Monday, March 15, 2021

Ontario's electricity system has not yet passed gas

Ontario's electricity system has not yet passed gas 1 Ontario’s electricity system includes generators fueled by natural gas. This is suddenly a hot topic as a campaign lobbying councils to say no to this type of generation moves through municipalities. The “no gas” lobbying appeals to a desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, exploiting predictions of increased use of natural gas in generating electricity in the province. This article will explore what entities have been the key drivers of emissions in Ontario’s electricity system, the credibility of the body being cited predicting increased generation fueled by natural gas and, if all goes well, convince the reader they are not willing to decrease global carbon emissions at any cost.

Background on the IESO’s pretend market

My previous post reconstructed a method to estimate losses on electricity exports out of Ontario. The measure does not indicate Ontario would be better off if it didn’t export its excess, but that Ontario would be better off with data discipline and consistent metrics capable of informing, and influencing, the managers of the system. Most years we pay more, per unit of electricity, and receive less from exporters of that electricity. It’s a bad trend, but not one Ontario’s electricity system has been structured to notice.

In Ontario the system is operated by the IESO. The IESO’s system includes what should be called a pretend market - it was called a hybrid market when introduced in 2005 after a collapsed attempt at a real market, but it’s deteriorated significantly since then. From a recent report:

...Over 98% of Ontario’s generation costs are controlled through either regulation or contracts, and even the fixed costs of most of the assets that trade on the market are contracted. As a result, less than 2% of the total system costs are actually price-exposed and influenced by the market (the dark blue area)
The creation of a market for electricity in Ontario revealed itself as a fantasy in four acts:
  1. the freezing of the market price shortly after its birth in 2002 killed any chance of merchant generation getting built;
  2. the introduction of the global adjustment mechanism (2005) separated the contracting of new generation from a need for revenue from sales into the market, and was accompanied by regulating rates for public Ontario Power Generation (OPG) nuclear and very large hydroelectric generators;
  3. the introduction of contingency payments to keep coal generators operating after the market collapse of 2008, and,
  4. Regulating the rates for the remainder of OPG’s hydro-electric facilities for 2015.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Ontario lost a record $1.8 billion dumping excess electricity in 2020

$1.8 billion dollars: that’s how much Ontarians lost selling electricity to neighbours in 2020 once the revenues earned from the sale are subtracted from the cost of producing the power.

By one accounting, which I’ll show is an Auditor General’s.

It’s been a while since my last post, during which period this blog turned 10. A decade ago, this month, a Premier noted some people think discussing losses on exports is fun, and at the same time lectured, “what you want to do of course is try to manage your system as best as you can so that there's as little extra electricity as possible.” Looking at the longer trend with the benefit of hindsight will be fun (of course), and as an added benefit it will provide a measure of the quality of the system’s managers.

Last month I was contacted by a friend looking to update claims from the 2015 Annual Report of the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario (the Auditor), including:
From 2009 to 2014...Ontario exported 95.1 million MWh of power to other jurisdictions, but the amount it was paid was $3.1 billion less than what it cost to produce that power

From a statistics viewpoint the biggest part of this challenge is figuring out what that $3.1 billion claim was based on. It turns out it’s demonstrated by Figure 10 in that 2015 report - and now we descend into the sordid world of Ontario’s electricity data to determine the origins of the numbers visualized in that graphic. 

I’ve added a tabular table which shows the figures I transcribed from the Auditor’s Figure 10 - not a precise process but one that provides valuable estimates for what is visualized. The difference between the cost of production and revenues in the graphic equal $3.1 billion. Before discussing the “cost of producing Exported estimated by [Office of the Auditor General of Ontario]” I will note both figure 5 and figure 10 in the 2015 Auditor’s report cite the IESO (Ontario’s hybrid electricity system operator) as the source of revenue from exports: figure 5 prints the figure for 2014 as $636 million while my transposition of the graphics - -done as it’s clearly not that - puts the figure a little below $750 million.

Same source, same measure, same year: two numbers. I’ll revisit this after I discuss a methodology behind the cost of producing exported power that reproduces the results graphed in the Auditor’s Report.