Ontario’s constant export of electricity

I received an e-mail last week requesting help responding to claims attributed to a wind-industry friendly administration in Ontario claiming that we were, at times, importing electricity. I’ve pulled some figures in response and thought I’d take a couple of minutes to post my comments.

Of course we often have some imports into Ontario – because it’s a market connected to other markets. However, the number of hours Ontario imports more than it exports dropped from market opening (in May 2002) to the recession of 2009/09.

Hours of Net Import

Periodically there will be a month with a few more hours in which imports are greater than exports, but since 2010 the one notable spike seen is early in 2014 when the region was short on natural gas making coal-fired generation (mainly via Michigan) more economic.

There have been, as I write this, no hours of net import thus far in 2015; only two since August 26, 2014, and only 52 since last April. The hours of net import that did occur exist because it’s a market – at not time did net imports come close to the level of unused gas-fired generators in the province.

hours of net imports

The “idle gas capacity” in this chart is calculated as 6,000 megawatts less the hourly natural gas-fired production shown in the IESO’s Output and Capability report. The IESO reports 9,920 MW of gas capacity, so 6,000 treated as available is conservative.

Wind is shown in the chart because the discussion was about installing more wind turbines. In the 52 hours of net imports, wind produced less than 250 megawatts, which would have been about 10% of total industrial wind turbine capacity in the province.

It would be foolish to contract additional supply that would have been unavailable to produce 40% of the time Ontario was a net importer even if Ontario couldn’t easily have paid to get the production from within the province during those periods.

Here's the data/spreadsheet including the charts displayed

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