Ontario is currently working toward another electricity import deal with Quebec. It is likely a good thing. Most of our neighbour’s electricity is generated by massive hydro dams on the James Bay and St. Lawrence watershed—so, by today’s convoluted meaning of the word, it is clean. It is also reliable and manageable—the opposite of the wind and solar power sources in which Ontario has invested billions over the past 15 years. The deal is expensive, however, about 40 per cent richer than Quebec earns from other exported electricity contracts.
But here is the interesting bit.
Coincidentally, the quantity of imported power represented in this deal, combined with another with Quebec in 2015— equals almost precisely the total electricity generated by wind and solar in Ontario. Ten terawatt hours of wind and solar are being made redundant by ten terawatt hours of hydro electricity. Maybe coincidence is the wrong word.
Put another away—the nearly useless intermittent power generated by wind and solar has been replaced by two power deals with Quebec. Electricity that is cheaper, cleaner and manageable.
It’s a sign, perhaps, the adults have wrested control of the province’s energy management away from the politicians.
The deal illustrates rather bluntly that Ontario’s wind and solar power projects are like costume jewellery—showy and glittery to a distracted public, but bearing little actual value.
Worse, these intermittent electricity trinkets are a persistent headache to the electricity system operator. Each year we spill enough electricity through exports to neighbouring jurisdictions, including Michigan and New York, to power a large part of their economies. We regularly export this power at a loss—sometimes we pay them to take it.
Sickeningly we spend as much as a $1 billion each year for others to take our unwanted electricity. Without these outlets, however, Ontario’s power grid would succumb to the variability of wind and sunlight on an electrical grid ill-equipped to endure it. And electrical systems operators in Michigan and New York know it.
So, they take advantage.
It is sophisticated modernday larceny. Here is how it works. Lacking formal purchase agreements, Michigan buys Ontario electricity mostly on the spot market, typically paying between one and two cents per kilowatt hour (kWh)—a fraction of what it costs the state to generate its own electricity. (The County’s Parker Gallant does a much more thorough job of explaining how this works in his regular contributions to the Wind Concerns Ontario blog, the Financial Post and other publications.)
To its credit and downfall, Ontario’s electricity market is utterly transparent—anyone with a computer can monitor the demand for electricity and the supply available at any given moment (as well as many other facets of the system). They can see plainly when the province is headed for a critical system overload— when Ontario must shed power or risk catastrophe. Folks in Michigan know it too. They know when Ontario will be calling them to offload electricity. They are happy and ready to oblige.
From time to time, the imbalance between too little demand and too much uncontrollable supply in Ontario’s electricity system becomes so precarious that grid operators in Michigan and New York can actually compel Ontario to pay them to take it the power. It is how it came about that today Ontario now powers about 10 per cent of Michigan’s electricity needs. And we lose money on every kilowatt.
All this has been said and explained before by others. The facts are uncontested. It is all easily verifiable thanks to Ontario’s transparent electricity operations.
Yet we continue to build useless wind and solar projects. We continue to make the problem worse.
Across the channel from Cressy, Amherst Island residents are bracing for a disheartening defeat. Their local government has recently conceded that it has secured the most it is likely to get from the developer of 26 industrial wind turbines and the province in order to protect the residents, the delicate waterway, the roads and other infrastructure as well as the endangered species that reside there. Any lingering regret over its own shortcomings at Loyalist Township hall, however, is likely to be eased by the $500,000 payment it has been promised each year by the industrial wind project owner.
Meanwhile on the ground, the developer’s actions sometimes bear little resemblance to the plans it submitted and promises made when asking from provincial approvals. For example, it told the Environmental Review Tribunal that it would widen only about three kilometres of road. Now it figures it will need to widen more than six times that length—a threat to the Blanding’s turtles and other animals. It is also threatening to fundamentally change the character of this pastoral island for a generation or more.
Folks on Amherst Island have begun to mourn the looming decimation of the quiet, rural island life that drew them to this place. We mourn with them.
Michigan residents, meanwhile, are likely unaware of the sacrifices that some Ontario residents on a wee island are making to subsidize their electricity bills.Will we connect these dots next June?