TORONTO – The difficulty of connecting intermittent wind power to the province’s electrical grid will help drive up the cost for consumers, the Ontario Society of Power Engineers warns in a report.
“This situation is expected to get much worse over the next several years as significant amounts of wind, hydraulic and nuclear generation will be coming into service while expected electrical demand will continue to be stagnant,” said Monday’s report.
Because wind farms have been offered guaranteed contracts under Ontario’s feed-in-tariff (FIT) program, the province is obligated to buy the power even when demand is slack.
OPSE says that contributes to Ontario having to sell excess power to other jurisdictions at a loss.
The subsidized FIT rates are meant to encourage renewable energy production with generous subsidies guaranteed for 20 years. But critics say the prices are too high and force Ontario to pay premium for power even when demand is low and two 750-megawatt reactors at the Bruce Generating Station prepare to return to service.
A leak at one of those reactors has delayed its anticipated restart.
The OPSE report makes several recommendations it says will alleviate the problem, including giving the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) the authority to reopen existing power contracts to make sure they “align with the economic and environmental needs of the public” and to lower the FIT subsidy rates.
A review of the FIT program by Energy Minister Chris Bentley – expected out Thursday – will lower those subsidies and return some local power to reject unwanted wind projects, the minister has said.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association said it was reviewing the OPSE study.
“We know that operational experience worldwide indicates that up to 20% of energy in any given power system can be supplied by wind with little change in existing reserve capacity,” spokesman Ulrike Kucera said in an e-mail
“The IESO is currently working with the wind energy industry and other industry stakeholders to incorporate new tools such as advanced forecasting techniques and market design changes to allow continued integration of wind energy in Ontario.
“Wind energy is playing a growing role in helping Ontario build a cleaner, stronger and affordable electricity system that will ensure Ontarians continue to enjoy the lifestyle they are accustomed to.”
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