Hydro One: spending your money to “shame” you

Hydro One: consider your knuckles rapped
Hydro One: consider your knuckles rapped

Recently, a friend, knowing I write often about the energy sector, told me he received a letter from Hydro One. He showed it to me: the two-page letter told him he was using an incredible amount of electricity this winter and was ranked in the highest percentile (91%) of electricity consumers in his neighbourhood.  He told me his house has electric heat and this year was no different from any other. Unless he and his wife want to freeze or convert their heat source at great expense to propane, he was stuck with this shameful situation.

I found the letter offensive, and stupid: Hydro One was not aware my friend’s heat source was electric, and ignored his consistent pattern of use.

While researching another article I came across the Ontario Power Authority’s (OPA) “Conservation Fund” Portfolio.  This somewhat dated report (it only covers to the end of 2013) lists over 150 projects the OPA has used ratepayer dollars to fund.  I came across the following information from 2012, which explains my friend’s letter.

Proponent                          Project Title

Hydro One Networks & Opower    Social Benchmarking Pilot Program      Amount awarded: Confidential

Summary

Hydro One Networks and Opower are collaborating to deliver an opt-out program to 50,000 Hydro One customers. Central to the program is the Home Energy Report, a printed paper report that will be delivered to participating customers via the mail. These reports will include a normative comparison that compares that customer to efficient neighbours and other neighbours. In addition, customers will` have access to a website that enables them to explore their energy usage in detail and to receive energy efficiency information.

 In other words, “shame” the customer.

Why the OPA deemed the “Amount Awarded” confidential seems strange: Hydro One is a publicly owned entity and the property of Ontario’s citizens.  Is it because of the “Opower” involvement?  It is also strange Hydro One requires an outside contractor to perform this task when they have all those “smart meters” and the data bank.  This initiative was in the works before the flood of complaints to the Ombudsman, so was Hydro One concerned with their data-retrieval abilities even before the complaints reached epic proportions?

Another interesting item I located on the OPA list was a grant made in 2013 which indicates that perhaps internally, at least, Hydro One’s executive were concerned enough about “energy poverty” to launch a “test” in conjunction with McMaster University.  The dissertation contained in OPA’s “Summary” is focused on “low income customers” and how they would feel about “thermal energy storage.”   The following summarizes how almost $616K of ratepayer money is being spent to confirm what the rest of us laymen would assume, this is not a way to alleviate energy poverty!

Proponent                                          Project Title

McMaster University,          The Electric Heating Benefits of Thermal Energy Storage

Amount awarded: $375,443 (Total Budget: $615,943)

DeGroote School of Business

 Summary

For the benefit of low income customers, McMaster University in partnership with Hydro One will examine the conservation and load shifting benefits of thermal energy storage (TES) under current time of use (TOU) rates. The pilot will test customer interaction with TES units and determine its potential as a next generation offering for low income customers.

 In other words, let’s pretend we care. The fact is, “thermal energy storage” is expensive and takes many forms: solid state batteries, flywheels, compressed air, pumped heat, etc., none of which represents a cheap solution to continually rising electricity costs, and resulting energy poverty.

And now, Miller Time

Our Environment Commissioner Gord Miller has a solution to the problem, however, which mostly indicates his lack of a connection to reality. He blogged this:  “Regrettably, in the last few years, the gap between on-peak and off-peak prices has got narrower and narrower so that we now pay an on-peak price that is less than double the off-peak rate. I called for this gap or the difference to be widened to perhaps five to one. I didn’t say prices should rise. Increasing the price difference means increasing on-peak prices while also decreasing off-peak prices. As one goes up, the other must go down and the gap widens. The hourly cost of using a kilowatt-hour of electricity can be seen in Ontario’s electricity market price, which is often less than 3 cents during the night, but can rise to 30 cents or more when our use peaks during the day.”

Mr. Miller has apparently forgotten about those 20-year contracts for wind developers that pay them no matter when they deliver their kilowatts; they get 13.5 cents day or night.   Intelligent discourse seems to have escaped Commissioner Miller along with Hydro One, or, is Commissioner Miller saying people at home during the day (on-peak) should pay 30 cents per kWh?

The Ontario Liberal government has exacerbated energy poverty since coming to power in 2003 through legislation benefiting the few who have signed lucrative 20-year contacts for wind and solar.

When is Premier Wynne going to feel the “shame” of how her government has treated Ontario?

(C) Parker Gallant,

February 4, 2015

Federal government funds study of “large penetration” of wind power development

Industry association “lead proponent” in Natural Resources Canada study

Last week, in researching his series on the Canadian Wind Energy Association’s campaign to influence Ontario citizen attitudes toward wind power, and recommendations for the lobby group’s “Ontario campaign,” Parker Gallant discovered via the Ontario Lobbyist Registry that CanWEA disclosed publicly it has received funding  of $663,000 from the federal government.

The funding is presumably for CanWEA’s role as lead proponent of a $1.7-million Natural Resources Canada project called the Pan-Canadian Wind Integration Study,  “that will evaluate how large penetration of wind energy could be integrated on the provincially run Canadian electric grid and show the challenges and opportunities in doing so. “

In the first paragraph of the NRCan page on this study, which names CanWEA as the lead proponent, is a significant error. CanWEA’s mandate is most decidedly NOT “to promote the responsible and sustainable growth of wind energy in Canada.” CanWEA itself says its mission is “to ensure Canada fully realizes its abundant wind energy potential on behalf of its members.”

In other words, as any specialized industry group does, CanWEA’s goal is to represent and promote the interests of its members.

It is not an environmental organization.

Why, we ask, is an industry group, with some very well-financed members, that states outright its goal is to act in the best interests of its members, receiving government financing to further its members’ fortunes?

A question for your Member of Parliament. And the Minister of Natural Resources, and the Minister of Finance (Joe.Oliver@fin.gc.ca ).

Ontario’s big wind bonanza: subsidies for a few rich developers

The sad (and very expensive) truth
Rural Ontario communities had it right

Everyone losing on renewable energy in Ontario

FP Comment, Financial Post, February 4, 2015

by Brady Yauch, executive director Consumer Policy Institute

When the Ontario government launched its Green Energy Act (GEA) in 2009, it promised “new green economy jobs” and a “wide range of ecpnomic opportunities.” Then Minister of Energy George Smitherman argued that the GEA would be a boon to Ontarians of all stripes: “We see opportunities in our rural communities for farmers, not just to lease their land for big companies that are the proponents of wind farms, but indeed for clusters of farmers to see themselves as investors in projects … the emergence of thousands of smaller green energy projects–micro-generation–in urban as well as rural areas.”

Yes, everyone would need to pay a little more for renewable power, the public was told, but the benefits would be widely shared, for the ultimate benefit of all.

As it turned out, power rates didn’t go up a little–they soared. And the subsidies weren’t widely shared among the folk–a handful of billion-dollar companies pocketed most of them, most outside the province.

According to an analysis by the Consumer Policy Institute and Energy Probe, 90 per cent of the wind subsidies went to just 11 companies,  80 percent of the subsidies went to companies with revenues over $1 billion, 60 per cent of the subsidies went to six companies with more than $10 billion in annual revenue. …

The damage to ratepayers for such policies has been significant. Since 2009 ratepayers have seen the commodity cost on their energy bills climb dramatically… just over 9 per cent annually–more than five times the rate of inflation, making electricity price increases worse in Ontario than anywhere else in Canada.

To make matters worse, the high rates being pushed onto ratepayers has lowered demand for electricity across the province in recent years. That means Ontario now has a significant surplus of power* which it exports to neighbouring jurisdictions at a loss. Ontario ratepayers are now subsidizing the energy consumption in America and other provinces.

Nearly everyone is losing when it comes to renewable energy in Ontario–except for those few companies that planted industrial wind turbines across the province and are receiving billions in subsidies for their effort.

 

*Note: Wind Concerns Ontario issued a statement Monday to the effect that Ontario does not need more wind power and that the IESO should not reopen the contracting/subsidy process for new wind power contracts.

Wind farm procurement process not needed says Wind Concerns Ontario

Ontario's wind power program has never undergone a cost-benefit analysis, and has contributed significantly to increasing electricity bills. Not needed.
Ontario’s wind power program has never undergone a cost-benefit analysis, and has contributed significantly to increasing electricity bills. Not needed.

February 2, 2015

The Independent Electricity Systems Operator of IESO has delayed the start of its new Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) process, which was originally scheduled to begin today.

The delay is to work out more details stemming from comments filed during the public comment period, said renewables manager Adam Butterfield during a recent presentation, in which he also said the IESO’s goal is to have a “robust product that meets industry needs.”

Wind Concerns Ontario believes procurement of further wind power generation is not needed in Ontario, and here’s why:

  • The Ontario government has achieved its core objective of closing the power plants using coal as fuel.
  • Ontario has a surplus of power; no increase in demand is predicted. Ontario exported enough power during September-November 2014 to power 584,000 homes. There is no reason to add more capacity at this time.
  • The Ontario government is enacting a program to encourage conservation of power use.
  • While a decrease in nuclear power is expected due to refurbishment of one or more facilities, wind power cannot replace the baseload power provided by nuclear.
  • Renewable sources of electricity such as wind are expensive, and have been responsible in large part for the increase in electricity bills to consumers; this situation is already causing hardship for people on low or fixed incomes.

Given all these circumstances, it is our view that the IESO needs to step back and undertake a full needs assessment and independent cost-benefit analysis. Two successive Auditors General have pointed out (2012 and 2014) that NO cost-benefit analysis has ever been done for Ontario’s renewables program. The current Auditor General has also announced that her office will be reviewing how the power system is planned, throughout 2015.

We would further suggest a review of current contracts for wind power generation facilities not connected to the grid; these contracts have expired—terminating them and the cost of that action would be preferable to imposing a greater burden on Ontario ratepayers for the next 20 years.

Public opposition to the high-impact, low-benefit installation of utility-scale wind power facilities will continue and will intensify through legal proceedings.

We request that a moratorium be placed on further wind power generation, and that a full financial analysis of Ontario’s electricity rates is completed.

Contact us at windconcerns@gmail.com