Six Billion Dollar Man Pumps Energy Illiteracy

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli cannot have failed to notice by now that his claims that Ontario has earned $6 billion in profits from power exports since 2008, discussed in this previous post addressing his December 3rd appearance on TVO, are becoming comical. His current strategy to avoid admitting his many mistakes in reporting on exports is to identify the Toronto Sun as the source of his export profits analysis.

In a tweeted reply yesterday to my request for his reference supporting his $6 billion profit claim, he provided this June 2013 Toronto Sun article by Christina Blizzard.

The passage the Minister appears to have based his research on deals with exports in only a cursory fashion:

Over the past six or seven years, Ontario has beefed up its electricity exports and made $5-$6 billion selling excess electricity, says IESO President and CEO Bruce Campbell.

Scott Luft provided this helpful summary of IESO intertie transactions calculated using annual average market prices (which probably overestimates the value of Ontario’s exports):

@Bob_Chiarelli @TheAgenda @spaikin @tomadamsenergy exports est. at HOEP:
revenues $4.3 billion before costs pic.twitter.com/qvUvrrmKYO

If data was available on OPG’s export transactions from the Saunders generating station, that would bump up Scott’s export revenue numbers a bit, but the key point for Minister Chiarelli is that there is a notable distinction between revenues and profits.

The Minister has the IESO at his beck and call, yet couldn’t be bothered to ask them for the real number. As the Auditor General has noted, the net value of exports is a huge negative. Could it be that the Minister is averting his eyes?

I guess the scholarly Minister couldn’t remember this article in the Toronto Star, or this one:

The Minister’s dependence on the Toronto Sun for his economic research makes one wonder what sources he used to come up with province’s December 2 Long Term Energy Plan…Mad Magazine?

As if to emphasize his gravitas, Minister Chiarelli, in his December 3rd TVO interview, draws on Mayor Rob Ford’s approach of blaming the media for biased reporting, not telling the good news about power exports. (Watch from 5:06-5:14)

In the Legislature yesterday, the Official Opposition used most of their time challenging Minister Chiarelli for being insensitive for noting the annual cost of the Oakville gas plant move. On this issue, the Minister’s $2 cup of coffee per year per household claim is actually close to the truth. The rest of the time the Official Opposition had available for electricity questions was frittered away with loose anecdotal examples of harm caused by high power rates.

To their credit, NDP did challenge the Minister on exports. In his question, Mr. Tabuns makes a minor slip in forgetting that Nova Scotia currently has higher power rates than Ontario, but his reference to the Auditor is solid. The Six Billion Dollar Man’s response to Tabuns is a classic.

Mr. Peter Tabuns: My question to the Minister of Energy: According to the Auditor General, the province sells electricity exports at a loss. Between 2005 and 2011, the loss was $1.8 billion.

Can the minister explain to consumers paying the highest electricity prices in Canada why Ontario is selling electricity at a loss?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: The member should know that, first of all, from the opposition party, they had accrued a deficit in electricity. They had been importing at the cost of close to $1 billion a year.

We invested heavily in the sector, to make sure that we had a surplus. Because we have a surplus now, the member should be aware of how trading in electricity works. Yes, sometimes we sell electricity cheaply; much more do we sell it at a profit. From 2008 to today, the IESO will confirm to him—I’ll arrange a meeting for him; we can go through the books—we generated a $6-billion profit in the sale of electricity.

Is it too much to ask for a single parliamentarian to have the smarts to take the Six Billion Dollar Man up on his offer of proof?

3 Comments

  1. Thanks for the reference to my tweet
    After I sent it I decided I should have checked estimated revenues since the market opened (May 2002) up to the day of the referenced figures in the Sun (June 29th article), it looks to me as Campbell’s error was in the timeframe: revenues on exports, valued at the Hourly Ontario Energy Price, were about $5.5 billion from May 2002-June 2013.
    I still see no reason why this politician continues to speak of “made”, “profit” and “net” – surely there is some cost to purchasing this electricity – after all, the total is about a year’s consumption in Ontario, which this year will cost Ontarians about $12 billion.

  2. Pingback: Electricity Propaganda in Ontario | Tom Adams Energy - ideas for a smarter grid

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