Monday, December 12, 2005

Report calls for $70B investment in power

Report calls for $70B investment in power

Recommendation for Ontario nuclear revamp 'crazy,' group says

Heather Sokoloff
National Post

Saturday, December 10, 2005

TORONTO - A government-appointed body is recommending Ontario refurbish or replace its fleet of 12 nuclear power plants at a cost of $30- to $40-billion, according to a report released yesterday that critics said was tainted by political considerations.

The report also recommends transforming Ontario into a North American leader in the usage of wind technology.

Total costs would be about $70-billion, estimates the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), created by the Liberal government to provide a long-term strategy for Ontario's future energy supply as demand and population increase.

The report warns the province will be facing a massive energy shortage when the government makes good on a promise to phase out Ontario's four remaining coal plants by 2009.

At the same time, existing nuclear generation will have to be taken out of service if they are not upgraded in about 10 years, leaving Ontario with an energy gap of about 24,000 megawatts by 2025, equivalent to 80% of the province's current capacity.

"We take this report very seriously," said Donna Cansfield, the Energy Minister.

"We will carefully review the report's advice and analysis as well as public input before making a decision on future supply mix."

The full 1,100-page report will be posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights and Ministry of Energy Web sites for 60 days so the public can provide input.

The government will have a long-term plan worked out by February, Ms. Cansfield said.

But critics said the report's emphasis on nuclear energy was driven by political considerations stemming from the phasing out of coal.

"This is a crazy plan," said Thomas Adams, executive director of Energy Probe, a consumer watch-dog group.

"It's completely driven by ideology. The decision to rule out Ontario's least costly option is really what's driving this."

Howard Hampton, leader of the NDP, said Dalton McGuinty, the Premier, has embraced nuclear power despite Ontario's history of plants that have suffered massive cost overruns and delays in construction.

"This is going to mean very expensive electricity," Mr. Hampton said. "Most of our electricity debt in Ontario is nuclear debt."

The Darlington nuclear plant east of Toronto was originally to be built for $4-billion but had swelled to $15-billion by the time it was completed in the 1990s.

Two years ago, another government report concluded that rebuilding four ageing reactors at Pickering nuclear generating station would cost at least $3-billion more and take five years longer than originally planned.

And critics have also accused Mr. McGuinty of cronyism because several former Liberal staffers are currently employed as lobbyists for the nuclear industry, while former Liberal leader Lyn McLeod is on OPA's board of directors and party fundraiser Jan Carr is the chief executive.

"We are not satisfied that it's appropriate to have a conversation when a large chunk of options are ruled out on the face of it," said Adam White, president of the Association of Major Power Consumers in Ontario, which represents steel, pulp-and-paper and chemical producers.

A report commissioned by his organization concluded Ontario power prices, already in the top quartile in North America, will rise by 25% by 2008.

Mr. White says he wants the government to investigate new technologies that enable coal plants to meet higher environmental standards.

But Amir Shalaby, OPA vice-president, said such technologies cannot remove all contaminants from coal and make it truly clean.

"Cleaner coal is simply not good enough for Ontario at this stage," he said.

The engineering and financing of nuclear plants has improved significantly over the past few decades, he added, suggesting that rebuilding can be done on time and on budget.

Ontario Power Generation's Darlington plant currently runs at 90% capacity all the time, a company spokesperson said.

The Ontario Power Authority report, Ms. Cansfield said, was authored within the parameters of the government's pledge to phase out coal plants, which produce 19% of Ontario's electricity.

The plan would mean nuclear would continue to satisfy half of Ontario''s electricity needs, with renewable forms of energy increasing to 43% by 2025, up from 23% today.

About half of the renewable part of the energy mix would come from installing 5,000 megawatts of wind power by 2025. The remainder would include imported hydro power and smaller solar and biomass procurements.

That much wind power would put Ontario on par with the top wind-producing jurisdictions such as Germany, Denmark and California, said Mr. Shalaby.

The report also recommends careful use of natural gas because of volatile costs, with levels tapering to about 6% of supply by 2025.

Mr. Shalaby defended the plan's $70-billion overall price tag, saying Ontario consumers should be prepared to invest between $1-billion and $2-billion a year in infrastructure for an electricity system that costs them $15-billion annually.

About half the cost could be paid within two decades, he said, with the remainder carried as a debt for the next generation.


Blogger James said...

You can read a lot more about this issue at the Ontario Hydro Electricity page.

4:31 PM  

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