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Chart a new course for our long term energy needs

Fri, 12/16/2016 - 12:15

Nuclear is expensive. So why are the Liberals saying yes to OPG's request for a 180% price increase for nuclear power?
Hon. Glen Thibeault, Minister of Energy
4th Floor, Hearst Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2E1

December 16, 2016

Open Letter

RE: Updates to the Long Term Energy Plan

Dear Hon. Minister Thibeault, 

We are all feeling the pain of rising energy prices in Ontario. The cost of electricity is hurting our bottom line both in our homes and for our businesses.

It’s clear the current Long Term Energy Plan (LTEP) is not delivering what we need. The status quo is too centralized, top down and expensive. 

We’re faced with an inefficient, outdated system. Ontario is at risk of having expensive stranded assets that costs us billions if the government continues to spend money on large centralized power generation--such as nuclear plants--at a time when technology is changing rapidly. This approach risks leaving us with expensive unusable eyesores even while our bills are skyrocketing. 

The good news is that there are opportunities to chart a new course with the 2017 Long Term Energy Plan (LTEP)—a course that is clean, affordable, transparent, low-carbon and flexible. 

Moving away from centralized energy systems not only supports the use of clean, affordable low-carbon energy solutions, it can also revitalize communities and local economies. 

This course will require political leadership, however. The Liberal government will have to say no to powerful interests that want to preserve the broken status quo. They will have to have the courage of making the right choices for the province, instead of the politically motivated choices they have made in the past.

Let’s get this right for our economy and climate, our pocketbooks and communities. The new LTEP needs to:

1.    Begin with an independent public review of the full life cycle costs and pollution profile of all sources of electricity generation. 
It makes no sense for Ontario to commit billions to rebuilding nuclear plants, for example, or to commit to long-term guaranteed energy contracts without an independent cost analysis of alternatives. It’s also essential that we understand the impact of each generation source on climate change.

So far the government has refused to conduct such a public review of costs. But the only way to gain public trust in electricity procurement is to be transparent about the costs and pollution profile of energy sources. 

2.    Stop the further privatization of Hydro One. 
The Financial Accountability Office has already determined that this is a money loser for Ontario. In addition, a privatized Hydro One could undermine public policy goals such as energy efficiency and conservation -- programs that save money by saving energy. A privately owned Hydro One won’t have any incentive to reduce the amount of electricity flowing through its transmission lines, even though this is likely the best policy option for the people of Ontario.

3.    Establish clear, ambitious energy efficiency and conservation targets. 
We can all save money by saving energy in our homes and businesses by using energy more efficiently. Even better, efficiency and conservation will save taxpayers and ratepayers even more money because we won’t have to build as many new sources of power generation. 

Ontario should develop programs that pay for conservation kilowatts, especially during peak demand. Conservation programs are the lowest cost way to meet Ontario’s energy needs. 

4.    Develop a transition plan to move to a decentralized, distributed and local energy system. 
Innovation and disruptive technologies are dramatically changing the way energy is produced, distributed and used. Ontario must be prepared to capitalize on global trends to have digitized, adaptable, distributed, flexible, and decentralized energy systems. Locally-sourced, -owned, and –operated energy infrastructure creates efficiencies and local economic benefits. 

The LTEP should also require and support municipalities to develop community energy plans. And it should stop further consolidation and privatization of Local Distribution Companies in order to support publicly owned, community focused power distribution.

5.    Target 100% renewable energy by 2050. 
Scientists tell us that we must transition to renewables to avoid the worst risks associated with the climate crisis. Ontario should jump on this chance to both meet our climate targets and be a leader in the low carbon global economy.

To do this, the LTEP needs to be flexible. Technology changes so rapidly these days that the system must be designed to take full advantage of declining prices for new technologies. 

This includes supporting research and development of ways to use Ontario’s sources of bioenergy, especially the use of green natural gas, and energy storage. The LTEP will require an integrated approach to energy planning across all sectors including power, heating, cooling and transportation to maximize efficiency and minimize costs. 

The LTEP should be designed in a way that aligns Ontario’s climate obligations with sustainable energy planning. Combining renewable energy and storage with conservation and efficiency will increase the province’s energy reliability and security while also addressing other important social goals such as affordability, resiliency, job creation, innovation and community benefits. 

6.    Close the Pickering Nuclear Station in 2018 as scheduled, and re-think current plans to rebuild nuclear plants. 
People in Ontario cannot afford the 180% price increase that Ontario Power Generation has requested to keep Pickering open and to rebuild Darlington. 

Since no nuclear project in Ontario’s history has delivered on time or budget, the contract to rebuild Bruce should require a fixed price and not allow cost overruns to be offloaded on to ratepayers or taxpayers. 

In fact, all nuclear rebuilds should be paused until an independent public review of costs and alternatives is completed. For example, low cost alternatives, such as water power imports from Quebec, should be considered before rebuilding nuclear plants. 

As well, the province should examine whether centralized, inflexible nuclear power is compatible with other policy goals. If we’re going to take advantage of new technologies, nuclear -- which is expensive to build and difficult to take offline once running -- is not a nimble 21st century solution.

Conclusion

Ontario has a choice to make: will the province double down on outdated expensive technology or chart a new course that takes advantage of new technologies to develop a more flexible, affordable, clean energy future. 

The Green Party believes the costs of a centralized, top down approach to energy planning is unaffordable and unnecessary in the 21st century. We urge the government to make a bold break from the status quo. The 2017 LTEP is the time to do it. 

Sincerely,

Mike Schreiner
Leader, GPO
 


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