electricity


asks Christina Blizzard.

The wisest plan is to push ahead with a big honkin’ nuclear plant. They don’t spew fumes. But good luck convincing the eco warriors that nukes are green.

Now gas-fired plants are on the do-not-build list.

That leaves us with windmills, solar and a couple of hamsters running around on a treadmill to keep the lights on.

Is it any wonder, electricity prices are going up?

The Globe and Mail suggests that, with Ontario’s aging transmission grid, we can expect more blackouts like the four-hour outage in Toronto on Monday. Ontario’s Energy Minister, however, seems unconcerned:

Brad Duguid, Ontario’s Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, said it would be difficult for the government to invest more aggressively in upgrading the transmission system because consumers are already facing higher power prices from investments the province is making in new sources of electricity generation.

That the McGuinty government would put the construction of expensive, renewable energy projects ahead of reliability is perhaps not surprising. With temperatures today again heading up  to near-record levels, Ontario’s total installed wind capacity of 1,100 MW is presently churning out a total of 11 MW. The reliability of our electricity supply is obviously of secondary importance.

If reliability is what you want, maybe it’s time to buy your own generator.

In an “Earth Day” press release today, TD Bank inadvertently makes the link as to why energy prices are rising despite being awash in surplus supplies of electricity and natural gas:

Karen Clarke-Whistler, Chief Environment Officer, TD, predicts that solar panels will be standard on homes in 10 years. “Energy prices are only going to go one way, and that is up, so homeowners will be looking for ways to reduce costs,” said Clarke-Whistler. “With an increasing number of provincial government-backed incentive programs being rolled out across the country, we expect the solar products market to evolve rapidly. We can expect product innovation, a wider choice of products and increased affordability as more manufacturers enter the market.” [my bold]

If energy costs are inevitably going up it has as much to do with governments bilking the rate payer so they can subsidize high-cost sources of energy such as solar PV.

The fact that consumers would respond to such bribes, though, is not surprising. Without the bribes, many would spend their money differently. Instead of trashing their current furnace to replace it with a subsidized, high-efficiency model, they just might hang on to it for a while longer, and spend their savings on other things. Installing solar panels on their roof tops wouldn’t merit a second look if not for the massive subsidies. And somehow TD thinks it is prudent to pile on and up the ante.

In the realm of energy, economic considerations have become secondary. The decision faced by the consumer is no longer — should I keep my older furnace and pay a little more for energy or buy a new furnance and save on my energy bill? — but how big is my tax credit?

The TD Canada Trust Green Home Poll also revealed that 66% of Canadians say that tax credits would make them more likely to make energy efficient upgrades to their homes. “This shows that financial incentives really work when it comes to encouraging energy efficient home upgrades, so we hope that our Green Mortgage rebate will encourage our customers to consider renewable energy sources for their homes,” says Wisniewski.

Once hooked on subsidies, consumers come to expect it and may even hold out in the expectation of even bigger bribes in the future. The inevitable result is that the taxpayer ends up subsidizing many choices that consumers would have eventually made anyways.

Is it any wonder energy costs are going up?

Earlier this year, Platt’s (yeah I know, the oil guys) wrote an interesting article on wind entitled The unbearable lightness of wind:

But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Wind power has its critics and they feel that their reservations have been overridden by policy makers whose imaginations have been captured by a green agenda that downplays wind’s limitations.

Wind’s intermittency cannot be ignored just because it is the most readily available and domestically attractive technology to hand, they argue.

Any electricity system needs a mix of baseload generation power – which tends to be relatively inflexible in terms of switching on and off – and peaking plants, which are more flexible and, as their name suggests, designed to take advantage of high electricity prices at times of peak demand.

Wind falls into neither of these categories because it is essentially unreliable.

Proponents of wind power dislike the negative connotations of the word ‘unreliable’, pointing out that on average the amount of power supplied by a given capacity of wind turbines is reasonably predictable.

But, according to the EWEA, wind turbines produce no electricity at all between 15% and 30% of the time.

And, on average, the load factor for onshore turbines is about 30%.

This means that over 24 hours, 1 MW of wind capacity would provide about 7.2 MWh of power, but there’s no knowing exactly how much or when until the last minute.

As wind provides neither baseload nor peaking plant it has no impact on reserve capacity.

There will always be the possibility that, at some point, no power will be produced at all.

The article definitely raises some good points. Read it and ask yourself why the headlong rush into wind?

It’s a good thing someone is paying attention to what energy costs.

The province’s power-planning authority has shelved plans to procure 500 megawatts of power from new co-generation projects after a recent request for bids attracted only two participants, both of which were disqualified.

Officials at the Ontario Power Authority are blaming the poor showing on “an unfavourable economic climate” that made it too expensive to raise project capital, but some industry observers say the agency shares blame for setting the bar too high.

In predictable fashion, an industry shill and a so-called energy expert with a political science degree working for an environmental organization are upset with the OPA for attempting to procure electricity at a competitive rate. Bravo to the OPA for doing its job.

Inflexible electricity contracts and a “perfect storm” of supply and demand factors has resulted in negative electricity prices in Ontario:

Just a few years ago we were worried about having enough power to keep Ontario running. These days, we’re paying people to take it.

Ontario wholesale electricity prices were below zero for roughly a third of the 648 hours between March 24 and April 19, according to the province’s Independent Electricity System Operator.

This means industrial and commercial electricity consumers who purchased power on the spot market got paid for one out of every three hours during the period.

Large customers in the United States were also able to import the power at a negative price. Together, these large users of electricity represent 30 per cent to 40 per cent of Ontario’s power load.

The situation is expected to continue:

In an 18-month forecast issued last month, the system operator predicted that periods of surplus baseload generation will likely be more common, as restarted nuclear units and more wind projects are added to the system.

But despite this outlook, the Ontario Energy Board recently announced an increase in electricity costs to residential households of 7.1%. I’ve got a smart meter at my house; maybe it’s time to switch to spot market pricing.

The Ontario Energy Board recently announced new electricity prices for Ontario consumers effective May 1, 2009. Despite weakening demand for electricity as a result of the recession, and an overall inflation rate of 1.2%, consumers in Toronto will pay 7.1% more for their electricity than last year.

That’s nothing though. Just wait until the Green Energy Act kicks in. When it does, these guys will be laughing all the way to the bank.