Submitted by OCAA on Fri, 10/21/2011 - 04:30.
The Windsor Star
With the provincial election behind us, green energy proponents are giddy with anticipation. They're confident the minority Liberals will push ahead with plans to expand wind and solar energy in Ontario. Indeed, the day after voters went to the polls, shares in most of those companies spiked at the prospect of moving forward.
It's safe to say renewable energy consumed much of the election debate, with the Liberals promising to grow it and Tory Leader Tim Hudak threatening to kill it. What neither talked about was the fact that, despite their green energy differences, both parties were fully committed to expanding nuclear power. The electorate probably missed that point, because nobody seemed to press them on it.
Too bad, because voters are about to discover Premier Dalton McGuinty is just as enamoured of nuclear energy as his PC adversary. Ontario will continue to get 50 per cent of its power from nuclear generation under the Liberal government. And because 80 per cent of the province's capacity needs to be replaced, that will cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
Four reactors at Darlington need to be retrofitted, and two new reactors are expected to be built on the site over the next 10 years. Voters might recall the historic disasters surrounding past builds, and we're not talking about meltdowns. We're talking dollars and cents.
Cost overruns at the old Ontario Hydro saddled the province with billions of dollars in debt, which is why people are still paying the debt retirement charge with no end in sight. These new builds will cost billions more.
So while you can applaud the Liberals for trying to find sustainable, alternative energy sources, you can't ignore the fact that the party will continue to rely on nuclear power to fuel this province. Your energy bill is about to take another leap. Not from the cost of implementing wind and solar, as Hudak would have had you believe, and not because coal-fired plants will close in 2014.
It's because the Liberals still aren't tapping into affordable, abundant and clean hydroelectric power. Why? That's the big question. Quebec has a surplus of hydroelectric power and is eager to sell it. There are seldom price fluctuations during the lifetime of these contracts, and water is a renewable resource that's self-generating.
Could it be that Ontario doesn't want to enter into an agreement with its nearest neighbour, preferring instead to seek modest amounts of hydroelectric power from Labrador? If that's the case, the McGuinty government is doing a real disservice to ratepayers. The province would still have to go through Quebec to get the power it needs, so it seems ridiculous to take that extra step.
Several U.S. states already purchase power from Quebec, and they've seen their bills drop significantly. The use of hydroelectric energy has also resulted in 39 million fewer tons of GHGs being released into the atmosphere.
That's important, because nuclear energy isn't just costly. It has the potential to be dangerous, as we learned from the catastrophic radiation leaks at Fukushima, Japan last March. Several days later, Pickering A released 73,000 litres of demineralized water into Lake Ontario.
The province can't rely on the fledgling green energy segment to supply 50 per cent of the electricity we need. It's simply not possible. But it can't it rely on nuclear energy for 50 per cent, either. There is a viable option in hydroelectricity. McGuinty can sign a contract that will cap costs, provide clean energy and not cripple the province with more costly nuclear investments.
Ask your premier what's stopping him.