Saturday, February 22, 2020

Records for wind and solar output on same day fail to reduce Ontario emissions.

Friday February 21, 2020 saw 2 record hourly production records on the IESO-controlled grid (ICG):

  • 426 megawatt-hours (MWh) from solar in hour 14 (1-2 pm) and,
  • 4,393 MWh in hour from industrial wind in hour 19.
Including hydro, and embedded generation (not on the ICG), production from renewables could have climbed above 10,000 MW in hour 11 and stayed above that level until hour 23.

That's the good news.

The bad news is the system operator didn't reduce natural gas-fueled generation from noon to 9 pm despite its Hourly Ontario Energy Price (HOEP) remaining below the cost to fuel generation from gas.

For the 10 hours following the HOEP dropping to $0, gas generators produced an average of 1,655 MW. According to the IESO gas generation totaled 9.6 million MWh in 2019, or approximately 1,100 megawatts per hour. Yesterday, as records were being set for renewables, contracted supply being curtailed, electricity being exported below the cost of even the fuel for gas turbines, generation with natural gas was 50% higher than the average from 2019.

Which begs this question of the IESO: "What were you doing?"

There are answers a lucid system operator might have for that question. Recent events in South Australia saw the state isolated from much of the rest of the grid. Much analysis will come on the period the state remained isolated, and functioning, but the most fascinating may already have been done in "Don't Forget About FCAS!" Frequency Control Ancillary Services that is. During the period the state was isolated from the spinning reserves on adjacent, coal-heavy, grids, FCAS was far more valuable than energy - and the generators of energy pay much of the FCAS cost is South Australia.

The problem with transferring that story to the situation on this one day in Ontario is the IESO has been building a history of ignorance on, in particular, solar - despite having contracted all of the solar generators in the province. This was apparent in the assignment of a very low capacity value for solar in meeting summer peaks in their recent, self-serving, Annual Planning Outlook. It's also apparent in the hourly estimates my routines produce. This view from a Power BI report I've created shows my estimates of curtailment, by hour, for the 7 day period ended February 18, 2020 (the IESO reports weeks ending on Tuesdays). Curtailment was highest in the daylight hours, as were exports, while pricing was as low as during the wee-morning hours. It's a sad picture considering consumers have to pay the cost of contracting solar at, on average, over 40 cents per kilowatt-hour ($400+/MWh), during those hours of daylight.

From an annual perspective this will not be an extraordinarily expensive day for consumers in Ontario.  We will have much higher curtailment in the shoulder seasons. It is simply a day that might have fulfilled some expectations laid down over 10 years ago with the contracting orgy of the green energy act, but didn't.

Can the IESO run a grid with lower emissions if variable renewable generators displace the nuclear capacity that currently produces well over half the provinces electricity?

It seems unlikely - at least with the system operator it has.


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