Spilling on OPG’s wasted hydro

Ontario continues to waste its water rights on the Niagara river.

I revisited some posts I’ve written on this topic today, and updated data to bring the graphics up to the end of 2015


A very quick refresher to explain this first graphic.

  1. The U.S. and Canada share water rights on the Niagara river. Ontario Power Generation (OPG) runs the Niagara river power plants in Ontario, and there are similar plants on the U.S side (R. Moses Niagara). When I first encountered the issue in 2011, the U.S. side had additional generation because OPG could not get enough water through its turbines to utilize the full allocation.
  2. In March 2013 OPG completed the Niagara tunnel, which was to get more water to it’s turbines. OPG claimed output would increase by 1.6 million megawatt-hours (MWh).
  3. I’ve collected Ontario generation data back to 2010, and compared monthly summaries to the U.S. Energy Information Administration data for the U.S. sites.

The opposite of what should have happened is what has happened, as the gap that had disappeared about the time the tunnel entered service re-emerged, and continues to grow.

My analysis indicates for each  the final 2 months of 2015 the U.S. side produced over 400,000 MWh more than OPG’s Beck units. In the units of the mainstream media, that is enough to power 500,000 homes.

The November and December waste was worse than usual, but for the year OPG reported 3.2 million MWh curtailed – enough to power 333,000 homes for a year – so it was not that great a change from usual.

OPG doesn’t say anything about where curtailment occurs, but looking to the other end of Lake Ontario there’s an indication much of it is significantly on the Niagara system. The level of Lake Ontario is regulated and again U.S. and OPG power dams share the benefits. The Moses (U.S.) and Saunders (OPG) dams east of Lake Ontario have had similar outputs, which is quite distinct from the divergence at Niagara, where the 1.6 million megawatts to come from OPG’s tunnel projects seems to have strangely appeared on the U.S. side.

us_canada_gen comp



  1. Tunnel will increase Canada’s power generation capacity, June 2011 (by Maryellen Tighe)
  2. wasted on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas, June 2014
  3. Wynne government approval of Niagara Region Wind worst energy decision in years, November 2014
  4. A line and the race for expensive Electricity, November 2015




6 thoughts on “Spilling on OPG’s wasted hydro

  1. Ontario has rights to generation at Niagara from incremental water from the Ogoki diversion. I am pretty sure this means that Ontario’s generation potential at Niagara should be more than from Moses Niagara. If I am right about that, then the stupidity of McGoo’s order (at the urging of Jack Gibbons) to OPG to build Big Becky is greater than it first appears.

    It seems worth remembering that the old Ontario Hydro consider many times whether to build a third tunnel at Beck and also considered the Mattagami expansion but always ruled them out as wasteful. Another reason to regret the loss of the old Ontario Hydro.

    Liked by 2 people

    • On a related issue, the location of the tunnel outlet near the pumped storage inlet/outlet has reduced the effectiveness of the pumped storage operation. At the time when pumped storage is needed to deal with intermittent wind generation, it is not available because of the tunnel.

      There don’t appear to have been any operational gains from the $1.5 billion Big Beck project. Pure vandalism.


  2. After observing the behavior of the Beck complex operation, I am convinced that the flow west out of the Niagara area is continually up against QFW transmission thermal limits due to the failure of Provincial and Federal governments to deal with the illegal blockade of the Niagara Reinforcement project in the vicinity of Caledonia for a shameful period of over ten years now. We are only talking about ~5 km of line construction left to finish the project. Other options would be to re-route this short section north of Caledonia or re-purpose two of the existing Nanticoke circuits, since they are no longer required for that retired output.


  3. Some evidence from a International Joint Commission Report:
    “The hydroelectric power plants, OPG’s Sir Adam Beck (SAB) I and II in Canada and NYPA’s Robert Moses Niagara Power Project in the United States, withdraw water from the CGIP upstream of Niagara Falls and discharge it into the lower Niagara River at Queenston, ON and Lewiston, NY, respectively. During the period of September 2015 through February 2016, diversion to the SAB I and II plants averaged 1,537 m3/s (54,280 cfs) and diversion to the Robert Moses Niagara Power Project averaged 2,154 m3/s (76,070 cfs).
    The average flow from Lake Erie to the Welland Canal for the period September 2015
    through February 2016 was 231 m3/s (8,160 cfs). Diversion from the canal to OPG’s DeCew Falls Generating Stations averaged 186 m3/s (6,570 cfs) for the same period of

    Click to access INBC_semi_annual_126_Final_SB.pdf


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