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.

“Ontario demand”, as defined by the IESO, does not mean the demand for electricity by all consumers in Ontario; to the IESO it means demand for output from the generators on their system. On February 18th Ontario consumers were consuming more in hour 15 (2-3pm) than in hour 3, but generators not on the IESO system were outputting so much supply that demand on big generators was significantly lowered. Those “embedded” generators were primarily solar panels and they exist because they were negligently contracted at spectacularly high prices.

The article quotes Leonard Kula of the IESO – who could produce the obscure stat for Feb. 18 – and then moves onto an accountant to announce what the cost of “making your own electricity and storing it in your garage” could be “within a decade.”

But if you have a garage, the government may not allow you to leave the grid, at least not without a large exit fee.

Most energy talk from Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government has centred on recent plans to cut hydro bills, a rebate scheme the province’s Financial Accountability Office has warned could cost $45-billion and require nearly three decades to pay off…

In 2016 wind and solar contracts added about $3.4 billion to Ontario electricity supply cost. While the $3.5 billion did result in that obscure “Ontario Demand” accomplishment on a warm February Saturday, and Good Friday, I estimated those renewables’ contracts created a $38 billion net liability before the government acted to reduce costs prior to 2018’s election.

The government’s “rebate scheme” – or [un]Fair Hydro Plan – is backed by legislation that creates an asset to sell, in order to finance the rebates. The asset being sold is future consumers to recover the asset from.

Far from signalling the future, February 18th could be seen as the pinnacle of contracting idiocy that resulted in the [un]Fair Hdyro Plan which, in turn, makes it unlikely Ontarians will be allowed to go off-grid without steep penalties.


This sentence, from Giovannetti, is particularly entertaining:

In response to an uncertain future, the province’s new strategy for long-term power production is to not plan for new electricity supply in future years as demand continues to grow.

Demand cannot continue to grow, because it’s been declining for over a decade.

The strategy to not specifically plan future generators shouldn’t be interpreted as acknowledging a brew-your-own electricity revolution is upon us.

Ontario’s IESO is looking at a new tool, with plans to unveil 25 storage projects over the next six months.

The IESO is always claiming to look at new tools  – but they never do break from the old tools (ie. their October 30th re-org).

Giovannetti’s article concludes:

officials are not (sic) struggling to see how wind and solar will change the world only a few years out. “It’s very exciting,” Mr. Thibeault said.

Not sure the editors got to the end of the article in checking for typos as I suspect “now struggling” was the intended message.

For the first time in well over a decade there are no plans to contract significant wind and solar in the next few years.

It is exiting.

 

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