Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The failure of the global adjustment: a renewables story

I recently was asked about the cost of buying out one group of Ontario solar contracts. The microFIT (feed-in tariff) contract exposure I estimated at $3.9 billion. This is the eventual cost of all your neighbours' panels, but not the larger arrays, which I estimate will cost another $33.9 billion. Call it a $38 billion liability which matches the most famous liability in Ontario's electricity sector history: the $38 billion attributed to Ontario Hydro at dissolution in 1998 - liabilities attained in building almost all of the province's generation, its transmission infrastructure, and much of its distribution infrastructure.

The solar contracts that carry the $38 billion total will produce about 4.3 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity a year, which is roughly 3 percent of Ontario's demand.

This solar story is about the failure of the global adjustment mechanism.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Nuclear Ontario - and giving electricity away

first posted on cold air currents.

Since I posted Reliable Electricity Generation Capacity declining in Ontario the IESO's NPCC 2016 Ontario Interim Review Of Resource Adequacy was published.
It's exciting stuff:
The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) submits this assessment of resource adequacy for the Ontario Area in accordance with the NPCC Regional Reliability Reference Directory #1, “Design and Operation of the Bulk Power System.” 
Spoiler alert!
The report concludes Ontario's system can meet Loss of Load Expectation (LOLE) criteria for the 2017 to 2020 planning period once Emergency Operating Procedures (EOP) are assumed. EOPs are indicated to be essentially 1/3rd public appeals to reduce consumption, and 2/3rds voltage reductions.


I wrote "With the exception of 2013 the capability at peak has declined every year since 2010, despite IESO-connected generator capacity being greater now than it was six and a half years ago," so I thought it only fair I offer a brief analysis of how the IESO is meeting the reporting requirements for resource adequacy - and the repercussions of how they are doing so.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Historical ignorance: on energy losses in decadent Ontario

Accusations of losses on electricity exports, and government denial of the fact, is far from news, but the reappearance of the topic in Ontario's legislature demands it be reviewed anew.
Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown says the province sold $9.4 million worth of excess electricity for just $144,000 on Nov. 10...
Brown says Ontario has "given away" $6 billion in surplus electricity since 2009 by selling it at a big loss...
Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault...says Ontario made $230 million in 2015 by selling excess electricity to neighbouring jurisdictions.
Thibeault says Ontario suffered through power shortages and brown outs when the Conservatives were last in power, and had to spend up to $500 million a year to buy electricity from its neighbours to keep the lights on.
   -the Canadian Press via ctvnews.ca
I wrote on the costs to Ontario ratepayers of cheap exports almost 6 years ago, in rebutting the same spin as the Minister delivered yesterday when presented by a previous Premier. Later, in 2013's Ways to estimate Ontario's losses on electricity exports I demonstrated multiple methods to quantify losses on exports. The estimates of losses vary by methodology and assumptions, but if methods are applied consistently all indicate increased costs to Ontario consumers from producing far more electricity than necessary to meet their demands .

I won't revisit all the arguments I've made in the past, but instead tailor a response to the rookie Minister's old denials, emphasizing how poorly he is prepared to undertake the task of developing a plan for the sector.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Reliable Electricity Generation Capacity declining in Ontario

Ontario's electricity sector provided some material worthy of commentary over the past week.

A new 18-month Outlook issued by the IESO (the province's system operator) begins cheerfully enough:
The outlook for the reliability of Ontario’s electricity system remains positive for the next 18 months, with adequate generation and transmission to supply Ontario’s demand under normal weather conditions.
This is reassuring - unless there's a particularly hot run of weather:
Under extreme weather conditions, the reserve is below the requirement for 19 weeks over the entire Outlook period, with the largest shortfall being approximately 3,000 MW.
19 weeks in 18 months is 24% of the time - corresponding with the quarter of the year known as summer. In a province introducing carbon pricing in January (poorly), apparently the government is unconcerned about local warming.


There has been similar language in previous 18-month outlooks:
During the Outlook period, the...forecasts show that Ontario’s available generation exceeds projected demands...there are periods when Ontario’s available reserves are forecast to be ...below the IMO’s required planning reserve levels.
That from the Outlook produced in April 2002.

I'm sure today's Wynne government finds comfort in how well Ontario's system coped with heat waves in 2002 and 2003 - despite their braying indicating the opposite.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ontario Energy Minister Previews Long-Term Energy Plan Themes

"I've really come to respect the enormous complexity of the energy and electricity system in Ontario."

Ontario's rookie Minister of Energy, Glenn Thibeault, is now confident enough of his grasp of the province's energy system that he unveiled themes for an upcoming Long-Term Energy Plan in a speech to the Empire Club:
  1. Nature and style of procurement should be technology agnostic
  2. Ontario's electricity market renewal/reform to provide better value
  3. Empowerment of consumers
These are ambitious themes. Unfortunately Minister Thibeault didn't display an understanding of the institutional barriers to change, and he's going to need to confront the demons of the sector before meaningfully advancing any of these goals.

He seems to expect the barriers to deliver change.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

something about electricity rates: the Premier's mistake

Premier Kathleen Wynne is calling high electricity prices her “mistake,” begins a report on her speech at the Ontario Liberal Party's annual general meeting. The statement would appear sincere if accompanied by an explanation of exactly what she thought her mistake was. As a political tactic, as I think it is, it's a good move in positioning the Liberal party for the election coming in 2018.
...a contrite Wynne told 850 Liberal delegates at the party’s annual general meeting here that her “government made a mistake” by allowing rates to soar.
“It was my mistake and I’m going to do my best to fix it,” she said...
Tactically, I think the move is based on two things:
  • the political rule that the electorate's anger is not sustainable
  • most expensive electricity contracts have now entered service and, combined with OPG's poor rate application, upward pressure on rates was, and is, planned to be less severe over the next couple of years.
These realities may allow the Premier to now position herself as responsive to people concerns. Adrian Morrow's report shows how she'd like to end up positioned for the 2018 campaign:
“I will do my very best to listen, to respond, to lead, and to serve you and the people of Ontario better,” she said. “I will be right there with you: As premier, as leader, I’ll be there with you as Kathleen, a proud mother and grandmother.”
These are the factors that put some wind in the sails of Wynne's Liberal ship. An article by Robert Benzie notes some of the content presented to the assembled Liberals by master strategist and Liberal campaign chief David Herle:
Even though [opposition leader] Brown publicly broke with social conservatives in August — saying he supports abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and the modernized health lesson plan — Herle’s findings suggest the Liberals plan to paint him as one.
Simply put, the Ontario Liberal Party is positioning the party for a culture war - with a caring grandmother running against a jerk.

It's a promising but risky tactic.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ontario Electricity – The Liberals Giveth and Taketh Away

This is a guest post, by Bruce Sharp.
The post first appeared on Linkedin.

Ontario Electricity – The Liberals Giveth and Taketh Away

The big energy splash in the Ontario Government’s September 12 throne speech was rebating the provincial portion of the HST to certain electricity users. This group will include mainly voters and is estimated to cost about $ 1 billion per year, with the cost being born by provincial taxpayers. In a September 14 Linkedin post, I commented on the merits of the move.

Another electricity move announced that same day was the expansion of the Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI), otherwise known as the Global Adjustment (GA) Class A.

Ontario’s GA is the electricity market mechanism for collecting and allocating above-market generation and conservation and demand management costs. Prior to 2011, there was a single GA class, with all consumers paying for GA costs based on a uniform, postage-stamp rate. Starting in 2011, we had two classes: A and B, with the classes’ shares of GA costs determined in different ways. This program did not initially have a name but at some point was dubbed the Industrial Conservation Initiative. Class A now pays significantly less than they would have, had we still had one GA class. The result is a transfer of costs from Class A to Class B, i.e. a cost decrease for Class A’s mostly large industrial consumers and a cost increase for Class B -- residential and most other Ontario electricity consumers.

In an April 14 Linkedin post, I provided an update on that cost transfer. Given the recent news, I thought I’d provide another update, estimate the additional transfer that will occur as a result of the expansion of Class A and look at the economics of the initiative.

For the period of October 2015 through September 2016, total GA costs were $12.1 billion. If there had still been a single GA class, the uniform rate would have been $ 86.20/MWh.

With the two classes, there was a cost transfer from Class A to B of $ 940 million. Class A paid an average of $ 52.50/MWh or 39% less than they would have had we still had a single GA class. Class B -- by virtue of its larger total energy consumption -- paid $ 94.60/MWh or 9.7% more. For the residential consumer with losses-inclusive, annual consumption of 9.5 MWh, that represents an added cost (inclusive of HST) of $ 90/year.

The expansion of Class A will take place either July 1, 2017 or July 1, 2018. One source I’ve spoken to says the government will want to do this sooner rather than later. It will likely involve removing baffling restrictions to the 3 – 5 MW eligibility and a reduction of the overall average monthly demand threshold to 1 MW. A thousand businesses are to be newly eligible,

The result will be an additional cost transfer – from the new Class A consumers to the remaining Class B consumers.

How much will it be?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Fixed: Ontario's electricity relationship with Quebec

Ontario's government, keen to appear responsive to public anger at electricity pricing, has announced an agreement to fix one aspect of the supply system currently working well.

Ontario and Quebec announced an electricity agreement guaranteeing Ontario 14 million megawatts-hours of imports from Quebec over the next 7 years. Compared to Ontario's other electricity contracts, this deal looks attractive at first glance. Looking closer the deal is less attractive,and putting the deal in the context of Ontario's move away from public power, at cost, to what was intended to be a competitive market system, it may be the most ridiculous contract of all.

The agreement, according to Ontario's press release, is for:
  1. energy capacity,
  2. trading electricity, and
  3. energy storage.
All 3 aspects of the agreement exist already, due to the realities of electricity supply and demand in the two provinces, and previous initiatives connecting the systems.

The capacity arrangement, securing rights to supply for peak demand hours, is technically convenient. Quebec has a very high winter peak demand, due to electric heating. They have a system designed to do that - but more capacity on the coldest days is desirable. Ontario's demand peak is usually in summer - and more capacity for that is desirable. Since April 2011 I've captured hourly intertie movements - and looking at each subsequent season's top 10 daily peak hours, its evident Ontario is a net importer from Quebec during the highest demand summer days, and usually an exporter during the highest demand winter days. While this relationship has existed, and would continue to exist, without an agreement, there are capacity reserve tests requirements enforced by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), and this formal agreement should be useful in meeting those requirements.

Increased electricity ties with Quebec have long been recognized as having benefits. Significantly, late in 2006 an agreement was made to expand the connections between the two provinces by 1,250 megawatts, and the completion of the work allowed for greater trade by 2009.