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.