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By Charles Rhodes, P.Eng., Ph.D.

Electricity is electromagnetic field energy which flows at close to the speed of light in the proximity of guiding conductors.

Due to constraints on use of fossil fuels electricity will eventually become the primary means for long distance transmission of energy.

This website section examines practical aspects of the Ontario electricity system including:
electricity generation, energy storage, electricity: transmission, distribution, measurement, control, reliability and rates. An overview of Ontario Electricity System related environmental matters is contained in a 2018 report titled Making Connections by the then Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Ms. Diane Saxe.

This website section includes heat distribution via buried district heating piping systems.

This website section includes synthetic hydrocarbon synthesis for energy storage and fluid hydrocarbon transport via pipe lines.

Many existing retail electricity rate structures value all electrical kWhe the same. As an electricity system becomes less dependent upon fossil fuels this method of valuing electricity increasingly no longer reflects actual costs. In a non-fossil electricity system the costs are dominated by fixed capital, operating and maintenance costs, all of which are nearly independent of the number of kWhe consumed.

The sun is powered by fusion of hydrogen so renewable energy is actually fusion energy. However, due to the rotation of planet Earth about its axis and the inclination of that axis with respect to Earth's orbital plane at any particular point on Earth's surface renewable energy sources are seasonal, intermittent and not statistically independent.

Renewable electricity generators require efficient daily and seasonal energy storage and long distance transmission to convert intermittent renewable electricity generation into dependable electric power. Unless the local geography is very favorable, such as in British Columbia, Quebec and Norway, the required energy storage and transmission costs are prohibitive. In wholesale electricity markets a dependable kWhe typically has 5X the financial value of an interruptible kWhe.

In most places it is more practical and more economic to price dependable electricity and interruptible electricity differently so that applications that require dependable electric power pay the extra costs required to provide dependability and applications that can be met with interruptible electric energy do not pay these extra costs.

The retail electricity rate structure and the electricity metering should allow both "dependable" and "interruptible" electricity usage by each electricity customer.

"Dependable" electricity is electricity that 99.7% of the time is instantly available on user demand.
"Dependable" electricity is intended for applications where continuous electricity availability is more important than a low electricity cost per kWh. In Ontario most consumers presently receive "dependable" electricity.

"Discount" electricity is electricity that is reliably available except on a few days per year of extreme weather when customers contract to reduce their demand in exchange for a discounted electricity rate for the balance of the year. In Ontario "discount" electricity is currently supplied via demand response programs.

"Interruptible" electricity is very low cost but quite unreliable non-fossil electrical energy that is surplus to the "dependable" and "discount" electricity supply requirements. "Interruptible" electricity is primarily intended for hydrogen generation, for charging electric vehicles, for displacement of fossil fuels in hybrid heating systems and for operation of water purification systems. In Ontario there is usually "interruptible" electricity available from midnight to 6:00 AM during which period fossil fueled electricity generation is usually shut down. At other times the amount of available interruptible electricity available depends on numerous varying factors including season, wind, sunlight,temperature, equipment maintenance, etc.

In order for non-fossil electricity to economically displace fossil fuels, the marginal cost of electrical energy used for fossil fuel displacement must be less than the marginal cost of the fossil fuel displaced.

The best way to measure a consumer's dependable electric power requirement is for the electricity utility to transmit signals indicating random time periods when interruptible electricity is available to a particular consumer. The customer's peak monthly demand (kW) during other time periods when interruptible electricity is not available to the customer indicates the consumer's dependable power requirement. The price of marginal energy ($ / kWh) is the same for both dependable and interruptible electricity, but the dependable energy component has associated with it the additional demand charge. If a consumer does not exploit interruptible electric energy by default 100% of that consumer's electric energy consumption is dependable electricity. The interval electricity metering and billing software is the same for all consumers, whether or not they choose an interruptible electricity plan.

At times of non-fossil electricity surplus the electricity utility can transmit signals which enable corresponding "interruptible" electricity loads. At other times the interruptible electricity loads are disabled. Thus in terms of power system reliability "interruptible" loads can replace reserve generation.

To meet electricity system total revenue requirements the blended price, including the demand charge, of "dependable" electricity must be much higher than the price of "interruptible" electricity. To prevent gaming of the electricity system the cost / marginal kWh must be the same for both "dependable" and "interruptible" electricity. Hence practical implementation of the contemplated new retail electricity rate involves use of interval meter (smart meter) data to levy a charge per calculated monthly peak kW or peak kVA as well as a charge per kWh.

The price per marginal kWh must be sufficiently low (~ $0.02 / kWh) to financially enable use of available off-peak non-fossil electricity for economic displacement of fossil fuels.

The price per measured monthly peak kW or peak kVA must be sufficiently high (~ $30.00 / kW to ~ $70.00 / kW depending on demand diversity) to meet the electricity system gross revenue requirement including the Global Adjustment (Cost of financing electricity system capacity).

The price per monthly peak kW should be initially chosen so that for an average consumer the blended cost of dependable electricity is unaffected by the rate structure change.

It is recommended that the demand metering averaging time be two hours so that the cost impact on consumers of cooking oven warmup is minimal.

Implementation of this new electricity rate structure will eventually lead to installation of energy storage (eg an electric DHW storage tank, electric vehicle, hybrid heating) and load control in almost every building in Ontario.

However, after spending over $2 billion on smart electricity meters the Ontario government has failed to offer an "interruptible" electricity rate to encourage use of surplus low cost non-fossil electrical energy when it is available. That failure is presently costing the Ontario electricity rate payers over one billion dollars per year in combined lost electricity revenue and excess fossil fuel costs and is causing major unnecessary emission of fossil CO2.

There appears to be no rational explanation for failure to provide an interruptible electricity rate other than that the persons in charge of the electricity system are either corrupt or incompetent.

To implement the contemplated new electricity rate there must be an Ontario legislative change which allows Global Adjustment recovery via a charge per measured monthly peak kW or peak kVA instead of via a charge per kWh consumed.

This rate concept is not new. During the 1970s to 1990s similar electricity rates were provided by Toronto Hydro, East York Hydro and Scarborough Hydro to owners of major buildings. During the late 1990s these rates were terminated by politicians who thought that they were smarter than power system engineers. As a result today Ontario discards large amounts of non-fossil energy generation capacity and has one of the highest blended average retail electricity rates in continental North America.

In recent years multiple tens of billions of dollars of Ontario electricity ratepayers money have been squandered on wind and solar electricity generation which, absent suitable interruptible retail electricity rates and sufficient energy storage, is incapable of dependably meeting the electric power or electricity needs of Ontario. Typically about 70% of the non-fossil electricity produced by wind generation is either discarded or is exported at extremely low prices.

More billions of dollars are currently being squandered by both federal and provincial governments through failure to authorize construction of additional nuclear reactor capacity for displacement of fossil fuels in the transportation and heating sectors and through failure to adopt a much more efficient and much less polluting nuclear fuel cycle.

A related issue is that efficient use of surplus non-fossil electricity to displace natural gas causes the blended price per unit of natural gas to increase because the fixed costs of natural gas pipeline network depreciation and maintenance must be borne by decreasing amounts of natural gas consumed. In an attempt to retain market share the fossil fuel industry has lobbied governments to prevent adoption of electricity rate structures that enable efficient use of surplus non-fossil electricity for displacement of fossil fuels.

In this author's view it is essential for governments to prevent further expanison of the natural gas distribution network except as a means for future distribution of electrolytic hydrogen. All new buildings, new vehicles and new energy infrastructure should be designed to eventually function without use of fossil fuels. Even so it will take many decades to fully amortize the existing fossil fuel infrastructure. For example in high rise condominium buildings it is important to allow room for the pipe risers and basement level equipment necessary to connect the building's heating system to a future nuclear district heating system.

The fossil fuel industry rightly regards advanced nuclear energy production as an existential threat and, in spite of the CO2 emission consequences, continues to conduct a misinformation campaign aimed at preventing widespread use of nuclear energy for fossil fuel displacement.

Electricity system "stability" refers to the transient change in frequency caused by a step change in load. This frequency change must be limited to prevent grid shutdown due to safety trips. This frequency change also affects any party that relies on the line frequency for timing or for determining the RPM of an AC motor. This transient frequency change is also accompanied by a transient change in system voltage. Electricity system stability is particularly important for paper mills and like facilities that need to precisely control the RPM of large high speed rollers. A practical effect of electricity system stability degradation in Ontario subsequent to the 1970s was to drive owners of newsprint paper mills into insolvency.

Electricity system stability is set by the ratio of system moment of inertia to peak power. As fossil and nuclear generation is displaced by current source inverter coupled wind and solar generation the ratio of the moment of inertia to peak power decreases which degrades the frequency stability of the entire electricity system.

There are many electricity related web pages, so please scroll down.

1. Electricity Introduction
2. Ontario Electricity System
3. Electricity System Expansion
4. Displacement of Fossil Fuels
5. Electricity Regulatory Bodies
6. Conference Short Presentation (20 minute)
7. Conference Short Presentation Slides
1. Electricity Generation
2. Electricity Generation Constraints
3. Environmental Considerations
4. Distributed Electricity Generation
5. Wind Energy
6. Equipment Financing
7. OPA Feed-in Tariff
8. Generation Valuation, Grid Stability and Black Start
1. Energy Storage
2. Seasonal Hydraulic Energy Storage
3. Liquid Metal Electro-Chemical Energy Storage
4. Electrolytic Hydrogen
5. Synthetic Liquid Hydrocarbons
6. Synthetic Liquid Fuel
7. Nitrogen Fertilizers
1. Electricity Transmission
2. Electricity Transmission Black Start
3. Energy Transmission Planning
4. Distribution and Distributed Generation
5. District Heating
6. Pipeline Basics
7. Pipeline Corrosion
8. Letter To Premier Wynne
9. Electrically Accelerated Pipeline Corrosion
10. Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Setback
1. Electricity Services
2. Electricity Rate Issues
3. Historical Electricity Rates and Introduction of Smart Meters
4. Existing Electricity Rate Problems
5. Retail Electricity Rate Proposal
6. Interruptible Electricity Service (IES) Implementation
7. Variable Electricity Rate
8. Transmission/Distribution Cost Apportioning
9. Capacity Factor
10. Electricity Regulatory Hurdles
11. Electricity Market Problems
12. Electricity Rate Mitigation Letter
13. Interruptible Electricity Ripoff
14. InterruptibleElectricity.com
1. Electricity Metering
2. Electricity Power Transducer
3. Electricity-Three Phase Metering
4. Electricity Meter Program
1. Smart Grid
2. OPA Integrated Power System Plan (IPSP)
3. Energy Vision
4. Letter to Ontario Minister of Environment
and Climate Change
5. Letter to Mininster of Environment
and Climate Change, Canada
6. U of T 17-02-09 Slide Presentation
7. U of T Presentation
8. Energy Policy

This web page last updated February 16, 2021.

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