May 11, 2012
Alice at Queen’s Park
As MPPs started ploughing through the energy policies wrapped up in the McGuinty government’s budget this week, Energy Minister Chris Bentley provided some very “Alice Through the Looking Glass” testimony:
- While touting the government’s decision to phase out coal power, the Minister noted that in the early 2000s, Ontario “needed every bit of power we could find” and, increasingly, turned to dirty coal power. What the Minister failed to note was why the province was so desperate for power: In 1998 seven of Ontario’s nuclear reactors were shut down for safety reasons. All of these reactors remained out of service for more than five years. Three of these reactors are still shut down.
- But by 2011, things had changed dramatically. Ontario’s demand for electricity has fallen by 10% since 2005. According to the Minister, falling demand is one of the reasons why the government felt comfortable cancelling two planned gas-fired power plants (Oakville and Mississauga). Again, the Minister failed to note that Ontario electricity planners have a long record of consistently overestimating electricity demand and failed to answer clearly why the province wasn’t putting its investment priority on improving energy efficiency rather than on expensive and risky nuclear plants.
- When asked to justify spending tens of billions of dollars on unnecessary nuclear power, the Minister claimed that the nuclear sector supports 80,000 jobs in the province. This dubious figure represents more jobs than can be found in the entire Canadian auto assembly industry. It’s perplexing how 80,000 workers could be employed by a nuclear industry that hasn’t sold a new reactor since 1990. It’s time to send this employment myth back down the rabbit hole.
But the Minister’s most important and encouraging statement of the day was this:
“What I’ve said always is, that’s the plan [Long Term Energy Plan], but if you come up with a better deal, just because it’s not in there I’m not going to tell you to go away…My point to you is simply this: that if somebody comes along and says to me, “You know what? I got clean green power at half the price,” you bet I’m going to pay attention. I can’t imagine anybody watching these proceedings would want me to say anything otherwise.”
Well, Minister Bentley, increased energy efficiency, hydro imports from Quebec, and combined heat and power will give you that better deal, so let’s start talking about a new plan and stop talking in circles about the hoary myth of “safe and affordable” nuclear power.
Please send Minister Bentley a letter here.
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