CNA Responds: Clearing the Air on Energy Exports

Today we responded to yet another opinion piece from the Clean Air Alliance’s Jack Gibbons. Our response submitted to the Toronto Star is below but here are a couple of extra points we’d like to make:

  • There is affordable, reliable clean air power in Ontario thanks to nuclear.
  • Without low-carbon nuclear power, we would be burning more polluting coal and natural gas.  Nuclear provides the reliable base load we need around the clock for cooling our homes, powering our freezers, etc.
  • The global adjustment (GA) is paid to all power producers – in proportion. Nuclear powers almost 60% of Ontario’s needs and receives only 45% of the provincial GA. That’s a good deal.
  • Many people may not realize that nuclear’s clean, base load power is enabling the province to be coal-free by 2014 and provides the stable base needed to bring more intermittent renewables onto the grid. Nuclear works when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. Nuclear diverts millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions that would result from the same amount of electricity generated by fossil-based sources, like the natural gas Mr. Gibbons is advocating for.
  • According to a report from 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.  Readers might also be interested in the Ontario Auditor General’s examination of the cost of renewable energy initiatives.
  • Simply shelving the province’s Long-Term Energy Plan, as suggested by Mr. Gibbons, in favour of a less reliable, more financially and environmentally costly energy mix, is risking our ability to meet important emissions-reduction targets and the province’s future energy stability and economic competitiveness.

EDIT: The Toronto Star printed a couple of responses correcting Gibbons’ op-ed, including from Michael Ivanco, Society of Professional Engineers and Associates, Mississauga, and Francois Tardif, Trading Analyst, Market Operations, Ontario Power Generation, Woodbridge.

Read their comments here.

Photo credit: KEVIN FRAYER/CP (via thestar.com)

In response to: Why are we paying N.Y. to take our electricity? (Toronto Star, Aug 7)

Jack Gibbons’ argument contains many unsupported statements as well as many misunderstandings:  about the origins of Ontario’s power surplus, the difference between average and spot pricing, the safety and cost record of nuclear, the reliability of market forecasts, and the constraints of planning our long-term infrastructure.

The power surplus originated mainly in a change in the whole economic growth trajectory for North America, one that very few people foresaw.  The predictions (cited by Gibbons) that power demand will remain flat or falling for the next eight years may be no more reliable than the growth projections made in 2005-2007.  Most market projections more than a year or two out are extremely unreliable.

Meeting any large, long-term supply need is likely to involve arrangements that aren’t completely flexible.  These arrangements are usually entered into in order to obtain prices that are stable and low, close to long term average costs.  These are the kinds of prices that nuclear power has delivered to Ontario.  “Spot” market prices that look low are determined by hourly and daily market forces that can change dramatically.

Gibbons talks about wind and gas power that can be turned on and off instantly, but these sources have fixed installation costs.  Costs do not disappear at the moment that a source is disconnected from the grid.

Gibbons’ casual accusation that Pickering A is a “safety and financial hazard” is not supported, nor is his claim that “every nuclear project in Ontario’s history has gone dramatically over budget.”  Pickering, like other CANDU units in Ontario, has a terrific safety and performance record.  To learn about “financial hazards” to their energy bills, Ontarians could read the provincial Auditor General’s critique of the province’s renewable energy program.

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