Toronto runs on electricity: to be precise, close to 25 billion kilowatt-hours of it every year. Throughout the entire life of every single man, woman, and child in Toronto, the experience has been: you get electricity when you need it, whether it is for air conditioning, lighting, watching TV, listening to music, taking the subway or streetcar or an elevator, in any combination—regardless of the time of day. But it doesn’t happen by magic.
The table below shows daily generation output by fuel, since June 1. As always, the provincial nuclear generator fleet generated by far most of Ontario’s electricity: at least sixty percent of the provincial total in each of the six days shown.
It is this kind of electricity that has produced the experience of Toronto residents I just described. Apart from the occasional local distribution-related blackout, and one humdinger of a general continental blackout like in August 2003, none of them has ever experienced a situation in which power was not available exactly when they needed it.
And that is the way it should be. Could you imagine getting onto an elevator and seeing a sign that reads “This elevator is 100 percent wind powered”? Would you press the button?
|Fuel||Total so far|
As you can see from the table above, June 1 (Saturday) has so far been the highest-demand day this month. Why was that? Last Saturday was a sweltering, humid day, that’s why. Everybody in Ontario had their air conditioner on, and air conditioners use a lot of electricity. The next day was much cooler; as you can see, Ontario’s electricity generators were not called on to produce nearly as much as they were the day before.
Nevertheless, the provincial wind fleet actually generated more on the cool Sunday than it did on the sweltering Saturday. Because wind generation increased on the low-demand Sunday rather than on the high-demand Saturday, that meant some other form of generation had to decrease its output: according to the grid priority rules in Ontario, wind generation must be accepted onto the grid regardless of whether it is needed or not.
So, as you can see, other generation types reduced output on Sunday; these included nuclear, which fetches roughly between 5 and 6 cents per kilowatt-hour; and hydro, which fetches around 4 cents.
And what does wind generation fetch? Why, usually more than 11 cents; in fact, a lot of wind-turbine owners in the province get 12.5 cents. They would never have gotten into business unless they were guaranteed 12.5 cents. That is because, as illustrated in the table above, they don’t make enough power per unit of time to make a profit at more reasonable rates than 12.5 cents. Notice wind output on June 4, which was a weekday (Tuesday): it was a paltry 4.6 million kWh, not even one-fifth what it was on Sunday. Is this an energy source we want to depend on? Can we run subways and elevators with wind power?
Twelve and a half cents per kWh is very expensive electricity. No ratepayer in his right mind would agree to pay such a high rate for such low-quality, unreliable electricity. So the owners of wind turbines have convinced the government to force Ontario ratepayers to pay them 12.5 cents to go into business. Those 12.5 cents are hidden from ratepayers; they are buried in the Global Adjustment, a cost recovery mechanism designed to provide owners of generators a guaranteed rate. (Scott Luft, at his excellent site Cold Air, follows the GA very closely and publishes analyses regularly; required reading if you follow Ontario electricity.) Most ratepayers never see the Global Adjustment on their power bills; so most are not even aware they have been forced to pay wind turbine owners the exorbitant 12.5 cents for unreliable electricity.
And why would we set up a rule that forces the grid to accept an expensive, unreliable source of power, when there are far more reliable and cheaper sources available?
Please note that I am not opposed to the Global Adjustment. I am not opposed to paying power generators a guaranteed rate. But I want the rate to be affordable, and I want quality electricity in return. As you can see from the table above, we get quality electricity from nuclear and hydro. We do not get it from wind.