Back in November 2007, I suggested renaming the Debt Retirement Charge portion of every Ontarian’s electricity bill to Climate Change Contribution (see article).
This is just one way of acknowledging that the Darlington nuclear generating plant—which the debt retirement charge pays for—offsets around 27 million tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) every year. History proves that if Darlington weren’t there, we’d be getting its annual 27 billion kWh from coal—and according to Environment Canada coal produces about a kilogram of GHGs for every kWh.
As an electricity consumer, I pay less than $4 a month for Darlington. That’s a small price to pay for the plant’s high quality, zero-emission power.
Last week a federal organization caused a stir by saying that Canadians have to start paying for their carbon. It was suggested that this could result in electricity rate hikes of 50 percent. (Of course it was never mentioned that it is Albertans who would suffer this pain; after all, Alberta’s electricity system is primarily coal-fired. Quebeckers, who already have the cleanest power in the industrialized world, would see no change in power rates. But it is unwise in Canada to point this out.)
Ontario’s experience with the debt retirement charge suggests that the cost of bringing zero-emission power into a system will not result in rate hikes anywhere near 50 percent.
Ontario’s experience also suggests that subsequent incremental rate hikes won’t result in a political apocalypse for the government that brings them in. Other than the usual tax haters and anti-nuclear greens, nobody has raised a fuss over the debt retirement charge.
And if the Debt Retirement Charge were re-framed as the Climate Change Contribution, it would become positively risky to attack it.