Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ontario's Wholesale Electricity Rates at Record levels

In the news ... attention given to Ontario's higher electricity rates by a reporter, and by a politician

Hydro prices soar in cold weather | The Toronto Star
The current cold snap is pushing Ontario electricity prices into record territory.
Three of the five highest-priced days recorded on Ontario’s wholesale electricity market have occurred since the onset of cold weather late last week.
Saturday’s average daily price of 24.96 cents a kilowatt hour set a new record, according to the Independent Electricity System Operator [IESO], which runs the market.
Monday’s average of 22.5 cents a kilowatt hour is the second-highest on record, according to the IESO, and Friday’s average price also hit the top five, at 22.2 cents a kwh.
The cold weather is behind the high prices, as Alexandra Campbell of the IESO.
“I would say high electricity demand, and high demand for gas generation,” she said when asked about the rising prices.
The day the article was written is now the highest priced day of the market, with the weighted Hourly Ontario Energy Price (HOEP) averaging $277.89/MWh) - so 4 of the 5 highest daily average prices in the history of the Ontario market have occurred over the past 5 days.
Prices allocate scarce resources; they are not reflective of demand alone. While demand was above normal because temperatures were below normal, the greatest factor in high prices escaped notice in John Spears' article, and was not addressed by the IESO's Alexandra Campbell.

The IESO's "Weekly Reports" run from Wednesday-Tuesday: I've generated my shadow report for the week ended yesterday, and the explanation for the price spikes is the unavailability of coal (because Ontario closed the vast majority of its generating units, many of them as of December), and particularly natural gas.
This is a stunning week: the province's demand reduction (conservation/efficiency) plans don't really address winter demand (some lighting component) - and their plans for natural gas don't seem to have accounted for inventory during this winter, which has been cold, but that's just meant the highest demand for winter electricity since 2008 (nothing particularly shocking).

Last week, starting on the 9th Wednesday of the year, demand was up 10% over the comparable week in 2013, while the HOEP average was up 579%, to $193.62/MWh.  That's due to demand for a very scarce resource.
Note the big growth in supply was in net imports: whereas Ontario exported 199GWh (net) during the week in 2013, in 2014 the net import was 141GWh - the difference, 340GWh, accounted for more than all of the change in demand (282GWh).
The week was not the highest of the year for demand; the week from January 22-28 was.  Compared to that week, demand was down 130GWh while net imports increased by 503GWh.

Stories are dearth of natural gas, and increased imports: I commented on the reasons prices are spiking in Declining security and soaring industrial rates: February numbers...

The second Ontario electricity story in The Toronto Star today is Horwath wants $100 hydro rebates for 4.4M customers.  I don't see how giving money away will solve Ontario's electricity sector issues - I do see how giving money away is a huge contributor to Ontario's problems (including the OCEB, paying for curtailments when that was not contracted, paying to move gas plants instead of allowing municipalities to fight the projects their NIMBY's oppose...)

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