T&T Power Group’s “Powering Greenhouses 2018” conference welcomed greenhouse growers from across Southwestern Ontario to learn about and discuss eco-conscious industry practices and energy efficiencies.

What We Learned from Rob Benninger at Powering Greenhouses 2018

One of several special guest speakers at the conference was Rob Benninger, the CEM, REP Business Development Executive at ECNG Energy Group. During his presentation, Rob talked about the current market of natural gas and electricity, as well as some of the impacts the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) policies are making going forward.

Key Takeaways From Conference

“One of the positives about looking at things like CHP (Combined Heat and Power), and looking at whether it’s GA (Global Adjustment]) mitigation – is that we actually are enjoying some pretty stable natural gas prices”, said Rob. “It is very possible to produce power at those types of numbers. And the real reason is because we have fairly stable gas. We have as much gas now in North America [as] we’ve ever had, and that’s really because of [the shale market].”

With an insignificant presence of combined heat and power systems in the market, Rob attributed it to more recent (within 5 years) electricity prices that warranted exploring other options.“We’re now looking at situations where it makes a lot more sense to put in CHP. We even see a lot of hybrid situations,” he said.

“If you live in Ontario, you live in a really unique position because there is more gas [that] flows through Ontario than any other point in North America”, Rob explained. “When you’re looking at power generation, you’ve got a real opportunity as long as you can get the gas to produce power at a very economical rate for a number of years.”

Along with the gradual increase of Global Adjustment costs in Ontario, Rob helps his clients decide whether to look at CHP or GA mitigation. He came to a conclusion with his team back in 2011 that hedging gas was probably not the best way for them to provide valuable service to their clients. “We started looking at running a GA alert service to help them mitigate in the 5 magic hours that people have come to know as the Class A hours for the year,” he said.

“[CHP and GA mitigation] are equally important. GA mitigation is no longer just about peak shaving – GA mitigation has evolved into peak management. So it’s managing your power,” Rob stated. “If you are someone wanting to control their electricity prices, that’s pretty hard to do unless you take control of it yourself. And that’s where things like CHP and things like GA mitigation become almost vital in order to maintain profitability.”

Rob continued to stress the benefit of CHP, especially for greenhouses. “More rural areas, where greenhouses are unfortunately, tend to have higher distribution and transmission costs. Fortunately, with CHP, this piece you can control. This is the piece of the puzzle that we have control over,” Rob explained. ”Because [greenhouses can] use all the [free] heat, it becomes very attractive to run combined heat and power.”

Rob also mentioned that with the dwindling of the industrial base into a more residential base, Ontario has seen a shift of peak times – and what was once a curve has become more flatlined. “It’s gotten to the point now where [peak shaving] has become a very difficult thing to do”, he said. “Every day is basically becoming a peak day. It makes justifying running an engine [make a lot more] sense.”

Rob continued to explain that, for every hour missed, people would be paying $100,000 per megawatt. “If you have 5 in a year, your potential savings per megawatt is half a million dollars on GA. So it’s a big deal to miss one”, he said. “At the end of the day, [our clients are] all shooting for either 8 cent, 9 cent power – which you can achieve with a CHP.”

It was a true pleasure having Rob Benninger speak at Powering Greenhouses 2018. “I always tell clients on the mitigation side: ‘whatever you install, make sure it’s something that has the ability to be upgraded to CHP”. Some sound advice for our Ontario greenhouse growers as we look to the future.

For more on Ontario’s Global Adjustment fee, see this helpful article.