Toronto Star
May 4, 2012
Andrew Reeves

End nuclear subsidies, alliance urges

The Ontario Clean Air Alliance wants the government to gradually phase-out subsidies to the nuclear industry while lowering electricity bills through investments in hydro-power imports from Quebec and increased energy efficiency.

The call comes as hydro rates rose by an average of 5.5 per cent on Tuesday, with the average household facing a $4 to $6 a month increase.

“Since 2006, 45 per cent of the increases in electricity prices are due to nuclear subsidies, but this is not what you hear in the media, where it’s reported that green energy is responsible for rising electricity prices,” Ontario Clean Air Alliance Chair Jack Gibbons told QP Briefing.

“The Ontario Energy Board showed this isn’t true: They argued green energy is pushing it up by six per cent but it’s dwarfed by nuclear. The public is being misled.”

Gibbons points to the Liberals’ proposed $33 billion nuclear spending program as evidence that the government is not searching for cost-effective measures to keep electricity prices down.

“They don’t need to do this,” Gibbons said. “Ontario should focus on low cost options like energy efficiency measures and hydro imports from Quebec that cost one-third that of new nuclear.”

NDP Energy critic Peter Tabuns agreed. “Ontario would be far better off looking for every energy efficiency and conservation opportunity, and taking advantage of those which are far less expensive to reduce demand and individual operating bills,” he told QP Briefing.

But Ministry of Energy spokesperson Daniel Cayley disagreed with the assertion that nuclear subsidies are responsible for increasing energy prices by 45 per cent since 2006.

“Ontario does not subsidize nuclear power,” Cayley told QP Briefing.

“Ontario Power Generation’s nuclear generation receives a regulated rate set by the Ontario Energy Board. Bruce Power’s nuclear generation receives a combination of the market rate and a contracted rate negotiated with the Ontario Power Authority,” he said.

“When there is a difference between the market rate for electricity and the contracted/regulated rate, it is made up through the Global Adjustment. The decrease in the market rate for electricity since 2006 has led to a higher Global Adjustment.”

What this means is that “45 per cent of the Global Adjustment since 2006 is attributed to nuclear power,” Cayley said, “not a 45 per cent increase in electricity prices.”

Tory Energy Critic Vic Fideli told QP Briefing that “the Global Adjustment is where the real problem is in family and business energy bills. A few years ago that line wasn’t there on your bill but now the Global Adjustment rate has skyrocketed.”

Still, Fedeli put the emphasis for higher electricity pricing back at the feet of green energy as opposed to nuclear subsidies.

“If 45 per cent of the Global Adjustment comes from supporting nuclear, you need to balance that with nuclear creating 56 per cent of the energy we use, whereas 6 per cent of the Global Adjustment comes from wind but wind makes only 3 per cent of the energy we create,” he said.