Spilled hydro adds millions to Ontarians’ electricity bills

Wind power gets first rights to the grid, so clean renewable hydro is wasted [Photo: OPG]
Wind power gets first rights to the grid, so clean renewable hydro is wasted [Photo: OPG]
OPG spills hydro and $150 million goes “down the drain” 
OPG released their 2015 annual report  Friday March 4, 2016; it confirms that 3.2 terawatts (TWh) of water that could have been used for power was spilled last year. (This is similar to the spilled amount in 2014 year.)
How much is 3.2 TWh? Enough to supply about 350,000 average Ontario households with electricity for a full year … but it didn’t!
Here is what OPG’s annual report had to say:

“Baseload generation supply surplus to Ontario demand continued to be prevalent in 2015. The surplus to the Ontario market is managed by the IESO, mainly through generation reductions at hydroelectric and nuclear stations and grid connected renewable resources. Reducing hydroelectric production, which often results in spilling of water, is the first measure that the IESO uses to manage surplus baseload generation (SBG) conditions. During each of 2015 and 2014, OPG lost 3.2 TWh of hydroelectric generation due to SBG conditions.” 

The principal reason we have surplus baseload is due to wind and solar being granted “first to the grid” rights. And, because wind and solar are intermittent (and unreliable) OPG is forced to spill clean renewable hydro power.
While spilling hydro in itself is disturbing in Ontario, especially considering our hydro-electric history, the fact we are now obliged to pay for the spilled hydro at the same time we are paying wind developers 13.5 cents a kilowatt hour (kWh) and solar generators as much as 80 cents a kWh simply adds more costs to our monthly hydro bills.
OPG received $47 million per TWh (4.7 cents/kWh) for the spilled hydro. That means electricity ratepayers’ pockets were picked for over $150 million, or about $31.00 per ratepayer.   Our reward for absorbing that cost was zero.
This month, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli will likely announce that Ontario will add even more intermittent, unreliable wind and solar generation. Your pockets are not safe yet.
© Parker Gallant
March 7, 2016
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent Wind Concerns Ontario policy.

What's your reaction?


  • Linda
    Posted March 7, 2016 8:37 pm 0Likes

    Waterpower is also intermittent and unreliable – and it’s far from clean. As a matter of fact in 2014 the OPA decided not to build new waterpower as a means to provide power to remote communities and the ring of fire in the far north because its efficiency was estimated to be only 15 to 30% of Installed Capacity, and is unreliable and intermittent. Also, under FIT, as of 1 January 2016, the price paid for waterpower is 24.6 c/kWh, whereas wind is paid 12.6 c/kWh.
    The electricity produced by small hydro is unreliable because it peaks during the high flows of spring when power is in low demand, and produces at its lowest during the hot summer months when consumption and demand are highest. These small waterpower facilities are often shut down during low flow summer and winter months for lack of enough flow to turn the turbines.
    There were 40 new waterpower applications filed in this last round for FIT 4. We already have a surplus of power, and yet government is moving full steam ahead to build more of these piddly little projects that fragment riverine ecosystems, chop up fish, and have 40 year FIT contracts. Many hydro projects, including OPG, are experiencing reduced flows, reduced power output and reduced profits because of climate change, and it’s only going to get worse. Additionally, government doesn’t require up-front dollars for decommissioning when these damn dams are no longer viable – it will be up to the taxpayer to foot the bill to take them out.
    Check out our report: “Hydro Impacts 101: The Trade-offs” at http://www.ontarioriversalliance.ca/hydro-impacts-101-the-trade-offs/

    • Grant Church
      Posted March 8, 2016 10:33 am 0Likes

      Bologna. Climate change didn’t reduce OPG output; it was the IESO.

  • Parker Gallant
    Posted March 7, 2016 8:46 pm 0Likes

    Linda, This article is about the financial bungling that the OLP have created. There is nothing in this short article that says I support or don’t support hydro electric generation BUT what it does point to is the mess we have in the province and the resulting costs to ratepayers caused by the current ruling party.
    We are adamantly opposed to industrial wind turbines which have huge effects on humanity, nature, property values, etc., as well as the ability to increase energy poverty. Hold up your hand and tell us you are also opposed to Industrial Wind Turbines and the damage they do!

    • Linda
      Posted March 7, 2016 9:28 pm 0Likes

      Hi Parker,
      Your photo of the river refers to hydro as clean and renewable. As you know that is like fingernails on a chalkboard for me – hydro is far clean, and calling it renewable is a stretch when water quality and fisheries are degraded. Hydro dams have been a leading factor in the extirpation of Ontario’s Atlantic Salmon, and in the serious decline of the American Eel and Lake Sturgeon. Additionally, hydro using reservoirs emits greenhouse gases, and accounts for about 7% of the world’s GHG emissions – there are plenty of studies to support this. This is all referenced in our Hydro Impact report.
      I put my hand up for conservation, efficiencies and innovation – this is what we should be focusing on – stakeholders and communities must have the power to say no to these “renewable energy” projects – we don’t need new generation when we are consistently experiencing a surplus of power, or selling power at a loss.
      I don’t want wind, but I really don’t want waterpower. I don’t want flow on the river I live on to be held back for hours at a time, water quality degraded and our fishery depleted. This is what proponents do when they are paid bonuses to produce power during peak demand hours.
      Water is essential to life. Healthy rivers, healthy communities.
      I appreciate your well researched and informing articles Parker – just please don’t refer to hydroelectric as clean or green. :-/

  • Kelly Taylor
    Posted March 7, 2016 10:09 pm 0Likes

    Whats taking the Ontario government so long to address the development of thorium power being developed by Enphysics Ltd?

    • Linda
      Posted March 7, 2016 11:17 pm 0Likes

      At an OPA/Ministry of Energy public consultation session a little over a year ago I asked an OPA technician/scientist if they were looking into thorium molten salt technology and they had no idea what I was talking about.

  • Ed Engel
    Posted March 8, 2016 8:00 am 0Likes

    Ontario has as sources of electrical power:
    Wind turbines, Water turbines (large and small), Fossil fuel ( with scrubbers) driven turbines, solar cells, and Nuclear driven turbines. Given TOTAL environmental damage AND cost considerations what should the priorities be? Conservation is not considered here.
    Wind and small water projects must be the most disastrous to the general public, but the most profitable to a chosen few.

    • Linda
      Posted March 8, 2016 8:19 am 0Likes

      The hydro industry is deep pocketed with a long-established edge – have been lobbying governments for years. COP21 has the hydro industry salivating because it’s considered a renewable energy. Quebec Hydro has gone so far as to have in-staff scientists doing their own designer studies to disprove GHG emissions from their dams. Independent scientist’s studies are dismissed.
      Dam construction means jobs, however, once construction is over the dams are usually operated remotely, so no lasting jobs.
      Many dams have been in place so long that no one remembers what the fisheries or water quality were like before the dam. The older dams were mostly run of river – now with peaking strategies the rivers are experiencing rapidly fluctuating water levels, 0 m3 to 20 m3 within seconds, big headponds holding water back from downstream flows, etc…. It’s the goldrush days for waterpower, 24.6 c/kWh, 40 year contracts, at our expense and the riverine ecosystems expense.

      • Barbara
        Posted March 8, 2016 11:43 am 0Likes

        City people and Americans have been told that Ontario can supply power from its streams and rivers which is a blatant lie.
        Has the government informed the public that this is not true? No, just go on wasting money on useless hydro projects.
        Americans are being given the same hose job about their U.S. rivers and streams as sources of power.
        Rural Ontario is just being “raided” for electric power!

  • Bruce Posch
    Posted March 8, 2016 9:00 am 0Likes

    OPG has spent over a billion dollars on a new tunnel at Niagara to increase our hydro capacity…It is being underutilized as Premier Wynne tells us that Ontario needs more wind turbines. Every new wind turbine needs hundreds of tonnes of coal burnt in China to provide the steel for it. Where is the sense in this? Why are we importing expensive wind turbines and exporting cheap electricity at a loss?

    • Barbara
      Posted March 8, 2016 12:40 pm 0Likes

      And bought a hard rock boring machine when a soft rock boring machine was needed for the tunnel work! Resulted in delays and increased costs.
      Has anyone ever seen such bungling on the part of the Ontario government?

    • Lynda
      Posted March 8, 2016 10:22 pm 0Likes

      Wind turbines also require rare earth…most of it mined in China. The suffering of the miners is horrific and the devastation to the land is mind numbing. This stuff will most certainly leach into our water table and the Great Lakes….current water quality problems are miniscule compared to what will come. Importing this stuff should be a crime against humanity.
      The toxic lake at the production site is black, dead and so large it can be seen from space. Does big Libby care?

  • Pat Cusack
    Posted March 8, 2016 9:24 am 0Likes

    You are so right, Bruce! What a crazy world we live in! I had to laugh last night at Wynne’s speech with the baby pandas – it made no sense at all. Heaven help us all.

  • danmcneil8@gmail.com
    Posted March 8, 2016 7:49 pm 0Likes

    interesting, comments also very telling

  • Bill
    Posted March 9, 2016 11:41 am 0Likes

    All I can ask is “how did you vote? The current provincial government (THIRD TERM) is a bunch of pirates that don’t give a hoot about the electorate. Vote differently next time.

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