The Huffington Post
November 22, 2014
Mike Shreiner

Ontario, Don’t Dump Our Money Into Rebuilding an Outdated Power Station

The Ontario government has a decision to make: Raise your electricity bill to rebuild the Darlington Nuclear Station or lower your bill with water power from Quebec.

The historic Memorandum of Understanding signed at a joint Quebec-Ontario cabinet meeting on Friday opens the door to for electricity imports that will save you money.

The average household can save between $52 and $192 per year if Ontario cancels the Darlington Nuclear Rebuild and instead signs a power deal for existing Quebec water power. The province could save between $700 million and $2.6 billion per year — a whopping $52 billion over 20 years.

Quebec Premier Phillippe Couillard has made it clear that his province has surplus electricity, and Quebec is eager to sell it to Ontario, especially since U.S. demand for Quebec power is declining.

An Ontario-Quebec partnership makes sense when you look at each province’s electricity demand: Quebec’s demand peaks in the winter, while Ontario’s demand peaks in the summer. This synergy makes it easier for Quebec to supply Ontario with reliable, existing surplus power.

Now that Ontario has set aside electricity separatism with Friday’s MOU, the big question is whether the Liberals will take advantage of this historic opportunity to save you money by cancelling the Darlington rebuild.

On paper it’s a no-brainer: Ontario can avoid spending billions on a risky energy project at a time when the Liberals are under intense criticism for rising electricity prices and gas plant scandals.

But, as any sports fan can tell you, games are not decided by what looks best on paper. The nuclear lobby has cranked up the pressure to protect their privileged status. Six-figure incomes and gold plated pensions are worth fighting to protect — if you’re lucky enough to get one. I can’t turn on a Jays, Leafs or Raptors game without hearing pro-nuke commercials. And if I were a betting person, I’d wager the pressure will increase after Friday’s MOU.

The nuclear lobby raises concerns that transmission capacity between the two provinces is insufficient. Existing transmission capacity, however, could replace 97 per cent of the power generated by Darlington. The cost to upgrade transmission to what is called a “firm import” that can be made on a continuous basis during every hour of the year would cost $500 million. Since an energy partnership with Quebec would save a minimum of $700 million per year, this upgrade will pay for itself in just a few months.

The nuclear lobby also threatens that an energy deal with Quebec would cost Ontario jobs. Studies show, however, that energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy projects create three times more jobs than nuclear or fossil fuels for the same investment dollar. The Ontario Clean Air Alliance estimates that Ontario will spend $5.8 to $14.4 million per job for the Darlington Rebuild. Surely we can create better jobs at a lower cost.

Dumping $12.9 to $32.2 billion into rebuilding Darlington would lock Ontario into yesterday’s technology. The province would not have the capital or grid capacity to take advantage of innovative technologies that will meet our energy needs at a lower cost moving forward. The price of solar, for example, has dropped 60% since 2010 and is expected to keep falling with advances in technology. Ontario needs to invest in clean energy or we’ll be left behind.

No nuclear project in Ontario’s history has delivered on time or on budget. No private company will insure nuclear plants because the risks are too high. TD Bank CEO Ed Clark says Darlington “carries enormous risks.” Standard and Poor revised its outlook on Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to “negative” in November 2012 due in part to the risk of cost overruns at Darlington. And the government still has no solution for nuclear waste.

Is this the legacy we want to leave our children when there are cheaper and safer alternatives to rebuilding Darlington? Why should Ontario stagnate by dumping billions into outdated technology when moving to cleaner energy sources helps our economy and our environment?

The Ontario Government has a clear choice between a working, clean, low-cost, modern energy solution or electricity powered by systemic and perpetual handouts to an industry whose time has come and gone. For the sake of our wallets and our children’s piggy banks, let’s hope the Liberals make the right choice.