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Open Letter to Premiers Couillard and Wynne

April 9, 2015

Open Letter to Premiers Couillard and Wynne

Please click here to send a letter to Premiers Wynne and Couillard asking them to sign a long-term electricity cooperation agreement to save both provinces $14 billion while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

A 14 billion win-win deal: Working together to create a green electricity future in Eastern Canada

Dear Premiers Couillard and Wynne:

On November 21, 2014 in Toronto you agreed to investigate “long-term opportunities to expand electricity trade” between Quebec and Ontario.

At the April 14, 2015 Climate Summit in Quebec City we hope that you will sign a win-win, long-term electricity supply agreement that will help both Ontario and Quebec move towards a green electricity future, while providing economic benefits of $14 billion for each province over the next 20 years.

As you know, Quebec is the fourth largest producer of water power in the world and has the lowest electricity rates in North America. In addition, according to the Quebec Energy Commission, Quebec has a large and growing surplus of water power which it is exporting to the United States at an average price of 3 cents per kWh.

At the same time, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is proposing to re-build the Darlington Nuclear Station’s aging reactors. According to OPG, this project will pro­duce electricity at a cost of at least 8.9 cents per kWh. Clearly, it doesn’t make sense for Ontario to re-build its aging reactors to produce electricity at a cost of 8.9 cents or higher per kWh, when Quebec is exporting power to the U.S. for 3 cents per kWh.

In 2010, Hydro Quebec signed a 26-year electricity export contract with Vermont for 5.8 cents per kWh. A long-term Quebec-Ontario electricity supply contract could provide the following benefits:

  • Increase Hydro Quebec’s export profits by $700 million per year or $14 billion over 20 years.

  • Reduce Ontario’s electricity bills by $700 million per year or $14 billion over 20 years and permit it to can­cel the Darlington Re-Build Project, thereby avoiding the need for substantial provincial financing of this high-risk project .It could also help to create a more flexible and efficient electricity system in Ontario, and avoid the risk of accidents that could deeply affect both Ontario and Quebec.

  • Allow Ontario to store significant quantities of wind power using Quebec’s huge reservoir storage capacity.

  • Allow for greater use of zero emission power to meet our provinces’ distinct peak demand periods (winter in Quebec and summer in Ontario).

Water power imports from Quebec and the cancellation of Ontario’s nuclear re-build projects could also avoid the need for a large increase in Ontario’s gas-fired generation during the next 15 years while Ontario’s aging nuclear reactors are being re-built.

The savings made in Quebec and Ontario could also be reinvested in energy efficiency, helping Eastern Canada move toward a greener energy future.

Please click here to send a letter to Premiers Wynne and Couillard asking them to sign a long-term electricity cooperation agreement to save both provinces $14 billion while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Yours sincerely,

Angela Bischoff and Jack Gibbons, Ontario Clean Air Alliance

Christian Simard, General Manager at Nature Quebec

Real Reid, former lead researcher at Hydro-Quebec on wind and renewable energy

Saving $34 billion while pricing carbon

With scientists warning that we have already triggered a climate change avalanche that is only building up speed, the Ontario Government’s commitment to develop a climate plan with teeth has come not a moment too soon.

The biggest emissions reduction lever in the government’s proposed approach is putting a price on carbon. Not surprisingly, we are already hearing business groups and right wing think tanks calling pricing pollution a job and economy killer.

But there is actually a simple way for the government to completely offset any increased costs created by pricing carbon: maximize our energy efficiency and don’t waste billions of dollars on re-building the Darlington Nuclear Station. By allowing our electric and natural gas utilities to pursue all cost-effective conservation measures and by importing low-cost water power from Quebec instead of re-building Darlington, we can save Ontario businesses and consumers $34 billion on energy costs over the next 20 years . For more information, please read our new report: Achieving our climate goals while lowering our energy bills.

Of course, these measures will also help us to lower our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Natural gas use is the second largest source of GHG emissions in Ontario, so anything we can do to ensure our homes and businesses use less gas while maintaining comfort and improving productivity will be good for both our climate and our economy. And not having to fire up gas plants for 15-20 years to provide replacement power during the costly re-building of our aging reactors will also deliver emission reductions when we need them most – today.

Please tell the government that you support its plan to introduce carbon pricing as a key element in building a high efficiency, low carbon economy. And point out the benefits of maximizing our energy conservation efforts and importing low-cost water power from Quebec. You can send an official response to the government’s Climate Change Discussion paper here.

Thank you for contributing to the climate conversation. Please pass this onto a friend.

Angela Bischoff

We'll see SNC Lavalin Nuclear in court

In March 2011, the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to obtain details of the contract between Aecon Construction, SNC Lavalin Nuclear and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) for the re-building of four reactors at the Darlington Nuclear Station on Lake Ontario.

Aecon Construction and SNC Lavalin, not surprisingly, are not keen to reveal just how rich this mega contract is and refused to provide the information. However, the the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) ruled that the companies should provide relevant details, a decision Aecon and SNC then appealed to the Superior Court.

The companies are insisting that they were “confused” by the Freedom of Information request process, which the Privacy Commissioner’s counsel notes is rather odd, considering that these “are multi-billion dollar companies that have access to a wealth of internal and external legal resources [and] have a history of being involved in access to information requests in other Canadian jurisdictions.``

The companies are also trying to use another technicality to shield the details of the deal, including whether it allows cost overruns to be passed onto taxpayers and ratepayers. They are insisting that contracts are not covered by FOI legislation because they represent information provided by one party to another. The Commissioner's counsel strongly disagrees in her response, citing an explanation from the Government of Canada:

“.. . The intention of Parliament in exempting financial and commercial information from disclosure applies to confidential information submitted to the government, not negotiated amounts for goods or services. Otherwise, every contract amount with the government would be exempt from disclosure, and the public would have no access to this important information ...”

Given the long history of secret deals in Ontario’s nuclear power sector that have led to massive cost overruns – and massive debt for Ontario taxpayers and ratepayers – the OCAA believes the public has every right to know more about the deal struck between OPG and these two construction and engineering giants. We would like to thank the Information and Privacy Commissioner for robustly defending our right to see this information.

We’re hoping we won’t have to repeat this difficult and time consuming exercise with another secret nuclear deal – an agreement to rebuild reactors at the Bruce Nuclear Station. Instead of forcing public interest groups to file freedom of information requests after the fact, the government should walk its talk on openness and transparency by sending any proposed Bruce Deal to the Ontario Energy Board for a full public review.

Please join us to observe the proceedings as well as to show your support for greater transparency in government decision making this coming Monday :

  • Monday March 2, 10 a.m.(come at any time during the day)
  • Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen St. West (NE corner of Queen/University), in Courtroom # 3 (on 2ndfloor), entrance off Queen St., Toronto

A little sunshine can keep everyone healthier.

Hope to see you on Monday. Thanks.

Angela Bischoff

p.s. Our Ontario budget proposal to take a pass on rebuilding the Darlington Nuclear Plant in favour of importing lower-cost water power from Quebec has clearly made some vested interests in the Ontario nuclear industry very nervous. Our proposal on the government's budget consultation website has suddenly been inundated with "thumbs down" votes. This orchestrated campaign to deep six our idea just shows how the nuclear industry really can't compete with our highly sensible proposal. Don't let them get away with it! Give our idea a thumbs up right now.

Getting Ontarians moving while saving them money

The Ontario Government is looking for ways to stretch its budget while investing in long overdue infrastructure improvements, like expanded transit and safe bridges. 
Here’s the idea we have submitted: Refocus our electricity system away from high-cost nuclear and toward lower cost water power imports from Quebec.  You can help us demonstrate strong public support for this sensible solution by giving it the thumbs up at: https://talk.ontario.ca/idea/getting-ontarians-moving-while-saving-them-money
By cancelling the already over budget Darlington Re-Build Project, the province can free up $12.9 to $32 billion of government money that can be invested in transportation infrastructure instead.
Meanwhile, signing a long-term electricity contract with Quebec to replace power from Darlington would save electricity ratepayers $14 billion over 20 years.
Transmission system upgrades needed to take full advantage of the low-cost power Quebec has available would cost only $500 million – a cost that would be paid back in less than a year through electricity bill cost savings.
Investing in a more flexible and lower risk electricity system can pay off with lower electricity rates and greater resources for needed infrastructure investments in other areas, such as transit.
For more information, please see Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan: A One Year Review.

Who will stand up against secrecy?

Another secret power deal is the last thing the people of Ontario need. At least three of the candidates in the upcoming Sudbury by-election have gotten that message and are calling for an independent review of any multi-billion dollar deal to rebuild reactors at the Bruce Nuclear Station on Lake Huron.

But despite Premier Wynne’s commitment to running “the most open and transparent government in the country,” Liberal candidate Glenn Thibeault is refusing to commit to a review of what could easily be the largest contract with a private sector company ever signed by the Government of Ontario. Progressive Conservative candidate Paula Peroni, meanwhile, says she can’t take a position until she has more information, something an independent review just might help with.

NDP candidate Suzanne Shawbonquit, Green Party candidate David Robinson and Independent Andrew Olivier all understand the huge risks involved in signing another blank cheque for a nuclear re-build project given the record of every such project in Ontario’s history going massively over budget.

They also understand that we need a review to determine whether we even need the power from Bruce, given dropping electricity demand and more cost-effective alternatives, such as water power imports from Quebec.

A full Ontario Energy Board review is the only way we can ensure that signing a $60 - $111 billion deal to re-build aging reactors is the best solution to meeting our electricity needs. It’s time to bring this deal out of the backrooms and into the light.

Help us spread the word about a need for a transparent and thorough review of any Bruce Deal by ordering copies of our new pamphlet. They’re free and a great way to help make sure we make decisions based on the real facts, not just private interests. Order them now! Thanks.

Angela Bischoff

p.s. I'm inviting people to help me leaflet blitz Premier Wynne's riding (Don Valley West). If you can help, let me know.

Sunshine needed amidst potential conflict of interest

Sunshine needed amidst potential conflict of interest
A full public review of the huge deal being negotiated between the Ontario government and Bruce Power is critical given a large potential conflict of interest for those helping to shape the government’s negotiating position and responsible for power-system planning.
Two unions representing workers at the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) also have significant investments in Bruce Power, holding a total of 7% of the equity in the more than billion dollar private company. This arrangement puts IESO staff in the uncomfortable position of supporting negotiations with a company whose success or failure could have a significant impact on their union’s bottom line. The investments held by the Power Workers Union and the Society of Energy Professionals are not pension plan investments – they are direct investments of union funds in Bruce Power, creating a powerful link between the company’s profitability and the two unions’ financial positions.
Given the recent serious conflict of interest concerns raised at one of the newly merged IESO’s predecessors, the Ontario Power Authority, the government needs to take this potential conflict very seriously. And that means bringing these backroom negotiations out into the light of day by ordering a full review of any draft deal by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB).
An OEB review can ensure that any deal reached with Bruce truly is in the best interests of all Ontarians and that it represents good value for money. It is also our best chance for an unbiased comparison of any Bruce Power deal to other options, including lower cost electricity imports from Quebec.
Premier Wynne has stated that “We want to be the most open and transparent government in the country.” Only a full public OEB review of any Bruce deal can meet that standard.
Please send a letter to Premier Wynne here calling for a transparent review of any proposed Bruce deal, especially in light of a potential conflict of interest.
Thank you.
Angela Bischoff