Saturday, February 25, 2012

At The End of the IESO 18-Month Outlook

"Though energy from coal in 2011 was less than three per cent of total output, at times the flexibility of coal units is beneficial."
"The availability of the remaining coal fleet, although running at reduced levels from previous years, provides flexibility which is very beneficial to the reliable operation of the Ontario power system."

Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) released it's latest 18-Month Outlook on Friday, as they do quarterly along with the supporting documentation. I've always found the organization exemplary in making data available as widely as possible, and noted Steve Paikin's blog entry yesterday also showed admiration for the behavior of this public organization. The report book-ended a week that started with the firing, without cause, of the suddenly former chief of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), general manager Gary Webster. I don't follow Toronto's politics closely, but I was e-mailed, along with the link to an article in the Toronto Star, the suggestion a chill could run through many bureaucracies following the firing of Mr. Webster. Mr. Webster was unwilling to make a case that the Mayor was ordering him to make. I'm certain there are many shades of grey to the TTC situation, but I think the bureaucrat must exist somewhere between resisting to undertake the ridiculous, and placating the powers beyond the silo or their expertise while arguing their educated views to represent the public responsibly. I prefer to work with base data, but the 18-month outlook is always informative, and I believe, very subtly, rebelliously/responsibly, independent.

Paul Murphy, President and CEO of the IESO, spoke to the Ontario Energy Network early in January, and I noted this short string from that speech: "wind alone can’t replace coal." These words connected in this way, regardless of the context, were a surprise to me.  The zombie McGuinty team has been reciting the message of eliminating coal with each new announcement of an industrial wind project.

The final paragraph of the new 18-month forecast caught my attention, and the final paragraph of the previous forecast still had my attention; so I went back and checked the final thought from previous forecasts too. They had been fairly dry reviews of precipitation, temperature, etc, etc..

That has changed, with a pointed message being made to finish the final 3 (maybe 4) forecasts.  Perhaps this is the balance between Mr. Webster's intransigence in Toronto, and the robotic stupidity of the press releases from the Ministry of Energy.

Here are the final paragraphs of the previous four, quarterly, forecasts:

June2011 – November 2012

The biggest variation from the previous year is that in 2010 we saw lower hydroelectric production during the summer months. The major factor that contributed to this variation is the decrease in precipitation levels from previous years. We also saw an increase in wind capacity during the early months of 2011.
September 2011 – February 2013
Ontario can expect periods of SBG similar to 2009 and 2010, with a brief reprieve during the higher demand winter months, followed by a re‐appearance in spring 2012. During these periods of SBG, , beyond typical market actions such as exports, minimum hydro dispatch and nuclear manoeuvers, some out of market control actions are expected to be required in order to manage the surplus condition.
December 2011 – May 2013
The other large variation seen from the previous year was the frequency by which a nuclear unit had to be either maneuvered or shut down. 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 ability to dispatch renewable resources may help to mitigate the need for these actions moving forward,
March 2012- August 2013
The retirement of two Nanticoke units during the past quarter not only removed 980 MW of installed capacity from our system but also removed the associated flexibility. The existing coal fleet, though running at vastly reduced levels from previous years, provides the IESO with desirable flexibility, under all operating conditions, from low load SBG to high peak periods. Units with flexible dispatch facilitate the management of maintenance outages, provide effective ramp capability and can even provide regulation, when necessary. These characteristics are important and are desired in new capacity. With the changes to gas‐fired generation projects in the GTA, and until the future of the Pickering Nuclear station is determined, decisions must be made over the next 18 months to ensure adequate supply beyond the middle of the decade.
The things the IESO notes as requiring attention aren't the things we hear about.
As drones continue stupidly repeating,  "Ontario is replacing dirty, coal-fired plants with cleaner sources of power like wind," the system flexibility is being lost as gas plants that can act 'like' coal are ignored and sources that aren't "flexible" - sources unlike coal - are recklessly pursued.


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