The Ontario Clean Air Alliance sends out email bulletins on air quality and energy issues two to three times a month. Read our latest bulletins below or browse the archive. You can also add your own thoughts on the issues raised in our bulletins by clicking the "Add Comment" link below each posting.
This week, world leaders are once again sitting down together in Lima, Peru to talk climate. These giant talk-fests haven’t proven to be terribly effective in addressing our climate crisis, but this meeting may be the most important yet in simply recognizing that we can’t continue to delay – we have to act now to rein in runaway climate change.
Here in Ontario, we have taken a hugely important step forward by eliminating coal-fired electricity. The Ontario Clean Air Alliance led the fight to end dirty coal burning and we are immensely proud of this accomplishment.
Now we have a provincial government that is indicating that it serious about building on the climate benefits of the coal phase out. Ontario joined Quebec, California and British Columbia in announcing its intention to take strong action on climate change, including putting a price on carbon, at the Lima meeting this week.
The challenge is to build a leading low-carbon economy that drives growth in good green jobs and increases the competitiveness of our businesses while reducing our climate pollution. Again, Ontario has made some important commitments on paper: putting Conservation First to improve our energy efficiency, and continuing to expand renewable power.
But the devil is often in the details. For example, our research exposed the province’s lopsided spending on new nuclear plants compared to its spending on conservation and efficiency – that's the kind of important information that the Ontario Clean Air Alliance’s research arm brings to light.
Indeed, our research is helping to frame the discussion on climate action in Ontario. Our documentation of the many benefits of increasing imports of clean, renewable power from Quebec instead of getting sidetracked with costly, high-risk nuclear projects, has struck a chord with Ontarians.
Our research has an extraordinary impact on decision makers because of our highly credible, fact-based focus on making life better for Ontarians.
We’re reaching out today to ask you to support us in building the vision of the Ontario we all want – a province where clean, renewable energy is used as efficiently as possible. With our research we are countering lots of misinformation and outright myths to tell the real story behind Ontario’s energy choices. And we are pointing the way forward with compelling information on the cost savings and health and climate benefits of a low-carbon, high-efficiency approach to meeting our energy needs.
The OCAA has proven time and again that despite modest resources, we can achieve big outcomes. And that’s important, because our world today is facing the biggest challenge we have ever seen in the form of a rapidly unraveling climate system.
We need your support to help us continue to build the case for clean energy leadership in Ontario. Please donate to support our highly respected research today!
Thank you. And blessings of the season.
- Angela Bischoff
Premier Wynne ends electricity separatism
Last Friday Premier Wynne signed a breakthrough agreement with the Premier of Quebec that will end Ontario’s 100-year old policy of electricity separatism.
Starting next year Ontario will provide Quebec with 500 megawatts of electricity supply in the winter when Quebec power demand peaks, while Quebec will provide Ontario with the same in the summer when air conditioning drives up our electricity usage.
Even more importantly, the two provinces have agreed to investigate the potential for a long-term electricity supply contract, which would allow Ontario to import water power from Quebec instead of re-building some or all of its aging nuclear reactors. In our report released last week, we calculated that water power imports from Quebec could save Ontario consumers $14 billion over 20 years by allowing Ontario to phase-out Darlington’s aging reactors.
Congratulations Premier Wynne on providing Ontario with the smart and innovative leadership that we need to green our electricity system and lower our energy bills.
Bruce B Nuclear Re-Build Contract
Alas, there are also some indications that the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) is close to signing a contract with Bruce Power for the re-building of its Bruce B Nuclear Station. If this contract is signed it will be the largest contract with the private sector ever entered into by the Government of Ontario. It will cost Ontario’s consumers $60 billion to $111 billion over 30 years and will ensure that we remain dependent on high-cost nuclear power until 2050 and beyond.
The OPA is hoping that Premier Wynne will allow it to sign this contract before it has been reviewed by the public or the Ontario Energy Board (OEB). This lack of transparency and accountability on a deal this enormous is simply unacceptable.
Please contact Premier Wynne and ask her to direct the OPA to submit the proposed contract to the OEB for a full public review. In particular, before any contract with Bruce Power is signed, the OEB must determine if we can keep our lights on at a lower cost by investing in energy conservation and efficiency and importing water power from Quebec.
As the Ontario and Quebec provincial cabinets meet tomorrow to discuss energy, there is one natural topic of conversation: How can we better integrate our electricity systems to save a whack of cash?
Our neighbour in Quebec has a problem. Their electricity is fetching lower and lower prices in export markets. We have a need: A cost-effective source of power to replace the energy from our aging and expensive-to-rebuild nuclear reactors.
The solution is not exactly rocket science. We strike a deal for power at a price 30% below what we’ll pay in a best-case scenario for juice from a re-built Darlington Plant. Quebec sells us power at a price that is double what they are currently getting for the bulk of the power they sell to the U.S. Both provinces come out ahead by about $14 billion over a 20 year contract.
It would cost just $500 million to put in place the transmission system upgrades needed to take full advantage of Quebec’s power here in Ontario. That’s less than 4% of the cost of re-building Darlington (again, based on optimistic estimates of the re-build cost). The investment would pay for itself in less than one year.
In the LongTerm Energy Plan released last year, the Ontario government said it will “pursue contractual arrangements for firm imports where cost effective and well matched to Ontario’s electricity needs.” We know our needs are well matched, with Quebec electricity demand peaking in winter and Ontario’s in summer, and we know a cost-effective deal is within reach. So we expect that Premier Wynne and Premier Couillard will be making this a top agenda item at their joint cabinet meeting.
Premier Wynne might also want to consider why her power agency is in secret negotiations with privately owned Bruce Power for a contract that could be worth up to $111 billion without first considering lower cost and more flexible options, like Quebec water power. Any deal with Bruce Power should be sent to the Ontario Energy Board for review to ensure it is actually in the best interests of Ontario consumers and ratepayers.
Please send Premier Wynne a message urging her to make a deal with Quebec instead of wasting billions of dollars on high-risk nuclear projects. It is the right thing to do for both provinces.
And read our new report, Ontario’s Long Term Energy Plan: A One Year Review for more on how we can make more rational choices when it comes to electricity in Ontario.
First the good news: Demand for electricity has been steadily falling in Ontario since 2005 despite a growing economy.
The province is now producing 21% more goods and services for every kilowatt hour of electricity consumed than it was in 2005. Since the depths of the 2008-09 recession our economy has steadily recovered while electricity demand has remained largely flat. Better technology such as LED lighting, computerized pumps and motors that adjust to workloads, and more efficient computer data centres are examples of the technologies driving this trend.
But there is bad news: Ontario continues to under invest in this low cost source of energy and remains fixated on spending tens of billions of dollars to re-build increasingly unnecessary nuclear reactors. For every dollar the province has budgeted for energy conservation efforts in the next six years, it plans to spend at least $5.40 on re-building the Darlington Nuclear Station.
The wisdom of spending a whopping 5.4 times more on Darlington is even harder to grasp when you consider that the Ontario Power Authority acknowledges that we can buy conservation kilowatt hours (kWh) for 2 to 4 cents compared to OPG’s “high-confidence” estimate for Darlington of 8.9 cents per kWh. Of course, given that every nuclear project in Ontario’s history has run massively over budget, the difference could be more like 13 times greater spending on Darlington than on improving energy efficiency when the real re-build bills are all in.
The Ontario government has made a worthy commitment to putting Conservation First. But money talks, and throwing billions of dollars at aging nuclear reactors while under spending on efficiency improvements says volumes about how much Ontario is still stuck in the past. Given that our economy will be far further ahead with greater efficiency than with high-cost, high risk nuclear power, we need to turn this spending around and get our province moving toward a high-efficiency future.
For more, read our new factsheets:
High cost jobs
The nuclear industry likes to point out that spending billions of dollars re-building reactors will create and retain jobs. This is, of course, true. Nuclear plants need everything from reactor operators to heavily armed security forces. But what the nuclear industry doesn’t talk about is the cost of retaining nuclear plant jobs for taxpayers.
Ontario Power Generation expects the Ontario Government to provide 100% of the financing for its Darlington Rebuild project. This puts the government on the hook for the whole $12.9 billion cost of this project. Of course, when the project runs over budget, the government – and therefore taxpayers – will have to absorb that cost too, which could run up to $32.25 billion.
That means that every job at a rebuilt Darlington Nuclear Plant will cost taxpayers somewhere between $5.8 and $14.4 million per job.
Let’s compare that to the cost of creating jobs at the Ford auto assembly plant in Oakville. In September 2013, the government invested $70.9 million in a plant that employs 2,800 workers – about 500 more workers than can currently be found at Darlington. The cost per job secured at Ford was $25,000.
That is, the cost to Ontario taxpayers of creating jobs at Darlington will be 232 to 576 times more expensive than creating jobs at the Ford plant.
Clearly, when it comes to using tax dollars to create jobs, nuclear is a costly way to achieve results.
For more, see our recent factsheet: Cost to Ontario taxpayer of securing jobs at Ford Oakville Plant and Darlington Nuclear Station
- Angela Bischoff