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Hill Times Ad Shows Nuclear is Clean Energy

Here is the half-page ad that appeared in the August 11 edition of The Hill Times. It is the last a series of three ads that were selected to run during  the paper’s policy briefing on Canada’s energy sector. 

Hill Times Ad - Renewables

Have a look at the first and second ads! 

CNA Responds Nuclear Energy

Finding Facts in the Fog of Fiction

By John Stewart
Director of Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

Have you seen the email that says, “The nuclear industry doesn’t want you to think about Quebec”? Well, we actually do want you to think about Quebec, because the argument that Ontario could import cheap electricity from Quebec and scrap the refurbishment of the Darlington generating station just doesn’t work.

Commission report on Quebec's energy futureQuebec’s commission on energy policy turned in a report in February 2014 on its public consultations – the same report used as the foundation of the import-from-Quebec argument.

As we pointed out last week, the business case to import Quebec electricity just isn’t there in today’s power market. Don’t just take our word for it. Look at these direct quotes from the commission’s report. (The translation is ours.) It turns out that Quebec is awash in supply that it’s been overpaying for in costly, misplaced efforts to encourage alternatives:

“Electricity demand has flattened…. Despite this, Quebec has added important sources of production: wind, small hydro, biomass…. This reality results in an annual subsidy to electricity producers that will reach $1.2 billion in 2017, at the expense of power consumers and taxpayers.” (p. 21)

“In North America, including Quebec and Ontario, authorities subsidize renewable energy on their own territory… rather than pay a premium for clean energy imported from outside….” (p. 181)

That new supply has been costing Quebec much more than its traditional big hydro. To cover that cost, Hydro Quebec needs to export power at peak periods. Otherwise, it loses money:

“Today, these surpluses can only be disposed of on export markets. The first 10 TWh are exported at peak periods at high prices and are profitable for Quebec. The rest, about 20 TWh, is exported in off-peak periods at an average price of $0.03/KWh. But, the cost of energy from new production sources added since 2008 varies between $0.06/KWh and $0.12/KWh.” (p. 21)

The export channels, or “interconnects,” that export those profitable 10 TWh/year cannot handle a greater load:

“The additional (20 TWh) cannot be sold at peak periods because the current interconnects with neighbouring markets are saturated; it can only be sold in off-peak or base periods at prices that are too low to make recent investments profitable….” (p. 176)

More interconnects are not the answer in this market. Rather, the commission recommends against new export deals, and it calls on the Quebec government to trim the subsidized sources of supply within the province:

“There is no doubt in the Commission’s mind that the government of Quebec must immediately cease new requests for the production of electricity and that it must cancel contracts in the process of renewal….” (p. 184)

As we pointed out last week, this is one reason why actual deals for long-term electric power have been expensive in 2014 (more than 10 cents per KWh in the New England power pool).

Electricity exporters have to earn much more than the average cost of production from their big, efficient base-load generating stations – hydro dams in Quebec, and nuclear energy stations in Ontario. They also have to subsidize pricey alternatives. That’s why they need a sales price that covers production costs plus subsidies.  And any power supply that replaces Darlington must be not only large (over 3,000 MW), but available around the clock – not just off-peak or whenever the interprovincial connections allow it.

The bottom line: facts are facts. The price of power is what people pay for it, and not some made-up number based on flawed assumptions. In today’s market, a profit-seeking Hydro Quebec wouldn’t want to sell electricity to Ontario on a sustained basis below the cost of its most expensive production.

Here’s another fact: nuclear energy safely delivers reliable, low-cost power to Ontario. And, in displacing coal and natural gas from Ontario’s supply mix, nuclear energy reduces Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 90 megatons per year.

You’d think an organization that promotes clean air would celebrate nuclear’s zero-carbon emissions rather than generate a fog of fiction.

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Hill Times Ad Targets the Oil Sands

This is the half-page ad that appeared in the July 28 edition of The Hill Times. It is the second in a series of three ads that were selected to run during  the paper’s policy briefing on Canada’s energy sector.

Hill Times Ad - Oil Sands

Check out the first ad here!

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Using Hydro to Displace Nuclear is Wrong-Headed

This letter deconstructing the Ontario Clean Air Alliance’s proposal to cancel nuclear refurbishments and replace the lost capacity with hydro from Quebec appeared in the Toronto Star on July 28 and is worth highlighting

While importing some hydroelectric power from Quebec may make sense, if the price is right, using that power to displace nuclear is wrong-headed. High electricity costs in Ontario have little to do with nuclear power. The electricity that it produces costs about six cents per kWh, which is half the price of wind power and about one-eighth the price of solar power.

About 75 per cent of the electricity generated in Ontario is from greenhouse gas (GHG) emission-free sources, hydro and nuclear. Most of the remaining electricity is generated by fossil fuels, primarily burning natural gas.

If you are really committed to clean air, it would make far more sense to use any imported hydroelectric power to displace natural gas, rather than displace one GHG-free generation source with another. It does not make sense for an organization committed to clean air to advocate a policy that would perpetuate the burning fossil fuels in Ontario.

Michael Ivanco, President, Society of Professional Engineers and Associates, Mississauga

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Hill Times Ad Speaks to Parliamentarians

Check out the half-page ad that appeared in the July 14 edition of The Hill Times! It is the first in a series of three ads that were selected to run during the paper’s policy briefing on Canada’s energy sector.

Hill Times Ad - Parliament Hill

CNA Responds

Buying Power from Quebec: Opportunity Mugged by Reality

By Dr. John Barrett
President and CEO
Canadian Nuclear Association

Over recent months, a number of opinion pieces have appeared in Canadian newspapers advocating an Ontario Clean Air Alliance call for Ontario to cancel nuclear refurbishment plans in favour of purchasing what they call “cheap” electricity from Quebec. In response to this, Canadian Nuclear Association President John Barrett has written an opinion piece appearing in yesterday’s Toronto Star explaining why such a proposal ignores the realities of Ontario’s power system. 

At first glance, the idea of bringing electricity from Quebec into Ontario makes sense. After all, Ontario’s electricity prices are rising; Quebec already exports vast quantities of electricity to the New England states.

However, the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) and its Quebec ally, Equiterre need to do their homework before pressing this case much farther. Their argument to replace Ontario nuclear power with Quebec hydroelectric power ignores the value that nuclear power provides to the province. It also overlooks the realities of Ontario’s power system.

Ontario’s nuclear plants produce power safely and reliably every day around the clock. Refurbishing the Bruce and Darlington plants will extend their lives for decades, providing an economical, long-term supply of clean electricity for Ontario. Refurbishing 10 reactors also means Ontario will create thousands of jobs within the province.

The reality of an Ontario-Quebec power deal is that it will be purely commercial. Quebec is a very sharp and tough contractor for whom electric power is a rock-hard commercial business. There will not be any nation-building discounts or new Fathers of Confederation.

If you doubt this, consult the power authorities in Newfoundland and Labrador. In 1969, they signed a generation contract with Hydro-Québec that drove power prices steadily lower over 65 years. Even the onset of massive inflation – the general price level has jumped more than 500 per cent since 1969, according to the Bank of Canada – brought no upward adjustment in the price Newfoundland receives for its power.

The six New England states buy electricity from Hydro-Québec through their Independent System Operator (ISO-NE). Since the start of this year, wholesale power contracts for this New England grid have averaged $100 per megawatt-hour – roughly a dime per kilowatt-hour. OCAA and Equiterre suggest that Hydro-Québec would sell power to Ontario at 5.7 cents per kilowatt-hour. Why should Hydro-Québec accept that price when it can get almost twice as much from New England?

Even if Hydro-Québec cut a special deal for Ontario, the needed infrastructure does not exist. Ontario built its electrical grid with self-sufficiency in mind, and its ability to meet electrical demand in Toronto depends on the wires that would carry power from Quebec.

Imagine that Ontario imported all the electricity from Quebec that it could. Interprovincial connections can carry 2,545 MW, or about 70 per cent of the capacity of the Darlington nuclear generating station. But once it crossed the provincial border, Quebec’s electricity would travel through Ottawa on power lines that more resemble a one-lane cart path than a four-lane highway. Upgrading these lines would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and raise power bills accordingly.

Even if Ontario upgraded its lines, however, there remains the issue of Quebec’s export reliability. Hydro-Québec would not meet Ontario’s needs year-round.

In a May 22 letter to Ontario’s system operator, Hydro-Québec writes, “commitment periods need to take seasonal diversity into account.” Quebecers heat with electricity, making winter the season of peak power demand. Feeling a capacity squeeze last winter, and the winter before, Hydro-Québec asked its customers to turn down their thermostats. Even now, Hydro-Québec is issuing contracts to buy power for the next four winters. This hardly sounds like a reliable, year-round power supplier.

What can we learn from these realities? Do the homework, and don’t jump at too-good-to-be-true options.

There are reasons Ontario built its power system the way it did. It sought energy security and self-sufficiency. Ontario could have built a grid that relied on Quebec imports. Instead, it chose nuclear. Along the way, it gained a nuclear industry that has created thousands of jobs in Ontario.

Nuclear-generated electricity was the right choice for Ontario decades ago. It remains the right choice today.