Monday, December 12, 2011

Secret Deals between Public Power in Ontario and Quebec

There have long been suspicions that Ontario has been dumping hydroelectric production.    Earlier this year a report  indicated Americans were generating power with the Ontario water allocation we were unable to use.  As the year progressed and water levels of the great lakes remained well above 2010 levels, it became apparent that Ontario’s hydro levels were producing at new lows as the year progressed.  I reviewed generation figures by site for September, and noted a big drop in the output from the unregulated segment of the Ontario Power Generation (OPG)  Ottawa/St. Lawrence Plant Group .  I made inquiries as to whether the water sharing agreements from the Niagara River were mirrored for rivers shared with Quebec at the time, which went unanswered.  Now I believe I’ve stumbled upon the proof that we have agreements with Quebec resulting in exports, and generation, that are not being reported.

Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) is, in my opinion, the exemplary government organization in making data available.  As each day progresses, reports are available for hourly generation, by generator (only if they are a certain scale), and for each intertie connecting markets.  I've written on daily records based on these two files, because Ontario Demand should be all generation, plus imports, less exports.
But it isn't.

There are reasons these files don't yield 100% accuracy compared to the reporting the IESO puts out on a weekly basis, including not all generation being included - but there is a patterned variance most weeks.
For instance, the Intertie Schedule and Flow Report for October 7th, 2011 shows, for the first 4 hours, exports of 1969, 2431, 2369 and 2425MW.  The cumulative Import/Export Schedule shows, for the same times, shows 1533, 1995, 1933, and 1989.  The difference, of over 430MW throughout many off-peak hours, is patterned.  This difference is the historical figures reported, as having been exported, less the actual movement of electrons out of the province.

That pattern is matched by the variations in hourly output of the R. H. Saunders Hydroelectric facility.  Between 6 and 8 am on October 7th, Saunders production is shown as doubling from 397MW to 794MW.

Graphing the output of Saunders, as shown in the hourly output and capability report, stacked with the variance between the hourly intertie figure, and the export figures later reported, it is apparent that Saunders is actually generating at a fairly constant rate, but much of the output is diverted to, presumably, Quebec.  This particular week saw over 40000MW of production that was not reported as production, and 40000MW of exports not be reported as exports.  That is the highest I have seen since tracking the hourly intertie data in April 2011, but it is not unique.

Weekly Totals since April 2011
As Quebec demand ramps up entering winter, it appears their ability to alleviate Ontario's growing excess supply burden also grows.  As these transactions aren't even acknowledged, the benefits/costs are not known.  What is known, and included in the IESO's 18-Month Outlook, is that other actions are being taken to curtail production during the many period where generation exceeds demand.
"So far in 2011, nuclear units have been maneuvered 113 times for a total of 364 hours. Compared to 2010 which had nuclear units maneuvered 14 times for a total duration of 64 hours, this represents a significant increase. This rise in manual action is a result of a lower minimum demands as well as a growing portfolio of inflexible generation."
The secrecy shrouding the existence of agreements between Ontario and Quebec is somewhat bizarre considering strong support, within Ontario, for clean energy imports from Quebec.  Aside from Quebec having the exceptionally valuable asset of reservoir storage/generation, Quebec is also a winter peaking jurisdiction where Ontario is a summer peaking jurisdiction.   It makes perfect sense that Ontario's excess, largely in the shoulder seasons (although even this morning nuclear production was curtailed for a few hours), would be sent to Quebec.  What doesn't make sense is for Ontario's publicly owned OPG have a secret relationship with Quebec's publicly owned Hydro-Quebec.

Friday, Ontario's Ministry of Energy released their latest press release to mislead citizens about exports benefiting Ontario - as they have taken to doing every month.  These monthly creative writing assignments cite an IESO page listing monthly imports and exports.  The IESO page is a true accounting of their import/export methodology, but exports are 0.55TWh higher, since April 1st, than they indicate - the difference seemingly comprised of switching the flow of some of Saunders' turbines to Quebec's grid.  Not that it makes any difference to the Ministry of Energy, who stupidly cite revenues without any reference to costs - but the people paying about $73.47/MWh in Ontario, for November (estimates of $28.76 HOEP plus $44.71 GA), might like to know the net export revenues their government notes ($16.1 million) are attached to an admitted 584,496MWh net export ($27.55/MWh), and a hidden 132,490MWh.   For November, net exports are under-reported by over 20%!

The hidden exports may not be such a bad deal.  Capacity payments are increasingly a feature of electricity systems, and this may give Ontario preferential access to over 2000 MW of clean supply during summer peak periods.  But Ontarians deserve to know the deals that exist, and they deserve to know how much generation is being spilled, curtailed, exported, and simply shuttered, while the building spree, of additional generation, continues unabated.


  1. Ontarian's also deserve an open honest Government and affordable Hydro Bills. Unfortunately we don't have either!

  2. Hello Scott, The following link may provide more information for water use in the St. Lawrence.
    International St. Lawrence River Board of Control

    I have found the international organizations for the Great Lakes to be extremely helpful with assistance.

    This is a newspaper story, related, that also gives more info.

    David Libby

  3. Thank you David.
    I frequently look to the following link for water levels in all the great lakes:
    I note the difference done by the dredging of the St. Clair in the 1960's: Erie is currently 18" above it's long-term average, while Huron is 13" below it's long-term average.
    I listened to an interesting man from the Sierra Club discuss this issue, with the worry being the wetlands across the Lake Michigan and Huron areas.
    A possible issue with the joint commissions is the resistance to acknowledging the deepening of the St. Clair river in atered the entire watershed.

  4. Sierra Club
    I don’t think the International Joint Commission has ever made the statement that dredging does not effect the lake levels. They have always held the position that it is an important factor. It is simply impossible to determine a reasonably exact amount.

    Many factors for water level changes

    Rainfall and the water cycle:
    This year the southeastern Great Lakes had all-time record rainfall. The northwestern part had drought conditions.


    Connecting river inflows – outflows:

    The Chicago River removes a sizable, perhaps insignificant, amount of water where it used to flow into Lake Michigan. The diversion from the Hudson’s Bay watershed adds water to the Great Lakes.

    Water use:
    Consumptive uses

    Post-glacial land surface rebound:
    The land around this area is actually rising. Except not all at the same rate. There are even a few smaller areas of the Great Lakes where the land level is decreasing. Combine this with water level changes and the results can be more dramatic for some areas. (can’t blame man for this one. But global warming can be blamed for it, just not man-made global warming, haha)

    It is not an easy thing to figure out.

    David Libby

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