The Windsor Star
November 6, 2013


Liberals’ nuclear reactor proposal isn’t wise investment

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli announced last month that the government was scrapping plans for two new nuclear reactors.

“It is not wise to spend billions and billions of dollars on new nuclear when that power is not needed,” he said, deftly sidestepping the fact it was also not wise to spend a billion dollars to move two gas plants that should have stayed put.

The government decision was greeted with either outrage or support, depending on where you stand on the hot-button issue of energy delivery in Ontario.

About the only thing friend and foe could agree on was this: It costs consumers too much money, and that doesn’t make sense. Not when consumption is declining and people are becoming more conservation savvy.

It feels like we’re being punished for doing what the government asked us to do, which is turn down the thermostat, unscrew the incandescents and do our laundry by the light of the silvery moon.

As supply grows and demand dwindles, the price goes up, not down. Not only do you pay for energy used, you pay for delivery charges and retirement of a debt that will never retire. In some areas, you pay a global adjustment, whatever that means.

Which brings us back to Chiarelli’s announcement that the two new reactors are off the table, and 10 existing reactors will be “refurbished” at the Darlington and Bruce stations instead.

Is that a good thing? It’s impossible to tell. If the beleaguered taxpayer can’t even read his own hydro bill, how can he know if the decision makes sense?

That’s probably what the Liberals are hoping for; that nobody will be able to see they really haven’t got a plan to take the province forward. What, for instance, will they do if a decade from now hydro demand rises — or drops even further?

Refurbishing the 10 existing reactors isn’t exactly a bargain. It will cost about $1.5 billion just to do the pre-construction on Darlington. Chiarelli admits he doesn’t know what the final cost will be, but the way this government spends our money, you can bet the project will be over budget and miss its completion date by more than a mile.

As we’ve said before, the reasonable option would be to stop looking at nuclear and start looking at hydroelectric power, which is readily available right next door, in Quebec.

Jack Gibbons, chair of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, thinks the same thing. He says importing water power from Quebec could lower our electricity bills by more than $1 billion a year. The lines are already there, and they could handle enough power to replace 86 per cent of the output of Darlington.

Hydroelectricity is clean, efficient and renewable. It is, as Gibbons says, virtually on our doorstep. What’s not to like?

Another good question. The Liberals have steadfastly refused to even consider importing hydroelectricity from our nearest neighbour. The U.S. Midwest does it and recognizes savings; wouldn’t it make sense for us to do the same?

This government is moving in the wrong direction. Chiarelli needs to present a plan — and a budget — before he starts the ball rolling. The new blueprint, whatever it might be, must include a hydroelectric component.