October 21 and 22 was a beautiful fall weekend in Southern Ontario with lots of sunshine, beautiful colours, mild temperatures and gentle breezes. That combination meant low electricity demand: power demand for the two days was slightly less than 603,000 MWh (megawatt hours) for all types and classes of Ontario ratepayers according to IESO’s (Independent Electricity System Operator) “Daily Summary Reports”. As a result we exported surplus generation to New York, Michigan, etc. at an average two-day price of $2.65 per MWh, but at the same time, that cost Ontario’s ratepayers about $120/MWh*.
So, the “Net Exports” (exports less imports) of just under 98,000 MWh sold to our neighbours recovered about $260,000, but cost Ontario’s ratepayers almost $11.8 million … even more if we attribute it all to wind generation.
It turns out, the blame can easily be allocated to industrial wind turbines as they could have generated about 107,000 MWh, but were partially curtailed by IESO. As the weekend unfolded, 38,000 MWh were curtailed and 69,000 MWh were delivered to the grid. Ontario’s ratepayers picked up the tab for the curtailed wind at $120/MWh and $135/MWh for the grid-delivered generation, bringing the weekend wind costs to almost $14 million ($13.875 million). You should note curtailed and grid-accepted wind generation exceeded our net exports by 9,000 MWh — that’s enough to power 10,000 average households for a full year!
As it turned out, we didn’t need wind generation at all and we normally don’t. A look at our generation capabilities on the weekend via the IESO’s “Generators Output and Capability Reports” also shows IESO were busy controlling the grid to prevent blackouts or brownouts, and frequently did so by getting Bruce Nuclear to “steam off.” It must be assumed that OPG were also required to “spill hydro,” our cheapest form of generation! Needless to say, we ratepayers were also paying for that!
Once again, the past weekend demonstrates power generation from industrial wind turbines wasn’t needed.
But the way the Ontario Liberal government has negotiated the contracts with wind power developers means Ontario’s ratepayers are required to pick up the bill for the unreliable and intermittent nature of power that often winds up creating a surplus of unneeded power that is exported at a substantial cost.
It is clearly time to end the charade — kill the GEA and cancel any outstanding unbuilt wind contracts.
* Due to the nature of grids, it is impossible to determine what source of generation was actually exported so the suggested cost reflects (approximately) the GA (Global Adjustment) plus the HOEP (hourly Ontario electricity price) of all types of generation either contracted or regulated.
If you are a Hydro One customer, when you get your bill this month it will include a letter addressed “To our valued customers” which describes the wonderful things Hydro One has supposedly done for you. The letter, signed by CEO Mayo Schmidt, is filled with claims about actions taken and how they were all done to “serve you better.”
One of the paragraphs is particularly noteworthy. It declares:
“For our customers who are struggling with affordability, I want you to know that we are strongly advocating on your behalf. Earlier this year we urged government to make affordability a priority and we made several suggestions that resulted in the creation of the Fair Hydro Plan. The majority of our customers consuming 750 kWh a month have started to see an average reduction of 31 per cent on their monthly bill. For many of our customer, this represents a savings of $600 a year.”
So, the take-away from those words of sympathy from CEO Schmidt ($4.4 million* in compensation in 2016) suggests it was he — not Premier Wynne or Energy Minister Thibeault — who conceived the “kick the can down the road” concept that became the Fair Hydro Act!
Look back to a recent comment from Minister Thibeault in a CBC article, he said this about the Plan: “ ‘This is like remortgaging our house,’ Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault told reporters Monday at Queen’s Park. “I’ve always said that the Fair Hydro Plan was a fair plan; it was the best plan we could come up with when we were talking with energy experts, accounting experts, the legal experts.”
When the Fair Hydro Plan was launched back on March 2, 2017 Premier Wynne said: “I have heard from people around the province who are worried about the price they are asked to pay for electricity and the impact it has on their household budget. Electricity is a necessity. By fixing problems in the system, we will be able to provide every residential customer in Ontario with an average 25 per cent off their bills now and make rates fairer in the future.”
So the question is, does the “we” include Hydro One’s CEO Schmidt, and is he classified as one of the “energy experts” Minister Thibeault claimed they talked with? If so, I hope Schmidt told him about the rate increases Hydro One has applied for that will increase average customer’s bills by $141 a year in 2022 (based on current Hydro One rate applications under review by the OEB).
Those rate increases are needed by Hydro One to help pay for their upcoming purchase of Avista Corp. as it will represent a revenue gain to them of close to $500 million annually.
The LDC benefiting the most from the Fair Hydro Plan was Hydro One which still has the second highest distribution rates. Before privatization, they had the highest ratepayer arrears (past due accounts), the bulk of ratepayers accessing the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) and the highest level of bad debts. A part of the rate increase they currently seek would allow them to install “pre-paid smart meters” meaning if a ratepayer couldn’t afford top up their account they would be automatically disconnected.
On October 17, 2017 ratepayers got further bad news from Bonnie Lysyk, Ontario’s Auditor General reported due to the way in which the Fair Hydro Plan is being financed, ratepayers will be required to pay an extra $4 billion in interest costs. That $4 billion increases estimated borrowing costs by 19% to $21 billion to cover the forecast $18.4 billion cost of the Plan. The latter costs represent the bulk of the 25% reduction (16%**), bringing total estimated costs for this portion to $39.4 billion.
The shell game of the Ontario Liberal government in Ontario’s energy portfolio continues, aided and abetted by Hydro One. If Hydro One’s rate applications are approved, their distribution rates will jump bringing more misery to their ratepayers!
* The CEO’s compensation is more than the total amount available annually under the LEAP (Low-income Energy Assistance Program) from the 73 local distribution companies in the province.
** The other 9% comes from removing the provincial portion of the HST (8%) and putting the OESP and RRRP (1%) as a taxpayer responsibility.
Back in April 2015, the Wynne-led Ontario Liberal government announced they had created the Trillium Trust and would be selling off assets to generate $130 billion dollars that would be allocated “across the province over 10 years to fund projects in public transit”.
The news release for the announcement stated an additional $200 million generated from the sale of the GM shares would be placed in the trust; it also announced plans to sell off Hydro One.
OPG’s 2nd Quarter report was released August 11, 2017. The media paid no attention despite a very successful quarter, reporting an after-tax profit of $307 million — well up from $132 million of the comparable 2016 quarter.
But if you look deeper into their results, you learn $283 million of the reported profit came from the sale of their head office.
What the OPG results signify is that profitability from their share of total Ontario power generation (52.2% or 18 TWh/terawatt hours out of the total 34.5 TWh) for those three months in that quarter produced only $24 million in after-tax profit. OPG blamed the reduced income on lower nuclear power generation.
I think there is much more to the story.
OPG, as I have said before, has become the “whipping boy” for the Ontario Liberal government and apparently it still is, as observations will confirm comparing their 2017 quarterly results with those of the same quarter in 2007. Here’s proof.
Renewables and Conservation
It would be remiss to not mention first that both the addition of renewable energy such as wind and solar (in excess of 6,700 MW) were granted “first to the grid” rights thereby superseding much of OPG’s (previously called “unregulated”) hydro (3,629 MW as of December 31, 2007) as well as other generation such as Lennox, an oil/gas fueled generating station with a capacity of 2,100 MW which is seldom called on to produce electricity. Likewise, biomass-converted coal plants in Atitikokan (180 MW) and Thunder Bay (165 MW) are idle most of the time. The other issue is the fact that consumption in 2007 was reported by IESO as 152 TWh; by 2016 that had dropped by 15 TWh (enough to supply about 1.7 million average households for a full year) supposedly due to conservation, but more likely due to the high prices.
Ten years later
Now let’s look at the ten-year comparisons for the 2nd Quarter.
Gross revenue in 2007 for the quarter was $1,393 million versus $1,146 million in 2017; a drop of $247 million or 17.7% and for the first six month (2017 versus 2007) was $691 million lower (-22.9%)
Spilled hydro generation in the 2nd Quarter of 2017 was 2.6 TWh (enough to power about 290,000 average households for a year) but not mentioned in 2007
Water fuel taxes in the 2nd Quarter of 2017 were $97 million to generate 8.2 TWh whereas in 2007 the 9.3 TWh generated resulted in water fuel taxes of only $67 million
Electricity generated in the 2nd Quarter of 2017 was 18 TWh (-25.4%) versus 25.4 TWh in the same quarter of 2007 and for the comparable six months generation was down from 54.2 TWh to
36.6 TWh a drop of 17.6 TWh or more than the 2007/2016 consumption decline of 15 TWh
Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PIL) in the 2nd Quarter of 2017 were $97 million versus $29 million in the comparable 2007 Quarter.
Operations, maintenance and administration costs dropped from $776 million in the 2nd Quarter of 2007 to $711 million (-8.4%) in the comparable 2017 Quarter however the average costs of generation per kWh (kilowatt hour) increased from 4.6 cents/kWh to 4.83 cents/kWh
OPG were also listed as a participant in the recent “cap and trade” auction of “Greenhouse Gas Allowances” but their purchase or cost of allowances was not disclosed
All this suggests only a few ways the Ontario Liberal government and the Energy Ministry are removing money from ratepayers’ pockets to fund the Consolidated Revenue Fund, etc.
The sale of OPG’s head office is another. The fact that OPG produced an after-tax profit of $283 million by the sale of its head office will do nothing to reduce electricity rates as the following note from the 2nd Quarter 2017 report states:
“Pursuant to the Shareholder Declaration and Shareholder Resolution, and as prescribed in the Trillium Trust Act, 2014, OPG is required to transfer the proceeds from this disposition, net of prescribed deductions under the Act, into the Province’s Consolidated Revenue Fund.”
What that means is, the pre-tax profit on the sale of OPG’s head office of $378 million (including the PIL or payment in lieu of taxes) will do nothing to reduce electricity rates and instead will be applied to the budgetary deficit. Perhaps some of it will be spent on transit projects or even to pave a road in a (Liberal) riding.
The profit on the sale of OPG’s head office plus all the other payments extracted from them could have gone a long way to defray the costs that the Fair Hydro Plan will accumulate and which we will have to pay for in the near future.
Next up for OPG to sell off: per the Shareholder declaration from former Energy Minister, Bob Chiarelli is “the Lakeview Site”, comprised of an approximately 67-acre portion running along the shoreline and along the southwesterly portion of the Lakeview Site and the adjacent water lots, more particularly identified” and “the remaining approximately 110 acres of the Lakeview Site”.
The Wynne-led government is doing its best to sell off any remaining assets owned by Ontario’s taxpayers to the detriment of ratepayers.
The Labour Day weekend was a disappointment for many as the last summer holiday featured below-normal temperatures in most of Ontario. The cool weather meant Ontario’s demand for electricity was only 904,000* megawatts (MWh) for the three days.
The “weighted” average of the hourly Ontario electricity price (HOEP) averaged a meagre $6.13/MWh (0.61 cents/kWh), meaning the market value for that consumption was only $5.542 million.
At the same time, however, Ontario was exporting 168,000 MWh (net exports i.e., exports minus imports) to New York, Michigan, etc. at about the same price. Ontario got $1.03 million from the sale of that power, which brought the total market value of Ontario’s consumption and exports to $6.572 million.
If the $6.57 million figure was the true cost of power generation, then Ontario’s ratepayers would have been delighted; however, we know the HOEP makes up only a small portion of the cost. The Global Adjustment (GA) represents the bulk of costs.
What the power REALLY cost
The GA includes the difference between the contracted rate and the market or HOEP value and many other costs. As is the normal process of IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) they provide a forecast of the GA at the start of each month. For September of this year, it was the highest ever at $127.39/MWh** or 12.7 cents/kWh. Should IESO’s forecast prove correct, the total cost of those Labour Day megawatt hours for September will be $133.52 or 13.3 cents/kWh.
In other words, the 1,072,000 MWh consumed and exported over the three days of the Labour Day weekend had an all-in cost of over $143 million.
Ontario’s ratepayers in the interim were enjoying TOU (time of use) off-peak rates of 6.5cents/kWh meaning they will be billed $58,760,000 (904,000 X $65/MWh = $58,760,000). That $58.760 million plus the $1.03 million from the export of the 168,000 MWh will produce revenue of only $59,793,000.
That leaves a shortfall in the costs of contracted generation of $83,340,440. ($143,133,440 – $59,793,000 = $83,340,440)
The $83 million shortfall for those three days winds up in what is referred to as a “variance” account and is normally reflected in the resetting of the rates semi-annually by the Ontario Energy Board on May 1st and November 1st. The Fair Hydro Act however kicked these costs down the road and will accumulate with all the other shortfalls and reflect themselves in future rate increases.
Still digging the hole
Despite these crazy financials, Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault has not cancelled the renewable energy contracts issued in 2016 that are now chasing their Renewable Energy Approvals from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. The amount of exported power on the Labour Day weekend combined with the 36,000 MWh of curtailed wind power represented more than one-fifth (22.6%) of Ontario’s demand.
Ontario clearly does not need any more intermittent wind power generated out of phase with demand.
Time for the Minister of Energy to brush up on his Grade 6 Math and stop punishing Ontario’s ratepayers.
* Ontario’s demand for the 2016 Labour Day was 1,197,000 MWh
**Hopefully the IESO forecast includes an allowance for curtailed wind which was approximately 36,000 MWh over the three days of the weekend and which Ontario ratepayers pay $120/MWh.
The Fair Hydro Act kicked in July 1, 2017: we can now look at the first month of the 25% reduction Premier Wynne and her Minister of Energy Glenn Thibeault, gave us, and determine if the projected costs look reasonable.
The cost forecast for the Act according to the Financial Accountability Office (FAO) of Ontario, was: “the Province is proposing to borrow an estimated average of $2.5 billion per year through 2027 to pay a portion of electricity costs, thereby temporarily reducing the amount paid by eligible ratepayers. The Province would recover the borrowed funds, including interest, from ratepayers over an estimated 18-year period starting in 2028.”
The FAO’s estimate includes: the 8% provincial portion of the HST, the reduction of 17% in electricity costs and the additional 6% promised to 800,000 rural customers (principally Hydro One ratepayers) who will pay less. The latter is related to taxpayers picking up the costs of the RRRP (rural and remote rate protection plan) and the OESP (Ontario Electricity Support Program) under the Fair Hydro Act.
While the estimate by the FAO for the deferral appears significant at $189 million per month* (plus interest), it may turn out to be much higher, based on what we see in the very first month.
The first month’s deferral has been reported by IESO as $394.7 million. According to IESO it includes adjustments for May ($110.2 million) and June ($136.6 million) that represent the “partial reduction” granted by the OEB to “eligible customers.” That puts the monthly costs for July 2017 at $147.9 million.
The IESO spokesperson also noted due to billing cycles of the various local distribution companies (LDC), the full monthly cost will not become evident until August submissions are made by the LDC.
The $147.9 million will obviously be higher in the months and years ahead and well exceed the FAO’s estimates. For example, the July deferred GA amount would not include monies related to the different billing cycles, or include the 8% provincial portion of the HST. Making a calculated guess, these would add another $100 million, meaning the monthly cost will be approximately $250 million or $3 billion annually. As well, the OEB April 30, 2017 RPP (regulated price plan) report noted rates would have increased 3.1% May 1st had the Fair Hydro Act not altered normal procedures.
The 3.1% increase mentioned in the OEB report becomes clearer from this report excerpt: “After taking into account the reduction in the forecast amount of the Global Adjustment of approximately $1B, the average supply cost drops by $13.79/MWh relative to May 2016 prices, or $17.28/MWh relative to what RPP consumers otherwise would have paid starting on May 1, 2017.”
That 3.1% increase we avoided (deferred) and other rate increases approved by the OEB over the next several years will also be deferred, but accrued to appear on our future electricity bills.
Hydro One alone has nine rate applications either before the OEB or in the hopper, so we should expect a future whiplash from rate increases that will make the recent past look good!
And to think we thought the gas plant moves were costly!
August 27, 2017
* The FAO chart 6-1 estimates a monthly impact of $41.00 per “average” residential ratepayer per month so the math equation is: $41.00 X 4,612,551 residential ratepayers (OEB Yearbook of Distributors for 2016) = $189,114.591 or $2.3 billion annually plus interest.
Parker Gallant: Thibeault and Wynne believe it’s wrong for the province to borrow $4 billion to reacquire Hydro One shares, but OK for Hydro One to borrow $5.1 billion while diluting the province’s interest in it
By Parker Gallant
On March 28th, a few weeks after Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault held their press conference about the “Fair Hydro Plan,” Andrea Horwath, leader of the NDP, delivered a motion to the Ontario legislature calling for a buy-back of Hydro One. The motion failed and later resulted in Thibeault calling the NDP motion “short on details and long on hollow promises.” He noted that many of the NDP’s proposals “rely on a vague and yet-to-be-determined ‘expert panel’ that will be convened in the future.” Buying back $4 billion in Hydro One shares is costly, the energy minister added, and “will not take one cent off electricity bills. What it will do is send billions to the stock market instead of making much needed infrastructure investments in communities across Ontario.”
Fast forward to July 19th, when Thibeault was beside himself with excitement because Hydro One will be paying US$5.3 billion ($6.7 billion) to purchase Avista, a much smaller electricity and natural gas utility headquartered in Spokane, Wash., 3,200 kilometres from Toronto. Hydro One offered a 24-per-cent premium on the traded value of the stock price over its July 18th closing and, based on Avista’s 2016 annual profit, it will take Hydro One 38 years to recoup the $6.7-billion price tag. Thibeault’s press release announcing the takeover carried this obtuse claim: “It is to the shared benefit of Hydro One’s customers, employees and shareholders to see the company strengthened and growing.” He also stated that, “In particular, we welcome the fact that this proposed acquisition will not impact the rates that Ontario customers pay. Neither will it have any impact on local jobs.”
The privatization of Hydro One and dilution of the province’s shareholding keep its debt off of the province’s balance sheet
Based on that press release, and the requirement to get shareholder approval, we must assume Thibeault gave his blessings to the acquisition and dilution of the province’s holdings, which will decline from 49 per cent to 44 per cent. He presumably also blessed Hydro One’s borrowing program, which will add US$2.6 billion ($3.7 billion) in new debt, not including another $1.4 billion via a convertible debenture paying 12 per cent per annum in interest prior to its conversion to common shares.
Thibeault and Wynne believe it’s wrong for the province to borrow $4 billion, as the NDP suggested, to reacquire Hydro One shares, but OK for Hydro One to borrow $5.1 billion while diluting the province’s interest in it. The privatization of Hydro One and dilution of the province’s shareholding keep its debt off of the province’s balance sheet.
So, is the acquisition all that Thibeault and Hydro One’s CEO, Mayo Schmidt, claim it is or is the spin meant to distract ratepayers into believing the takeover will lessen pressure on future rate increases? Let’s examine a few facts:
— The acquisition of Avista will result in Hydro One’s debt (short and long term) increasing by 46 per cent, or $5.1 billion, to reach in excess of $16 billion. Should interest rates increase Hydro One will submit an application to the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) for a rate increase, an accepted OEB process.
— Hydro One’s 2017 first-quarter report notes it currently has five rate applications awaiting approval by the OEB and plans to file another nine rate applications over the next four years.
— Washington, where Avista’s electricity ratepayers are located, pays the second-lowest rates of any state on average, with all-in residential rates of 9.43 cents/kWh as of April 2017. Only Louisiana can claim lower rates at an average of 9.35 cents/kWh (U.S. rates expressed in U.S. currency).
— Based on the information in Avista’s 2016 annual report, it appears the all-in cost of a kilowatt-hour delivered to its ratepayers was 8.68 cents/kWh.
— Hydro One, on the other hand, has the highest rates in Canada and in most of North America. It is difficult to see how Washington ratepayers will see any benefit from this acquisition. Based on the data supplied by Hydro One to the OEB for 2015, its average cost of a kilowatt-hour was almost double Avista’s at 17 cents/kWh.
It is difficult to believe several of the claims in Hydro One’s news release
It is difficult to believe several of the claims in Hydro One’s July 19th news release. As an example, it states the acquisition of Avista “will be accretive to earnings per share in the mid-single digits in the first full year of operation.” Politicians and regulators in Washington may be tougher than those in Ontario when Hydro One seeks a rate increase! It gains increases in Ontario from the OEB and via political tampering, which recently resulted in a requirement that taxpayers pick up a part of Hydro One’s bad debt allocations via the Ontario Electricity Support Program.
Another quote is also a stretch: “Efficiencies through enhanced scale, innovation, shared IT systems and increased purchasing power provides cost savings for customers and better customer service, complementing both organization’s commitment to excellence.” This claim comes from the company that had the distinction of being singled out by Ontario’s ombudsman for issuing over 100,000 faulty hydro bills. Moreover, last October Global TV found Hydro One had almost 226,000 clients in arrears, which represented 20 per cent of all its residential clients and 40 per cent of all ratepayers in arrears in the province.
Ratepayers and taxpayers should view the Hydro One takeover of Avista as negative. To re-purpose Thibeault’s comment to the NDP leader, this action “will not take one cent off electricity bills.”
Parker Gallant is a retired bank executive who looked at his power bill and didn’t like what he saw.
A Globe and Mailarticle of November 11, 2002 reported that Dalton McGuinty, leader of the Ontario Liberal Party (OLP), then in Opposition, was upset because Premier Ernie Eves had promised legislation to cap electricity prices.
Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty said the true cost of the Conservative government’s hydro bungling will add billions of dollars to the debt.
“Now that families and businesses have been scared to death, now that new investment in supply has been scared off, now that everyone knows hydro has been completely mismanaged, Ernie Eves is going back to square one,” Mr. McGuinty said in a news release on Monday.
“The government should have had its act together before the market opened. And the bill for its failure to do that hasn’t been cancelled — it’s just been put off.”
Mr. McGuinty said the Ontario Liberals have been calling for action for months, but the Eves government has not acted until now to freeze electricity prices and increase supply.
The Liberal Leader said his real concern is what Ontarians will have to pay over the long term.
Fast forward to September 14, 2005 when Dalton McGuinty was Ontario’s Premier. In a keynote speech to the Ontario Energy Association, he bragged about what the OLP had accomplished and their plans for the future. Let’s examine the promises made in that speech.
McGuinty: “We won’t gamble away Ontario’s future prosperity because of what the next poll might or might not say...”
A noble thought, but discarded by the OLP. When seeking re-election in 2011 McGuinty cancelled the Mississauga and Oakville gas plants and plans to contract for offshore wind developments. Polling in ridings affected by the foregoing showed several Liberal seats in jeopardy. More recently, shortly after a poll indicated Premier Wynne’s approval rating was at 20 %, she announced hydro rates would be cut by 25 %. Policy by polls…
McGuinty: … Or because of what new technology might or might not be developed.
The launch of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA) in 2009 focused on wind and solar generation at above market prices, without a cost/benefit study as pointed out by the Ontario Auditor General in his December 5, 2011 report. Both wind and solar were old technologies promoted by ENGO and wind and solar associations and known to be intermittent and unreliable sources of generation.
McGuinty: That’s why we asked the OPA to report on a long-term plan.
The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) produced a viable plan with limited wind and solar capacity to be contracted for in a competitive environment, but the plan was suspended by Energy and Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman before approval via his directive to the OPA dated September 17, 2008.
McGuinty: That’s why we acted to take the politics out of pricing.
The recent Fair Hydro Act and the gas plant moves dispel the notion that politics has been removed from pricing, as do the FIT and MicroFIT programs that past Minister Smitherman enabled via a directive issued September 24, 2009 to the OPA which included a domestic content requirement. The latter resulted in a challenge before the World Trade Organization which Canada lost and taxpayers picked up the costs.
McGuinty: This spring, the Ontario Energy Board, a truly arms-length public agency will set the price of power for small consumers. The OEB sets the price based on what electricity costs, not on what politicians think it should cost, or wish it would cost.
While those homilies are correct, the prices are set based on input costs which the OEB has no control over. In simple terms, they divide the input costs accumulated (Global Adjustment + Hourly Ontario Electricity Price + transmission) and divide it by kilowatt hours consumed. The impact of above market (highlighted by the Auditor General reports) contracts with wind, solar, and other generators and the plethora of other spending (e.g., conservation $400 million per year, etc.) dictated by the Energy Minister, plus above market salaries and benefits for OPG and Hydro One employees etc., are all part of those costs.
McGuinty: We could require our businesses and families to subsidize the price of electricity through their taxes.
Premier McGuinty did just that when he moved the gas plants and part of the cost was paid by taxpayers. The Liberal government also drove up the price of hydro and put 600,000 household into energy poverty. It fell on charities, supported by Ontario taxpayers, to help those households. Tax dollars from those households also supplied grants to buyers of expensive Tesla automobiles and those grants continue today!
McGuinty: But, having finally put our province on a sound financial footing, we choose to ensure the price of electricity reflects the true cost of electricity.
The “sound financial footing” didn’t last long, and during the Liberals’ reign Ontario’s debt has increased from $132 billion to over $300 billion. Ontario has seen only one budget in the last decade that will seemingly balance and that was the most recent one.
McGuinty: We can’t guarantee price certainty –; that just isn’t realistic, given the nature of the challenges before us.
The Fair Hydro Act just passed by the Wynne government guarantees price certainty for four years for certain classes of ratepayers. This isn’t realistic: refinancing those assets may conflict with their ability to continue to generate electricity for an additional ten years. Amortization of fixed assets is based on the longevity of those assets, but the Wynne government has decreed that they can extend their life so that our children will be stuck with the replacement costs.
McGuinty: But I can assure you that we will do everything we can to ensure safe, clean, affordable electricity is always in full supply in the Province of Ontario.
When the OLP became the government, the average price of a kilowatt hour was 4.3 cents. By 2016 it averaged 11.2 cents — a 160% increase. The 25% reduction touted by Premier Wynne as the largest in Ontario’s history followed. The subsidy to cover that 25% will accumulate within the confines of OPG and at the end of increases held to “the rate of inflation for the next four years,” that subsidy will rise well above that benchmark in the years following that moratorium.
McGuinty: We won’t subsidize prices or cap prices –; that would mean more debt or higher deficits. Both of which would lead ultimately to higher taxes.
By deferring debt to subsidize hydro prices for four years within OPG’s balance sheet (guaranteed by the Province), the plan is to hide (temporarily) the impact from ratepayers while supposedly balancing the budget.
So, what happened to all those lofty promises of “affordable” electricity costs for consumers and business, that is immune to politics?
Was this what all those promises really meant?
“The true cost of the Liberal government’s hydro bungling will addtens ofbillions of dollars to the debt.”
The “Fair Hydro” plan ushered in by the Wynne government is setting up ratepayers for higher bills as soon as 2021 arrives. When the hiatus ends, limiting increases to ratepayer bills to no more than the “cost of living” (COL) over the next four years, the cumulative debt acquired by OPG to “refinance” the reported $50 billion of electricity assets will have to be repaid.
Early indications suggest the costs will be higher than the $2.5 billion being set aside for the next three years by Premier Wynne and Energy Minister, Glenn Thibeault.
Evidence? A look at May 2017 compared to May 2016 indicates the increase in the Global Adjustment (GA) costs for Class B ratepayers was 7.9% higher than 2016 and well above the May COL index of 1.4%. Any increase in costs above the inflation rate will be added to the $2.5 billion being refinanced and become the responsibility of ratepayers to pay when the hiatus ends.
Demand drops but the cost goes UP
The IESO May 2017 Monthly Market Report indicates Ontario Class B ratepayers consumed 344,000 megawatt hours (MWh) less than they did in May 2016, which represents a 4% drop. That’s about the same as 460,000 average households would consume for the month. The Global Adjustment (GA) costs on the reduced amount of electricity consumed, however, increased by $82.7 million from $931.2 million in 2016 to $1,013.9 million in 2017. Many will recall in May 2016, lower consumption during the prior six months caused the OEB to raise rates!
So, what caused the 7.9% spike ($82.7 million) in GA costs? It appears there were two principal causes with one of them related to Ontario’s “Net Exports”.*
In 2017, net exports averaged 600 MW per hour higher than 2016, meaning they increased by 446,400 MWh (600MWh X 24 hours X 31 days) in May 2017 (enough to power almost 600,000 average households for the month). The buyers in New York, Michigan, Quebec, etc., paid only the Hourly Ontario Electricity Price (HOEP) of $3.17/MWh, while Ontario’s ratepayers were required to pay the GA costs of $54.8 million or $122.89/MWh.
The other major cause of the GA spike appears related to power generation from wind and its record curtailment in May 2017. My friend Scott Luft posts both the generation from TX (transmission connected) and DX (distributor connected) industrial wind turbines (IWT), and also conservatively estimates “curtailment”. In May 2016 TX and DX connected IWT generated 699,371 MWh, not including 130,000 MWh of curtailed generation.
Combined: wind power in May 2016 cost ratepayers about $113 million or $162/MWh. May 2017 saw 669,011 MWh of wind power delivered either to the grid (TX) or to local distribution companies (DX). Curtailed wind in May 2017 was a record as Scott estimated almost 524,000 MWh (enough to power almost 700,000 average households for the month) were curtailed. The cost for generated and curtailed wind increased to slightly more than $158 million for the month, which raised the cost of accepted wind generation to $236/MWh.
$100 million added … for just one month
What this means is, wind-generated and curtailed costs in May 2017 were $45 million higher. Coupled with the increase in net exports of surplus generation and related costs, $100 million was added to the GA … for just one month. If May 2017 is in any way representative of the four years of the rate freeze (tied to the COL index), the costs of refinancing those assets will be much more than the March 2, 2017 press release suggested it would be: “These new measures will cost the government up to $2.5 billion over the next three years.”
Based on past forecasts by the Ontario’s Liberal government, keeping the costs at $2.5 billion over the next three years may be a “stretch goal”!
*“Net Exports” are total exports less total imports.
Ontario news in May focused on record rainfalls in many areas of the province, records were being set elsewhere, too: in Ontario’s our electricity sector.
While one of those records occurred on May 27 when the 4,500 MW capacity of industrial wind turbines generated a record low of one (1) megawatt hour, there were others. They won’t make you proud.
Highest “B” Class GA per MWh ever @ $123.07/MWH – What the $123.07 represents is a Global Adjustment cost to all Class B ratepayers of 12.3 cents /kWh without including the HOEP (Hourly Ontario Electricity Price) at a time when Premier Wynne has told us her government is reducing our electricity bills by 25%* so the difference between what the cost of electricity was in May and other months and the TOU rates (to be announced) will be “kicked down the road” to be paid at a future date.
Highest “B” Class total dollar GA cost ever @ $1,013.9 million – The Class “B” ratepayers got stung badly in May 2017 as their portion of the GA reached record levels.
Highest OPA contracted GA monthly cost ever @ $838.3 million – The Ontario Power Authority (since merged with IESO) was created by Dwight Duncan when Minister of Energy and contracted for all new power contracts, including those above market ones for renewable energy (wind, solar and biomass). Those contracted generation sources set a new record for contribution to the GA representing 73.2% of the total amount as noted under # 5. below.
Lowest “B” Class consumption for May (in evidence) @ 8.310 TWh – It would appear that Class “B” ratepayers did their best to reduce consumption and based on data on the IESO website consumption levels set a record low in May 2017.
Highest overall total GA costs ever @ $1,144.5 million – The total GA costs for May 2017 for the combination of Class B and A ratepayers achieved this record level since the GA was first created.
Based on what happened in May, it would appear that holding future rate increases in the next four years to the inflation index will result in huge increases when the hold-back (financed by taxpayers via the OPG) is slated for recovery.
That could make the Debt Retirement Charge look like chump change!
* The OEB has not yet announced the TOU rates that will apply effective July 1, 2017 as a result of the passing of the “Fair Hydro Plan” Act in the Ontario Legislature.
To: The Honourable Glenn Thibeault, Minister of Energy, Ontario
EB-2017-0049 Hydro One Rate Increase application
My views/thoughts and “What the OEB needs to consider”
The OEB must consider the fact Hydro One has publicly declared1(a) their intent to pay 70% to 80% of their net income after taxes as dividends to shareholders. No other publicly owned LDC pays out at that level. Toronto Hydro has recently informed the City of Toronto they will reduce their dividend.(b) It should be a point of the review by the OEB to limit the payout dividend rate by Hydro One to no more than the average of all of the other LDC dividend payout rates as the higher payout rate increases borrowing needs and resulting interest payments thereby increasing the need for the raising of distribution rates!
The OEB is currently in the process of endeavouring to have the distribution rates become more of a “fixed” cost moving away from variable rates currently embedded within the rate application system. Hydro One’s application ventures away from that path even though they cite the move to fixed rates on their website!(a) The OEB needs to re-establish their regulatory purpose.
A review of the Yearbook of Distributors(a) filings on the OEB website comparing Hydro One’s filings for 2014 with 2015 (2016 filings not posted yet) indicates OMA costs fell by $103 million from 2014 to 2015 while depreciation increased by $14 million. One would suspect the reported drop in OMA costs would have caused a drop in Hydro One’s distribution costs but no reduction was forthcoming. One must assume the increased depreciation was due to the OEB approving the completion of capital spending moving previously approved spending within a variance account to current rate recovery status. Presumably due to the drop in OMA costs; Hydro One reported an after-tax profit in their distribution business of $257.3 million an increase of $68,1 million in fiscal 2015.
We would note either Hydro One has been effective at getting ratepayers to conserve OR their out of line distribution rates have driven ratepaying households into “energy poverty”. The foregoing is evident in comparing the year ended December 31, 2015 with the comparable year ended December 31, 2016. Distribution volumes fell 8.6% whereas Transmission volumes increased 1.7% signaling distribution rates are out of line with other LDC! A further 1.1% reduction in distributed electricity is evident in reviewing the 1st Quarter of 2017 as compared to the 1st Quarter of 2016! NB:
We would note that asset classifications of: “Goodwill” and “Intangible Assets” now cumulatively represent $676 million having increased from $400 million in 2012. Those assets now represent 6.7% of Hydro One’s equity base and in line with the OEB’s annual setting of the ROE allowed by the LDC has the effect of inflation of Hydro One’s rate increases. It is time to discount the $676 million when considering the current application. Hydro One has inflated the goodwill (in particular) by enticing local councils to sell their LDC to Hydro One at prices that exceed normal acquisition activities in the private market. That in turn impacts not only the ratepayers of the acquired LDC but also (via the inclusion of the goodwill) impact all other Hydro One ratepayers.
Of note in respect to the OEB’s responsibility is the January 14, 2016 “Review of the Cost of Capital for Ontario’s Regulated Utilities”(a) wherein we find the following under the heading “Electricity Distributors” and labeled # 4) under “The differences between the OEB approved and the actual results can be attributed to the following:”: is the following: “4) The utility’s ability to manage its costs leading to under or over spending, and demand pressures”! Ontario’s ratepayers should rightly expect the OEB to not only “attribute” differences between “approved and the actual results” for the foregoing reason but to also bear that in mind on a comparative basis with all LDC ensuring that “over spending” is not granted the freedom given to Hydro One in the past and in the future!Costs for the same relative activities should be similar for all LDC!
NB: What that suggests is having the highest distribution rates during a time when the grid has a large surplus of electricity has two negative effects on ratepayers. The first is that reducing consumption will have a detrimental impact on the HOEP driving it down further particularly during the shoulder seasons when demand is low and secondly the reduced revenue to Hydro One will cause them to apply for rate increases associated with the revenue drop thereby increasing distribution rates. It is a downward spiral for ratepayers! We would also point out that while Hydro One experienced an 8.6% drop in consumption the IESO report that consumption from 2015 to 2016 remained flat at 137 TWh.