Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaigner, Shawn-Patrick Stensil, wrote a blog recently blaming nuclear energy for Ontario’s rising electricity rates. He referred to a small section (pp. 69-70) of a very complex and technical report by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) that investigates the sources of something called “Global Adjustment” — which is not the same as “recent increases in your electricity bill.”
To better understand the costs of Ontario’s energy mix, plain and accessible information can be found in the provincial Auditor General’s latest report, which tells us:
“Billions of dollars were committed to renewable energy without fully evaluating the impact, the trade-offs, and the alternatives through a comprehensive business-case analysis” (page 97).
“In November 2010, the Ministry [of Energy] forecast that a typical residential electricity bill would rise about 7.9% annually over the next five years, with 56% of the increase due to investments in renewable energy” (page 89).
“In April 2010, the OEB completed an analysis predicting that a typical household’s annual electricity bill will increase by about $570, or 46%, from about $1,250 in 2009 to more than $1,820 by 2014. More than half of this increase would be because of renewable energy contracts” (page 95).
And this is despite the far larger and more reliable role that nuclear plays, relative to renewables, in our power supply. Nuclear energy is an integral part of Ontario’s clean energy portfolio. And because nuclear energy facilities produce large amounts of continuous power, they enable the use of complementary renewable energy sources, like wind and solar. Without nuclear energy, this base load power would need to be supplied by burning carbon-emitting coal or gas.
The AG’s report also clarifies what role Global Adjustment plays in your electricity bill (see graphs on page 94). It recommends that the Province should “increase consumer awareness of the concept of the Global Adjustment and make more information available on the cost impact of its major components,” a step that the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) and our members would welcome.
In fact, according to the OECD, Canadians pay the same or less for electricity from nuclear power compared to all other forms of electricity; and the overall cost to the consumer is similar to that of large-scale hydro, natural gas and coal, and much lower than wind and solar. Here’s a link to that report as well.
There’s a reason anti-nuclear activists tend to criticize nuclear energy based on cost rather than on environmental arguments about the technology itself. Critics know there are virtually no greenhouse gas emissions from our nuclear facilities and that nuclear does not contribute to climate change or smog. Carbon-cutting is at the top of all of our agendas and is an area where nuclear makes a valuable contribution to Canada’s status as a clean energy superpower. Nuclear energy saves the potential emission of about 90 million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year that would result from the same amount of electricity generated by fossil-based sources. Many people may not realize that nuclear’s clean, base load power is enabling the province of Ontario to be coal-free by 2014 and provides the stable base needed to bring renewables onto the grid.
The CNA invites Canadians to read the Auditor General’s report and make an informed decision on energy costs. We also invite you to join the conversation on our TalkNUclear blog, Facebook and Twitter and ask us about the topics that are important to you. Our NU microsite NUnuclear.ca is an excellent tool that illustrates the role nuclear technology plays in our daily lives beyond power generation. From life-saving nuclear medicine to enabling materials safety, we depend on nuclear for much more than just keeping the lights on.
Thank you to Greenpeace for allowing us to address this issue and clarify the facts for Canadians.
The Canadian Nuclear Association