Ontario’s (nuclear) energy future

The Ontario Power Authority has released its report with recommendations on Ontario’s electricity future, and Energy Minister Donna Cansfield has requested input from the community before the Province decides how to proceed. There are a number of concerns for the Green Party in the report, which claims to focus on conservation and renewables but plans investment in nuclear facilities to maintain a 50% contribution from nuclear in the energy mix, while achieving only a 5% reduction in projected demand through conservation, by far a cheaper and less harmful option.

Please write courteous letters to Minister Cansfield expressing your concerns about the high investment in nuclear power and the lack of commitment to conservation. Emailed letters can be sent to the “Ministry of Energy” <email got deleted, sorry>.

Copies can be sent to:
“Minister Cansfield” <email got deleted, sorry>,
“Premier Dalton McGuinty” <email got deleted, sorry>,
“Opposition leader John Tory” <email got deleted, sorry>,
“NDP leader Howard Hampton” <email got deleted, sorry>,
“Green Party of Ontario leader Frank de Jong” <email got deleted, sorry>,
“NDP MPP Peter Tabuns” <email got deleted, sorry>

Please feel free to use part or all of the letter below.

Letter to Minister Cansfield

2006 February 21
Dear Minister,

Thank you for soliciting community opinion about energy planning for the coming decades. It is imperative that we make wise choices today to secure a better world in years to come.

I am disturbed by the recommendations in the Ontario Power Authority report. While the conclusion states that the report “is intended to set Ontario on a course to maximize conservation and build on its potential in the future and to pursue an aggressive course for renewables”, the actual recommendations in no way support these conclusions.

Ontario is a very wasteful society. Our electrical consumption is double that of our neighbours in New York state and roughly double that of many European countries. I would assume that maximizing conservation would achieve consumption levels no higher than those existing in many developed and prosperous countries. Instead, the report proposes that a mere 5% of projected demand will be met through conservation and demand management.

The Province has, in fact, taken substantive steps away from conservation, by creating disincentives to conservation in the form of rate caps for large industrial users, who comprise fewer than 2% of users and use 50% of the electricity consumed in Ontario. These are the very users that could most effectively reduce demand. While it is understandable that the Province wants to encourage them to remain and keep jobs in Ontario, a saner, more rational way of spending that same money would be to offer efficiency rebates in equivalent amounts. The resulting electricity savings would produce economic benefits for the companies at tremendous benefit to the health of Ontarians.

The most distressing part of the report is the recommended investment in nuclear energy to make up the shortfall in projected demand. I object to this path on two grounds:

First, nuclear energy has unquantifiable risks which are completely inappropriate to impose on a population unwilling to face them. In my conversations with my neighbours and friends, only a handful of them support nuclear energy, and those either work for the nuclear industry or represent its workers. The vast majority of the people I meet express a willingness to face substantial price increases rather than the risks of nuclear power.

Second, because nuclear reactors are so dreadfully expensive to install and have a long history of shortfall, the debt burden they will generate will eliminate any meaningful conservation. Because they can only recover their costs through energy sales, there will be pressure to maintain high levels of demand and no incentive for conservation. Worse yet, if Ontarians were to make the difficult choices necessary to reduce demand, we would still end up with the same risks brought on by the nuclear industry, while the electricity generated would feed our neighbours’ overconsumption.

True commitment to conservation must begin with a rejection of the methods that have gotten us into our current dificulties. We must address projected shortfalls with bold steps in conservation, rather than forever meeting demand with increasingly hazardous supply, which gets paid for by creating ever greater demand in a spiraling pattern of overconsumption.

Minister, I care very deeply about the world I will be leaving to my children and grandchildren. The energy policy you make will affect Ontarians for decades to come. I beg you to make the necessary changes in energy policy that will leave us all a world worth living in.

Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu
Toronto, Canada

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