Thursday, August 10, 2017

Ontario may contract more imports from Quebec - badly

On the morning of Tuesday August 8th La Presse published an article reporting on a draft contract which would see Ontario pay Quebec approximately $500 million a year for the ability to import 8 terawatt-hours of electricity. By late morning the office of Ontario's energy minister denied an agreement was reached, and the ruling Liberal party's press office was slamming the opposition party for "spreading misinformation."
Perhaps nothing will come of the proposal, but it's worth noting what constituency it is designed to appease, how that appeasement impacted the draft agreement, and the concerns all Ontarians should have with the processes, and institutions, involved in the province's electricity sector.

A timeline surrounding the leaked draft document dated June 22, 2017:

  • during May Ontario's Minister of Energy GlennThibeault and this Quebec counterpart, Pierre Arcand, discuss "the possibility of further enhancing electricity trade in order to cost-effectively improve our respective electricity systems," [source]
  • La Presse's report, translated on Google Chrome, includes, "Thibeault sent a letter to his Quebec counterpart...on June 13 to explore the possibility of entering into a new long-term agreement to purchase electricity",
  • June 20th Peter Gregg "takes on the role of IESO President and CEO",
  • June 22nd Hydro-Quebec's Steve Demers writes a "Dear Peter" letter to the new head of Ontario's system operator introducing a written proposal valid until July 14,
  • July 27 Ontario's Thibeault writes the June offer was "inconsistent with our discussions in May", notes following discussions between staffs of Premier's Couillard and Wynne HQ "would be instructed to work collaboratively with IESO on enhancing electricity trade..."

I think Thibeault's July 27th is very good. To communicate why, I will focus on a short technical quote from the leaked draft agreement which explains the shortcomings of Hydro-Quebec's proposal. 

First I'll note 8 TWh, the proposed annual import level, is only slightly higher than the total annual imports into Ontario from Quebec (much of which will be wheeled through to New York). There was some noise about whether the amounts were feasible with existing infrastructure: they are.



Monday, July 3, 2017

Premier Wynne's neglecting business

"Small business optimism in Ontario took a nosedive in June."

So begins the Ontario section of the Business Barometer from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). The members of the CFIB have legitimate reasons to be pessimistic. In this post I will demonstrate the indifference to the needs of employers in the current Ontario government's electricity policies, with a particular focus on the unfairness of the so-called Fair Hydro Plan.

I recently spoke with Jocelyn Bamford of the Coalition of Concerned Manufacturers. The group has been in the press due to electricity cost concerns, but other concerns are newly presented to these employers, by the provincial government. I perceive 3 primary concerns:
  1. Electricity
  2. Cap and Trade
  3. Labour costs
I'll begin with electricity. 

As context for the following information on rates in Toronto, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). American data shows U.S. residential consumers pay 86% more for a unit of electricity than industrial consumers, and about 20% more then commercial consumers. The definitions of groups don't work well in comparing to Toronto, but note small consumers pay, on average, the most per unit, and largest the least. 

On July 1st rates dropped for Ontario consumers charged on Regulated Price Plans (RPP), due to legislation dubbed a "Fair Hydro Plan" (FHP). I pulled average consumption levels for residential and other customers of Toronto Hydro from the spreadsheet accompanying the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) 2015 Annual Yearbook of Electricity Distributors, calculated average monthly figures and fed those into the OEB's Bill Calculator for Toronto Hydro customers. For non-RPP consumers (Class A and B) I found a Toronto Hydro presentation considering monthly figures for one consumer (on slides 19 and 20). There are some issues the presentation data, but the 18 cents/kWh for Class B consumers is what I expected.


Not only do "Class B" industrial users not enjoy preferential electricity pricing, they probably pay more than the average Toronto household. This is exceptionally rare. I can find instances of American utilities charging industrial consumers more than residential ones, but nothing for a decade among utilities the size of Toronto Hydro with one notable exception: Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. [1] Ontarians might be interested in knowing the territory of that utility includes the American cousins of Niagara and St. Lawrence river power plants (in Canada, Beck and Saunders). Legal cases have established set uses for the power produced by the big public hydroelectric plants in the New York. Regardless, it's been 6 years since even that utility saw residential rates lower than industrial ones.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Solar: Ontario's Base-Value Power

What is the generation source least valued by Ontario's electricity market in 2017?

That is the question I asked on twitter the other day. I know it's not the most serious format, it's a small sample size, and my running the poll means there will be selection bias in the responses. I did invite others with different views of the energy world to share it - but they did not.


I got some feedback that the question was unclear. While there are multitudes of factors impacting/corrupting the metric, this question is precise. The IESO allegedly operates Ontario's electricity market, they do publish summaries for hourly generation by fuel (xml format) and they do publish an Hourly Ontario Energy Price (.csv format).

The least valued "fuel" - or generation source - this year as the 22nd of June, is the lowest valued by a big margin, lying 29% below the next least valued.

The lease valued source is the source least expected to be the least valued.

The least valued source is solar.

Which shouldn't come as a surprise. 
I'll briefly review the theory, put Ontario's experience in a broader context, and finally cherry pick one day to examine. Cynics may be surprised the day is June 12th, which is the highest demand day of 2017.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A citizen's map of Industrial Wind Turbines in Ontario

I have produced and put online an interactive map of Industrial Wind Turbines in Ontario. Having done so feel I should explain why, and how, and invite others to participate in improving data.

The map is embedded later in this post, as is a YouTube clip of me talking to its design and functionality.  I talked for longer than I expected, and I suspect I shall write on this longer than I expect too, because I think the issues of public data availability is important, and I have a particular fascination with data mining, manipulation, presentation and technology.

There was a paper published late in 2013 titled Mapping Ontario’s Wind Turbines: Challenges and Limitations. The abstract began:
Despite rapid and vast development of wind turbines across the Canadian province of Ontario, there is no map available indicating the location of each wind turbine. A map of this nature is crucial for health and environmental risk research and has many applications in other fields.
These seem like noble goals, so it might be surprising there's not a single official source of spatial data 3-4 years later.
The scope of the desired map was described in the paper:
A map showing individual wind turbines would be a valuable resource for researchers to examine health effects, as the distance that a resident lives from a wind turbine could act as a proxy indicator of a "dose" and could be used...
This is one example, but it could be measured against a lot of things - bat counts, bird carcasses, house and farm values, household income. The possibilities need not be known, only the data requirements, and most of these were described well years ago.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Ontario electricity: How we got to here

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.

The best: over the first five months of 2017 the reporting from Ontario's system operator (the IESO) indicates less than 2 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity has been generated from natural gas fueled facilities, with the remainder of 59 TWh generated on the IESO system coming from near-zero greenhouse gas emission sources. Since April 2014 coal has not been burned to produce electricity in the province. Emissions intensity of generation over the first 5 months of 2017 is approximately 14 grams of CO2 equivalency per kilowatt-hour (g CO2 eq / kWh), which is particularly low for a jurisdiction receiving less than 30% of its generation from hydro-electric sources.

Some things will be viewed as good, or bad, depending on the perspective of the observer: the last two months demand of IESO supply has been lower than in any month since 1994. If "conservation" is good, it would seem Ontario has it good. Supply is plentiful. So plentiful the IESO reported 19 per cent of of "wind energy produced in the province" was dispatched down (curtailed) in 2016, and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) reported 16% more hydroelectric generation could have occurred if not for surplus supply. The numbers on the surplus in 2016 are noteworthy: 7.6 TWh curtailed equates with 5.5% of the 137 TWh "withdrawn from the high-voltage transmission system by Ontario loads", but a further 21.8 TWh was exported meaning total supply (including imports) was 21.5% more than those loads required.

Some things are now viewed as bad, that were previously viewed by some as good. Regulated Price Plans charging residential, farms and other small business consumers what the government had longed planned to have them paying are suddenly being cut steeply through a debt scheme to be paid off whenever down the line. In order to keep cost hikes in line with previous projections the government already had to abandon first the collection of a Debt Retirement Charge and then the provincial portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax - some feel the lower government revenues a negative.

I've written often on the causes of higher rates in Ontario. I am inspired to do so again by the uncovering of documentation from a previously hidden Integrated Power System Plan in 2011. Shawn-Patrick Stensil, of Greenpeace, acquired the documents through a long Freedom-of-Information (FOI) process.

This post examines 3 long-term plans' annual forecasts of Ontario's electricity supply mix, with a focus on the capacity mixes forecast for 2016 compared to the current actual supply composition.

The current situation is not accidental.

This is how we got to here

Monday, May 29, 2017

thuggish Premiers and faked electricity rates

“You all read the newspaper, you listen to the radio and you watch television — you know the problems that families are having around the province paying for their electricity costs,” the premier told reporters...  - thestar.com
The current Premier of Ontario is Kathleen Wynne has a Fair Hydro Plan (FHP). The freshly released legislation enabling the implementation of the FHP will soon be rushed through into law - assuming there's not four decent Liberal members of the Ontario legislature to vote against it.

In the few days since the legislation the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario produced An Assessment of the Fiscal Impact of the Province’s Fair Hydro Plan:
The Financial Accountability Office (FAO) estimates that the proposed Fair Hydro Plan (FHP), consisting of the provincial HST rebate, electricity cost refinancing, and changes to electricity relief programs, will cost the Province $45 billion over 29 years while providing overall savings to eligible electricity ratepayers of $24 billion. This results in a net cost to Ontarians of $21 billion.
That doesn't seem "Fair". While polling suggests the vote buying scheme is working, there is growing evidence that sleazy disregard for responsibility is corrupting the public sector entities involved in the electricity system.t.

Rates were escalated to the point the current Premier felt action had to be taken quite deliberately, by the Premier's office meddling in the sector. Long-Term Energy Plans (LTEPs) are government policy documents that were originally intended to provide parameters to professional electricity sector planners. The following graph shows the forecast nominal rates from 2010 and 2013 LTEPs, as well as the pricing shown in a recently leaked cabinet document [1]

The graphic shows the average monthly costs exactly as reported without attempting adjustments for differences introduced to keep the rate in 2016 below what was planned, which include calculating at 750 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month instead of 800, and ending the Debt Retirement Charge.  These small differences don't change the message families around the province should take from looking at government intervention in the sector since 2008: the people offering you a hand up are the people who knocked you down - and the hand they are offering is not their own.

This is thuggish

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

India's government approves construction of 10 nuclear reactors

India's government has approved construction of 10 nuclear reactors that will have a combined capacity of 7 GWe - essentially doubling the country's current nuclear capacity.

Cabinet approves construction of 10 units of India’s indigenous Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR):
Boost to transform domestic nuclear industry 
In a significant decision to fast-track India’s domestic nuclear power programme, and give a push to country’s nuclear industry, the Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for construction of 10 units of India’s indigenous Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR). The total installed capacity of the Plants will be 7000 MW. The 10 PHWR project will result in a significant augmentation of nuclear power generation capacity.
India has current installed nuclear power capacity of 6780 MW from 22 operational plants. Another 6700 MWs of nuclear power is expected to come onstream by 2021-22 through projects presently under construction. 
As the government marks three years of its nation and people centric governnace, in a first of its kind project for India’s nuclear power sector, the ten new units will come up in fleet mode as a fully homegrown initiative. It would be one of the flagship “Make in India” projects in this sector.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Fairly perverted: Ontario's "Fair Hydro Plan"

On March 2nd the Premier of Ontario introduced the "extend and pretend" plan to lower electricity rates for voters prior to the next election; on May 11th the government introduced its "Fair Hydro Act" bill shortly after the opposition Progressive Conservative's released an allegedly leaked cabinet document. The general content revealed contains some interesting details confirming what was suspected: the Premier's plan is cynical and irresponsible.

A quick refresher on events to date:

  • people are angered by electricity rates
  • there is an election in 2018
  • the Premier is unpopular
  • the Premier promised a 25% cut in rates.

Background:
On the original announcement in March: Extend and pretend: Ontario government acts to lower electricity bills 
This post will use some of the new material to emphasize why rates are high, what extending the payment period implies, and how the government intends on keeping the costs of the program off of the Province's balance sheet.


The Premier's "fair" plan isn't entirely about the cost of generation, although I'll concentrate on that. It includes moving some social costs off of ratepayers' bills and onto government expenditures, and abandons the provincial taxation share of the HST.  My reading of the new bill is that it mandates the reduction of Regulated Price Plan (RPP) rates be 25%. [1]

Now that we know the commodity portion of the bill is being reduced 25%, we can be more definitive about what is being subsidized, by whom, and the fairness of the policy.