Big Wind’s hyperbolic spin should not impress

Grand claims about wind power’s role in Ontario not borne out by the facts

September 18, 2018

The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) has a new web posting titled “Ontario Wind Energy Market Profile” that is pure hyperbolic spin.

The four-page report says: “Ontario is our nation’s leader in clean wind energy with an installed capacity of 5,076 MW, about 40 per cent of Canada’s total installed wind energy capacity. There are 2,577 wind turbines currently operating in Ontario at 96 separate facilities.” It goes on to say “Supplying 7.7 per cent of Ontario’s electricity demand today, wind energy helps to diversify Ontario’s electricity generation mix.”

What CanWEA’s report doesn’t say is that wind represents over 12% of grid-connected generation and that the 7.7% supply it adds to the grid is intermittent, unreliable and frequently (65% of the time it is actually generating power) out of sync with demand.   As an example, on Friday September 14, 2018 at hour 18 (6 PM), when demand in Ontario was near or at its peak, the 4,400 MW of grid-connected wind generated a miserly 10 MWh.

That’s 0.23% of capacity.

To put the 10 MWh in context, that is enough to supply one average household with electricity for a year.  At the same time as wind was probably consuming more electricity than the turbines were generating, gas plants (installed to back up wind capacity) were generating 3,862 MWh.

Total generation for hour 18 was 19,274 MWh, not including net imports (imports less exports) of 1,249 MWh, representing Ontario grid demand of 20,523 MWh.* That means the 12% of grid-connected wind generation contributed 0.05% of grid demand. For the full 24 hours of the 14th of September, wind generated just over 3,500 MWh which equates to 3.3% of their capacity. If that isn’t bad enough, 2,500 MWh of that generation occurred from 12 AM to 7 AM when demand is lowest.  Needless to say, nuclear, hydro and gas supplied the bulk of Ontario demand for the day.

What this all means is that industrial wind capacity does nothing more than add to the costs of the generation of electricity in Ontario, and, actually, pretty well everywhere else in the world.

Ontario can’t and shouldn’t fall for the hyperbolic self-interested wind spin, so hopefully our politicians recognize it for what it does—drive up the cost of electricity while killing birds and bats and inflicting harm to humans in rural communities due to the audible and inaudible noise emitted.

PARKER GALLANT

*IESO’s Daily Market Summary indicates Ontario’s peak demand was 20,845 MWh on September 14, 2018.

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Is it time for Ontario to use more power?

A warm summer meant  electricity use went up and costs went down. Is there a lesson here?

Photo © Norris Wilson

With Ontario experiencing a relatively warm summer, I thought it might be interesting to look at three recent months, starting with May 2018, to see if power consumption had increased compared to the same period in 2017.

As it turned out, May, June and July in 2018 versus the same three months in 2017 resulted in an increase in total demand (Ontario consumption plus net exports [exports less imports]) of 1,447,000 MWh or 3.9%.   With “net exports” dropping by 1,120,000 MWh, Ontario consumption actually increased by 2,567,000 or 7%.  This increase occurred despite the continued spending of approximately $400 million annually on conservation initiatives.

You might expect that an increase in power consumption by that much in Ontario would have resulted in a substantial increase in the cost of electricity, but as it happens, the amount was a meager $73 million for that extra 2,567,000 MWh. Based on the average cost (GA + HOEP) of electricity over those three months, the additional cost should have been around $313 million. The additional consumption cost only 2.8 cents per kWh (kilowatt hour).

The question is: why did that additional consumption (enough to power 1.1 million average households for the three months) cost so little?

There are several reasons why! First, curtailed wind (paid for but not added to the grid) in 2018 was 416,400 MWh* less than 2017. That means the savings from lower curtailment was approximately $50 million.

As well, Ontario’s net exports were thus lower by 1,120,000 MWh — that saved Ontario ratepayers the full cost of the GA (the GA averaged about $101/MWh in 2018) or approximately $113 million.

And, the 3.4 million MWh of net exports in 2017 generated only about $8/MWh versus $20/MWh in 2017 (the approximate GA for the three months in 2017 versus 2018) for the 2,280,000 MWh of net exports in 2018 for a net benefit in 2018 of about $18 million.

If one totes up the additional costs of $73 million plus the wind curtailed savings of $50 million, the $113 million saved due to reduced net exports, and the $18 million extra earned on export sales due to a higher GA in 2018, it comes to $254 million or $59 million short of the $313 million noted above.

I suspect the unexplained $59 million is related to: spilled hydro, steamed-off nuclear, and a reduction in the Class B to Class A subsidy resulting from the higher average GA. Most of those latter details are not yet publicly available.

Interestingly, wind power — generated and curtailed — was equal to 80% of net exports in 2017 and 112% of net exports in 2018. That suggests wind power was surplus to demand in both years.

It time to acknowledge again that wind, as an intermittent and unreliable source of power, tends to present itself when not needed. That, along with the multiple millions spent by the previous government encouraging electricity consumers to conserve has a simple effect!

Together, they simply drive up the cost of electricity.  Perhaps we should increase consumption to drive costs down.

© PARKER GALLANT

*Thanks to Scott Luft for his data related to wind generation and wind curtailment.

Canada’s wind power lobbyist re-energizes its spin


September 3, 2018

The Comber wind power project in Ontario: intermittent, unreliable power. Alberta, are you watching?

A recent posting by Robert Hornung, President of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), occurred shortly after the Ontario government passed an Act to terminate the White Pines wind power project.

Mr. Hornung’s post on the CanWEA website contained these statements.

“Maintaining investor confidence in the Ontario marketplace is important for Ontario’s short- and long-term economic prosperity. The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) shares the Ontario Government’s commitment to an affordable and reliable electricity system that benefits Ontarians. CanWEA notes that wind energy projects in Ontario are an important source of sustained revenue for municipal and Indigenous partners. Ontario’s wind energy projects are providing long-term, stable pricing for Ontario ratepayers. Wind energy is now the lowest-cost option for new electricity supply in Ontario, across Canada, and throughout much of the world.”

It is ironic that Mr. Hornung, on behalf of CanWEA’s members, would claim they share the “commitment to an affordable and reliable electricity system” while suggesting “Maintaining investor confidence in the Ontario marketplace is important”.

Is he unaware Ontario has lost many good manufacturing and processing jobs due to the high cost of electricity, or has he simply chosen to continue to spin the fallacious claim that wind power projects have not played a role in driving up the operating costs (electricity rates) of the numerous large and small manufacturing and processing plants that have either closed or moved to other jurisdictions?

CanWEA, leaving behind its effect on Ontario’s economic well-being, appears to be moving on to greener pastures, promoting the same spin to politicians who buy into their claims. Now that they have sucked Ontario dry, they are headed to Alberta where Premier Notley has signaled her plan to close the 6,300 MW of coal plants and replace two-thirds of them with 5,000 MW of renewable energy, including 4,500 MW of industrial wind turbines (IWT).

CanWEA in yet another post on its website seems excited at the new prospects and boasts: “Wind energy developments are making positive and lasting social and economic contributions in communities across Alberta.”

With that in mind, it is ironic that at 11 AM on August 20, 2018, the 1,491 MW of wind turbines in Alberta delivered just 5 MWh* of power to the grid — that’s about 0.33% of their capacity.

Needless to say, similar occurrences have been seen in Ontario and many other places around the world where wind turbines have been constructed. This clearly demonstrates power generation from wind is both intermittent and unreliable, and must be backed up with reliable generation in the form of hydro or fossil fuel generation.

CanWEA buttresses their claims with promises of jobs and prosperity in yet another recent posting on their website. “Wind energy will also generate jobs and other benefits for Albertans, as a recent Delphi Group report demonstrates. And it can be an important part of a broader economic diversification strategy for the province, with the total potential for local project development and construction spending alone reaching $3.6 billion by 2030.”

If you actually read that report, you’ll find it suggests most of the estimated $8.3 billion spending ($1.8 million per MW) will actually occur elsewhere. Alberta produces very little of the materials required to erect wind turbines so the local jobs created will be temporary, in the planning and construction phase. In fact, the report suggests only 15,000 person-years of employment will be created for the $3.6 billion planned to be spent on planning and construction. The report also suggests 714 jobs may be permanent during the O&M (operations and maintenance) phase; however, even that seems optimistic as that would suggest one permanent job for every six MW which at a 2-MW average would represent only three turbines. In fact,the standard is one technician per ten turbines.

With the recent negative Superior Court ruling on the Trans Mountain pipeline build, and Premier Notley’s plea for action by the federal government, it is obvious her government will soon experience a lack of anticipated revenue to execute both her social programs and the provincial climate plan. The slowdown in royalty revenues will push Alberta into further debt. For that reason, it is not enough that she has pulled out of the federal climate plan and should, if logic prevailed, also cancel the provincial climate plan.

I found it stupefying that Premier Notley said “The time for Canadian niceties is over. We are letting other countries control our economic destiny. We can’t stand for it.” Is she suggesting the National Energy Board and the Superior Court are controlled by “other countries”?

Premier Notley should have cancelled the provincial climate plan including replacing coal generation plants with unreliable wind and solar power generation if she really wants to make her point, instead of blaming others.

The time has come, alright: time for Canada’s politicians to stop believing the spin from lobbyist CanWEA, and instead act in the best interests of Canada’s ratepayers/taxpayers. Politicians need to show us they aren’t controlled by those foreign-controlled entities granted contracts to erect symbolic industrial wind turbines.

PARKER GALLANT

*Thanks to Steve Aplin who posted this info on his twitter account: https://twitter.com/SteveAplin

Which is it, Mr Manley?

John Manley of the Business Council of Canada is complaining that cancelling wind power contracts is bad for business. But he says high electricity costs are bad for business, too.

Business spokesperson John Manley doesn’t get it: high-priced wind power contracts aren’t good for business

July 27, 2018

The unwanted and unneeded 18.45 MW White Pines wind power project being erected in Prince Edward County is receiving a lot of attention. The people in “The County” have been fighting the project for years with some success and were continuing that fight.  Nevertheless, IESO granted wpd Canada an NTP (notice to proceed) after the writ for the Ontario election was drawn up, and the power developer charged ahead.

They did so knowing the newly elected Premier Ford-led government were proceeding with a “special act” in the Ontario Legislature to stop the project. German owned wpd ignored the backdating of the “act” to July 10, 2018 and in response to the “act” (noted in a CBC article) responded: “The company has indicated that it will seek to recoup $100-million that it has sunk into the project, but it is not clear how much the provincial government will agree to pay. The legislation requires wpd to cover the cost of decommissioning the project and to restore the land to ‘clean and safe condition’.”

The action caused Berlin’s ambassador to Canada Sabine Sparwasser to suggest the move to cancel the project represents a black mark for the province in the eyes of foreign investors: “Obviously, every incoming government has the right to change policy direction. But to have a unilateral cancellation pushed through by law that way is unsettling for the company, but is also something that will unsettle other potential investors.”

Shortly after, John Manley, President of the Business Council of Canada, wrote a letter to Premier Ford in which he said: “(The Act) would revoke permits several years after the proponent obtained them from the appropriate regulatory bodies, cancel contracts with the Independent Electricity System Operator that were negotiated in good faith and unilaterally set the terms upon which the proponent may be eligible for compensation.” What Mr. Manley failed to note is that wpd were facing three charges under the Environmental Protection Act and the NTP was issued after the writ period, so it was in fact the proponent who failed to act in “good faith”. Mr. Manley did not fully investigate the circumstances surrounding the proposed act and simply sided with the developer without consideration of the other contentious issues.

Interesting is a letter Mr. Manley sent to Premier Wynne, last June 15, 2017 in which he noted: “According to the Ministry of Finance’s Long-Term Report on the Economy, Ontario’s average annual growth rate is projected to slow to 2.2 per cent between 2016-2020. At the same time, businesses in Ontario are adjusting to sharply higher electricity rates, higher CPP contribution rates and the implementation of a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas reductions.”

Yet another letter Mr. Manley sent to Glen Murray, then Ontario’s Minster of the Environment and Climate Change back in March 2015 stated: “Ontario firms are facing a number of challenges, not the least of which is higher electricity costs as a result of policies already adopted by the government.”

It would appear Mr. Manley, a former Liberal MP and Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, failed to realize how industrial wind turbines helped cause those “higher electricity costs.” At the same time, he seems to condone the actions of parties who fail to follow legislation meant to protect voters and our environment.

Mr. Manley and the Council he represents cannot have it both ways.

Ontario’s wind turbines demonstrate what they can’t deliver: reliability

The wind power lobbyist makes impressive claims but reality is a different story

Ontario turbines at Belle River: power not there when needed

 

In a bid to be assertive after the Speech from the Throne last Thursday and Premier Ford’s pronouncement of the upcoming demise of the Green Energy Act, CanWEA’s (Canadian Wind Energy Association) President Robert Hornung issued the following announcement

He made some impressive claims.

Maintaining investor confidence in the Ontario marketplace is important for Ontario’s short- and long-term economic prosperity. The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) shares the Ontario Government’s commitment to an affordable and reliable electricity system that benefits Ontarians. CanWEA notes that wind energy projects in Ontario are an important source of sustained revenue for municipal and Indigenous partners. Ontario’s wind energy projects are providing long-term, stable pricing for Ontario ratepayers. Wind energy is now the lowest-cost option for new electricity supply in Ontario, across Canada, and throughout much of the world.”

Focusing on the weekend immediately following Mr. Hornung’s announcement is an interesting exercise. Examining his use of the words “reliable electricity system” is worthwhile to see if it has any bearing on generation from industrial wind turbines (IWT).

As it turns out, both Saturday July 14th and Sunday July 15th delivered pretty average summer days with Ontario demand of 837,000 MWh and total demand (including net exports) of 910,000 MWh. Over those two days, grid-connected IWTs in Ontario delivered 11,329 MWh.

What that means: wind turbines operated at a capacity value that was 5.4% of their rated capacity of over 4,400 MW. Peak output was at 12 AM on July 14th when they generated 969 MWh or 22% of rated capacity. The lowest output was at 10 AM on July 15th when they were probably consuming more than their output of 26 MWh, or 0.6% of their rated capacity.

Wind power generators represent 11.9% of total grid-connected capacity in Ontario according to IESO, so if they are promoted as part of “reliable” electricity, it’s not too far a reach to expect them to demonstrate their reliability.

It appears CanWEA’s claim is false.

Over the two weekend days they generated 1.4% of Ontario’s demand and only 1.2% of total demand.

If that is considered a “reliable” electricity source, Ontario’s ratepayers have been taking it on the chin since the wind contracts were awarded. Those contracts have had the opposite effect of bringing Ontario “short- and long-term economic prosperity” as our electricity cost increases have been more than double those of our neighbours.

All Ontario’s ratepayers are grateful that nuclear and hydro generation, (supported by gas generators during peak periods) were up and running over the past weekend.

Now all we ratepayers need is for the President of CanWEA to finally confess: wind power is intermittent and NOT reliable, and, oh yes, very expensive!

 

Should the Pickering nuclear plant be closed? Not based on cost and performance…

Pickering: working at 95% capacity during the heat wave [Photo: OPG]
July 6, 2018

Wind power a failure during recent high demand during heat wave; dependable power needed

I got a call at 11 a.m. on June 25th from the producer of the Scott Thompson show on CHML 900 AM to appear on the show to discuss the suggestion by NDP leader Andrea Horwath about closing the Pickering Nuclear plant.

Essentially it was about her statement during the election campaign indicating the NDP’s position on Pickering:  “we will begin the decommissioning process immediately, which will bring more jobs to the area — as opposed to the Liberal plan, which is to mothball that facility for 30 years and allow the next generation to figure out the decommissioning”.

Doug Ford, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, on the other hand stated: “The Pickering plant can continue to safely operate until at least 2024. We can generate 14 per cent of Ontario’s power needs right here”.

The producer suggested Scott wanted to explore the opposing issues with me.

Aware I was scheduled to be on his show at 12:35 p.m., and remembering that a Brady Yauch article a few months earlier in the Financial Post had suggested closing Pickering, I felt I should do more research before the call back.  Brady’s principal point was Pickering was a poor performer and the estimated costs ($300 million) of the extension would prove to be negative for ratepayers.

OPG’s website describes Pickering as follows: “Pickering Nuclear has six operating CANDU® (CANadian Deuterium Uranium) reactors. The station has a total output of 3,100 megawatts (MW) which is enough to serve a city of one and a half million people, and about 14 per cent of Ontario’s electricity needs.”.

Pickering Nuclear traces its roots back to 1971 when it first commenced operation with four units and expanded to eight units in 1983.  Two of the first four units have been in voluntary lay-up since 1997.  The CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) awarded OPG’s Pickering and Darlington nuclear stations its highest safety rating in 2017.

Combined, the Pickering and Darlington nuclear stations generated 10.4 TWh (terawatts) of power for the 1st Quarter of 2018 at a combined cost of 7.2 cents/kWh (up from 5.8 cents/kWh in the comparable quarter).  The 10.4 TWh was sufficient to supply the 4.6 million average residential households in the province.

Directing my research to IESO’s hourly Generator Report I was able to discern Pickering at hour 10 of June 25th had just generated 2,308 MWh out of 10,457 MWh produced by all the nuclear plants in the province.  Pickering nuclear represented 22% of nuclear generation at that hour, 15.6% of Ontario demand and 14% of total demand (including exports).   At hour 10, wind turbines were generating 452 MWh or 10% of their capacity versus Pickering nuclear which was operating at about 74.5% of its capacity.

Both nuclear and wind are classified as “base-load” generation!

As it turned out, when I was on Scott’s show the bulk of our chat was related to his prior guest’s discussions about Premier Ford’s cancellation of the “cap and trade” tax.  Only a couple of questions were raised about Pickering which I responded to.

Interestingly enough, now that the Ontario July heat wave has passed, I felt the urge to look at the performance of Pickering and IWT over the seven days when peak demand was high.  Pickering nuclear performed well generating close to 3,000 MWh each and every hour over the period meaning it was operating at over 95% of capacity.  Wind power generation, however was all over the map reaching a high of 2,769 MWh (62% of capacity) at midnight July 1st and a low of 5 MWh (0.11% of capacity) at 10AM on July 4th!

It is obvious that wind fails miserably as “base-load” generation when needed and the relative cost of generating power (sans back-up costs) is over 17 cents/kWh.

It sure looks like we should keep Pickering nuclear operating, as Premier Ford suggested.

Parker Gallant

If I were Ontario’s new Minister of Energy …

 

One initiative: look at why an expensive expansion to hydro isn’t being used

On June 8, after the Ontario election, Ontario’s new premier – whoever that is – will be thinking of selecting a new Minister of Energy. With the challenges in that portfolio, the immediate question for anyone considering accepting the job would be, how can one fix the electricity side of the portfolio after the damage done over the previous 15 years by my predecessors?

Here are a few “fixes” I would take that to try to undo some of the bad decisions of the past, if I were the new energy minister.

Green Energy Act

Immediately start work on cancelling the Green Energy Act

Conservation

Knowing Ontario has a large surplus of generation we export for 10/15 per cent of its cost I would immediately cancel planned conservation spending. This would save ratepayers over $433 million annually.

Wind and solar contracts

I would immediately cancel any contracts that are outstanding, but haven’t been started and may be in the process of a challenge via either the Environmental Review Tribunal) or in the courts.                                 This would save ratepayers an estimated $200 million annually.

Wind turbine noise and environmental non-compliance

Work with the (new) MOECC Minister to insure they effect compliance by industrial wind developers both for exceeding noise level standards and operations during bird and bat migration periods. Failure to comply would elicit large fines. This would save ratepayers an estimated $200/400 million annually.

Change the “baseload” designation of generation for wind and solar developments

Both wind and solar generation is unreliable and intermittent, dependent on weather, and as such should not be granted “first to the grid rights”. They are backed up by gas or hydro generation with both paid for either spilling water or idling when the wind blows or the sun shines.

The cost is phenomenal.

As an example, wind turbines annually generate at approximately 30 per cent of rated capacity but 65 per cent of the time power generation comes at the wrong time of day and not needed.                                                                 The estimated annual ratepayer savings if wind generation was replaced by hydro would be $400 million and if replaced by gas, in excess of $600 million.

Charge a fee (tax) for out of phase/need generation for wind and solar

Should the foregoing “baseload” re-designation be impossible based on legal issues I would direct the IESO to institute a fee that would apply to wind and solar generation delivered during mid-peak and off-peak times. A higher fee would also apply when wind is curtailed and would suggest a fee of $10/per MWh delivered during off-peak and mid-peak hours and a $20/per MWh for curtailed generation.  The estimated annual revenue generated would be a minimum of $150 million

Increase LEAP contributions from LDCs to 1 per cent of distribution revenues

The OEB would be instructed to institute an increase in the LDC (local distribution companies) LEAP (low-income assistance program) from .12 per cent to 1 per cent and reduce the allowed ROI (return on investment) by the difference.  This would deliver an estimated $60/80 million annually reducing the revenue requirement for the OESP (Ontario electricity support program) currently funded by taxpayers.

Close unused OPG generation plants

OPG currently has two power plants that are only very, very, occasionally called on to generate electricity yet ratepayers pick up the costs for OMA (operations, maintenance and administration). One of these is the Thunder Bay, the former coal plant converted to high-end biomass with a capacity of 165 MW. It would produce power at a reported cost of $1.50/kWh (Auditor General’s report). The other unused plant is the Lennox oil/gas plant in Napanee/Bath with a capacity of 2,200 MW that is never used. The estimated annual savings from the closing of these two plants would be in the $200 million range.

Rejig time-of-use (TOU) pricing to allow opt-in or opt-out

TOU pricing is focused on flattening demand by reducing usage during “peak hours” without any consideration of households or businesses. Allow households and small businesses a choice to either agree to TOU pricing or the average price (currently 8.21 cents/kWh after the 17% Fair Hydro Act reduction) over a week.  This would benefit households with shift workers, seniors, people with disabilities utilizing equipment drawing power and small businesses and would likely increase demand and reduce surplus exports thereby reducing our costs associated with those exports.  The estimated annual savings could easily be in the range of $200/400 million annually.

Other initiatives

Niagara water rights

I would conduct an investigation into why our Niagara Beck plants have not increased generation since the $1.5 billion spent on “Big Becky” (150 MW capacity) which was touted to produce enough additional power to provide electricity to 160,000 homes or over 1.4 million MWh. Are we constrained by water rights with the U.S., or is it a lack of transmission capabilities to get the power to where demand resides?

MPAC’s wind turbine assessments

One of the previous Minister’s of Finance instructed MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corp,) to assess industrial wind turbines (IWT) at a maximum of $40,000 per MW of capacity despite their value of $1.5/2 million each.   I would request whomever is appointed by the new Premier to the Finance Ministry portfolio to recall those instructions and allow MPAC to reassess IWT at their current values over the terms of their contracts.  This would immediately benefit municipalities (via higher realty taxes) that originally had no ability to accept or reject IWT.

Do a quick addition of the numbers and you will see the benefit to the ratepayers of the province would amount to in excess of $2 billion dollars.

Coincidentally, that is approximately even more than the previous government provided via the Fair Hydro Act. Perhaps we didn’t need to push those costs off to the future for our children and grandchildren to pay!

Now that I have formulated a plan to reduce electricity costs by over $2 billion per annum I can relax, confident that I could indeed handle the portfolio handed to me by the new Premier of the province.

Parker Gallant