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Ontario electricity demand remains flat

Demand for electricity in Ontario in 2016 was unchanged from the year before, according to statistics released by the provincial grid operator.

The Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator said electricity demand in the province in 2016 totaled 137.0 TWh, the same as in 2015. Conservation programs run by local distribution utilities saved 392,000 MWh in 2016, according to a Jan. 18 statement. Demand for this year is forecast to grow 0.3%.

Transmission grid-connected generation resources produced 149.65 TWh of electricity in 2016, a 2.6% decline from the year before, the IESO said. Nuclear generation made up the bulk of Ontario's generation, about 61%, followed by hydro at 24%.

Gas and oil-fired generation comprised 12.7 TWh, or 9%, of the province's output, down from 15.4 TWh and 10% in 2015. Eastern Power Ltd.'s roughly 300-MW Green Electron Power Project (Greenfield South) gas-fired plant was undergoing commissioning tests at the end of 2016 and is expected in service later this year, according to the IESO's most recent 18-month forecast. Also expected in service later in 2017 is the nearly 1,000-MW gas-fired Napanee Generating Station (Oakville) owned by TransCanada Corp. The provincial government is obligated to buy the output of both of these facilities.

Distribution grid-connected, or embedded, generation, which reduces the demand for transmission grid-connected generation, totaled more than 3,100 MW in 2016, with expectations of growth this year. Solar and "other" generation, excluding coal, wind and biofuels, nearly doubled to 0.46 TWh in 2016 from 0.25 TWh in 2015.

Ontario is a net exporter of electricity, both to neighboring provinces and the U.S., though exports in 2016 declined by 3.36% to 21,858.1 GWh. Imports from other jurisdictions increased by 38.7%, to 7,994.8 GWh.

The weighted wholesale price of electricity, called the Hourly Ontario Energy Price, was 1.66 Canadian cents/kWh in 2016. However, a fee called the global adjustment, which includes the cost contracted power supplies, added another 9.66 Canadian cents/kWh to the energy price, making the cost to most consumers 11.32 Canadian cents/kWh. In an effort to rein in the high cost of electricity, which has come about as Ontario aggressively eliminated all of its coal-fired generating capacity and invested heavily in renewables and refurbishments to its nuclear plants, the provincial government last fall cancelled a planned solicitation for about 1,000 MW from renewables, and as of Jan. 1, began rebating to consumers the provincial portion of a sales tax levied on goods and services.