Monday, March 6, 2017

China bans wind due to Ontario-like curtailment levels

A report from China contains data on industrial wind that should be compared to similar Ontario data, so...

New wind power projects banned in 6 regions |
The National Energy Administration (NEA) has issued red alerts, or the highest warning, in six provincial regions where new wind power projects will be prohibited this year...
The six restricted regions include Heilongjiang, Jilin and Gansu provinces, as well as Inner Mongolia, Ningxia Hui and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions...
Large amounts of wind power were wasted in these regions last year...
According to official data, last year the waste proportion of these regions were Gansu (43 percent), Xinjiang (38 percent), Jilin (30 percent), Inner Mongolia (21 percent), Heilongjiang (19 percent).

Wind power facilities generated 241 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2016...
However, close to 50 billion kilowatt hours of wind power was wasted, up from 33.9 billion kilowatt hours a year earlier, due to distribution of wind resources and an imperfect grid system.
In Ontario, the IESO doesn't seem as advanced as the Chinese NEA so is yet to release an official curtailment figure, but I've got estimates!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Extend and pretend: Ontario government acts to lower electricity bills

The Premier of Ontario, and its Minister of Energy, held a news conference today in which they promised to cut electricity bills by 25 per cent - on average, inclusive of an 8% sales tax rebate already introduced. A Fair Hydro Plan is touted as offering these "new" things:
Starting this summer, electricity bills will be reduced by 25% on average for households across Ontario. Many small businesses and farms will also benefit from this cut.
And bills won’t increase beyond the rate of inflation for at least four years.
People who live in eligible rural communities and those with low incomes will see even more reductions to their electricity bills.
Taken together, these changes will deliver the single-largest reduction to electricity rates in Ontario’s history.
I found none of the government's posted material informative.

Ontario consumers, particularly those of Hydro One, are advised to skip government explanations and go to Hydro One's examples of cost impacts for different customers. Hydro One summarizes changes:
  • Reducing the Global Adjustment charge by 20 per cent,
  • Lowering the delivery charge for low-density customers,
  • Accelerating the move to more fixed delivery charges,
  • Introducing an affordability fund to help those customers in need, and
  • Introducing a First Nations electricity rate.
The move to fixed delivery charges is one I approve of, but it may be of limited interest as it impacts individual consumers (the higher consumption user, including farms, benefit at the expense of low consumption residences).

In the remainder of this post I'll pull some evidence together to speculate on how the government intends to reduce the global adjustment charge by 20 per cent, and the implications of doing so.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Ontario electricity campaign positions take shape

Today the leader of Ontario's NDP unveiled a plan to "cut hydro prices." With the NDP position tabled, it's probably fair to speculate on the electricity policies the 3 main parties will campaign on in 2018's election.

The PC Party of Ontario has indicated they have 3 focuses: cancel the Green Energy Act, stop the privatization of Hydro One, and control public sector electricity salaries. While I agree the GEA is the single largest driver of high costs in the province, the other 2 pillars are populism - pure and simple.

The NDP's new paper indicates their priority is reversing the share sales of Hydro One.
The first bill tabled by an NDP government would return Hydro One to provincial ownership and control.
The paper implies a return to public power.
Direct the hydro system to provide reliable low-cost, environmentally responsible power for all Ontarians instead of profits for private companies
I felt the paper avoided the anti-nuclear rhetoric that can push people like me away from the NDP, but others find it in the sub-text.

Regardless, this strikes me as a basic socialist document that believes in public power.

The government/Liberal position is likely to be as able managers of a very clean system - and the PC's populist stance leaves them open to being the champion of market solutions.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Can Wind and Solar be significant contributors to a low emission electricity system?

...there is a substantial body of evidence that variable renewable integration costs are hugely dependent on the flexibility of the system to which they are being added.
So claims a new report from a UK Energy Research Centre, which lists many studies after opining on them in The costs and impacts of intermittency – 2016 update. Integration costs are important and I'll write on some of the content of the UK paper in paragraphs below, but first I want to discuss the bias of the work, and a great accomplishment in Ontario.
Taken together, the full range of impacts add weight to the message that electricity systems and markets need to adapt and be reorganised to incorporate large proportions of variable renewable generation most efficiently. 
systems and markets may not be what "need" to adapt.
The key challenge facing policymakers, regulators and markets is how to ensure delivery of a flexible, low carbon system that makes maximum use of variable renewable generation whilst minimising overall cost and enhancing security and reliability. 
It is wrong to state a low carbon system maximizes "use of variable renewable generation."

My estimates indicate in January - usually one of the highest demand months of a year - Ontario generated less electricity with fossil fuels than in any month since at least 1973. Probably the least of any month in my life (I was born the day Dylan shocked Newport with an electric performance).

Thursday, February 9, 2017

"I believe we have market failure"

South Australia has been a vocal point for watchers of the renewables experiment - this story struck me as extraordinary in exposing the themes of a final tale everywhere low capacity credit supply is prioritized.

SA heatwave: Blame game begins as state faces further power cuts
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill promised to "intervene dramatically in the electricity market"...
Mr Weatherill's promise followed comments from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier this morning, placing the blame for South Australia's blackouts entirely on the State Government.
"It has created a situation where that state has the most expensive and least reliable electricity in Australia," Mr Turnbull said.
"That is a fact. Of course they want to blame it on everybody else.
"When they have the biggest heatwave there is no wind and when there is no wind, all of their windmills are not generating electricity.
"They haven't planned for that."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Ontario's IESO steps off the gas

On New Year's Day, 2017, Ontario saw lower total generation from natural-gas fired facilities that it likely has on any day in over two decades.

Over the first 20 days of the year electricity produced from natural gas is down 48%, leaving electricity generation producing about 1/3rd of the emissions it did during the first 20 days of 2014, following the end of coal-fired generation at Lambton and Nanticoke (as 2013 ended). The year-to-date average I estimate at 21 grams CO2 equivalent emissions per kilowatt-hour (CPIK).

Judged only on emissions, this is an impressive accomplishment. Those concerned with Ontario's electricity sector may wonder what it cost, and if there are negatives associated with the changes. I will explain why emissions are dropping, and although it's not possible for me to cost out the changes, or specify the negatives, I'll demonstrate why the IESO should reveal these.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Nuclear Ontario - and giving electricity away

Since I posted Reliable Electricity Generation Capacity declining in Ontario the IESO's NPCC 2016 Ontario Interim Review Of Resource Adequacy was published.
It's exciting stuff:
The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) submits this assessment of resource adequacy for the Ontario Area in accordance with the NPCC Regional Reliability Reference Directory #1, “Design and Operation of the Bulk Power System.” 
Spoiler alert!
The report concludes Ontario's system can meet Loss of Load Expectation (LOLE) criteria for the 2017 to 2020 planning period once Emergency Operating Procedures (EOP) are assumed. EOPs are indicated to be essentially 1/3rd public appeals to reduce consumption, and 2/3rds voltage reductions.


I wrote "With the exception of 2013 the capability at peak has declined every year since 2010, despite IESO-connected generator capacity being greater now than it was six and a half years ago," so I thought it only fair I offer a brief analysis of how the IESO is meeting the reporting requirements for resource adequacy - and the repercussions of how they are doing so.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Straight Talk on economic issues: No Wisdom without courage

...reluctance to be honest about trade has cost economists their credibility with the public.
 I've seen multiple references to Dani Rodrik's Straight Talk on Trade, which deserves the notice.

Commentary on Brexit often revisited Michael Gove's "people... have had enough of experts." Before getting too nasty with my own thoughts, some of Rodrick's work:
It has long been an unspoken rule of public engagement for economists that they should champion trade and not dwell too much on the fine print. This has produced a curious situation. The standard models of trade with which economists work typically yield sharp distributional effects: income losses by certain groups of producers or worker categories are the flip side of the “gains from trade.” And economists have long known that market failures – including poorly functioning labor markets, credit market imperfections, knowledge or environmental externalities, and monopolies – can interfere with reaping those gains.
They have also known that the economic benefits of trade agreements that reach beyond borders to shape domestic regulations – as with the tightening of patent rules or the harmonization of health and safety requirements – are fundamentally ambiguous.
Nonetheless, economists can be counted on to parrot the wonders of comparative advantage and free trade whenever trade agreements come up... They have endorsed the propaganda portraying today’s trade deals as “free trade agreements,” even though Adam Smith and David Ricardo would turn over in their graves if they read the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
This reluctance to be honest about trade has cost economists their credibility with the public. Worse still, it has fed their opponents’ narrative. Economists’ failure to provide the full picture on trade, with all of the necessary distinctions and caveats, has made it easier to tar trade, often wrongly, with all sorts of ill effects.
This is not the only topic where academia's economists lack the respect for their audience to be candid, or the diligence to develop and defend an opinion of their own.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

President Elect Trump, energy and climate

The elites can only run things with the American people’s permission. Trump is the people’s way of withdrawing their permission. - Salena Zito
I'd been waiting for the American election to be over figuring it limited other serious discussions as it sucked all the oxygen from the blogosphere. Given the outcome, I suspect it will be a low oxygen world for the rest of us for a while yet. Here I'll reference columns from sources I consider relevant on energy, economics and climate change - and then let loose with my own opinions on likely impacts of President Elect Trump for Canada, the Paris agreement, and nuclear energy.

Prospects for the Environment, and Environmentalism, Under President Trump | Andrew C. Revkin | Dot Earth (NY Times)
Is this end times for environmental progress or, more specifically, climate progress?
The bad news about climate change is, in a way, the good news:
The main forces determining emission levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide will be just as much out of President Trump’s hands as they were out of President Obama’s. The decline in the United States has mainly been due to market forces shifting electricity generation from coal to abundant and cheaper natural gas, along with environmental regulations built around the traditional basket of pollutants that even conservatives agreed were worth restricting. (Efficiency and gas-mileage standards and other factors have helped, too, of course.)
There’s no way around it: Donald Trump is going to be a disaster for the planet | Brad Plumer, Vox
Okay, now for the deep breath.
Even under Trump, there will still be reason for hope. Political change unfolds in unexpected ways, and not everything on Earth revolves around the machinations of the US federal government. So here are a few reasons to think the fight against climate change is not yet lost:

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Carbon communication cowardice

Some annoyances from the communication on policies I could be supportive of, if not for...

From Ontario's Premier:
Premier Kathleen Wynne is defending the Liberal government’s decision to introduce a cap-and-trade program next year to combat climate change, calling Ontarians “very bad actors” when it comes to creating greenhouse gases.
“Even though we’re a small percentage overall of the global greenhouse gas emissions, we’re very bad actors in terms of our per capita creation of emissions,”
Well, if that's true, perhaps we should go conquer lands with more moderate climates.

The latest reporting on emissions for Ontario shows 170,000 kt CO2 eq. in 2014 - exactly 170, 000 kilotonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions.
Statistics Canada shows the population for 2014 as 13,685,171.
Therefore, the per capita emissions were about 12.4 tonnes (thousand kilgrams) per Ontarian.
That's not particularly high for a northern climate, and it's about the OECD average, according to the OECD.

Perhaps if the Premier didn't measure Ontario against 1990, ignoring the province's 32% population growth (1990-2014), and listen to comparisons - in absolute reductions - to stagnant population countries such as Germany, she'd be a little more up on per capita emission trends.

Meanwhile, at the often excellent Energy at Haas blog, Meredith Fowlie asks Is Cap and Trade Failing Low Income and Minority Communities?