Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thoughts on the Long Term Energy Plan

I read through the Long Term Energy Plan on Tuesday. I've felt I should have strong opinions on it, but there was very little new it.

The plan is only about electricity, and contains no discussion about discouraging the use of natural gas, gasoline, or any other form of energy. That may be nitpicking , but immediately any truly environmental efficiency programs built around increased efficiency from more central heating/cooling servicing for new communities, combined heat and electricity, and electrification of transit seem off of the radar.

Through the early pages I was put off by a political cheerleading tone from an Ontario Power Authority official document. I perked up at the section for expected growth, having recently written an entry on the existing trend in the province, and was particularly curious about the graph on page 14 (which is essentially unchanged from the forecast in 2008's revised IPSP – which I'll get back to):

Why would a downward trend turn up? In the context of the original concern with "energy" instead of "electricity" in the plan, I was once more annoyed. I'm likely one of the few who would like to see increased use of electricity, albeit at the expense of direct use of gas, but there is nothing in the 'energy' plan to encourage more electrification.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration's Annual Energy Outlook with Projections to 2035 contains a graph which is very similar to Ontario's long term demand growth change. It is less pronounced, probably as the U.S. had a population shift to the south due to the widespread use of air conditioning. Regardless, the U.S. forecasting doesn't have the trend magically adjust in 2015, and does seem to be headed to where Ontario arrived back around 2002 – which is no growth.

Onto the energy mix, which I found refreshing for the most part – having long argued for refurbishment of the nuclear units, with the exception of Pickering, I was somewhat encouraged to see that in the LTEP. More encouraging than that is to see Tyler Hamilton's recent blog entry include "I'm quite resigned to refurbishing, where appropriate, much of the nuclear fleet we have (sorry, Greenpeace), but I'm not as keen about building new reactors." From the opposite side of the argument, I'm quite pleased at refurbishing the fleet at Bruce and Darlington, and I'm not keen on the proposal I suspect will be made for additional reactors either. The LTEP included "Nuclear plant operational design and economics depend on the plants being able to operate steadily throughout the year." One advantage (theoretically) of the ACR 1000 design, that was at the heart of the recent bidding, is the ability to load follow. That would be an advantage if not for the enormous upfront costs. So I agree with the sentiment of the LTEP, but it means purchasing older, probably CANDU 6, technology for, as Mr. Hamilton notes, the next 50 years. This is not a sale that would help keep AECL feasible, and is not supply that Ontario is sure to need. 2000MW of new supply would likely compensate for 3000MW coming offline in Pickering – because the newer units have significantly higher capacity factors, but there is a question of mix, which I'll explore on a separate blog (you can't, responsibly, add 8000MW of wind AND pretend you can keep the same amount of nuclear). They should endeavor to complete as much refurbishment as possible before removing Pickering from service – with Bruce 1 and 2 done that would mean only 1500MW of reduced capacity.

For hydro, I think the point was there isn't much more to be found.

For natural gas, the point seemed to be they like the level currently procured (either in production, or coming online).

I thought the sections on what specifically was occurring with wind and solar were vague.

When I reached the end, I found out why we were getting a Long Term Energy plan instead of an Integrated Power System Plan (IPSP).

The LTEP is a document kicking off a 45 –day posting period of the also released, and perhaps more important, Proposed Supply Mix Directive

That directive is then given back to the OPA to prepare an Integrated Power System Plan, estimated in the LTEP as coming out Mid-2011, which is then submitted to the OEB for review.

The OPA itself was formed by the 2004 McGuinty government and legislated to provide an IPSP by 2007, and then revisions every 3 years. One was submitted in 2007 (also based on meeting government directives), the directives adjusted, another resubmitted in 2008, and due to the Green Energy Act, left in limbo.
The main thing the LTEP announces is, therefore, that no long term plan will serve as the basis for Ontario electricity policy until, at least, 2012.

A trip back to planning from 7 years ago puts the current document in the context - which is just more of the same wishes without a credible roadmap for economically achieving it in a manner that doesn't impoverish Ontarians. Here's where the Conservatives left off in their government's 2003 Ontario's Energy Action Plan:

  • Price break
  • Encourage renewable energy
  • Promise that about 3000 MW of renewable would be added "over a period of eight years, commencing in 2006"
  • Notes potential, and actual, hydro and natural gas projects
  • "Coal-fired generating stations in Ontario will be phased out by 2015 without jeopardizing provincial electricity supplies. This was a key recommendation from the all-party Select Committee on Alternative Fuel Sources."
  • "Our goal is to have solar systems installed on 100,000 homes in five years."
  • NOx and Sox emissions to be reduced by 53% and 25%, respectively, by 2007


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