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