Thursday, December 20, 2012

WTO Ruling Against Ontario Renewables policy isn't about subsidizing renewables ... yet

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has issued it's rulings in disputes involving Ontario's renewable energy generation sector, finding, as previously reported, against the local content provisions of procurment programs, but not ruling against the feed-in tariff (FIT) program as a subsidy that violates WTO agreements.
In the press:
Richard Blackwell opened his article in the Globe with "Canada will appeal..."
The article quotes a Stuart Trew of some council of some Canadians to opine:
If there is no way to provide incentives for green energy in a free market system, “there is little hope of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and addressing the climate crisis...”
The ruling on local content has little relevance to the provision of renewable energy.  Japan's successful complaint was about procuring Ontario manufactured renewable energy - not about procuring renewable energy.

The European Commissions welcomed the ruling by stating it wants to export product to Ontario.

John Bennett, of a rumoured Sierra Club in Canada,  is interviewed:
... it is ironic that Japan and the EU were the source of the complaints, because they use subsidies and support for their solar and wind industries. He said he would advise the next premier of Ontario to ignore the ruling “like the Prime Minister is ignoring the Kyoto Protocol.
The Prime Minister that ignored the Kyoto Protocol is the one that initially signed it.  The current Prime Minister gave it all the attention required to withdraw from it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Whose Meter Is It: Dopey Ontario and Smart Meters

Another data management debacle in Ontario.
Smart technology refers to components that can communicate, the communication protocols and networks, the servers, the software, the security protocols, the network architecture controlling access.  Our governments seem to lack the technical expertise in information technology and the bureaucratic backbone to face down poor direction. 

I've just read through Access to Consumer Data: A Vignette from the Ontario Smart Grid Forum
Beyond the needs of TOU billing by utilities however, lie a wider range of products and services – many of which may be enabled by real‐time or near real‐time metering data. Access to real‐time smart metering data has been a topic of extensive examination and discussion by the Ontario Smart Grid Forum, particularly in the context of enabling the concept of the “smart home”.  Access to real‐time data is the focus of this informational ‘vignette’.
The Smart Grid forum considers smart homes desirable, spends some time noting competition for smart home services is desirable, and quotes a previous report noting:
"Unlicensed third‐party service providers, for example, want access to customer smart meter data so they can design and commercialize new energy products and services for residential, business and industrial consumers.”

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Darlington Refurbishment is the best option.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is currently holding hearings on licensing related to the continued operation, and refurbishment, of the Darlington nuclear generating station.  There are many groups, and individuals opposing the extension on all sorts of grounds, but the main tactic of anti-nuclear campaigners is to argue that other options were not explored before choosing nuclear.
What might be considered to replace the Darlington nuclear generating station?

The Globe and Mail's Richard Blackwell wrote an article, as the hearings started, that told of a nuclear industry attacking a solar industry. "Solar industry urged to push back against nuclear 'attack'" accused the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) and the Ontario Power Workers Union (PWU) of "labelling renewables such as wind and solar as “intermittent” and expensive, and encouraging more investment in nuclear."  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

November Stats: Global Adjustment climbs to two-thirds of charge

The IESO's second estimates for November put the global adjustment rate at $55.68/MWh for November, which is more than double the weighted average HOEP rate of approximately $26.52.

November saw new rates for customers under the OEBs Regulated Pricing Plans (RPP) that should average $79.32/MWh, so November's charges, if not adjusted downwards, would reverse the summer's trend where customers with RPP rates paid more than customers without them - business exposed the the commodity charge (HOEP + GA) will see rates rise almost 14% from November 2011.

One month ago I wrote that the IESO's month-end global adjustment estimate looked low:
They'll need to revise upward their estimate of $542 million by close to 10% if the final ends close to my estimate of  $585 million.
They did not.  The October final was not changed significantly - but now November's $588.2 million estimate exceeds my $531 million estimate by a similar amount.  It looks to me like they've moves the costs forward.  The 12-month total for the global adjustment is now over $6.5 billion dollars as it increases at a quicker pace than anticipated by Ontario's Auditor General in his 2011 Annual Report (pg 94)

Monday, November 26, 2012

2nd Anniversary: Current Initiatives, my past and the IESO's outlook

The past 10 days saw a sudden flurry of activity in reports and announcements of new groups to examine old issues in Ontario's electricity sector:
Habitually I felt I should make some statement as these things came out.

The 'smart' announcement is not deserving of any serious examination.  The government has long been foolish in the issues around smart.  Having given little thought to raw data  issues in an un-costed rollout, they now want an app for their iPhones - approaching MaRs'ians to do that makes sense as that institution is also advertised as smart - and hangs right outside of Queen's Park's walls.

HOEP: I went to find the first blog entry where I examined the falling HOEP and found it to be written just over 2 years ago, on November 19, 2010:  The Economics Lab Blogs on Market Distortions (an extended comment on a Globe and Mail column).  The premise:
  • Contract more supply as demand falls and the market rate goes down
  • Contract more expensive supply and the total cost goes up - with the market rate going down resulting in the global adjustment going up.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ontario sets record for daily wind production - pays to export it

Friday November 23rd saw a record 36,423MWh of production from the industrial wind turbines on the IESO controlled grid.
The day ended with a weighted average Hourly Ontario Energy  Price (HOEP) a negative $5.76 (estimated) - which would value the loss on exporting at ~$279 thousand.

The wind output on the 23rd was 16 times greater than the wind production 3 days earlier, on the 20th.

We didn't pay to export power on the 20th.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A tool to heal, A tool to steal: Thoughts on a Carbon Tax

Carbon taxation is in the news, for some good and bad reasons.

One bad reason is that now that the US election season has ended, policy discussion season is just starting; further evidence that elections are considered no time to discuss policy, as short-term Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell is accused of claiming.

A second, I think mostly bad reason, is that following months of denials that the US is increasing it's energy production, the latest outlook from the International Energy Agency acknowledges US energy self-sufficiency is a plausible outcome within a decade.  Certain groups, broadly perceived as "environmentalists," had been arguing the necessity of making drastic changes to our lifestyles because we were running out of available oil and gas.  Now that doesn't seem to be the case, it should be added impetus to strengthen attempts to curtail consumption.

One good reason a carbon tax is newsworthy is if putting additional CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere is to be discouraged, there's a valid argument that we should tax putting CO2 into the atmosphere to discourage it.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Exhibition Turbine: An Icon for Ontario's Mazza Race

The Toronto Exhibition grounds are the appropriate site of a wind turbine that is frequently described as iconic.

What does this icon represent?

A review of the performance of Toronto's wind turbine indicates the financial numbers don't justify any respect being paid to the project. The turbine has a 600kW capacity - often reported as 750kW because of the capacity of parts of the turbine, but it seems it's actually 600kW due to the capacity of other parts of the turbine.  The initial costs were $1.8 million, the turbine became operational in January 2004, and the co-op owners reportedly received a dividend payment in January 2005 (4% of share value).

The only one they have ever received, and recent press reports indicate even it is forgotten.

The Globe and Mail reported that the turbine performed poorly in 2006, 2007 and 2008; The Toronto Star reported production of 780MWh in 2008, 1064MWh in 2009 and 927MWh in 2010.

In March 2011 the turbine broke down, and it would not come back until parts costing $200,000 were found and installed at the start of May. The output in 2011 probably dropped below the 1000MWh estimate, which makes it likely that since 2005 the 1000MWh level was achieved only in 2009.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Electricity Data and Narrative

Comment on the role of data in a society driven by narrative.

A recent post at Tom Adams Energy gave an Ontariocentric call for data reporting in a Canadian jurisdiction along the lines of the the United States' Energy Information Administration (EIA).  Mr. Adams may have been unaware that Dr. Michal C. Moore of the The School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary authored a paper earlier this year with an overview of a national structure that might fill the role of the national EIA structure in the US.  Dr. Moore's paper saw a central data organization, namely Statistics Canada, collecting the data that would be manipulated/interpretted by an independent organization.

The issue I have with the paper is it assumed Statistics Canada excelled at collecting data.  That may be true, but I found reason to be skeptical..   The uproar over the change to the long-form census, which somehow entered the mainstream, reflected, in my opinion, the often conflicting goals of maintaining the same processes, and standards, in data collection to ensure data integrity between census years, and the desire to collect the best data possible - which is now frequently in databases throughout the government to be collected through the data mining of critical systems, and not intermittent surveying outside of those systems.  As an example, most federal funding for provincial programming is not based on census figures, but the ongoing population estimates (and census counts are adjusted based on the population estimates).

Friday, November 2, 2012

ON latest stats; Reinforced lessons on policy errors

The beginning of the month can be a busy time querying the stats for regular reporting, and to evaluate the messages contained therein.  Recently there's also broad coverage on Ontario's electricity sector in the mainstream media that touches on many subjects I've written on previously.   The most recent figures reinforce some old messages related to the news of the day.

Increased Wind and Increased Coal

While the final days of the month led to coal having it's first decline in 8 weeks, it ended the month with an increase to 240 GWh, from 105 GWh the previous October, which was enough to move coal-fired generation in 2012 up on 2011 on a comparable year-to-date basis.
The jump in coal use did not surprise me as it accompanied a growth in wind generation of 50% from October 2011.  Gas-fired generation, meanwhile, fell 36% from October 2011.
Combined, this indicates emissions can fall through better supply management in allowing the most appropriate generation to be utilized; given Ontario's high baseload mix (hydro output was up 4%, nuclear 5%), and increased intermittent supply from renewables, there are situations when that probably is coal.
As renewable capacity increases, so too do the situations when the flexibility provided by the peaking depth of coal is desirable (see At the end of the IESO18-month outlook).

High Winds Make Wind Cheaper than Natural Gas Generation

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Spin, Spin, Spin: A Star Embarassment

Multiple Toronto Star writers made statements that deserve repudiation yesterday.

Liberal party propagandist Metro Martin Regg Cohn concluded "Where would Tim Hudak take Ontario?" with:
Whether your policy is colour-coded white, green or Tory blue, to lead is to choose. And disclose.
With no undue respect for Mr. Hudak, it's a remarkably stupid statement to be made after the non-disclosure, to the legislature, that would have brought an end to the Liberal government if Mr. Hudak and Ms. Horwath enjoyed respecting the electorate more than they enjoy bitching.  Mr. McGuinty was elected in part on the promise to eliminate coal by 2007 and a promise not to raise taxes.
We know that defined policy is irrelevant to electoral success in Ontairo.  Metro Martin is one explanation of how that is possible.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Weekend: Electricity Facts And Queen's Park Commentary

Quick comments from my review of data for the 42nd week of the year (ended Oct. 23).

Coal: Up - again (7th consecutive week)
Gas: Down
Nuclear: up.
Demand: Flat
Market Pricing: Down

One new thing is a surge in daytime imports from Quebec which, along with a drop in gas generation,  might indicate Quebec is now exporting at prices below the fuel component of gas generation.

In the press this week, efforts to close the door on the gas plant scandals lest the issue drags on and forces journalist to actually learn something about it..

Here's an excerpt from one report that was passed - as analysis of the downfall of Energy Minister Bentley:

Monday, October 22, 2012

The High Costs of Ontario's very provincial electricity debacle

Ontario's latest electricity sector fiasco is being credited as a major factor in Premier Dalton McGuinty's announcement that he is proroguing the legislature (done), and resigning (not done).  There are some important lessons the global community can learn from the poor example Ontario has provided.

Many regions of the world are struggling with an electricity sector design that can maintain sufficient reliable capacity to meet demand at all times while encouraging intermittent generation from renewable sources that may, or may not, be present when demand is.  The debate on how best to accomplish that in other jurisdictions exists - in Ontario it does not.
While globally jurisdictions weigh the pros and cons of an emergency reserve option, (such as in the Nord pool market), the option of capacity markets (used fairly widely in the United States), or more rigorous attempts at allowing a market to co-ordinate supply and demand (such as in Texas), Ontario displayed it's family compact heritage in providing secretive private contracts that guarantee a monthly net revenue to the lucky recipients of the contracts.
The Net Revenue Requirement (NRR) is a form of capacity payment.

Ontarians should get a full accounting of the cost of moving the plant, but that's not the big cost of the energy policies.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Weekly Ontario Electricity Summary: We are getting coaled - and snowed

I updated my weekly reporting yesterday (Oct. 10- 16), and was presented with a familiar pattern in the graphing on the year-over-year generation/demand changes.

The growth of coal.

Coal-fired generation was up for the 6th consecutive week, repeating the performance seen in the spring.

Despite over 20% of Ontario's coal capacity being removed from service at the end of 2011 (Nanticoke units 1 and 2), the year-to-date total coal production is now up over the same period in 2011.

The Ontario government's mantra that 'wind is replacing coal' is increasingly farcical.  Germany is increasing coal builds; 4 times more hard coal-fired capacity is planned than natural gas capacity  (BNetzA .xls), and the boasts of the flexibility of their newest coal-fired units must create envy in Ontario's System operator (IESO) as they lament the planned elimination of flexibility in Ontario.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Comments on OEB Release of Winter Electricity Rates.

Some good news, of sorts, as rates for electricity in Ontario actually drop in November; from an average of 8.069 cents/kWh to an average 7.932 cents per hour.  Although this is a decline from October's Regulated Price Plan (RPP) rates, it is an increase of 0.367 cents/hour over November 2011, which is about 4.9%

The reason for the decline rests primarily in a variance account.  Without the benefit of the a positive variance  created by excess charges in the May-October RPP period, the increase would be approximately 10%: one year ago the variance clearance decreased the RPP costs by 0.006 cents/kWh (page 19 here), and this year the benefit was .41 cents/kWh (page 20 here).
One year ago the amount of the variance account surplus was $3 million, in April it was $56 million and the figure noted for the end of October is $230 million.  I must note the increase in the variance  seems matched by the overestimation of the global adjustment charge for July , with was $177.3 million.

My suspicion is the rates are held down because the anticipated expenses related to the settlement costs in transferring the gas plant from Oakville to Lennox were shifted to taxpayers from ratepayers.

I can't argue with that - the decisions were entirely political.
I can say this pause in rate increases is temporary.  The respite is only due to excessive hikes in the previous period, a hot summer, and Ontario's quirky faux market design that sees high usage rewarded with lower rates.

Related: Better Ontario Electricity Estimates For August

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Thoughts on McGuinty Exit: Ms. Horwath, meet Mr. Hudak ...

Some quick thoughts upon news that Ontario's provincial Parliament has been prorogued until such time as the Ontario Liberal party has selected a new leader and that new leader has decided to reconvene the legislature.
The NDP leadear and the Progressive Conservative leader should find a way to put together a temporary government and set an election date for a time in 2013 that allows the Liberals to select a new leader (I'd suggest March).
There is not little doubt that the government will accomplish little in the intervening period regardless, so I think the relevant point is whether our democracy in Ontario - and democracies in B.C., and Canada in general - is well serviced by the cult of personality extending to leaders being able to discard the daily rituals of the democracy.

To be clear, all 3 of our traditional parties did poorly last election.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Developing A Culture of Incompetence in Ontario's Electricity Sector

On October 12 the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) released 20000 pages of documents related to the 'relocation' of a gas plant to service the southwestern GTA; from the southwestern GTA to hundreds of kilometres from the southwestern GTA (story here).  The 20000 pages are now added to the release of a number of heavily redacted documents weeks ago in what was, up until 20000 more pages,  a comprehensive sharing of documentation.  The interesting question, from my perspective, is not how 20000 pages were missed, it is how a culture came to exist where 20000 pages can be missed.

I'll start exploring that culture with some timely data following the latest meddling in Ontario's electricity market design.

Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) passed a rule change, effective October 1st, 2012, to prevent exporting electricity at negative prices.  Operators at the IESO had already been having some success at curtailing generation to control the occurance of negative pricing.  The most recent 12 month period (Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30, 2012) had about half the number of hours with negative pricing as the same dates 3 years earlier.  The average negative price was 5 times greater [1]  than 3 years earlier, but still, in a market valued at roughly $10 billion per year, negative exports likely cost about $12 million.  There is no new market impetus for a new policy, and the stakeholder group exploring the issue did not suggest this policy.
It is another policy made for political reasons - in this case to avoid to optics of paying neighbours to take excess generation.
We've had 3 instances of negative Hourly Ontario Energy Price (HOEP) since the rule was to be effective - in each instance supply was curtailed by dispatching down nuclear units:
  • Oct. 1, hour 4, the price dropped to -$29.17/MWh.  Bruce B Unit 8 was dispatched down until hour 7
  • Oct. 4, hour 24, the price dropped to -$51.91/MWh, Bruce B Unit  7 was dispatched down until hour 6 of the 5th.
  • Oct. 9 hour 23, the price dropped to %-10.24/MWh, Bruce B Unit 7 was dispatched down until hour 4 of the 10th, and Pickering unit 4 suddenly dropped offline during that time.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Thanks for the plentiful bounty of electricity, but ...

The Thanksgiving holiday arrives in Ontario accompanied by lots of electricity supply - so much that the system operator (IESO) has surplus generation alerts posted throughout the long weekend.

Oct. 5 SBG report
Surplus baseload generation (SBG) is a problem that received notice in Ontario with the recession in 2009.  We've continued to commit to new supply since 2009, as demand remains stagnant, and consequently the Hourly Ontario Energy Price (HOEP) has dropped to new lows, with the 12-month moving average now under $25/MWh.

I've previously covered three methods the IESO uses to curtail generation when the supply committed to exceeds the ability to consume it.  My preliminary reporting for September (here) showed the the past two weekends the IESO has removed supply by curtailing production from non-utility generators (NUGs).  That will likely also be true this weekend.

Graph from Shadow Weekly Reporting
In addition to the NUG curtailment, my programming indicates some turbine output is being redirected to Quebec again - this was very common a year ago, but hasn't been as significant in 2012..

The third method I attempt to track is the curtailment of output at Bruce B (and soon also Bruce A) nuclear units.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bunking with Gipe: about Germany's Electricity Revolution

Paul Gipe is out with a particularly misleading post:  German Coal-Fired Generation of Electricity Falls While Renewable Generation Rises: Debunking Another Myth about Germany's Electricity Revolution:
The latest talking point is that Germany is burning more coal than ever because of all the intermittent renewables that have been added to the system.
So, let's have some fun with numbers and separate fact from fiction.
First, the source. All the data I'll use comes from the Work Group on the German Energy Balance (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Energiebilanzen) and can be downloaded from their web site.
Let's not have some fun with numbers.
Let's do some honest work with them instead.

The first point would be including natural gas and reporting on all fossil fuels in any analysis.  Using the AGEB data referenced by Gipe, the graph shows remarkably little movement - the totals for 1990 and 2010 are almost identical.
These figures don't capture an entire 12 months of data since March 2011, when German took offline a number of nuclear reactors.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

In defense of Christopher Bentley

The Ontario legislature has just passed a motion of contempt against Minister of Energy Christopher Bentley (here).  The motion deals with the release of documents, .demanded by a legislative commitee, related to the cancellation (or relocation) of a natural gas-fired generation facility in Oakville.  The plant was cancelled before Mr. Bentley became the Minister of Energy.

The motion is justified in respecting both the power of the legislature and historical respect for ministerial accountability, but there are reasons the matter should now be settled as quietly as possible.

The Ministry of Energy has not been stable since Premier McGuinty first won office.  The only Minister with over 2 years in the portfolio was Dwight Duncan - the architect of the global adjustment scheme that I argue is transferring the value of Ontario's public generation assets to private parties favourable to the government.

Monday, September 24, 2012

New Nuclear, Replacing Coal, Planning and Prayer

The big news this week on the Ontario electricity front would have to be Bruce Power synchronizing Unit 1 to the grid after a 15 year absence.
"This achievement by Bruce Power is an important step towards eliminating the use of coal fired electricity by the end of 2014.” Ontario Minister of Energy Chris Bentley
Replacing coal is a mantra in Ontario now.  It's as if one day the Ministers went to Premier McGuinty and said to him
"Premier, teach us to talk to the Press to teach them to perceive intelligence in our energy foibles,"
and the Premier said to them,
When you talk with the press, talk thusly,
"Our actions, which are replacing coal..."

Monday, September 17, 2012

The IESO Gets the Global Adjustment Wrong - Again

Today the final Class B Global Adjustment was posted as being $41.78/MWh.  At the end of August the second preliminary estimate of $28.94 was provided.

I wrote the issues with $28.94 in a 'better estimate' September 1st;  a month earlier I had noted my concern with July's implausible figures in the second estimates for July.

Graphing the variance between what the system operator (IESO) 'estimates' at the end of a month, and what it ends up being after the abacus work is done a couple of weeks later, there looks to be a total disintegration of ability over the past 2 months.

Big Green, not little white, Lies

"The latest quarterly progress report by the Ontario Power Authority on electricity supply in Canada’s most populous province isn’t destined to be on the bedsides of millions of people. But what this dry, chart-heavy document reveals is the plain fact that starting in 2011 Ontario already had 4,125 MW of renewable energy projects operating and 6,255 MW under development thanks the Ontario’s feed-in tariff (FIT) program."
This statement is bullshit.

It comes from The transformative power of the feed-in tariff - Meet Ontario's Green Energy Act, which is written by David Dodge and Duncan Kinney.   David Dodge is "the former communicaitons director of the Pembina Institute."  Duncan Kinney is the "Editor/Production Manager for Green Energy Futures" ... that's "David Dodge's Green Energy Futures," which "is produced with the generous financial support of TD and Suncor Energy."

OPG Q4 2011 Progress Report, Page 5
This is big oily green... and big oily green is lying.

Friday, September 14, 2012

New US Study on PTC Demonstrates Market Damage of Wind Subsidies

Exelon, the USA's 5th largest generator of electricity was kicked out of the American Wind Industry Association (AWEA) last week, for the crime of opposing the Production Tax Credit.  Today came the release of a study commissioned by Exelon: Negative Electricity Prices and the Production Tax Credit: Why wind producers can pay us to take their power - and why it is a bad thing.  The study has a message for the current 'stakeholder' initiatives being played out in the realm of Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO):  Wrong Way.

Exelon, long a champion of a carbon tax, generates approximately the same amount of electricity as the total IESO market, and it does so with the lowest CO2 emissions of any of the top 25 generators in the United States (pages 27 and 28 here).  The emissions intensity of Exelon's production is about half of Ontario's, and Ontario's is about one-quarter of Germany's.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Estimating the Costs of Eliminating Coal-fired generation in Ontario

Ontario has had a policy of eliminating coal-fired generation for longer than most Ontarian's remember.  The election of 2003 saw the Liberals promising to eliminate coal by 2007, while the 2 other main parties looked to 2015.   The Liberals won that election, but we are still working towards eliminating coal by 2014.  Every action the government takes on the electricity sector file is sold as a step to replace 'dirty' coal - whether it is referencing wind and solar feed-in tariff (FIT) programs, the contracting of natural gas-fired generation, or the signing of nuclear deals (Bruce 1 and 2 refurbishments).

Recently the allegedly environmental allegedly non-governmental organizations (ENGO's) have been broadcasting that 45% of the global adjustment is due to nuclear (OEB MSP report) - stupidly, or dishonesly, claiming that means 45% of the increase in your bill is due to nuclear.
The value of Ontario's electricity market, for only the commodity (excluding transmission and distribution) is about $10 billion, and whatever amount of that is not collected through market sales, at the Hourly Ontario Energy Price (HOEP), is collected by the global adjustment (GA).  I'll use the global adjustment as a starting point for discussing the cost of Ontario's methodology of replacing coal.

At the End of The IESO 18-Month Outlook: Updated

In a previous post I noted the final paragraph of the previous 4 18-month outlooks from the Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).  Here I add final sections of the 2 outlooks released since that post.
Nothing has changed: the current outlook notes ~3000MW of capacity to come online, none of which shares the 'flexibility' attributes of the coal Ontario is committed to replacing - despite not coherently planning to meet that commitment.

...With the forecast increase in SBG, we foresee an increase in out-of-market control actions, such as minimum hydro dispatch and nuclear maneuvers, to be required in order to manage the surplus, extending beyond the typical market action of exports. With wind and solar becoming more prominent resources on the electricity system, the need for maximum flexibility from all resources becomes integral for the reliable and efficient operation of the grid. When variable generation becomes dispatchable, additional flexibility will be available to diminish the frequency of out-of market control actions for SBG.
The existing coal fleet, though running at vastly reduced levels from previous years, provides the IESO with desirable flexibility, such as quick ramping and operating reserve, under all market conditions. As Ontario’s coal-fired generation is shut down over the next two years, its associated flexibility will be lost. Therefore, future capacity additions should also possess this flexibility to help facilitate the management of maintenance outages, provide effective ramp capability, supply of operating reserve and even provide regulation when necessary.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

There is no value in Gipe's FiT Tripe

Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing
-Oscar Wilde 

This week renewables' advocates were citing the German Renewable Energy Agency's compilation of the cost of wind energy across selected countries demonstrating wind energy was cheapest where feed-in tariffs were utilized to procure electricity from wind turbine companies (as opposed more market oriented renewable energy standards/RES quotas).

This shouldn't come as a surprise.  Suppliers in competitive markets need to price risk, and guaranteeing a return on investment clearly removes much of the risk.   That may have provided value to consumers if the risk didn't serve any purpose - but risk is fundamental in how a market establishes value.  The risk to wind suppliers in an RES environment is the uncertainty of pricing, including the possibility of not finding buyers at positive pricing,  For the grid utilities serving customers, the expense from committing to intermittent renewables is not maintaining suppliers to meet demand when called on.

Slide 7, Power Markets of the Future
The German Renewable Energy Agency promotes only renewables; the German Energy Agency (dena) ensures electricity can meet demand.  The German Energy Agency is currently looking closely at capacity mechanisms to ensure that there is enough generation to meet demand.  The graphic shown here was part of dena's presentation at a recent conference on Capacity Mechanisms - meaning how to pay to ensure there is the traditional generation to provide power when it is neither windy or sunny.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Canada's ENGO's Offensive Response to New Regulations for coal-fired generators

Yesterday the Canadian government announced new regulation for coal-fired electricity generators.
The rules, promulgated under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA, 1999), set a performance standard of 420 tonnes/GWh, which is the emissions intensity level of Natural Gas Combined Cycle technology, the government said—but it is much higher than the of 375 tonnes/GWh limit proposed in the draft rule....
Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent on Wednesday admitted the new rules are "at the high end" of the 360 to 425 tonnes/GWh range that had been considered, but he defended the decision, saying it would avoid putting the "consuming public at risk of inadequate power supply." The 375 tonnes/GWh performance standard “would have been applicable only if, in the coal-fired electricity sector, plants operated at a steady productivity," Kent said. "In reality, plants go up and down in the generation of energy depending on demand."

That all sounds reasonably aggressive to me, as Germany's latest coal plant will reportedly emit 13 million tons of CO2 annually, on production of 16 million MW (~800 tonnes/GWh).  This for a plant the German environment minister references as 'state-of-the-art' as he viewed a demonstration of the plant's ability to ramp up and down to match the variation in the output of renewable wind and solar generators (reference here)

The reaction of the groups Canada's mainstream media considers green didn't mention their pet projects necessitate higher emissions from the fossil fuel plants that must accompany renewables.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ontario's Billion dollar subsidies of Gas-fired Electricity Generation

 "I am against blanket subsidies for fossil energy, which would only increase power prices."

Subsidies are a difficult thing to define, and quantify.  There are many jurisdictions throughout the world seeking out structures to ensure adequate capacity to meet society's demand.  The issue is of particular importance in jurisdictions that have introduced significant quantities of intermittent solar and wind generation.

When the sun shines and/or the wind blows, wind and solar generators generally have priority on the grid, but even if they did not, they have no fuel costs and could therefore underbid most competing technologies.  Economically, this takes away the visibility of revenues, and operating costs, for the traditional generators that are needed to ensure demand is met.   Some generating systems, such as Texas' ERCOT, are compensating for the lack of visibility by allowing higher spot prices (now above $3500/MWh, or $3.50/kWh) to encourage merchant plants to build for only a few hours of production a year.  Nord Pool is a Scandinavian market that has a strategic reserve mechanism, and a number of American markets contain competitive capacity markets.  Ontario has no open market mechanism, but primarily hidden contracts with private suppliers.  The province - my province - is an example of the damage done by abandoning market principles in secret deals that attempt to outsmart functioning markets.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Better Ontario Electricity Estimates For August

The IESO has posted updated estimates for August's Global Adjustment.
As with July, the 2nd preliminary estimates are unlikely to provide good guidance on the final figures due in a couple of weeks.
The posted 2nd estimate for August 2012

Unlike July, August's mistake appears to me to be a typo, with 38.94 ($/MWh) being entered as 28.94.

July's big discrepancy was in the total pool of money.  A $599 million estimate was reduced to $421.7 million in the final charges.  The reason for the discrepancy being the costs of cancellation of a gas plant in Mississauga, promised during the previous election campaign.  Ontario's Finance Minister noted the costs of cancelling that plant would hit neither electricity rate payers nor tax payers due to the existence of a magical contingency fund (adjective added), but perhaps he did so only in the the proper Liberal government channel (The Toronto Star) without notification of the bureaucracy.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Wind Dies Down as Solar Growth Accelerates

Being cheap, and a blogger, when I went searching for a data source of European statistics to analyse electricity sector characteristics, my preferred source quickly became ENTSO-E

The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) provides data related to the operation of it's memeber TSOs, and much of the data is available via the data portal on their website.  ENTSO-E acknowledges the limitations of the TSO data, and it's members are to provide information to establish the 'representativity' of the received data to allow for the establishment of more reliable figures (see ENTSO-E .pdf on data issues).

The current data can be downloaded summarized by month, which I have done - and I have summarized that data on a 12-month running total basis.  The graph shows monthly figures as lines, with the scale on the left axis, and 12-month running totals as bars with the scale on the left (doc is here).  The data shows 12-month total wind production is now 2000GWh (2TWh) below the level of 36 months earlier, while solar production is up 15400 GWh at nearly 4 times the level of 36 months earlier - monthly solar production exceeded wind production in March, and the gap has continually widened since that time.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

July's Ontario Electricity Price Lowest Since 2010

I told you so.
The IESO posted the final Global Adjustment figures (GA)for July late yesterday: $421.7 million.

That is $177.3 million less than their preliminary estimate of $599 million, but only $38.4 million less than mine.
With my estimates atop my podium, I'll try to reinforce some lessons using July's commodity pricing (class B) of  $67.10/MWh - which is based on an average market HOEP of $33.51, and the freshly released Class B GA of $33.59
  • $67.10 is the lowest price commodity since September 2010.
  • $33.51 is the highest HOEP figure since July 2011 
The paradox of the higher market (HOEP) rates accompanying the lowest overall commodity charges has been notable in Ontario for some time - and relates to high demand periods (July 2012 being the highest summer demand since at least 2007).

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fact-Checking Ministry of Energy Statement Shows We aren't at 1994 yet

Today the Ontario government posted a news release; "Ontario's Electricity System Can Take the Heat."  There's a couple of 'facts' included in it that should be examined more closely - not only to verify what is said in the release, but to show why wind production looks to be intentionally de-emphasized.
In July, Ontario's electricity system experienced the highest monthly summer demand since August 2007.
The communication states "summer" because January 2007, 2008 and 2009 were all higher - the IESO figures also indicate July 2006 was the last summer month with greater demand, but that's probably a deficiency in their inability to report on solar generation coupled with their inability to report actual metered demand.

Looking at the monthly generation chart for July 2007 (page 17 here), generation from coal and natural gas ("other" in the chart) are approximately 3.45TWh, or roughly 200GWh less than the generation from coal and gas-fired generation in July 2012.
We seem to have burned more fossil fuels generating electricity in July 2012 than we did in 2007

Monday, August 6, 2012

Vampire Turbines In July

I recently read an entry on Wayne Gulden's Wind Farm Realties website reviewing some figures for the Vestas V82 - 1.65MW capacity industrial wind turbine. The statement that stuck with me was:
... when the wind doesn’t get above 3.5 m/s – typically there’s a MINUS 50kw of production. This is power that must be supplied from the grid just to keep the turbine in business. And 50kw seems to be what the turbine uses to stay alive in good weather. In the winter it gets slightly higher – the highest negative numbers were in the 80 kw range.
I decided to investigate the performance of an industrial wind turbine project in Ontario comprised of 110 of the Vestas V82 turbines; Enbridge's Underwood turbines in Bruce County.

110 turbines potentially each drawing 50kW means that at times when all Enbridge's turbines are still, the draw would be ~5.5MW.  In the parlance of the Ministry of Energy, and the renewables lobby, a draw of 5.5 MW is enough to prevent power being provided to over 4000 homes.

In Ontario, we know that wind is least productive in July - so the topic of how much "parasitic" load is present when turbines are unproductive is particularly relevant here.

Friday, August 3, 2012

July Electricity Stats: Mild Demand Growth and double-digit inflation

Data from the Independent Electric System Operator (IESO) indicates July 2012 saw mild demand growth, over July 2011, of 1.2%, while prices look set to rise ~13% for Ontario's businesses.  Regulated price plans had already been set 10% higher. The Hourly Ontario Energy Price (HOEP), with a weighted average of ~$33.65/MWh is 8% lower than in July 2011, leading to the likelihood exports were sold at a lower rate.

These figures, and others, are shown in the preliminary monthly report now posted on the Cold Air Data Site (the weekly report, and the monthly supply cost estimates, are also updated)

The rise in price (from $64.97 to the preliminary estimate of $73.93/MWh) is far higher than my estimates indicate, and far outside the normal variance.  At $599 million, the global adjustment is shown as increasing $207 million over July 2011, while the amount recovered by sales at the HOEP rates dropped about $43 million.  This is extreme even in 2012's Ontario.

I have fought the growing trend to refer to the global adjustment as a tax, but it is becoming murkier each day; as lawsuits are suddenly settled and revelations indicate net revenue requirements for natural gas generators have been drastically increased, it is increasingly desirable to have better disclosure on how the GA pot is being calculated, and allocated.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Rebuttal to Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) Latest Paper on Closing Public Power Plants

Rebuttal to Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) “Ontario’s electricity surplus: an opportunity to reduce costs

The introduction to the OCAA report notes that demand is likely to continue to decline, both in annual consumption and peak consumption.  Parker Gallant and I wrote on where previous declines were - and they were largely in the loss of Ontario’s largest power users, also known as industry.  The OCAA cites page 335 of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s 2011 Long-Term Reliability Assessment (November 2011)  in claiming that Ontario’s electricity consumption and peak demand will continue to fall until at least 2021.     
Page 338 states that growth rates to 2021 are expected to average -0.1%, but reality notes the peak demand exceeded the IESO's expectations in 2011 and 2012.  

“I don’t know” is as valid a forecast as any, and page 343 shows the ability to meet NERC’s on-peak reserve margin requirements will be strictly conceptual in the near future.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ontario's Electricity Market Pricing Problems: Past and Present

There are a number of entities exploring fixes for Ontario's dysfunctional electricity market - few of which can admit it is dysfunctional.   Yesterday the Hamilton Spectator had an article on the topic, based on the "Putting the Pieces Back Together: "True Pricing" for Ontario Electricity" paper I noted in an earlier post.  Ontario's electric system operator (IESO) has multiple "stakeholder Engagement" groups working towards alleviating, or expanding, problems with coordinating supply and demand - depending on the stakeholder.  Last summer the regulator (Ontario Energy Board - OEB) tepidly explored alternative schemes for setting time-of-use rates.  Discussions are dominated by the few entities, or stakeholders, benefiting from lucrative private contracts financed through higher consumer rates and lower payments for public companies.

The discussions are not only be burdened by the lobbying of the participants on the stakeholder side; public employees are burdened by an inability to note the faults in the government's directions.      The stakeholder sessions seem interested in where we are, but in not being able to honestly address how we got here seem oblivious to the direction we are moving in lest we break the inertia of the current, poorly labeled, stakeholders.
This post will add to a number of previous posts is assessing Ontario's current situation, particularly my most recent writings on the global adjustment mechanism, capacity payments through the net revenue requirement mechanism, and the transfer of value from public assets to private ones.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sir Adam Beck is dead: The Gifts of Nature have been taken from the public

The Adam Beck Memorial.
dona naturae pro populo sunt
-the gifts of nature are for the public-

Early in the 20th century, Adam Beck lobbied the Premier, from his position as a Conservative Member of Provincial Parliament, for a commission to investigate the electricity sector.  An advocate of public ownership in the sector, a century later Sir Adam Beck has Ontario's largest hydroelectric facility bearing his name, and his statue sits prominently in Toronto surrounded by iconic structures housing iconic organizations - including Osgood Hell, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, and the Bank of Canada.
I hope the iconic institutions surrounding his statue endure better than Beck's legacy has.

My previous two posts have demonstrated the global adjustment mechanism measures the dysfunction of the market, and that large, and increasing, capacity payments are serving to drive down the market price (HOEP).  This post will show how the reduction of the HOEP, and the global adjustment mechanism, have combined to take the benefits of public hydroelectric facilities away from the public, and distribute them to the private entities awarded contracts by the McGuinty government.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Capacity Payments: The High Cost of Ontario's Collapsed Electricity Market Price

Price inflation of the electricity commodity in Ontario has been relatively muted, but the limited growth hides some deep structural problems.  This post will compare annual figures for 2008 to figures for the period from July 1, 2011 - June 30, 2012 (as did my previous post), by examining the purchase price of different categories of supply.  I'll be drawing from work I've done collecting production data (ie. here) and establishing estimated contract values for generators in showing which type of generation grew during this period of overall decline, which generation decreased, and the costs associated with the changes.

The changes in generator capacity are almost entirely related to Ontario's policies of eliminating coal, and growing renewables.  Nuclear and hydro capacity has changed little.  The renewables chatter disguised the rapid build-out of natural gas capacity, which has been expanding quicker than coal generation capacity is being removed.  Coupled with the increase in wind and solar capacity, the increase is significant.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ontario's Troubled Global Adjustment Creation

Rising electricity prices in the electricity sector is the topic of a number of Ontario news stories this year;  The Guelph Mercury reported on a couple of manufacturers in the Waterloo with much the same narrative as reports out of the North Bay region earlier in the year.  Increasingly, the Global Adjustment (GA) mechanism, which ensures the money paid to suppliers is fully recovered from ratepayers regardless of market pricing, is portrayed as the reason electricity costs are moving higher in Ontario.  

Most of Ontario's supply is subject to contractual payments (or regulated rates), so the lower the market price, the higher the Global Adjustment rates (there are more than one).  As the market HOEP rate drops, customers see the GA rise.  The rising line of a bill is a convenient target for inciting anger.  Groups as disparate as the Ontario PC party, NDP, Green Party, Greenpeace, Environmental Defence have all referenced the charge as a subsidy.  And they aren't the only ones.  Google "the global adjustment subsidy" and you'll find hits to this blog!
Which is somewhat unfortunate.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Year-to-date Highs And Lows In Ontario's Electricity Sector

Posts have been sparse lately.  I've been working on the data side, including on putting reports up on my data site.  Yesterday I wrapped up what I wished to accomplish in terms of monthly reporting - which followed the creation of a cost breakdown report.  All of that work is to serve as a reference for myself, as well as readers of this blog.

I have just updated the weekly reporting, the first report I created on the data site.

Week 27, from July 4-10, is the highest Ontario demand week of the year, at 3,076,701 MWh.
Not surprisingly, it also has the highest average Hourly Ontario Energy Price of the Year - although that price is still only $37.25.

Nuclear, gas, and coal generators all had near high weekly generation levels for the year.

Hydro had it's worst production level of the year, which is a statement that has been true for the past 3 weeks.

Wind had it's worst production level of the year.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Globe and Mail's Flawed Reporting on Alberta's Brownout

... troubles occurred at four coal plants and two natural-gas plants, Mr. Simpson [director of market operations for AESO-Alberta Electric System Operator] said. They all suffered unrelated problems, have different owners, and are located in different parts of the province. Wind power helped fill the void, and by late afternoon, three of the six troubled power units were ramping up their operations, Mr. Simpson said.

The problem with the statement from Mr. Simpson is that it is nonsense.
The problem with the Globe and Mail is it's disinterest in that.

The facts are simple. Alberta has over 939MW of wind capacity, which didn't step in to anything but for a mild bump in a wispy moment around 6pm.

Other, suddenly more reputable outlets, got the story right.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Week 26 Reporting: Nuclear productivity highs and continued pricing woes

I've had a lull in posting as I am developing some more reporting on my data site to support future blog posts.
Here's a post to indicate how my Weekly reporting demonstrates the supply mix, pricing, and export issues frequently noted on this blog - and increasingly elsewhere.

Weeks 25 and 26 are amongst the highest demand weeks of the year.  Peaks are far higher than in January, but total weekly consumption is yet to surpass week 3.

Summer is now our peak (hourly) demand period, which should raise some supply requirement issues.  During the highest demand week in January, peak demand was ~7000MW above the minimum demand for the week.  During the heat of week 25, demand rose to ~12000MW above the minimum demand for the week (essentially doubling the week's minimum demand).

Friday, June 22, 2012

At the end of the Week, Surplus Once Again

Today Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) released it's latest 18-month outlook.  When their previous version was released, I wrote "At The End of the IESO 18-Month Outlook," which included quotes from the end of their past 4 versions' final paragraphs.
Here's the latest:
Another large variation was in the frequency and energy volume of manual actions, such as nuclear unit maneuvers or import transaction curtailments, for surplus baseload generation conditions. In Q1 2012, there were 73 GWh of curtailments versus 32 GWh in Q1 of 2011. The rise in manual action is a result of lower minimum demands as well as a growing portfolio of baseload generation. The ability to dispatch renewable resources may help mitigate the need for these actions moving forward.
The IESO 18 month outlook now graphs some curtailment actions
It may, but it's less likely in light of the IESO's presentation prepared for a June 27th meeting of the Renewables Integration (SE-91) 'stakeholder' group, which prioritizes renewables over nuclear output (by suggesting a minimum offer price of -$10 for wind and solar, -$5 for 'flexible' nuclear).  This will mean, as oversupply drops pricing into the negative, nuclear bids will be rejected first, requiring 'flexible' nuclear to curtail first.
As it does now - with those curtailments having risen 128% in the first quarter of 2012 over Q1 of 2011.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Differentiating Baseload and Pantload Power Generation

Today's hot, humid weather drove Ontario's electricity demand to it's highest levels since July 22nd of last year, with demand forecast to peak at 5 pm.

The day's generation profile isn't exactly typical for a summer day, but it is a good example for clarifying some of the confusing terms in electricity generation.  The term baseload is being deliberately obfuscated recently, but it's pretty easy to spot the traditional meaning in the day's actual production figures for 3 am, and 3 pm

At 3 am demand was around 14000 MW, and we were exporting about 1800 MW in addition to that, at a little over 1 cent/kWh.  That gives a decent idea that whatever was generating is more expensive to stop generating than to sell at rock bottom rates.  For different reasons, this applies to nuclear, the big hydro installations (ie. the Niagara and St. Lawrence generating stations), contracted non-utility generators (gas), and wind.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Wind 'em Up Day: Spin Baby Spin

Friday was dubbed "Global Wind Day"

In Ontario, that meant some rather predictable things - like installations that had been producing output for half a year had ceremonies to officially baptize them as open.  These included the largish Greenwich wind farm Enbridge has been operating near Thunder Bay; and David Suzuki slunk onto Manitoulin Island, with Ontario's current Minister of Energy, to open the 4MW Mother Earth Renewable Energy wind project.   What is also now expected, and disturbing, is the politicization of the bureaucracy compelled to join in with the suspect industry's agenda; all reported, as if news, in the mainstream, media.

The Environmental Registry posted 5 notices on Global Wind Day including 2 renewable energy certificates approving Samsung/Korean Consortium wind projects, with a third awarding the REC for their 'Grand Renewable' solar project.  The sudden flood of activity on the Samsung file followed John Spears' article in the Star pretending a need for urgent action on moving the Samsung projects forward.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Electricity Exports Continue to Cost Ontario Families

Ontario electricity exports in May cost Ontario families, adding about 6/10th's of a cent to the charge on each kWh they consumed.

It's that time of the month where the govenment release it's silly spin on Ontario exports, and I am silly enough to rebut it once again.  This month is a little different as the release comes just days after the government announced it would sell the power it has been exporting, at very cheap rates, to industry willing to commit to adding employment in Ontario.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Billions at Stake In Feed-In Tariff Contract Fine Print

March 22nd the Ontario government announced results of a review of it's feed-in tariff (FIT) program to contract supply of renewable energy.  The announcement did little to provide visibility on costing, for either project proponents or the ratepayers taking on the liability of the long-term contracts.  Concerns, from the suppliers' perspective, are apparent at the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) as discussions, and proposals, related to the integration of renewable energy supplies into Ontario's system are studied (SE-91).   The cost of excess supply in Ontario is likely to be over $1 billion a year, and possibly double that amount, by 2014; the fine print in the revised FIT contracts will determine how much of that cost is from curtailing payments to FIT generators, along with generation, and how much will be borne by Ontario's ratepayers.
An attendee noted that there has been some slippage in terms of the timelines for finalizing a floor price mechanism and addressing compensation/contract issues. He noted that without specifics regarding dispatch and floor price mechanisms, that developers cannot make go/no go decisions on projects.
The IESO responded ... From a contract perspective, the OPA has stated that they recognize that some language exists in contracts which do not have clear definitions. The IESO recognizes this problem for developers, but the additional clarity that developers are seeking is not yet available.           -Minutes of May 3rd SE-91 Meeting (emphasis added)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Estimating Costs in Ontario's Electricity Sector

I haven't posted lately as I've revisited data to provide improved estimates of a number of entities in Ontario's electricity system.  I've tried to do so in a manner that can be easily updated, and written some descriptions of the process, in a lengthy entry at my data site (users with slow connections are warned).   Since I've put the time in building the data structure to support posts, I'll grab some of the data to illustrate the types of figures that can be produced, albeit as estimations with imperfect data, depended on a number of assumptions.

The cost of supply is broken down based on known information on contracts with suppliers.  Some of these contracts pay for capacity (Cpcty) in different formats. The average pricing for 2011 is shown below.  Also shown is graphing of each 'fuel' generation type as a percentage of supply, and of cost (if it's cost share is greater than the share of generation, it's more expensive than average)

Fuel Rate_Output Rate_Cpcty
Nuclear $57.05 $0.00
Hydro $36.47 $0.00
Gas $63.58 $24.44
Coal $37.66 $75.27
Imports $36.23 $0.00
Wind $135.00 $0.00
Other $115.77 $112.82
Solar $500.00 $0.00
Unknown $28.40 $0.00
TOTAL $55.85 $6.41