Ontario Electricity System Operational Update 8: Good News Outlook

So far, the “Ontario Electricity System Operational Update” series has focused on developments harmful to the interests of consumers. Some of these developments have a cartoonish absurdity, like burning forests at vast expense but with a “green power” blessing purchased from a prominent anti-prosperity environmental group. A deficiency in my reporting has been inattention to positive developments. The next two posts in this series will address examples of beneficial developments.

On April 9th, the Ontario Energy Association hosted a short conference on Ontario’s electricity outlook. I was unable to attend but have acquired notes on some of the comments from the presenters Amir Shalaby VP of Power System Planning at the OPA and Kim Warren VP of Operations at the OPA.

Here are some of the key themes that were discussed:

– Proposals for future changes to the power system should be considered in context of the province’s overall electricity demand/supply outlook. A portfolio perspective is needed. For example, analysis that considers one power generation option vs. another option takes too narrow a perspective. Instead, the impact of any individual generation option needs to consider its overall system implications. Not all megawatts are equal.
– The regional character of Ontario’s power system must be taken into account. Ontario is a big place. Responding to the power needs of growth areas such as the GTA, Kitchener/Cambridge/Waterloo, and Ottawa should be different than actions taken in other areas. The Northwest, which is currently massively over-supplied, represents a particular challenge given uncertainty about the scale, timing, and geography of industrial development there, particularly the remote Ring of Fire mineral developments. Local involvement in planning regional electricity needs would be particularly helpful.
– Changing economic patterns, consumer reactions to rising prices, and new energy efficiency programs have significantly impacted demand in recent years. These factors will continue to profoundly influence the demand for power into the future.
– The diversity and excess capacity of Ontario’s generation fleet, coupled to transmission infrastructure that is in the main solid, provides a positive outlook for system operations for several years forward. Ontario has breathing room. Making the right decisions is more important than making fast decisions on new commitments. Decisions today drive the future rate outlook. Ontario should remain focused on integrating and squeezing best value from existing resources.
– The operational integrity of Ontario’s gas infrastructure is very important to future power system reliability. The diversity of supply paths, resource basins, and storage resources coupled with flexible operational arrangements represents a major strength.
– Ontario’s aging nuclear fleet represents a key medium term challenge. For the next 2 to 3 years, decision making with respect to refurbishment will be incremental.

Comments, corrections, and criticisms, particularly from those who attended, are invited.

Had I the opportunity to attend, I might have reiterated the same question I have been repeating for several years.
What is the overall cost to consumers of surplus power both historic and forecast?

Next in this series: good news on smart meters.

One Comment

  1. Sensible thoughts: “Making the right decisions is more important than making fast decisions on new commitments. Decisions today drive the future rate outlook. Ontario should remain focused on integrating and squeezing best value from existing resources.”

    This approach to making decisions on any matter reflects traditional logic that best avoids unanticipated ‘solution’ consequences that often prove more devastating than was the ‘problem’ itself. This is consistent with the “haste makes waste” combined with “first, do no harm” wisdom a media quote from Mr. Shalaby in 2011.

    This indicates that problematic outcomes we now face, resulting from foolish power system planning decisions in Ontario, had little to do with the OPA or the decisions of Mr. Shalaby.

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