The IESO’s June mistake, and the July victims

Ontario’s electricity system operator (IESO) made a mistake in June.

In July they made it better for themselves in a way that specifically punished one set of consumers – Class B ones not covered by Regulated Price Plans (RPP). The OEB’s lacklustre oversight in recent years continues to harm this same set of consumers. This will be a wonkish post but if you’re connected with a company with a substantial electricity bill, it will alert you to probable overcharges.

This situation should be difficult to explain, because I’ve had friends questioning the IESO on it for half a year and I haven’t seen any evidence that a fulsome explanation is pending. That may be due to the beginning of the tale.

2017 IESO global adjustment consumption page on Feb 10

The beginning was the final global adjustment calculations the IESO made for June 2017. They erred in calculating total consumption. The inability of the organization to admit that, along with the regulator’s (OEB) disinterest in monitoring the IESO’s collection of global adjustment charges, is why confusion persists.

I noted on Twitter when the figures were released that they made no sense. To explain why requires getting into some obscure details.

  • the IESO reports “Ontario Demand” hourly, but that figure is essentially demand for supply from their market participants,
  • the IESO elsewhere reports a summary breakdown of this figure as “Monthly Energy Demand” which shows some of that figure is “Generator Consumption” and some is “Losses”,
  • the IESO has not reported on generators embedded in the Local Distribution Companies (LDC’s) it services, but in the past couple of years it has noted monthly distribution-connection (Dx) figures in it’s 18-Month outlooks,
  • the Global Adjustment process requires knowing the share of consumption for each consumer, so that reporting includes a “consumption” figure .

If you took the time to subtract out the generator consumption and losses from the IESO’s reporting of “Ontario Demand”, and added the embedded generation, you’d find you were usually about 1% short of the consumption as shown in the global adjustment reporting.  In June 2017 the difference was far greater:

Consumption mistake_

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Worthless and worse wind

My friend Parker Gallant has written on my updated estimates of annual curtailment in Wind waste should worry Ontario ratepayers.  Producing the estimates doesn’t take me nearly the effort Parker puts into writing on them, so I felt compelled to add a new view of the data just to make our contributions a little more equitable.

The French language Radio-Canada has posted AU PAYS DE L’EAU NOIRE
Des résidents en Ontario vivent un cauchemar depuis l’installation d’éoliennes proches de leur domicile. I assume it’s best read in French, but the Google translation to English sufficed for me. As the journalism at Radio-Canada is more focused on the impacts to people of turbine construction of the North Kent wind farm, I decided today’s show of data will be on the performance of individual industrial wind turbine facilities.

Capacity Factor is the output of a generator divided by the theoretical maximum (full output in all hours). To estimate costs I need to estimate curtailment, but just viewing the history of capacity factors has the benefit of allowing the cynical reader (ie. the good ones) to verify my claims just by adding up columns from the IESO’s wind file. I won’t make it easy to do though, because for fairness I limit results to years where a facility was in commercial operation throughout, and to compare 2017 results I’ve made all years’ data the total as of the end of November.


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Rant: Electioneering and the IESO

I used to have a writing process where if something annoyed me I’d write on it quickly, and then edit out all the anger. I generally figure readers shouldn’t have to deal with my anger – but it’s time for some Networking.

“…I’m not going to leave you alone.
I want you to get mad.
… all’s I know is you’ve got to get mad”

You’ve been forewarned.


The need to rant really started a while ago with reading a “Message from Peter Gregg” – the big DOWG at Ontario’s electricity system operator

A tournament, a tournament,
A tournament of lies. R.E.M.

Before moving to bigger disappointments I’ll start with the politicians.

Yesterday the Ontario Progressive Conservatives announced they’ll cut Ontario electricity rates by 12%. I was already mad when I read that, and I think it actually nudged me a little away from anger towards resignation. Tom Adams concluded a piece on the Conservative guarantee with:

There is no reason to expect an adult electoral debate about Ontario’s electricity future in 2018.

That’s true, but it was true before yesterday too.

  • The Green Energy Act wasn’t an election topic.
  • Adding provincial sales tax to electricity costs wasn’t an election topic.
  • Selling off Hydro One wasn’t an election topic, and,
  • Giving ratepayers $25 billion in the short-term to take back $40+ billion later wasn’t an election topic.
While disappointed that the biggest lie may determine the election, I grudgingly admire the chutzpah in going bigger. I will note promising to revoke the Green Energy Act does address the main driver of higher costs, and I’ll note removing the smart meter charge from bills is understandable, for reasons that I will later make clear.
There was a column excerpting an interview with Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault. I don’t want to dwell on the Minister, who I think was admirable in learning some things about his portfolio before making any drastic policy, or personnel, changes, but this section is ridiculous:

“So they get all the generators going and they say we’ve got to produce 15,000,” Thibeault said. “But the (actual) demand for everybody in the entire province, say they only use 14,800. So we have an extra 200 megawatts of power that we generated.”

The estimates have to be generous, in part because the province has to adhere to something called Northern American Reliability Standards. Those standards are designed to help ensure a blackout similar to the one in 2003 doesn’t happen again.
“And if we didn’t generate it, we’d be in a precarious position because we would be losing power,” Thibeault said. “We would have blackouts and brownouts.
“So what do we do with that (extra) 200? We had to produce it. Do we just let it dissipate? Do we just let it disappear? Or do we sell it to our neighbours and get something for it?

Systems require balancing generation and load.

Ontario’s system operator (the IESO) is overestimating to protect Ontario’s system, but all systems must balance. The neighbours aren’t having blackout after blackout despite not overproducing for export to Ontario because they are more capable of matching generation and load. The reason the IESO over-estimates could be attributed to multiple things, but a need for all systems to over-generate is not one of them.

I won’t blame the Minister for repeating talking point from the entity over-estimating every hour, but I will use the next figures to warn him of trusting the IESO’s summary figures.

“We sell it to our neighbours and get something for it … At the end of the day last year, we actually made $236 million in savings by selling that power … In 2015, it was $238 million. In 2014, it was about $230 million.”

This is very annoying. A couple of weeks ago an older friend of mine was flustered at being told how to extract annual revenues from obscure text files. So I did that and matched the numbers up to, among other things, what the IESO told the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario figures were for 2014 (figure 5): $636 million in revenues from exports and $251 million costs from imports.

So what the heck is the basis for the $230 million figure spouted by Minister Thibeault?

I’m noting 2014 because the IESO is cited as the source of data in an Auditor’s report, but the figures for 2015 and 2016 are nonsensical too. I won’t spend too much time offering assistance to Minister but offer this free advice: after handling data from the IESO, wash your hands.

I’ll not dwell on the Minister but will note the Long-Term Energy Plan that was pending when he was appointed to the position in June 2016 was finally released on October 26, 2017. There’s not much for me to comment on as it’s light on data while containing the themes previewed in a speech last November. Changes to structures at the IESO are featured prominently.

On October 30th the rookie leader of the IESO, Peter Gregg, announced a premature re-organization, elevating public relations veteran Terry Young – who has been championing Premier Wynne’s pet “conservation” messaging – to lead one of 3 new business units, and Leonard Kula to lead another: “Planning, Acquisitions and Operations.”

Last week the Association of Power Producers of Ontario (APPrO) held a conference. The APPrO conference seems like a Consumer Electronics Show without fun products.

I wrote of an informative discussion from Len Kula in “regarding flexibility” this past August. Emissions from electricity generation in the IESO’s system are spectacularly low in 2017, and I though Mr. Kula provided some insights on how that is being accomplished. As insightful Kula is as an operator, he seems utterly daft in discussing markets and planning:

…my new leadership responsibilities, and in particular this project, are really a natural fit for me. Now, I’m responsible for designing and implementing our new market, and for eventually operating it.

oohhh – I don’t think an effecient market is going to emerge from that level of micromanagement.

We have to change because, as you know, the marketplace in which we are working is almost two decades old. It is not as efficient or effective as it could be for either market participants or consumers. It was implemented at a time when we had large centralized power plants – including coal powered plants – providing electricity to passive consumers.

Heads up: you have the among the lowest emissions in the world from a system that not only has large power plants, but is planned to continue to be characterized by nuclear and hydro supply. The market design isn’t the way it is because of changes in the industry.

The plan for the development of a Day Ahead Market reflects the step‐by‐ step approach that we are taking.  – IESO CEO Paul Murphy, 2007

The IESO is a slow organization running what is almost certainly the worst electricity market in North America. A reason for that is operators gaming markets to fit their needs:

By unbundling the different services that we need, such as flexibility, we are introducing efficiencies but, more importantly, more competition into the market.

And we are doing that “untangling” by focusing on three work streams that we refer to as energy, capacity and operability. The goal of each of these is to send clear and transparent price signals for those different products.

If one did study markets, they’d find resistance to pricing capacity separately from energy, and if one contemplated cost effective systems they’d question if energy without capacity or operability value was worth anything at all.

Is the IESO planning a market for lightning?

… stakeholders are working with us to create a Day-Ahead Market based on a Single-Schedule System

Let’s hope this second decade of planning does the trick.

I know we will be successful – that all the invested time and effort was worthwhile – because we will have a competitive marketplace that is efficient, transparent and flexible. It will be a marketplace that acquires resources cost effectively and at the right time.

I know this is delusional – that most supply will be paid for generating regardless of demand; that the Industrial Conservation Initiative requires a low IESO rate (HOEP) to subsidize large industry, and that this is a decade-and-a-half of noise from the IESO.

I know we are moving in the right direction.

I know the guy who said that was just promoted – not surprised the short-term perspective is that’s the right direction.

I also know the Peter principle.

Speaking of Peter…

The President of the IESO, Peter Gregg, spoke at the start of APPrO.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Future+Focus”

I don’t think that means anything.

I love the old story about the opening of Walt Disney World – the one where somebody says “I wish Walt could have seen this” and somebody replies, “He did. That’s why we built it” – but I think “focus” is the opposite of vision.

There’s an acronym known by those told to focus by bosses, teachers and coaches – maybe it’s why I so dislike the use of the term.

How do we bring focus to the future in a sector that is constantly evolving?

We don’t.

As much as I don’t want to linger on terminology, I won’t let “evolving” go here. Evolution works through natural selection. Tough to imagine multiple generations of markets given the IESO’s decade-ahead planning of a day-ahead market.

The generation and delivery of energy is no longer a one-way, top-down process. Technological advancements, climate change policies and an increasingly engaged consumer are changing the dynamics of the electricity system.

They really aren’t – those are just IESO focuses. Without the program spending of the government, and its IESO, participation would be approximately nil. If this is a problem, the IESO should stop causing it.

As I look out over the next few years, it’s clear that the change that this sector is undergoing will continue to accelerate…
A really good example of what this looks like is the work that is underway to open up access to de-identified smart meter data in the IESO’s central repository, known as the MDM/R, to third party access. We’ve been receiving ideas for test cases from stakeholders who have innovative ways to use this data. It`s still early days, but I`m excited to see how this unfolds over the next year.

I promised I’d get back to smart meters. “Smart meters” have a different name since being introduced throughout Ontario. Now they’re called “meters.”

The Ontario PC party should kill the smart meter charge not to reduce your bill, but because it’s like a pole, or wire, itemization. It’s just a meter.

The MDM/R provides no monetary value to anybody. It’s a toy the Ontario Energy Board should stop allowing to be funded.

To summarize: our industry is evolving fast…

To summarize, natural selection is a base mechanism through which evolution occurs.



behind the bad Ontario electricity news

The Globe and Mail published an article by its Ontario legislative reporter Justin Giovannetti, In Ontario, hydro’s future gets murkier as costs of leaving the grid decline. The article posits, “a future where Ontarians produce their own power and cut the cord to the wider grid appears to be approaching.”

It’s a very bizarre assortment of factoids that supports the proposition.

Often stories are planted. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Giovannitti when I say this little fact is planted by somebody promoting a story:

…Feb. 18 could be seen as the start of the province’s electrical transformation. On that Saturday, with the sun blazing and a strong wind powering turbines, demand for electricity from the province’s traditional generating stations was actually lower in the busy middle of the day than it had been when most people were sleeping hours earlier.

That is a possible description of what happened that February Saturday. It was the first day since 2003’s blackout where mid-day “Ontario demand”, as defined by the system operator, was the day’s lowest – which is not a fact many would know how to locate. It’s only happened once since – on Friday April 14th, 2017, which the pious among us will recognize was Good Friday. The situation signalling the start of a transformation has occurred twice as often as the event that occurred on the third day following Good Friday – and the claim is the reprecussions of this event will be of similar significance.

On February 18th my daily estimates show 64.7 gigawatt-hours dumped on export markets, 32.5 GWh curtailed altogether, and 337 GWh consumed in Ontario – so over 23% of supply was worthless.

My estimates for Good Friday also show nearly 25% of supply was unusable in Ontario and worthless outside of it.

These are not days I want to preview the future.

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Ontario Wind: Worst value getting worser

A spreadsheet I regularly update with data on industrial wind turbine (IWT) generation in Ontario is cited in Parker Gallant’s recent, Wind: worst value for Ontario consumers. The same post cites the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) commentary on Ontario’s recently released Long Term-Energy Plan 2017, which included:

New wind energy provides the best value for consumers to meet growing demand for affordable non-emitting electricity.

Let’s examine the “value” as electricity – as there is no market in Ontario for any subset of that commodity, including “affordable non-emitting”.

Two definitions of “value” from the Oxford dictionary are pertinent:

  1. “The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.”
  2. “The worth of something compared to the price paid or asked for it.”

By the first definition wind is clearly the least valued generation type in Ontario. Using only very basic hourly data sets of Hourly summary totals of grid-connected (Tx) generation by type, valued at the Hourly Ontario Energy Price (HOEP), value factor can be calculated. A value factor above 1 means more valuable than average, below 1 means less valuable, and the lowest number consistently means wind.

This graphic is captured from a page I created to view summaries of basic IESO data sources:


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The declining value of Ontario exports

Yesterday Statistics Canada’s daily news included Electricity supply and disposition, 2016. 

Geoff Zochodne, a reporter at the National Post, gleaned this message from the release:

“Ontario exported more power to the U.S. last year than it has in a decade, and at a relatively low value.”

This initiated some e-mailing, which drew me into the data quagmire again, but also reflecting on my history reporting on exports. Instead of putting my thoughts into private e-mails, I thought I’d make them the content of this public blog post.

I’ll return to the newly posted Statistics Canada data later, but for now I’ll declare my bias as printed in the Financial Post early in 2016: “…StatsCan data is awful. It can’t be the basis for anything.” The recent release has mostly meaningful data, but some big errors mean it’s far from the best data to serve in analyzing Ontario’s exports – or anything else.

Some background on my involvement reporting on exports – if only to satisfy my sudden nostalgia.

Reporting on losses of exports is what got my blogging noticed back in January 2011. I’d started writing a couple of months earlier – to maintain skills in data analysis and, hopefully, develop some writing ability. January 1st, 2011 was warm (for winter) and it was windy. I wrote of records:Read More »

hot Sunday, windy Sunday

I noted Sunday morning curtailment of potential generation was around record levels – a claim repeated Sunday afternoon at a rally against a facility in Prince Edward County. My friend Parker Gallant subsequently wrote on the wasted wind that day. I thought a post comparing the past Sunday to other days might be instructive.

I developed a single page daily report some time ago – something Parker felt useful. The report for Sunday October 15th estimates the cost to a Class B consumer of consuming one megawatt-hour of electricity at $145/MWh.

$145/MWh was up steeply from the $108/MWh I estimated as the average cost for Class B consumers on the previous day. That $37 difference is greater than the difference estimated for exporters: on Saturday their price averaged $27/MWh; on Sunday it was free. The difference in cost for exporters is due to the change in the Hourly Ontario Energy Price, which dropped from $135/MWh in hour 9 on Saturday, when wind was forecast to produce 149 megawatts, to negative prices overnight and back up to $0/MWh in hour 9 on Sunday when wind was forecast to produce 3,876 megawatts. The correlation is not difficult to spot:

chart (41).png

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