The real cost of wind power

Ontario's Auditor General said Ontarians overpaid billions for renewable power; then Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said that wasn't true. Parker Gallant details the costs.
In 2015, Ontario’s Auditor General said Ontarians overpaid billions for renewable power; then Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said that wasn’t true. Parker Gallant details the costs.

December 6, 2016
Most electricity ratepayers in Ontario are aware that contracts awarded to wind power developers following the Green Energy Act gave them 13.5 cents per kilowatt (kWh) for power generation, no matter when that power was delivered. Last year, the Ontario Auditor General’s report noted that renewable contracts (wind and solar) were handed out at above market prices; as a result, Ontario ratepayers overpaid by billions.
The Auditor General’s findings were vigorously disputed by the wind power lobbyist the Canadian Wind Energy Association or CanWEA, and the Energy Minister of the day, Bob Chiarelli.
Here are some cogent facts about wind power. The U.K. president for German energy giant E.ON stated wind power requires 90% backup from gas or coal plants due to its unreliable and intermittent nature.  The average efficiency of onshore wind power generation, accepted by Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) and other grid operators, is 30% of their rated capacity; the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) supports that claim.  OSPE also note the actual value of a kWh of wind is 3 cents a kWh (fuel costs) as all it does is displace gas generators when it is generating during high demand periods.  On occasion, wind turbines will generate power at levels over 90% and other times at 0% of capacity.  When wind power is generated during low demand hours, the IESO is forced to spill hydro, steam off nuclear or curtail power from the wind turbines, in order to manage the grid.  When wind turbines operate at lower capacity levels during peak demand times, other suppliers such as gas plants are called on for what is needed to meet demand.
Bearing all that in mind, it is worth looking at wind generation’s effect on costs in the first six months of 2016 and ask, are the costs are reflective of the $135/MWh (+ up to 20% COL [cost of living] increases) 20 year contracts IESO, and the Ontario Power Authority awarded?
As of June 30, 2016, Ontario had 3,823 MW grid-connected wind turbines and 515 MW distributor-connected. The Ontario Energy Reports for the 1st two quarters of 2016 indicate that wind turbines contributed 4.6 terawatts (TWh) of power, which represented 5.9% of Ontario’s consumption of 69.3 TWh.

Missing something important

Not mentioned in those reports is the “curtailed” wind. The cost of curtailed wind (estimated at $120 per/MWh) is part of the electricity line on our bills via the Global Adjustment, or GA.  Estimates by energy analyst Scott Luft have curtailed wind in the first six months of 2016 at 1.228 TWh.
So, based on the foregoing, the GA cost of grid-accepted and curtailed IWT generation in the first six months of 2016 was $759.2 million, made up of a cost of $611.8 million for grid-delivered generation (estimated at $133 million per TWh) and $147.4 million for curtailed generation. Those two costs on their own mean the per kWh cost of wind was 16.5 cents/kWh (3.2 cents above the average of 13.3 cents/kWh).  The $759.2 million was 12% of the GA costs ($6.3 billion) for the six months for 5.9% of the power contributed.
But hold on, that’s not all. We know that wind turbines need gas plant backup, so those costs should be included, too. Those costs (due to the peaking abilities of gas plants) currently are approximately $160/MWh (at 20% of capacity utilization) meaning payments to idling plants for the 4.6 TWh backup was about $662 million. That brings the overall cost of the wind power contribution to the GA to about $1.421 billion, for a per kWh rate of 30.9 cents.   If you add in costs of spilled or wasted hydro power to make way for wind (3.4 TWh in the first six months) and steamed off nuclear generation at Bruce Power (unknown and unreported) the cost per/kWh would be higher still.
So when the moneyed corporate wind power lobbyist CanWEA claims that the latest procurement of IWT is priced at 8.59 cents per kWh, they are purposely ignoring the costs of curtailed wind and the costs of gas plant backup.

22% of the costs for 5.9% of the power

 Effectively, for the first six months of 2016 the $1.421 billion in costs to deliver 4.6 TWh of wind-generated power represented 22.5% of the total GA of $6.3 billion but delivered only 5.9% of the power.  Each of the kWh delivered by IWT, at a cost of 30.9 cents/kWh was 2.8 times the average cost set by the OEB and billed to the ratepayer.  As more wind turbines are added to the grid (Ontario signed contracts for more in April 2016),  the costs described here will grow and be billed to Ontario’s consumers.
CanWEA recently claimed “Ontario’s decision to nurture a clean energy economy was a smart investment and additional investments in wind energy will provide an increasingly good news story for the province’s electricity customers.” 
There is plenty of evidence to counter the claim that wind power is “a smart investment.” But it is true that this is a “good news story” — for the wind power developers, that is. They rushed to Ontario to obtain the generous above-market rates handed out at the expense of Ontario’s residents and businesses. The rest of us are now paying for it.
[Reposted from Parker Gallant’s Energy Perspectives blog.]

What's your reaction?


  • notinduttondunwich
    Posted December 6, 2016 4:20 pm 0Likes

    say it slowly so the liberals can understand……

  • Barbara
    Posted December 6, 2016 5:07 pm 0Likes

    Reliable grid? Wait until the public finds out about what mother nature can do to renewable energy projects and this will take time.
    There are reasons why some things can’t be done but look very good “on paper”.

  • notinduttondunwich
    Posted December 6, 2016 5:11 pm 0Likes

    Again the liberals greed energy act will go down in Canadian history as one of the biggest scams this country has ever seen….. top to bottom riddled with backassward unproven theoretical idealology… no cost analysis what so ever… no consideration whatsoever of the people who live amongst the IWT’S. ….. no consideration of the effects of infrasound….. no consideration of the wildlife affected … consideration of potential groundwater issues…. no consideration that possibly IWT’S intermittent and unreliability could increase CIPK from 40 grams/kwh to 200 grams/kwh….. and even worst yet is the realization that the mighty GEA has failed but the liberals are going to keep going with thier plan anyways…..
    Couldn’t possibly understand why there would be acts of civil disobedience from the good citizens of Ontario. ….

  • Pat Cusack
    Posted December 6, 2016 5:53 pm 0Likes

    If we ignor all the logic used by our premier Wynne using her math we should be bankrupt soon. One would think that any adult person today had enough math skills to determine that 4 minus 2 equals 2 not 1 or 3 . What is lacking in the perception of our elected officials.? common Sense.

  • Bert
    Posted December 6, 2016 6:01 pm 0Likes

    A cost benefit analysis would show (or would have shown) that the Green Energy Act was doomed to fail.
    Glenn Thibeault seems to be a lot more educated in the electricity sector in 6 months than Bob “one cup of Tim Hortons coffee” ever was.
    I hope he gives IESO a directive to CANCEL LRP 1 and 2, and re-negotiate the existing wind and solar contracts. (He can and he should)
    If not; electricity costs will keep rising.

  • Not/in Southwold
    Posted December 6, 2016 9:06 pm 0Likes

    Steve booze from renewable energy alliance of Ontario was on the London News last week. His claim was that it was not Green energy fault for skyrocketing electricity bills in Ontario. I emailed him to say it may not be but Ontario debt is skyrocketing because of it !! I hope he reads wind Concerns. His newly formed organization likely survives off government grants . Great realizing how bad reality is . I’m going to see if I can get this article published in the local papers

  • Sommer
    Posted December 7, 2016 12:31 pm 0Likes

    Add to this the potentially very expensive results of having turned rural Ontario communities into ‘sacrificial zones’ where residents are being harmed by industrial wind turbines. Their urgent calls for protection to all who are responsible for this situation are largely ignored. This situation has thrust Ontario’s real leaders whose ‘moral compass’ is still in tact,into a realization that we are in an ‘inconsistent status’ state as government ministries both provincially and federally who are mandated to protect all residents of Ontario sit back and watch real people being harmed.

    • Barbara
      Posted December 7, 2016 5:12 pm 0Likes

      As long as the present government believes that wind and solar “work on paper” they will continue to pursue their energy policies. Renewable is doable.
      But mother nature says renewable is NOT doable. The evidence for this is now showing up.
      Wonder what the insurance costs will be for renewable energy projects?

      • Bert
        Posted December 7, 2016 6:46 pm 0Likes

        I wonder what the insurance costs will be for wind projects in UNWILLING HOST communities?

  • R Budd
    Posted December 7, 2016 8:30 pm 0Likes

    Right from the very beginning the leaked Sussex document on strategies for selling the GEA stated confusing the issue of price was of key importance. The Liberals and the green energy alliance are sticking to that strategy in just about every public relations opportunity even now.
    Thanks Parker for trying to address that dishonesty.

  • Richard Mann
    Posted December 8, 2016 12:24 am 0Likes

    Re: Huron County Health Board meeting. I sent a letter to Erica Clark on December 5, 2016 expressing my concerns about the investigation. Text pasted below.
    December 5, 2016
    Erica Clark, PhD
    Epidemiologist, Huron County Health Unit
    77722B London Rd., RR #5
    Clinton, ON N0M 1L0
    Dear Erica Clark,
    Thank you for taking the time to talk with me on Nov 29th.
    I wanted to follow up with a summary of how I became involved in this issue, the direction and
    current status of my research, and my position on the issue of study of, and response to, the
    human health effects caused by exposure to Industrial wind turbines.
    1: How I became involved.
    I first became aware of this issue in May of 2013 after reading a paper by Carmen Krogh dealing
    with adverse health effects caused by Industrial Wind Turbines (link).
    I came to believe that what was needed was a way to actually test consenting humans by
    exposing them to infrasound in a lab setting and to scientifically document the effects of this
    2: Direction and current status of my research.
    I started my research by working to develop the best infrasound recording method possible.
    In partnership with Professor John Vanderkooy, we developed a method of measuring infrasound
    from a single turbine, thereby isolating our results from the “clutter” of other turbines, wind
    noise, and other “pollutants”.
    We published our work and our paper was accepted for presentation at Wind Turbine Noise
    2015, INCE/EUROPE, in Glasgow, Scotland in April 2015 (link).
    The next step was to design and build a method of producing infrasound in a lab setting. To be a
    useful research tool this infrasound needed to be identical to that produced by IWT’s.This required the mathematical and computational research necessary to generate Sound Wave
    output to an exact duplicate of input data, namely actual turbine recordings previously captured.
    This would finally allow others at the university, with appropriate medical training and ethics
    approval, to scientifically test and document the effects of infrasound produced by IWT’s on
    consenting humans.
    I received university funding for this research from both the Department of Computer Science
    and the Office of Research in October 2015 which has allowed me to proceed.
    My research over the next six months led to the building of prototype #1, a proof of concept
    device which was able to produce infrasound in a lab setting in the range produced by IWT’s,
    within a small test chamber.
    The system consists of 3 main components: a controllable pressure source, a modulation device
    that is responsive to input commands, and measurement, analysis, and recording technology.
    Prototype #2 is a fourfold scaled up chamber version of the proof of concept device and
    successfully produces infrasound in response to input commands. Prototype #2 is currently being
    used to refine design, data collection, and analysis.
    Work is currently well along on version #3, a full scale chamber, capable of accommodating a
    human subject. This will finally allow others at the university with appropriate ethics approval
    and medical training to test the effect of infrasound on consenting human subjects.
    3: My current position
    I have kept up to date on the most recent scientific evidence on harm in humans and animals
    relative to IWT’s
    There have also been many surveys and studies regarding human health effects related to
    Industrial Wind Turbine exposure. Sadly many of them have actually increased suffering by
    concluding that the subjects were imagining their symptoms, and by varying degrees, labeling
    them with the “It’s all in your head” designation.
    It is also of note that while many people did agree to participate in these surveys and studies in
    the hope that their concerns would be heard, they were certainly captive participants by being
    forced to live in proximity to the turbines.
    This leads me to my use of the word “ethics” and my beliefs regarding the study and information
    gathering of a captive group of humans who are currently living in proximity to potential health
    effects.I remember during my first year of engineering we were told about an oath and ring ceremony
    that professional engineers take prior to receiving their accreditation.
    These practices vary within different disciplines but two examples come readily to mind:
    The National Society of Professional Engineers (USA) states “Engineers, in the fulfillment of
    their professional duties, shall: Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public”.
    Professional Engineers Ontario states: “A practitioner shall, regard the practitioner’s duty to the
    public welfare as paramount”
    I believe as scientists and researchers, while we were not actually required to pledge to such an
    oath, we certainly have a basic moral obligation when we choose to interact with people who are
    At a minimum, this should be to clearly point out both the risks and benefits of interacting with
    us and to provide referrals to resources and other help related to their suffering. This should be
    the core principle of any such undertaking and certainly a legally mandated one by any board of
    Thank you again for taking the time to talk with me and if I can be of any help going forward
    please don’t hesitate to contact me.
    Richard Mann
    Associate Professor
    School of Computer Science
    Faculty of Mathematics
    University of Waterloo

    • Barbara
      Posted December 8, 2016 9:14 pm 0Likes

      Thanks Richard !!!!

  • whooper
    Posted December 8, 2016 8:09 am 0Likes

    Dear Dr. Mann, Excellent letter! Thank you for your involvement, scientific pursuit and understanding!

    • ScepticalGord
      Posted December 8, 2016 11:27 am 0Likes

      Richard, thanks for your continued pursuit of getting the truth out.

  • notinduttondunwich
    Posted December 11, 2016 9:37 pm 0Likes
  • Barbara
    Posted December 11, 2016 10:28 pm 0Likes

    For general information:
    DOE Global Energy Storage Data Base
    ‘Port Angeles Landing Mall’, Port Angeles Washington state.
    50 kWh bank of Lithium-ion batteries and decommissioned, July 2013
    The unit experienced a fire in July 2013.
    Research Description: Smart grid and peak load reduction.
    More information online about the fire from Port Angeles news sources.

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