Ontario’s “voodoo math” and electricity system

From Sarnia area local business paper First Monday, an opinion piece by Brian Keelan. (Who needs correcting on the notion that wind power generation is “carbon free—wind needs a real source of power such as natural gas behind it.) We especially appreciate Mr Keelan’s observation that the Liberal government’s energy policies have effectively resulted in “civil war” in Ontario. Read on…

I am furious green

Brian Keelan's picture

Sat, 09/07/2013 – 11:25Brian Keelan

Here in Sarnia Lambton we have been hearing that Nova is considering building a new polyethylene plant to go along with the three plants they already have (and which employ about 830 of Sarnia/Lambton’s taxpayers in what are widely believed to be great jobs). But… that polyethylene plant is also being considered for the Gulf coast of the USA due to a much better energy price; instead of paying 3.5 to 4 cents a kilowatt hour down there, the Ontario Government is asking them to pay over 10 cents a kilowatt hour up here… and these guys use a lot of kilowatts.
This project is therefore at risk due to the high cost of energy here in Ontario so, Nova – along with the residents of Sarnia/Lambton – is looking to the Ontario government to do something about it. But the Ontario government is reluctant to do anything since if they give Nova a ‘break,’ they are just going to tack the ‘break’ on to all the citizens of Ontario’s electricity bills They don’t want the voters in their precious 416 and 905 area codes upset because the government caters to them due to their voting power. Why give a break for those of us out here in the 519 area code who don’t regularly vote for them? Thus we are being punished and/or ignored.
Nova has what I think is a neat way to solve this dilemma without the Province of Ontario having to do anything more than use their head. Let them build their own electrical generation plant right here in Sarnia to power their three existing plants plus the new polyethylene plant and we get a new power plant to boot this means more good jobs and taxpayers for Sarnia/Lambton. But the fly in the ointment is that Nova would have to cross a public road with their transmission lines and they are legally forbidden to do that since that is the “domain” of Ontario Power Generation who in effect are telling them, “We know you can do it more efficiently than we can but we need you to pay the going rate.”
At this point I’d like to tell Kathleen and her crew something my dad told me many, many years ago that served me well: “You’re a fool if you think anyone is ever going to pay even five cents for the privilege of doing business with you. Sure, your service has to be great and so do your people and your products but if you aren’t there when it comes to price, you are dreaming.”
I don’t even know who to get mad at for that since our electricity costs involve so much voodoo math. As simply as I can figure it: our rates are determined by the Ontario Energy Board (the OEB) who regulate the Time Of Use plan (the TOU) as well as the Regulated Price Plan (the RPP) to determine our electricity rates. The basic cost of electricity consists of two elements; the Hourly Ontario Electricity Price (the HOEP) which comes from Ontario Power Generation (the OPG) and a vague catch-all factor known as the Global Adjustment (the GA). The GA is where OPG would add the cost of the price-break they would give to Nova (if they want the business). By law, OPG can only make this GA/HOEP price adjustment twice a year and they don’t even have to raise rates unless they really need the money. Sadly for us, they really do have to do it because the Ontario government is way too deep in their own bottomless money pit to help them out. But does it really matter where the money that the OEB gets comes from anyway?
“Ask not from whom the money comes… it comes from thee stupid.” While they rob Peter to pay Paul and then rob Paul to pay Peter back, it will ultimately be passed on to you (thee) and me and then our kids as we try to get out of this financial quagmire due in large part to Ontario’s financially flawed Green Energy policies which have led us to this Financial Energy Crisis or as I like to call it, the FEC.

Read the entire column here.

Corcoran today: Ontario’s power disaster

Those of us opposing industrial wind power generation projects in places where no such industrial activity should ever be, have known how crazy Ontario’s power policies have been, despite the bland patronizing comments from government and the insinuations from the predatory wind power development lobby.
  In today’s Financial Post, editor Terence Corcoran takes a grim view and refers to a damning new report from the CD Howe Institute.
 

Terence Corcoran: "The new premier, Kathleen Wynne, appears to be coasting through the power issue, issuing directives and installing ever more megawatts of wind power at huge cost."

New study highlights desperate need for reform the province’s vast dysfunctional and costly electricity regime
For almost five years FP Comment has inveighed against the Ontario government’s profoundly uneconomic and costly electricity regime, a dictatorial and monopolist system that uses taxes and subsidies to greenify the power system of the largest provincial economy in Canada.  As I wrote in 2009: “In the midst of a major economic meltdown, and with looming budget deficits totaling more than $18-billion, now might not be the best time for the government of Ontario to be embarking on a crushing new green energy policy that could add billions to the province’s electricity costs. But Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is nothing if not immune to the folly of his own righteous policies and the fiscal crisis he faces as a result.”
Since then, via former Canadian banker Parker Gallant’s ongoing series — Ontario’s Power Trip — along with reports from consultant Tom Adams and many others, the growing absurdity of the regime has been detailed and documented on this page: Rising costs, market distorting feed-in-tariffs, subsidies to wind and solar, exports of power to New York at below cost — not to mention the $1-billion scandal over cancelled gas plants.
The burden on the economy has yet to be fully measured, but the cost to consumers is easy to identify.  In 2007, the all-in retail price of electricity was 10.38 cents per kilowatt hour. Today, the price for the same electricity is about 15.5 cents — a 50% increase imposed on consumers despite a recession that saw economic growth fall along with electricity demand.

Read the entire column  here.

Germany and renewables: electricity now a “luxury”

We’re a couple of days behind on this report but it’s worth a read, if only to heartily wish Ontario had looked at everything Germany is now going through with wind power: the highest electricity bills in Europe, people unable to pay, hardship for seniors and young families…When Ontario gets to the level where our bills are the highest in North America, we will be raising the bar on complete policy failure.

Here is the article from Der Spiegel:

Germany’s Energy Poverty: How Electricity Became a Luxury Good

By SPIEGEL Staff
Photo Gallery: The Costs of Green Energy

Photos

DPA
Germany’s agressive and reckless expansion of wind and solar power has come with a hefty pricetag for consumers, and the costs often fall disproportionately on the poor. Government advisors are calling for a completely new start.

If you want to do something big, you have to start small. That’s something German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier knows all too well. The politician, a member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has put together a manual of practical tips on how everyone can make small, everyday contributions to the shift away from nuclear power and toward green energy. The so-called Energiewende, or energy revolution, is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s project of the century.

“Join in and start today,” Altmaier writes in the introduction. He then turns to such everyday activities as baking and cooking. “Avoid preheating and utilize residual heat,” Altmaier advises. TV viewers can also save a lot of electricity, albeit at the expense of picture quality. “For instance, you can reduce brightness and contrast,” his booklet suggests. Altmaier and others are on a mission to help people save money on their electricity bills, because they’re about to receive some bad news. The government predicts that the renewable energy surcharge added to every consumer’s electricity bill will increase from 5.3 cents today to between 6.2 and 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour — a 20-percent price hike.
German consumers already pay the highest electricity prices in Europe. But because the government is failing to get the costs of its new energy policy under control, rising prices are already on the horizon. Electricity is becoming a luxury good in Germany, and one of the country’s most important future-oriented projects is acutely at risk.
After the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan two and a half years ago, Merkel quickly decided to begin phasing out nuclear power and lead the country into the age of wind and solar. But now many Germans are realizing the coalition government of Merkel’s CDU and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) is unable to cope with this shift. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the public has any more confidence in a potential alliance of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens. The political world is wedged between the green-energy lobby, masquerading as saviors of the world, and the established electric utilities, with their dire warnings of chaotic supply problems and job losses.
Even well-informed citizens can no longer keep track of all the additional costs being imposed on them. According to government sources, the surcharge to finance the power grids will increase by 0.2 to 0.4 cents per kilowatt hour next year. On top of that, consumers pay a host of taxes, surcharges and fees that would make any consumer’s head spin.
Former Environment Minister Jürgen Tritten of the Green Party once claimed that switching Germany to renewable energy wasn’t going to cost citizens more than one scoop of ice cream. Today his successor Altmaier admits consumers are paying enough to “eat everything on the ice cream menu.”
Paying Big for Nothing
For society as a whole, the costs have reached levels comparable only to the euro-zone bailouts. This year, German consumers will be forced to pay €20 billion ($26 billion) for electricity from solar, wind and biogas plants — electricity with a market price of just over €3 billion. Even the figure of €20 billion is disputable if you include all the unintended costs and collateral damage associated with the project. Solar panels and wind turbines at times generate huge amounts of electricity, and sometimes none at all. Depending on the weather and the time of day, the country can face absurd states of energy surplus or deficit.
If there is too much power coming from the grid, wind turbines have to be shut down. Nevertheless, consumers are still paying for the “phantom electricity” the turbines are theoretically generating. Occasionally, Germany has to pay fees to dump already subsidized green energy, creating what experts refer to as “negative electricity prices.”
On the other hand, when the wind suddenly stops blowing, and in particular during the cold season, supply becomes scarce. That’s when heavy oil and coal power plants have to be fired up to close the gap, which is why Germany’s energy producers in 2012 actually released more climate-damaging carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than in 2011.
If there is still an electricity shortfall, energy-hungry plants like the ArcelorMittal steel mill in Hamburg are sometimes asked to shut down production to protect the grid. Of course, ordinary electricity customers are then expected to pay for the compensation these businesses are entitled to for lost profits.
The government has high hopes for the expansion of offshore wind farms. But the construction sites are in a state of chaos: Wind turbines off the North Sea island of Borkum are currently rotating without being connected to the grid. The connection cable will probably not be finished until next year. In the meantime, the turbines are being run with diesel fuel to prevent them from rusting.
In the current election campaign, the parties are blaming each other for the disaster. Meanwhile, the federal government would prefer to avoid discussing its energy policies entirely. “It exposes us to criticism,” says a government spokesman. “There are undeniably major problems,” admits a cabinet member.
But this week, the issue is forcing its way onto the agenda. On Thursday, a government-sanctioned commission plans to submit a special report called “Competition in Times of the Energy Transition.” The report is sharply critical, arguing that Germany’s current system actually rewards the most inefficient plants, doesn’t contribute to protecting the climate, jeopardizes the energy supply and puts the poor at a disadvantage.
The experts propose changing the system to resemble a model long successful in Sweden. If implemented, it would eliminate the more than 4,000 different subsidies currently in place. Instead of bureaucrats setting green energy prices, they would be allowed to develop indepedently on a separate market. The report’s authors believe the Swedish model would lead to faster and cheaper implementation of renewable energy, and that the system would also become what it is not today: socially just.
Trouble Paying the Bills
When Stefan Becker of the Berlin office of the Catholic charity Caritas makes a house call, he likes to bring along a few energy-saving bulbs. Many residents still use old light bulbs, which consume a lot of electricity but are cheaper than newer bulbs. “People here have to decide between spending money on an expensive energy-saving bulb or a hot meal,” says Becker. In other words, saving energy is well and good — but only if people can afford it.
A family Becker recently visited is a case in point. They live in a dark, ground-floor apartment in Berlin’s Neukölln neighborhood. On a sunny summer day, the two children inside had to keep the lights on — which drives up the electricity bill, even if the family is using energy-saving bulbs.
Becker wants to prevent his clients from having their electricity shut off for not paying their bill. After sending out a few warning notices, the power company typically sends someone to the apartment to shut off the power — leaving the customers with no functioning refrigerator, stove or bathroom fan. Unless they happen to have a camping stove, they can’t even boil water for a cup of tea. It’s like living in the Stone Age.

Once the power has been shut off, it’s difficult to have it switched on again. Customers have to negotiate a payment plan, and are also charged a reconnection fee of up to €100. “When people get their late payment notices in the spring, our phones start ringing,” says Becker. In the near future, an average three-person household will spend about €90 a month for electricity. That’s about twice as much as in 2000.
Two-thirds of the price increase is due to new government fees, surcharges and taxes. But despite those price hikes, government pensions and social welfare payments have not been adjusted. As a result, every new fee becomes a threat to low-income consumers. Read more at http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/high-costs-and-errors-of-german-transition-to-renewable-energy-a-920288.html

Hydro One, Energy Ministers: getting ‘smarter’? You be the judge!


Three bills in three weeks from Hydro One and a new line on the bill: “Miscellaneous Adjustment” got this writer wondering, why?  The first bill came with an insert with the heading “Important Information about your enclosed Hydro One bill” and went on to explain that after they had “changed the meter at your premises, we experienced an issue which prevented the data from your meter from being processed in a timely manner in our system.”   The meter they changed was a “smart meter” Hydro One installed a few years ago, so I assume this is a “smarter” meter.  Calling the number on the insert allowed me to confirm with Hydro One  that the meter change was due to a “communication problem.”
   The upsetting part of the final bill is that when the all-in price of my power is calculated (including the costs of electricity, delivery, regulatory and debt retirement charge) it turned out to be 29 cents a kilowatt hour (kWh) and when I looked at my bill from November 2008 the all in charge was 16.5 cents a kWh.  So in less than five years, the price had risen by 81%.
   We’re doing our best to be responsible power consumers: we consumed less power than before and 71% of the billed electricity was in “off-peak” hours. 
   If one looks back this is what then Premier McGuinty said in his Throne speech of October 12, 2005 about smart meters: “Consumers can look forward to getting smart meters that will help them save money by telling them when they can pay less.
    An 81-% increase? Sounds like another broken government promise!
   Those who have Hydro One as their local distribution company (LDC) will recall that only a few months ago, they sent another insert about a “new billing system”  which allows them to bill on a “real time” basis.   In effect this was a $160-million grab from ratepayers, perhaps to ensure their profits grow and that they can continue to pay dividends to the Province ($370 million in 2012).  Profitability however, doesn’t cover off employee pension and benefit requirements as noted by DBRS, the Canadian bond rating agency, who listed Hydro One as # 8 on their recent list of worst funded pensions in Canada. Perhaps they should be funding their pension fund instead of making big dividend payments to the Ontario Ministry of Finance, but that might force Finance Minister Sousa to make some tough spending decisions.
   My comments on “smart meters” are not new: back in July 2010I pointed out that in a 3,400-page submission by Hydro One for a rate increase, the installed cost per smart meter was $700.54. That was confirmed by an exchange with a Hydro One officer.  Now, the smart meters are having to be replaced? And not for the first time: Hydro One has needed to replace smart meters back in 2010 when the Newmarket Eracarried an article about meter replacement in Keswick, Sutton and Mount Albert. My suspicion is that the form letter in our recent bill wasn’t the only one: who else in Prince Edward County and other parts of the province got it?
  So, now,  one wonders about the promises made for those smart meters. At $700.54 cents per meter the cost of replacing the old analog meter at our place is now $1,400.00; the Hydro One 2012 Annual Report indicates they are charging $1.52 per month as a recovery cost.  At that rate, it will take them 76 years to recover their costs. Will Hydro One be spending hundreds of millions each year on “smart meters” instead of upgrading the important infrastructure such as transmission lines, transformers, etc.?
   An interesting story recently came out of Germany: the German Federal Ministry of Economics published a studyby Ernst & Young which basically concluded, no rollout for smart meters.  Why? Ernst & Young did a cost/benefit study and concluded:
The study comes to the conclusion that smart meters in particular for small consumers are not cost-efficient, as the potential savings would be well below actual costs of smart meters and their operation.”
Cost-benefit analysis and other studies: not necessary for decisions by the Ontario government
   In Ontario we seem to do things differently as was pointed out by the Auditor General in his 2011 report. Jim McCarter said that the initiatives behind the Green Energy and Green Economy Act were not based on a cost-benefit analysis.  While not speaking directly to the issue of “smart meters” and their installation throughout the province this writer believes that the conclusions of a cost-benefit analysis would have reached the same endpoint as the Ernst and Young study completed for Germany.
    When the McGuinty government gave its Throne Speech in 2005, the Ontario Energy Minister (Dwight Duncan) had already issued a directive to the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) dated July 14, 2004to Howard Wetson, Chair, of the OEB (the Ontario Power Authority did not exist at that time) which instructed them to “implement a plan to achieve the government’s objectives for the deployment of smart electricity meters. 
   No cost-benefit study was considered and Minister Duncan’s directive to the OEB simply had to be “formalized” before the media picked up on the government’s manipulation of the electricity sector without going through the legislature or a hearing before a legislative committee! With a single signature Duncan committed Ontario’s ratepayers to pick up a bill for at least $2 billion!
   Several years after that 2005 Throne Speech and the Dwight Duncan directive, Tyler Hamilton (the “expert” commentator as noted by Alicia Johnston in e-mails recently released by the government and commented on by Tom Adams) wrote an article for the October 7, 2010 Toronto Star.  The article was all about “smart meters” and the wonders they would perform for all of the ratepayers in Ontario.  It contained quotes from an IBM “technology consultant” including this one:  “ ‘Right now, Ontario is a world leader in the smart grid and smart meter systems,’ he explained. ‘Dozens of utilities around the world are watching what’s going on here. In a way, we have become a micro lab for the rest of the world.’  
    Later on in the article Hamilton makes this comment:  With smart meters…we have a tool that helps us to at least manage our electricity bill and help offset electricity rate increases.”
   Did Tyler Hamilton, the “expert” commentator, really understand what he was endorsing? I believe most ratepayers in the province have received absolutely no benefit from either “smart meters” or the “smart grid” –neither one has done nothing to improve the aging infrastructure in the Province or “help offset electricity rate increases.” 
   Germany, whom we copied on the FIT and MicroFIT programs apparently didn’t see it with the clarity of Tyler Hamilton or that IBM technology consultant. 
   Mr. McGuinty is now at Harvard and presumably living in Massachusetts where the average cost of power is about half of what I am being charged. I wonder if he and former Minister Duncan now appreciate the “green” mess they created. 
   Worse, power utilities around the world must now be laughing up their sleeve at the wasted money Ontario’s ratepayers are forced to absorb.  The “microlab” referenced by the IBM technology consultant has turned out instead to be an incinerator for our hard earned dollars!
Parker Gallant,
September 7, 2013
Next time, we will look at the “smart grid”
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent policies of Wind Concerns Ontario.