May showers Ontario electricity customers with records

With a forecast of more increases on the way …

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!

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*  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.

 

Letter to Energy Minister Thibeault on rate increase application

 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”

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:
  5. 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.
  6. 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!

 Parker Gallant

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.

 

 

1.(a) https://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/investment-ideas/research-reports/hydro-one-will-be-a-dividend-stock-worth-considering/article26829880/

(b) https://ca.news.yahoo.com/toronto-hydro-cuts-citys-dividend-172637812.html

2.(a) http://www.hydroone.com/Norfolk/Pages/MovingtoFixedDistributionRates.aspx

3.(a) https://www.oeb.ca/utility-performance-and-monitoring/natural-gas-and-electricity-utility-yearbooks

6.(a)https://www.oeb.ca/oeb/_Documents/EB-2009-0084/OEB_Staff_Report_CostofCapital_Review_20160114.pdf

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.

What good is wind power?

April brought high winds, record curtailment of wind power, and record low consumer demand. Wasted and exported power could have supplied half the homes in Ontario for a month.

The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) recently released their April 2017 Monthly Market Report with information on power consumption, market pricing, exports and a host of other data.  What the April report revealed was Ontario’s average demand was low — so low that when energy analyst Scott Luft searched IESO’s records, he found the total demand for the month was a record low. He searched back to 1994, which is as far back as available.

The total demand reported by IESO for April 2017 was 9,788,614 megawatt hours (MWh): Ontario ratepayers are conserving, or we have lost many industrial clients, or both!

Another significant fact appearing on IESO’s website is that April was a pretty good month for Class A ratepayers. They consumed 21.9% of Ontario’s demand, but were only charged 11.4% of the Global Adjustment (GA), $965.7 million.  Class B ratepayers (that’s you and me, and small businesses) were charged with paying 88.6% of the GA, but represented only 78.1% of Ontario’s demand.

Cost: $160 million for revenue of $14 million

The other disturbing fact about April was our net export sales of power. That totaled 1,311,120 MWh sold at an average price of $11.14/MWh for a revenue of just $14.6 million for power that cost ratepayers $160 million. The loss of $145.4 million for the month contributed to the GA total of $965.7 million.

That 1.3 million MWh of exported power — which you paid for — could have provided power for more than 1.7 million average Ontario households at a cost of 1.11cents/kWh or just $8.35 for the month! (Assuming average use of 750 kilowatt hours/kWh of electricity for the month.)

Reviewing the IESO stats provides relatively current information but it doesn’t disclose the source of the generation, or what caused the hourly Ontario electricity price (HOEP) to be so low. Did we, for example, have to curtail wind?

Wind power: wasted. Again.

For that information I depend on my friend Scott Luft, who keeps a monthly data file which includes not only actual industrial wind generation, but also an estimate (always conservative) of curtailed wind power which we pay for but isn’t delivered to the electricity grid.  For the month of April 2017, wind power generated and curtailed (521,056 MWh) was 1,374,873 MWh, for a cost of  approximately $182 million.

Curtailed wind in April was the highest on record since we began paying for it back in September 2013!

Here’s the fatal math:

net exports of 1.3 million MWh +

the 521,000 of curtailed wind = 18.7% of total Ontario demand.

Combined, the 1,832,176 MWh at the HOEP price of $11.14/MWh and 1.11 cents/kWh and what do you get? Enough power for more than 2.4 million average households (over 50% of all households in the province) with their average need for power at a cost of only $8.35 — for the whole month.

Why doesn’t Premier Wynne simply cancel the Green Energy Act and the contracts for projects not yet built?

Either math is a problem for the Premier or she doesn’t want to admit to another “mistake”!

Parker Gallant

May 28, 2017

*Please note the GA is the can Premier Wynne is “kicking down the road” under her “Fair Hydro Plan” where she will refinance assets the Province doesn’t own by getting Ontario Power Generation to accumulate the debt for the uncoming 25% reduction in our monthly bills for the next four years. Look forward to a reappearance of the DRC (Debt Retirement Charge) but on a bigger scale in 2021!

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.

Wynne spin and the Fair Hydro Plan, Part 3

The recent 2017/2018 budget speech from Finance Minister Sousa had this to say about the Fair Hydro Plan.

“People from across the province shared their concerns about rising electricity bills. We listened and we are responding. Recognizing that there needed to be a fairer way to share the costs of building a cleaner, more modern and reliable electricity generation system, we are taking action to reduce electricity costs. Through Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan, starting this summer, household electricity costs would be lowered by an average of 25 per cent. We are also capping rate  increases to inflation for the next four years. Low‐income families, and those living in rural, remote or on-reserve First Nation communities, would receive additional relief as well.”

Impressive words signaling reallocation of charges to taxpayers previously paid by ratepayers as well as direct relief. The budget’s forecast however doesn’t jibe with the words contained in the speech from Premier Wynne when she announced the relief March 2, 2017 and said, “Although the refinancing occurs within the electricity system and is accounted for separately, the overall fiscal impact of this relief and restructuring will cost the province about $2.5 billion over the next three years.”

The Premier’s remarks suggest relief will cost about $833 million annually but the budget notes the “Electricity Rate Relief Programs” are forecast to cost $1.438 billion.

The budget estimate(s) presumably include the costs associated with the OESP (Ontario Electricity Support Program) for low-income families. Those “heat or eat” households were driven to that situation by climbing electricity rates caused by lucrative contracts handed out by the current and past energy ministers.  As well, free delivery costs for First Nations communities will become standard and taxpayer supported as will the RRRP (Rural or Remote Rate Protection) in low-density regions.  Also added to the pot is an “Affordability Fund” for households who can’t afford energy efficiency upgrades.  Finance Minister Sousa’s budget obviously forecasts those costs to taxpayers at over $600 million more than the Premier!  So what are Ontario’s taxpayers/ratepayers to believe?

Based on the foregoing we must assume the Premier’s $2.5 billion over three years are to only cover the programs moved to other ministries and will cost taxpayers about $4.5 billion if the relief ends three years hence.  Based on the record of this government we shouldn’t expect the relief programs to end in three years!

The other part of the Premier’s statement was: “In addition, this rate relief is designed to last. After we bring bills down by 25% we will hold them there with rates rising only with inflation — or roughly 2% — for at least four years.”  Once again the Premier avoids telling us the whole story. Other associated documents the general public have a difficult time locating tell another story.  One such document was the “Technical Briefing” appendix attached to a directive dated March 2, 2017 sent to the OEB by Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault.  Under a heading labeled “Refinancing the Global Adjustment” we find:  “Under current forecasts, the immediate reduction (i.e., the financed portion) in the GA would be about $2.5 billion per year on average over the first ten years,  with a maximum annual interest cost of $1.4 billion.”

What that means is, they are “kicking the can down the road” by refinancing $25 billion of contract and adding $14 billion in interest costs. At some point in the not too distant future (year 5?) electricity rates will need to jump to accommodate the $39 billion of accumulated debt within the portfolio.  What is being refinanced are those 20-year contracts for wind, solar and gas generation, yet the contracts will have expired and should, yet we don’t know if they will still be operational!

Interestingly enough, if we include the taxpayer-related relief costs of at least $4.314 billion ($1,438 million X 3 years) “kicking the can down the road” will labour taxpayers/ratepayers with $43.3 billion in costs. That $43.3 billion exceeds what was supposed invested in electricity generation ($35 billion) and is only $6.7 billion short of what they claim has been invested in the electricity system as this quote from the “Technical Briefing” notes:  Between 2005 and 2015, government invested more than $50 billion in the electricity system, including $35 billion in electricity generation to restore reliability, replace coal and meet environmental objectives.

So what are taxpayers and ratepayers seeing when they look ahead? First, a new debt associated with the electricity system will burden us with an additional $43.3 billion on top of the reputed $50 billion the Premier Wynne led government claims has been invested.  That accumulated debt will require payback which will drive rates and taxes higher.   Secondly many of the $35 billion investments in electricity generation and the $15 billion of investments in the electricity system will have reached their end of life and will require replacement.

The forecast for ratepayers is they should expect to see a new charge on their future hydro bills. Logic suggests the new charge should be referred to as the LDRC (Liberal Debt Retirement Charge)!

 

 

 

Wynne spin and the Fair Hydro Plan–Part 2

Part 1 in this series featured Premier Wynne’s assertion that “In the past few years we’ve invested more than $50 billion in electricity infrastructure — new dams in the south, new towers in the north, $13 billion to refurbish nuclear power plants alone and billions more to ensure new transmission and distribution lines everywhere.”

She is obviously spinning tales! Those “new dams in the south” are nowhere to be seen unless she is talking about “Big Becky” the tunnel under Niagara Falls at a cost of $1.5 billion ($600 million over budget) and the “new towers” in the north are presumably the industrial wind turbines (IWT) erected on the shores of Lake Superior where they despoil the landscape made famous by the Group of Seven.   And most of those “new transmission and distribution lines” were added to accommodate wind and solar developments, not to improve the existing electricity infrastructure!

The Premier’s spin about bringing bills down by 25% and her declaration “This is the largest cut to electricity rates in the history of Ontario” ignored the facts when she references “the elephant in the room” claiming it took “too long to come to grips with” how costs had increased.

The Premier claiming the “largest cut to electricity rates” should have admitted to how much rates have increased, but that admission would have failed to win back any of her former supporters. The “elephant” was the 138% increase Ontario’s average residential ratepayer has seen in time-of-use rates since May 1, 2008 in just the raw commodity (electricity) cost — that increased from $420 a year to $1,002.   The $582.00 increase is exclusive of the provincial portion (8%) of the HST!  The cost to small and medium-sized businesses was naturally a lot worse, as their consumption is much higher.

The Premier has already removed the provincial tax portion on out bills so the remaining reduction will reduce the average residential bill by 17% or $170 on the commodity cost for a monthly drop of $14. That’s almost the same amount as the Wynne government suggests the “cap and trade” tax will cost us!

How did we get to a 138% increase?

Let’s look at where that 138% increase came from. Based on the Ontario Energy Board’s Yearbook of Distributors for 2008* and 2015** the “cost of power” increased from $9.031 billion to $13.971 billion, an increase of $4.940 billion despite a reduction in consumption of 4.2 terawatts (enough to supply 465,000 average households).  As well, “average” consumption fell while the number of customers increased by 362,000!

That additional annual cost for less power of $4.940 billion was the product of the GEA passage in early 2009 which resulted in contracted developers being paid above market prices for intermittent, unreliable wind and solar generation requiring back-up from new gas plants.

A prior article dealing with 2016 costs for wind, solar, gas and conservation was based on information from IESO that allowed me to estimate an annual cost of $4.123 billion made up of: wind-$1.566 billion, solar-$1.493 billion, gas back-up-$734 million and conservation-$300 million.  Not included was an estimate for the low-income support program or OESP (Ontario Electricity Support Program) which was included in the recent budget for the 2016/2017 year as $400 million.  Also not included are the costs of spilled hydro and steamed-off nuclear (about 5 TWh or enough to power 550,000 average households) which would add another $300 million bringing the estimate to $4.823 billion and close to the 2008/2015 increase of $4.940 in the commodity cost***.

The next article, Part 3 in this series, will examine Finance Minister, Sousa’s recent budget. We will do our best to identify the budgeted costs of the “Fair Hydro Plan” as they make their appearance in the forecasts.   Just how much are the Premier Wynne led government kicking “down the road” for future generations to pay?

 

* Note that both the cost of power and the consumption information in the OEB’s Yearbook do not include: First Nation Distributors, Hydro One Remotes, and Direct Connections to the Transmission Grid

** The OEB has not yet posted the 2016 information.

*** The Yearbook for the 2008/2015 comparison indicates distribution costs increased $767 million in this time frame which was a 21.6% increase and slightly higher than the cost of living increases.