Preface: As part of this site’s series addressing some of the challenges underlying Ontario’s electricity system operations, here is a report on delivery reliability.
Data reported by the Ontario Energy Board for the period 2005-2011 indicates a declining trend in power delivery reliability for Ontario’s urban consumers. These results indicate problems with the smart meter program and the Ontario Energy Board’s approach to regulating the electricity distribution sector.
The effectiveness of utilities in reconnecting consumers who get blacked out is called CAIDI — Customer Average Interruption Duration Index. To illustrate how the OEB’s annual reporting works, a CAIDI of 0.5 would indicate an average restoration time of 30 minutes whereas a CAIDI of 1.5 would indicate 90 minutes.
Here is the data, as reported in successive Electricity Distributor Yearbooks, for the largest 10 urban distribution utilities in Ontario. These utilities serve a little under half of all the consumers in the province. The utilities in this sample tend to be the most advanced of the province’s distributors, as indicated by factors such as a rapid implementation of smart meters.
|CAIDI Results (hours)||customer #|
|Enersource Hydro Mississauga||178,140||0.567||0.62||0.83||0.45||0.53||0.50||0.47|
|Hydro One Brampton||116166||0.605||0.58||0.68||0.69||0.62||0.60||0.65|
So far I have only been able to collect 2012 CAIDIs for Toronto Hydro (0.93) and Enersource (0.42)
The weighed average reflects the number of customers served by each utility and is a more accurate reflection of the overall trend than the arithmetic average.
A deteriorating trend in reliability for urban consumers is clearly evident in the weighted average results.
There is an appendix at the end of this presentation addressing data limitations and areas for improvement.
Year-over-year changes in CAIDI for a particular utility are strongly influenced by weather. For example, many utilities suffered harsh weather in 2007.
It is informative to consider reliability trends over longer time periods. Over longer time periods, utility operating practices rather than the quality of the fixed assets serving consumers strongly influence CAIDI.
While the absolute level of CAIDI between utilities can be reflective to some extent of exogenous factors such as customer density, the trend in CAIDI results between utilities can be directly compared.
It is particularly noteworthy that not only have customers served by Enersource enjoyed the best reliability of the comparators, but that service for Enersource consumers has been improving.
In stark contrast, Hydro Ottawa’s reliability numbers have been consistently among the worst of the Big 10 distributors since 2005 and are trending in the unfavourable direction over the period. Consumers of Hydro Ottawa have grounds for serious concerns about the management of that utility. Note that the current OEB chair was President and CEO of Hydro Ottawa Group of Companies from 2005 until April 2011.
Since the smart meter program was officially launched in 2004, the biggest direct service benefit of the program promised to consumers was faster recovery from outages. The capability of smart meters in automatically signalling outages to utility control centres was trumpeted by the official advocates for the program.
The smart meter program has been expensive. As of September 30, 2010, the total consumer investment in one portion of smart meter program across the province was $994,426,187. This figure reflects the capital costs of meter installation of the distribution utilities only and does not reflect distributor operating costs nor other costs in the system, such as upgrades to distributor Customer Information Systems to accomodate smart meter data and costs incurred by other agencies related to smart meter data management, such as the IESO.
The official smart meter program has produce no evidence of systematic reliability improvement, but anecdotal claims of benefits by smart meter and smart grid advocates are common.
The Ontario Energy Board has been pursuing incentive regulation with most distribution utilities. The incentive program encourages utilities to cut costs, particularly operating costs, but does not set minimum service standards for consumers. Costs for outage repair services are recovered in operating cost budgets. It appears that many utilities have been responding to their regulatory incentives by allowing reliability to slide.
The recent Ontario Electricity Distribution Sector Review lauded the smart grid program at length but did not address the deteriorating trend in quantified reliability results.
Appendix: Improving Data Reporting