Without being anywhere near the CanWEA offices on January 11, 2013 one could sense the excitement when the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) released the news that wind generation in Ontario at 4.6 TWh (terawatts) had beaten coal generation of 4.3 TWh. That press release followed one from the outgoing Premier, D. McGuinty the previous day announcing the remaining coal plants would shut down by the end of 2013. So we saw two “good news” days for CanWEA and their 400 plus members, so why did they become so defensive?
The CanWEA press release of January 23, 2013 dealing with the intentions of MPP Lisa Thompson to present a Private Members Bill calling for “a moratorium on wind energy development until a third party health and environmental study has been completed,” really upset them. They followed this with a February 12, 2013 press release which included the results of what they referred to as a January “Oracle Research poll” they had commissioned. The poll is dated February 12, 2012 so its not clear if this is old news or new news. In any event the main polling question was atypically benign asking those polled to opine on whether “Ontario should continue to strive to be a Canadian leader in wind and solar energy production”. The report show 69% agree. It is noteworthy that Oracle also conducted a poll for the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association in July 2011 where the results were that 75% supported the statement “I support green energy initiatives in Ontario such as wind and solar power”. The poll conducted for CanWEA by Oracle in February 2012 had the support of 78% and the one conducted in July 2010 by Ipsos Reid had the support of 89% so the trend is down, meaning perhaps the individuals being polled are becoming aware of the bad effects of industrial wind turbines. The 20 % drop in support in just over two years must be worrying to CanWEA and its members considering the bulk of the respondents are urban dwellers unaffected by the 400/500 foot monsters.
If wind generation was truly competitive it would be offered through the Hourly Ontario Energy Price (HOEP); the “wholesale” market IESO administers. But wind production doesn’t need to stoop to those levels because the wind developers have contracts with the Ontario Power Authority that paid them rates in 2012 in excess of 5.6 times the HOEP average rate of 2.41 cents per kWh. Most of them also get the benefit of annual “cost of living” (COL) increases tied to the inflation rate. One example is the 165.6 MW Comber wind project operated by Brookfield now in its 2nd year of operation and receiving $142.49 per MWh according to their DRBS credit report. The COL increase per MWh being paid to Comber/Brookfield is $7.49 in just the 2nd year of its operation but it is not yet commissioned (by IESO). The $7.49 per MWh increase at 5.5% is well above the Ontario Ministry of Finance indicated jump in the inflation rate in Ontario of 1.4% in 2012 (Comber went online in late 2011) so it is unclear who sets the parameters for the increase granted but it appears obvious that it greatly exceeds the Provincially reported inflation rate by the same government that gave us the FIT program!
Let’s pay no attention to the foregoing inflation kicker and assume that the 4.6 TWh (4.6 million MWh [megawatt hours]) that those wind turbine produced was paid out at $135 per MWh. That means the developers would have been paid $614 million. Had those TWh been produced by those doomed coal plants it would have cost the ratepayers $111 million (4.6 TWh at $24.1 million per TWh [2.41 cents per kWh] for the HOEP price that the OPG coal generation plants received) or about $500 million less.
Ratepayers also paid for backup power; principally in the form of gas generation. The contracts that the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) negotiate with gas generators pay them for their backup (they are paid to be ready to produce when the wind isn’t) and that is about $15,000 per MW per month. That means that the 4.6 TWh that the wind generators produced generates payments to gas generation plants. For sitting around “at the ready” the gas plant operators received about $90 million for producing no power for the cost of that “clean” wind generation.
Not included in the foregoing is the cost to Ontario Power Generation (OPG) who are often told to “spill” cheap clean hydroelectric generation and receive no compensation. Unfortunately no information is available to calculate what that cost is, despite the efforts of the writer and other critics, but one must assume it would be significant. Likewise Bruce Power who operate “flexible” nuclear plants are forced to “steam off” or “steam bypass” nuclear production, and are paid for that lost production but the cost to the ratepayers is an unknown. The assumption is that it is a large amount. Additionally the cost of those transmission lines built by Hydro One to deliver that wind (and solar) power is a significant amount but again the costs related to wind production hookup and transmission is not quantifiable as Hydro One do not break down their capital costs to identify monies spent to hook up renewables. Nevertheless with annual capital expenditures of about $1.5 billion it is safe to assume the monies spent supporting the wind segment are significant.
So let’s look at some facts that we can point to:
- Wind supplied 4.6 TWh of Ontario’s total generation in 2012 which was 3% of total generation of 151.8 TWh supplied by all power operators.
- Ontario exported 14.6 TWh in 2012 or 3.2 times the power wind generated, meaning Ontario did not need this power.
- Wind required back-up generation (primarily gas) for the 71% of the time wind turbines produced zero (0) electricity and during the 29% of the time those gas plants sat idle they were paid $15,000 per MW/per Month (Net Revenue Requirement) meaning it cost Ontario ratepayers $90 million. NB: A 500 MW gas plant could have produced that 4.6 TWh but for sitting idle were paid $90 million (500 MW X $15,000 X 12 months = $90 million).
- The 4.6 TWh of electricity if provided by the coal generation plants could have produced the same power at a cost of $111 million (4.6 TWh X $24.1 million per TWh = $111 million) instead of the $614 million (4.6 TWh X $135 million per TWh) that the wind production cost.
- If the back-up gas generation costs of $90 million are added to the excess (over HOEP) costs of wind the total costs to the ratepayers in 2012 was $593 million or 9.2% of the total Global Adjustment (GA) pot of $6.455 billion which was $1.146 billion higher then the 2011 GA total.
To summarize; Ontario’s industrial wind turbines produced 3% of total generation and the bulk of that production was exported. The 3% it generated cost Ontario’s ratepayers 9.2% of the total Global Adjustment or $593 million. The $593 million in costs represents an increase of $130 per annum for the average Ontario ratepayer producing NO BENEFITS.
That $593 million found its way to ratepayers electricity bills and then became taxable with another $77 million removed from ratepayers pockets as taxes through the application of the HST.
The Liberals have managed, through their energy policies, a situation that will see the waste highlighted above, repeat itself again and again for the next 20 years or longer. It makes the scandals of e-health, Ornge and the gas plant moves look small in comparison.
February 20, 2013