 TWh X $62.2 MM= $9,205 MM

Total generation 2016: 149.5 TWh X $113.2 million = $16,923 MM

(Source: IESO)

That means an increase of $7,718 million (+83.8%) in the raw cost of the commodity-electricity.

Finding the “mistake”

Why did the cost jump 83.8%?

Let’s start with the generation produced by OPG who, according to their 2009 annual report generated 92.5 TWh and 78.2 TWh in 2016. Bruce Nuclear in 2009 generated 35.7 TWh and in 2016 they generated 46.1 TWh.  Collectively OPG plus Bruce generated 128.2 TWh in 2009 and that represented 86.6% of total generation (148 TWh) by all generators that year.  In 2016 the collective total was 124.3 TWh which represented 83.1% of all generation (149.5 TWh) in that year as reported by IESO.

Costing the generation 

2009

For OPG: The costing of generation coming from OPG is a relatively simple task requiring only their gross revenue for the year divided by the generation they reported.  For 2009 gross revenue was $5,640 million for the 92.5 TWh delivered making the all-in cost $61 million/TWh.

For Bruce Nuclear: The reported price paid to Bruce was $65.90/MWH.   So, for the 35.7 TWh they generated, the gross revenue generated was $2,352 million or $65.9 million /TWh.

The combined costs of $5,640 million from OPG plus the $2,352 million from Bruce was $7,992 billion to produce 128.2 TWh making the combined cost per TWh $62.34 million or 6.23 cents/kWh.

As noted above, total costs for all generation reported by IESO for 2009 was $9,205 million meaning $1,213 million ($9,205 million less OPG/Bruce combined of $7,992 million) was spent to acquire the 19.8 TWh generated by the other private generators, making their costs per TWh $61.3 million or 6.13 cents/kWh.  (Note: 9.8 TWh was generated by OPG’s coal plants in 2009.)

2016

For OPG: As noted above OPG in 2016 generated 78.2 TWh and their gross revenue was $5,653 million making their generation cost per TWh $72.3 million (7.23 cents/kWh).  Included in OPG’s gross revenue was a $207 million payment for hydro spillage of 4.7 TWh due to SPG2. (surplus base-load generation).

For Bruce Nuclear: Bruce in 2016 generated 46.1 TWh at a reported cost of $66 million/TWh making so gross revenue was $3,043 million including the cost of steaming off almost 1 TWh due to SBG.  

The combined costs of $5,653 from OPG plus the $3,043 million from Bruce was $8,696 million to produce 124.3 TWh making the combined cost per TWh $70 million or 7.0 cents/kWh.

Cost of the “other” generation

The all-in costs for generation for 2016 was, as noted above, $16,923 million. If one deducts the combined costs of OPG and Bruce Nuclear for their generation in 2016 ($8,696 million) the balance of $8,227 million went to pay for the 25.2 TWh produced by other generators.   Simply dividing the $8,227 million by the 25.2 TWh creates a cost per TWh of $326.5 million or 32.7 cents/kWh. ***

Had the 25.2 TWh cost ratepayers $70 million/TWh, or the same as the OPG/Bruce Nuclear generation combination (25.2 TWh X $70 million = $1,764 million), Ontario ratepayers would not be on the hook for the $6.9 billion in excess costs! ($8,227 million – $1,764 million= $6,932 million or the very high $326.5 million/TWh)

In just one year’s data, compared to 2009, we have located many of the reasons for higher electricity costs. The Premier now claims $50 billion was needed to invest in transmission and generation but her “mistake” was in not seeing the costs would go up more than 83%, principally related to the acquisition of intermittent, unreliable renewable energy from wind and solar!

There may be even more elephants in this particular room.

 

*The choice of 2009 is related to the Legislative passage of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA) in the Spring of that year creating the FIT and MicroFIT programs and subsequent acquisition of renewable energy at above market prices.

**Surplus Base-load Generation is simply anticipated “base-load less Ontario demand”.

***The per TWh cost reflects the FIT contracted generation for industrial wind turbines, solar panels, bio-mass along with curtailed wind, conservation spending, the cost of selling our surplus power to other jurisdictions at only 15% of its cost, etc. etc.

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.

How did we get here? A review of ministerial remarks on electricity prices in Ontario

January 5, 2017

With Ontario’s lead in energy prices in Canada and the fastest rising consumer rates in North America, it is perhaps worth a review of a few of the ministerial comments that got us to this point.

Rates will rise 1% because of the GEA

George Smitherman, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure from June 2008 to November 2009 told the Standing Committee on General Government in April 2009: “We anticipate about 1% per year of additional rate increase associated with the bill’s implementation over the next 15 years.”  In May 2009 the “average” rate was 6.07 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) (not including delivery or HST). By May 2016, the “average” rate had increased to 11.1 cents/kWh, an increase of 82.9% in 7 years.  The comparable costs of generation from IESO’s Monthly Summaries for the May 2009 to May 2016 comparisons grew by 84.9%.  Looks like the forecast missed the mark by a bit.

Conservation will save you money

Back in July 2013 a press release from Minister Bob Chiarelli credits him with this quote: “By investing in conservation before new generation, where cost-effective, we can save ratepayers money”. At that point, average rates were 8.4 cents/kWh — in just three years they increased 32.1%. IESO’s monthly summaries indicate the cost of generation rose 26.4% in the same time-frame.  Since 2012, consumption has fallen by 4.3 terawatts (TWh) on enough to provide 475,000 average Ontario households with power for a full year.  Conservation hasn’t shown it will “save ratepayers money.”

Moving a gas plant is less than the price of a Tim Horton’s coffee                                                                                                          

Another from former Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli who, when asked about the Oakville gas plant move was quick to suggest, “It’s less than a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee a year.” for the average ratepayer over 20 years. He made this dismissive comment to the Legislature Justice Committee investigating the move. What it meant was the waste of $1.1 billion dollars of taxpayer/ratepayer money; the Minister’s comment is a reflection of the regard the Ontario Liberal government has for the average hardworking Ontarian.

It's nothing, Chiarelli said of a $1.1B scandal
It’s nothing, Chiarelli said of a $1.1B scandal

The Ontario Auditor General not informed?                                                                                                  

Bob Chiarelli again: when the Auditor General’s report in late 2014 on  smart meters was released suggesting the program was over-budget and under-effective  Minister Chiarelli said, “Why are my numbers more credible than hers?” He went on to say: “Electricity is very complex, is very difficult to understand. Some of our senior managers, in discussing these issues with some of the representatives from the auditor general’s office, had the feeling they didn’t understand some of the elements of it.”  As it turned out Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk worked for Manitoba Hydro for 10 years so probably knew more about the electricity sector than the Minister.

Municipal authority is a non-starter                                                                                                                      Oh dear: Mr. Chiarelli, again. In May 2013 Bob Chiarelli said “Municipalities will be given a much bigger say in where or if renewable energy projects are located”.  His remarks were well received by many municipalities and in the case of Dutton Dunwich council a survey they engaged in allowed them to declare 84% of their residents were against industrial wind developments.  So what? The will of the people was ignored and a contract for a $250-million wind power project was granted anyway.  The minister’s comments appear to have been a pretense that rural Ontario had been given authority to accept or reject contracts.

Industrial Wind Turbines granted special realty tax status                                                              

When Dwight Duncan was Minister of Finance it appears he bowed to lobbying efforts by trade association Canadian Wind Energy Association or CanWEA members who may have been concerned they would be required to pay significant municipal taxes should MPAC assess IWT at actual value!  He accordingly issued a direction to MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corporation) to assess industrial wind turbines (IWT) at only $40,000 per megawatt (MW). That means, not only did municipal governments have no say in allowing IWT in their jurisdiction, but were also to receive nominal realty taxes from their presence.

Transparently opaque                                                                                                                        Premier Wynne in early March 2014 introduced the Accountability Act and had this to say to the Legislature:  “I came into this office just over a year ago saying that I was going to do government differently, that we were going to open up and be more transparent.”  Now should you have the urge to seek specific information from the Energy Ministry, which this writer frequently does, what you receive back is a homily that starts out with “you have reached out to us” followed by the promise they will get back to you. If and when the response comes, it generally dodges the question(s) and simply repeats the spin in the press release you are inquiring about.

Electricity exports are profitable                                                                                                                We have consistently heard about how profitable our exports of electricity are from the various Energy Ministers in place over the past decade. Former Minister Chiarelli’s claim we made $6 billion was debunked, but the claims continue.  The profits were claimed by former Premier Dalton McGuinty, Brad Duguid when Minister of Energy, and even a senior officer with IESO.  The Auditor General noted the following in the 2015 report:  “Since power is exported at prices below what generators are paid, and curtailed generators are still paid even when they are not producing energy, both of these options are costly. From 2009 to 2014, Ontario had to pay generators $339 million for curtailing 11.9 million MWh of surplus electricity.”  This continues today, at a much higher rate!

High electricity prices a “mistake”                                                                                                            

When Premier Wynne spoke to the 850 members who attended the Ontario Liberal Convention on November 19, 2016 she told the delegates her “government made a mistake” by allowing rates to soar. Apparently Premier Wynne doesn’t pay her electricity bills and didn’t notice since she was elected leader of the Ontario Liberal Party January 26, 2013 to the date of her recent speech, rates charged to residential ratepayers increased 38%.  She also missed the fact that IESO in their monthly summary of December 2012 reported the cost of power generated was 8.89 cents/kWh and the October 31, 2016 summary reported it had climbed to 13.49 cents/kWh — an increase of almost 52%.

 

The last word is mine 

I challenge anyone to make the claim that “planning” or a “cost/benefit” analysis ever played a role in Ontario reaching our current state of claiming the title of “highest cost” electricity in Canada or “fastest rising” in North America!   The design pursued by the various energy ministers occupying the portfolio since the current government gained the reins of power in Ontario demonstrate clearly, they failed to consider the fate of Ontario households, along with the impact on jobs. Instead, they listened to the cadre of environmental NGOs and corporations that benefit from subsidies provided by the ratepayers.