Ontario’s solar failure

Ontario’s IESO, nominally responsible for the operation of Ontario’s electricity system, reported for the 3rd quarter of 2015 there were 2,006.2 MW (megawatts) of contracted “Solar” capacity in commercial operation.

The American Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that, as of November 2015:

The United States has slightly more than 20,000 megawatts (MW) of solar generating capacity, which includes utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal installations, as well as distributed generation solar PV systems, also known as rooftop solar.

Only California clearly has more installed Solar than Ontario, with second place Arizona about equal (2,103 MW) and New Jersey a very distant fourth (U.S. third).

Ontario’s solar is contracted much differently than American solar. While the majority of American supply is shown by the EIA as “utility-scale capacity”, the IESO’s 2015-Q3 report showed only 12% (240MW) as “connected directly to the IESO-administered transmission grid (Tx).”


Very few Ontario residents would know about the comparatively large amount of solar in the province because the IESO’s poor reporting is amplified by the province’s media. The IESO reported only 0.25 TWh (million megawatt-hours) from solar in summarizing 2015’s generation, which ignored the 88% of contracted supply not connected to the transmission grid they administer – but which they did contract. The Toronto Star amplified the information as an error, beginning a “Q & A for Ontario’s hydro system” by misinforming readers that the “less than 1 per cent” (sic) referenced the share of Ontario’s electricity.

It did not.

If the IESO did report meaningfully on Ontario’s solar generation, there might be showers of compliments on the generation totals, and growth, but there would certainly be howls of outrage at the cost – particularly given how much cheaper the “utility-scale” supply dominant to south combined with the U.S. preference for renewable energy standards over the extremely expensive feed-in tariff approach adopted in Ontario (from Germany).

I’ve tried to communicate the shortcomings of Ontario’s reporting on generation, and explain the harsh impact of the embedded solar generation (along with wind) on the charges to average Ontarians. However, the greatest failure of the province doesn’t require any calculation based on the little data the IESO does present. To recycle a very popular line to identify Ontario’s biggest solar shortcoming:

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate



I noted a Press Connects article showing the annual capacity of industrial wind turbines in New York state since 2003, so I pulled figures for Ontario (treating sites as “in service” when they first produce 85% of nameplate capacity).

Graphing the data helps to explain Ontario’s steep rate increases.

image (78).png

I offer a much more comprehensive explanation of the contribution of wind and solar to rising rates in Ontario on my main Cold Air blog.


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