Tuesday, August 6, 2013

LTEP Tools: Calculating deception

Ontario's government is currently presenting an appearance of consulting on another iteration of a long-term energy plan (LTEP).

Ontario's Ministry of Energy now has a web page with a graphical tool for designing a portion of Ontario's 2025 Energy Mix: Power Play: Make Your Electricity Mix.

Ministry of Energy Power Play tool
It's understandable the Ministry would not wish to get stuck in debates over numbers, so a simple, entirely graphical, presentation is prudent in avoiding complicating contributions to a legitimate conversation.

The Power Play tool caught my interest as I have been designing an energy mix calculator to assist me - and anybody who cares to download it - on a separate site.
Neither 2003 nor 2005's supply mix met reserve requirements

In order to meet NERC requirements for comparison purposes,

natural gas generation was added in the "+" models
A dishonesty in the Ministry of Energy's tool is the choice of meeting demand requirements with supply that cannot meet demand requirements. Specifically wind and solar generation (or vRES, for variable renewable energy sources).

The reason vRES cannot independently fulfill needed generation is contained in Table 4.1 of each forecast from the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), where each type of energy supply has a "Forecast Capability at [seasonal] Peak."

The IESO forecasts peak demand and that peak demand forecast is reported to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation which has a "Reference Margin Level" of 20.2% for the IESO's region (page 21).

There is a number a supply mix needs to hit that is not for total generation (such as the 155TWh imagined in the Ministry's Power Play tool), or for total generating capacity, but is instead the figure for the "capability at peak" - a figure sometimes referred to as a sources capacity value.

All these figures are incorporated in the calculator that produced the figures in the first graphic in this post as I ran some historical supply mixes through my calculator to test it.

The emissions intensities in the model are very low compared to what they have actually been, which is a function of the model used by the calculator, and of the realities of interconnected markets. The model uses all available natural gas generation before turning to coal-fired generation; in reality the market does not.  The market is also not contained to Ontario, and Ontario's guarantee of capacity costs for the majority of it's gas and coal-fired production contribute to the province being a cheap place for external markets to purchase electricity.
In a recent 12-month period approximately 10TWh of fossil fuel-fired generation could be attributed to generation for export markets.

Finding the calculator useful with the historical mixes, I turned to 2025, and the Ministry of Energy's Power Play tool's supply assumptions, and options.

I did add enough generation to produce another 20 TWh of annual production, and I changed my demand forecast to 155TWh (my previous post on conservation in the LTEP shows I disagree with the Ministry's higher forecast).  Surprisingly, to me, my assumptions about the generation currently committed to for 2025 could produce 134TWh of the 135TWh the Power Play graphic shows as existing.

Surprising because my understanding is the only nuclear capacity firmly committed to for 2025 are the newly refurbished Bruce A units 1 and 2 (more here), so the 135TWh of committed supply the Power Play tool assumes may already include far more fossil fuel consumption than Ontario's electricity sector has seen in years.

My calculator indicates that gas (another 16,400MWp of it) is the cheapest option to meet peak generation requirements (the calculator is using an estimated natural gas cost of $5/MMBtu), the next cheapest is refurbished nuclear, and then wind (the cheapest vRES in the model).

The 7600MW of wind capacity required to generate 20TWh in Ontario can displace only 1,150MW of that additional natural gas capacity.

17,500MW of solar capacity does displace 4300MW of gas-fired capacity.  While solar capacity can displace other capacity (only to the extent summer daytime peak demand exceeds winter peak demand), the price clearly needs to be far lower than the contracts signed by the government's agents in recent years.

What is notable to this nuclear advocate is the nuclear option (including a new build at Darlington) is the only supply mix in this chart that drops emissions.
Either a rise in the natural gas price, or carbon pricing, or a combination of both, could also make the nuclear option comparatively cheaper.
To demonstrate the comparative costs of each low/no emissions technology in reducing emissions, I've used the "2025+ Natural Gas" as the reference scenario, and the cost of reducing a ton of CO2 equivalent emissions is therefore the increased cost of the mix divided by the reduction in emissions achieved by the mix.

Nuclear provides the only option of reduced emissions in a carbon pricing range that might be tolerated in the near future, with the refurbishments of Bruce and Darlington reactors feasible at a price under $30 and a new build at a price under $60.

Variable renewable technologies are not viable at the prices set by the government in Ontario at any carbon price likely to be introduced in the next decade, but they may provide a picture of being green while ramping up emissions with a switch to gas.

If optics are the primary concern, the decision to exclusively use graphical tools in the Power Play planning tools is understandable

It's particularly notable that the most efficient low carbon supply mix is taken from the Ontario Power Authority's 2008 Integrated Power System Plan; the most comprehensive plan coming out of the most transparent planning process, that plan died with the Green Energy Act and related introduction of feed-in tariffs to spur the construction of wind and solar generation.

The calculator version was 3 as this post was being prepared - 4 when it was completed!

The Google spreadsheet used for the tables in this post is here

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