Subway and streetcar riders in Toronto should get familiar with the electricity war in the Ontario legislature. Actually, everybody in the Greater Toronto Area should get familiar with it. The GTA runs on electricity.
The war is over electricity prices. Should they be high or low? Some people think they should be high. Such people urge the government to increase its commitment to “green” programs like the feed-in tariff which pays premium prices for wind and solar electricity and passes the cost through to electricity consumers.
Would this be the right move? Here are some of the effects of high electricity prices.
- High electricity prices will drive up the cost of living in the GTA. Subways and streetcars run on electricity; jack up the price of electricity, and subway fares will have to go up.
- Same with rents and fees in apartments and condos: this kind of housing is literally uninhabitable without electricity. Again, if electricity prices rise, so do rents.
- And so does food: grocery stores use lots of power to keep food from going bad.
High electricity prices appeal to some people. That is why electricity retailers like Bullfrog Power exist. Bullfrog claims to sell only “green” power, including wind and solar. In reality, wind and solar cannot exist on an electricity grid without massive fossil backup.
Most people, though, do not want high electricity prices. These include people who live in apartment high-rises and who ride the subway and streetcar. The already live an incredibly low-carbon lifestyle. High electricity prices would punish them for this lifestyle.
The cheapest power in Ontario is hydro, but that is tapped out. The next cheapest is nuclear. Ontario could double its nuclear capacity without increasing the physical footprint of the plants that already exist. Both hydro and nuclear are carbon-free, and cheap.
Wind and solar are neither carbon-free nor cheap. Wind costs at least twice as much as nuclear, and it is never reliable. Recall the heat wave last summer. When we needed every kilowatt we could get, wind was missing in action.
I think it is clear. For life to remain affordable in the GTA and the rest of Ontario, and for our power to remain low-carbon, we need more nuclear.
I’ll be discussing the issue of energy in the new minority legislature on The Agenda with Steve Paikin. Tonight at eight—make sure to watch.
Here is the debate, on YouTube: