Saturday, March 21, 2020

COVID-19: data, information and opinion

I've been following reporting on the coronavirus COVID-19 both for specific personal reasons and out of the general interest in data-driven communication I've tried to practice on this site. Realizing the shelf life of this post is likely to be incredibly short, I thought I'd take some time to write down which media is proving useful to me in explaining the situation, some sources of data on the spread of the virus, and what actions I'd hope to see taken.

I am the spouse of a paramedic - which is among the professions most likely to contact the coronavirus. We are both past our half-century mark, and we're fortunate that all of our parents are alive. We can't visit them without being confident we don't have the virus. I've felt unwell, with mild systems that could fit this virus, or a number of other things: my wife's symtoms were bad enough that we were directed to drive over an hour (each way) for testing this weekend, not so bad they performed the testing, but bad enough she was to quarantine for 2 weeks.

I won't attempt to communicate how the virus operates (there is a video for that) - but the specifics aren't necessarily what is driving the actions of, in Ontario anyway, the past 8 days. One of the most-viewed pages ever on the Washington Post site explains exponential growth with a model of a fictitious virus spreading. The paper, using four scenarios to address the speed at which the virus spreads, is credited with making "'social distancing' easy to understand." From that post: "If the number of cases were to continue to double every three days, there would be about a hundred million cases in the United States by May." It doesn't mention that the number would grow to include the entire US population within 5 more days, but ...

Maybe the most impactful graphic of the growth in the impacts to Canadians is the graphic on number of confirmed cases from Our World in Data reporting, filtered to show only Canada:

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Ontario Electricity Distributor data can be informative, but lacks consistency

I recently updated a database I'd created with annual data from the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) yearbooks of electricity distributors. Viewing my reporting driven by the updated data now with records from 2005 to 2018 data I was struck by a couple of things I felt worthy of comment, but in researching as I wrote this post I discovered the trends that looked particularly striking were exaggerated by data reporting changes. The discussion on trends may still be useful both in itself, and in setting up some closing comments on data reporting discipline.

The OEB yearbook data isn't strictly comparable to data developed by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO). But looking at trends the growing discrepancies in summer peak demand appears to be quite extraordinary. In this first graphic the total of the summer peak demands at all local distribution companies (LDC's) are shown against the peaks of the IESO's "Ontario Demand" (which is actually demand for supply generators on the IESO-connected grid). I've added a, "Revised LDC peak" which I calculated to attempt to make the data from the yearbooks from 2016-2018 comparable to previous yearbooks' data.

While all LDC's need not have peaks at the same time, the relationship between LDC peaks and IESO peaks has changed since 2005. Although the total of all distribution companies' summer peaks has reportedly been higher than the IESO's summer peak in each of the past 3 years, this is only due to Hydro One Inc. boosting its peak by including IESO wholesale consumers that receive their electricity through Hydro One's distribution network. I suppose there's a judgement call as to whether the report is on distribution networks or distribution consumers, but I don't suppose the judgement should change from one year to the next.

Changes in procurement and consumer demand management explain why the gap is narrowing (if not eliminated) in the reporting of peaks in the IESO's "Ontario Demand" data, and the distribution reporting.

Supply to local distribution companies is only one element of the system operator's "Ontario Demand," which also includes consumption at generators, transmission losses, and supplying large wholesale consumers. About 85% of the IESO's "Ontario Demand" is due to supplying LDC's.