December 10, 2005
Toronto: A provincially appointed body is recommending Ontario refurbish or replace its fleet of 12 nuclear power plants at a cost of $30 billion to $40 billion, according to a report released yesterday.
It also recommends transforming Ontario into a North American leader in the use of wind technology, bringing the total projected cost to about $70 billion.
The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) report warns Ontario will face a massive energy shortage when the government makes good on a promise to phase out Ontario’s four remaining coal plants by 2009. At the same time, existing nuclear plants will also have to be taken out of service if they are not upgraded in about 10 years, leaving Ontario with an energy gap of about 24,000 megawatts by 2025, equivalent to 80 per cent of the province’s current capacity.
“We take this report very seriously,” said Ontario Energy Minister Donna Cansfield. “We will carefully review the report’s advice and analysis as well as public input before making a decision on future supply mix.”
The government will have a long-term plan worked out by February, Ms. Cansfield said.
The full 1,100-page report will be posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights and Ministry of Energy websites for 60 days so the public can provide input.
The Ontario Power Authority was created by the Liberal government to provide a long-term strategy for Ontario’s future energy supply as demand and population increase.
Critics said the report’s emphasis on nuclear energy was driven by political considerations stemming from the phasing out of coal. Several former Liberal staffers are currently employed as lobbyists for the nuclear industry, while former Liberal leader Lyn McLeod is on the OPA’s board of directors and party fundraiser Jan Carr is the chief executive.
“This is a crazy plan,” said Thomas Adams, executive director of Energy Probe, a consumer watchdog group. “It’s completely driven by ideology. The decision to rule out Ontario’s least costly option is really what’s driving this.”
Provincial NDP leader Howard Hampton said Premier Dalton McGuinty has embraced nuclear power despite Ontario’s history of plants that have suffered massive cost overruns and delays in construction.
“This is going to mean very expensive electricity,” said Mr. Hampton. “Most of our electricity debt in Ontario is nuclear debt.”
A report commissioned by the Association of Major Power Consumers in Ontario, an association of industries such as steel, pulp and paper and chemical producers, concludes Ontario power prices, already in the top quartile of prices in North America, will rise by 25 per cent by 2008.
“We are not satisfied that it’s appropriate to have a conversation when a large chunk of options are ruled out on the face of it,” said association president Adam White, adding he wants the government to investigate new technologies that enable coal plants to meet higher environmental standards.
But OPA vice-president Amir Shalaby said such technologies cannot remove all contaminants from coal and make it truly clean. Coal currently produces 19 per cent of Ontario’s electricity. The plan would mean nuclear would continue to satisfy half of Ontario’s electricity needs, with renewable forms of energy increasing to 43 per cent by 2025, up from 23 per cent today.
About half of the renewable part of the energy mix would come from installing 5,000 megawatts of wind power by 2025. The remainder would include imported hydro power and smaller solar and biomass procurements.
That much wind power would put Ontario on a par with the top wind-producing jurisdictions such as Germany, Denmark and California, said Mr. Shalaby.
Mr. Shalaby defended the plan’s $70-billion price tag, saying Ontario consumers should be prepared to invest between $1 billion and $2 billion a year in infrastructure for an electricity system that costs them $15 billion annually.
About half the cost could be paid within two decades, he said.