By Antonella Artuso, Canoe News
TORONTO – Ontario was paying other jurisdictions to take its electricity on Earth Day.
“That’s the way we celebrate Earth Day in Ontario,” energy consultant Tom Adams of tomadamsenergy.com said Monday.
Ontario exported power to neighbouring utilities at a negative price for the final two hours of Earth Day – minus 0.09 cents per kWh for one hour and minus 0.023 cents per kWh for the second.
Alexandra Campbell, a spokesperson for the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), said demand on Easter weekend was at its traditional low, so the province exported 3,230 megawatts of electricity late in the evening Friday.
The negative export price is not available to regular Ontario consumers.
Residential ratepayers in the province pay the market rate for electricity plus a special provincial global adjustment to cover extra costs, such as the guaranteed prices Ontario has agreed to pay some producers of clean energy like solar and wind.
Adams said the province has been struggling with an oversupply of electricity – as potentially dangerous to the stability of the system as a shortage of power – for much of the past week.
“Ontario has become a gigantic exporter of power … there are some time periods where we rival Hydro Quebec,” Adams said. “We are buying high and selling low. We sell at low prices, sometimes negative prices, power that is costing consumers substantial amounts to have produced in the first place.”
Given that the province pays some generators even if their electricity is not needed, it’s also possible that hydro ratepayers picked up the tab for power that was never produced, he said.
Adams also suspects that hundreds of megawatt hours of the province’s greenest, cheapest electricity production may have been deliberately not used over the past week, including on Earth Day.
Supply at the Ontario Power Generation’s Niagara, Ont., facility fell dramatically as it frequently does during periods of negative pricing, suggesting that water was diverted from its turbines to lower output, Adams said.
The system is increasingly turning to Niagara when it needs to quickly rid itself of excess power, he said.
Neither the IESO nor OPG could immediately confirm that Niagara had diverted water from its turbines Friday, although spokespeople for both organizations said Monday that it was unlikely.