Wind Turbines Displace Hydro: how OPG is spending $4.2 billion to avoid Blackouts
OPG was directed by the Liberal Ministry of Energy to spend billions on hydro projects as evidenced by both Big Becky ($1.6 billion) and the Lower Mattagami projects ($2.6 billion). Big Becky adds no new capacity it will simply make existing production at Niagara more efficient whereas the Lower Mattagami project will supposedly add 440 megawatts (MW) of new capacity to OPG’s hydro fleet. These projects are still some way from completion so it is likely those budgeted estimates will be exceeded. Only a few years ago the estimate for Big Becky was $1 billion and for Mattagami $1.5 billion. The other issue surrounding those two engineering miracles is that they are being built at a time when Ontario has a huge surplus of power. With Bruce Power expected to hook up refurbished nuclear plants this year our surplus will increase further.
These two hydro projects will be available to back up wind and solar which by 2018 are expected to have a capacity of about 10,000 MW. At the same time demand in Ontario continues to drop as industries leave and high prices are having the desired effect of curtailing demand. The intermittent delivery of electricity to the grid by wind and solar generators will create problems for IESO in managing the grid and they will use hydro to balance it. Unregulated hydro from OPG will bear the brunt of their management efforts as wind and solar cycle up and down. While Ontario only has about 1800 MW of wind installed at present, IESO’s use of unregulated hydro has already presented itself and is costing ratepayers dearly.
The following chart shows the production and sale of unregulated hydro power by OPG in terawatts (TWh) since 2004 and where available shows prices received for that power. So far in 2012 the wholesale price has dropped a further 1 cent a kWh and if that holds OPG will receive even less for unregulated hydro in 2012 then they did in 2011.
|Production of Unregulated Hydro by OPG 2004 – 2011
||2011 (9 mths)
|Unregulated Sold (TWh)
|Price per kWh received
|Income before interest and income taxes ($M’s)
|Total hydro capacity (MW)
|Total hydro sold (TWh)
|NB: All information came from OPG’s “Fact Sheets” and Annual Reports!
Should OPG’s production and sale of unregulated hydro continue at the same rate for the last quarter of 2011 the TWh sold will be 10.8 TWh or 6.8 TWh lower then 2008. The value of that lost production based on the average received (9 months) for 2011 translates to $224 million in lost revenue to OPG and a further loss to the Provincial coffers for the payment of “water rental”. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources “Conditions Report”, 2011 was a relatively good year for water flow compared to 2007 which was considered a low water level year. Despite that; production and sale of unregulated hydro by OPG will likely come in at 3 TWh less for 2011 then 2007 when wind contributed 1 TWh. Co-incidentally wind reportedly contributed 3.9 TWh in 2011 which would indicate it is displacing hydro, not coal, as promised by the Ministry of Energy.
Wind and solar power has displaced cheap, clean hydroelectricity at a cost to the ratepayers of a minimum of $300 million in 2011 for the 3 plus TWh it took away from OPG’s unregulated hydro production-more if the costs of transmission lines built to hook up those wind turbines are included. That $300 million alone will add about $70.00 to each ratepayers bill for the year and also extend repayment of the “stranded debt”. The Drummond Commission
highlighted the fact that the Government controls OPG and it’s direction to OPG influences the payments in lieu (PIL) of taxes which are directed to pay the “stranded debt”. The spilling of clean green hydroelectric power therefore flies in the face of his recommendation to maximize profits in that entity.
The $4.2 billion that OPG is spending represents almost $1,000 per ratepayer household and will be paid back through rate increases. The amortization period will be long (40/50 years) but it will still drive up bills significantly. The other 6/7,000 MW of wind slated to come on stream by 2018 will further exacerbate those increases causing OPG to spill clean hydro meaning the value for the billions spent will be even less. Worth noting is that Mattagami will likely produce most of its available power in the Spring and Fall when wind also tends to produce at higher levels. Those two seasons are traditionally Ontario’s lowest demand periods so we are simply doubling up production when we need it least. Ontario electricity prices will be the highest in North America
by the middle of this decade making the province a very unattractive place for any type of industry.
Ontarians should accept the fact that we will remain a “have not” province for years to come even if McGuinty and the other parties agree to enact all of the Drummond Commission’s recommendations. The hidden debt burden on Ontario’s future generations created with those long term wind and solar contracts will increase our social costs by creating energy poverty and will keep employment levels lower then the rest of Canada.
February 29, 2012