Suzuki-land Campaigns for Higher Ontario Electricity Rates

Over the last while, CBC’s flagship Toronto show, “Metro Morning with Matt Galloway”, has featured commentaries by business columnists Michael Hlinka and Armine Yalnizyan on Ontario’s electricity sector. Although both have positioned their reports as measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to stop climate change, in both cases the columnists’
recommendations were more directly focused on increasing costs for consumers than on achieving any particular environmental objective.

On August 27th, Hlinka presented a piece on Galloway’s show addressing the potential for Ontario to buy more of its supply of electricity from Quebec and Manitoba (which Hlinka and lots of others refer to as “importing”). Hlinka acknowledged that Ontario currently has a surplus of electricity but noted (correctly) that additional power can be needed at some times. While getting some of his facts straight, Hlinka was obviously out of his depth, even on the basics. For example, he reported that Ontario’s electricity demand ranges between 11,000 and 25,000 kilowatt-hours. Kilowatt-hours are a measure of energy consumed, not the rate of usage. Hlinka’s figures are correct, but his units are scrambled. The correct units for the numbers he referenced are megawatts rather than kilowatt-hours. Hlinka’s error is equivalent to an automotive journalist reporting the horsepower of a car’s engine as a certain number of litres of fuel burned per day. During the interview, Galloway made no indication of noticing Hlinka’s confusion.

Hlinka indicated that Hydro Quebec’s electricity passes his definition of “green” but his concern was that importing electricity from another province would reduce Ontario employment in the power sector. The upshot of Hlinka’s provincial merchantilism is to recommend raising electricity rates high enough — he specifically mentioned raising rates by a factor of four — to force usage reduction, which he calls “conservation”. In his concern about protecting local employment in the power sector, Hlinka expressed no interest in the impacts on non-power sector employment or disposable income arising from multiplying power rates several fold.

Immediately after his interview with Hlinka with his recommendation to drastically raise electricity rates , Galloway followed up with two interviews later in the same show on general poverty and child poverty specifically. Nowhere in either interview did Galloway connect any dots on how already rising power rates have impacted those living in poverty, many of whom rely on electric heating, much less how multiplying power rates might affect low income folks and their employment prospects in future.

On September 16, Galloway interviewed business columnist Armine Yalnizyan on how Toronto should emulate Burlington, Vermont which claims to be 100% supplied with renewable “energy”. (Throughout the interview, she kept confusing “energy” and electricity.) The city of Burlington, with its 42,000 people, claims to obtain sufficient annual generation from wood, hydro-electric, wind and solar to sum up to its annual usage. Yalnizyan opined on the importance of the City of Toronto achieving the same, initially with city government operations.

Vermont has the 6th highest power rates of any state in the contiguous US, but Yalnizyan failed to include this relevant information. Neither did she draw attention in her analysis to the question Burlington double counting its greenness.

To offset some of the costs of its more costly renewable energy supplies, Burlington sells the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) associated with that generation, deriving a significant portion of its revenue from these sales and using that REC revenue to lower the cost of power locally. RECs are a modern form of medieval Catholic indulgences — certificates created by a controlling authority and conferred upon preferred generators. These certificates can then be traded to allow utilities to meet required renewable energy targets by accounting means, without having to build the renewable generation themselves.

Utilities purchasing Burlington’s RECs use them to satisfy government requirements to meet their renewable energy requirements. Meanwhile, Burlington is claiming to be using that same renewable energy to meet its own requirements. The indulgences are sold twice. Burlington’s green claims might look good to the uninformed, but its phoney accounting might at least deserve a passing mention from a business reporter.

The day before Yanizyan reported her research on renewable energy, Ontario’s wind power output dropped to as low as 3% capacity factor (actual output relative to installed capacity) — not an uncommon occurrence. Had Ontario been physically supplied 100% with renewables and not just by means of accounting, September 15th would have been one of those days when Ontario’s power system would have been able to support almost no economic activity.

Some folks don’t think green poverty is such a great idea and that power bills for low income households and electricity intensive employers actually matter. Those views don’t get air time with Matt Galloway.


  1. “… modern form of medieval Catholic indulgences …” I love it. You have hit the nail right on the head as usual. Hlinka and Yalnizyan ought to stick to whatever it is they have expertise in and leave electricity alone. I listened to both pieces on CBC MetroMorning and was aghast at what they’d said. Their analysis was incomplete and very superficial. We deserve better commentators on such a serious topic as green poverty.

  2. Pingback: Mainstream media in Canada over-hyping potential of renewables | Colder Air

  3. > During the interview, Galloway made no indication of noticing Hlinka’s confusion.

    The business reporter gets it wrong and the host doesn’t notice? Why should we be surprised?

    > passes his definition of “green”

    No, he said “clean”. I only point this out because of some paragraph-long note I saw somewhere about how using an incorrect term implies the person is “out of their depth”. Where was that again…

    > he specifically mentioned raising rates by a factor of four — to force usage reduction

    Now now, let’s not stoop to putting words in people’s mouths. Hlinka did not say that, he did not put a number to it at all.

    > Ontario’s wind power output dropped to as low as 3% capacity factor

    Darlington’s nuclear power output dropped to as low as 0% capacity factor. Four times last year.

    What, that seems misleading?

    Well perhaps we should stick to the industry definition for CF, which puts the Ontario wind fleet around 30% CF, with newer plants well into the mid-30s.

  4. We believe what we believe eh? What is the established criteria for measuring wind turbine generation versus capability? The OPA states that 2,763 MW are up and running but the IESO say it is 2,483 (they haven’t officially commissioned the other 280 MW). So how do you measure CF? If I were you I would use the lower number but I am incline to prefer the higher one!

    Now on your comments about nuclear I would point to this from the 2nd Quarter OPG report which states:

    ““For the three months ended June 30, 2014 the capability factor at the Darlington Nuclear GS was 77.6 per cent compared to 85.9 per cent for the same quarter in 2013. The decrease was primarily due to an increase in planned outage days (are those the ones you mention). For the six months ended June 30, 2014, the capability factor increased to 86.7 per cent compared to 85.0 per cent for the same period in 2013 due to a decrease in unplanned outage days for the first six months of the year. At the Pickering Nuclear GS, the capability factor improved to 77.4 per cent for the three months ended June 30, 2014, compared to 65.9 per cent in the same quarter of 2013 due to a decrease in the number of planned outage days. The capability factor at the Pickering Nuclear GS of 72.0 per cent for the six months ended June 30, 2014 was essentially unchanged compared to 72.4 per cent for the same period in 2013.”

    Why not examine all the evidence before posting something?

  5. Perhaps the production data from each wind facility should be looked at to determine if each wind facility has produced the electricity that was promised by the developers for each project.

    These are individual contracts that promised to deliver a certain amount of electricity for each project.

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