Electric campaign in Ontario: minority legislature arrives at the crossroads

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

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11 years ago

If someone really wants to pay more for electricity, the solution is simple. My power utility (Avista Utilities in Spokane, Washington) has long allowed customers to pay extra for blocks of wind power (300 kWh/month each, I believe). Signing up for the program obligates Avista to purchase the amount of wind power that the customer pays for.

It will probably surprise no one that very few took advantage of the program (1% to 2%, IIRC). Since the voluntary approach was not working, the “enlighten” folks put a referendum put before the people of Washington State, mandating that “renewables” make up 15% of the power sold. Oh, by the way, existing hydro power doesn’t count.

The referendum passed. Power rates are going up, but few people make the connection to passing the referendum.

11 years ago

“..Wind costs at least twice as much as nuclear..”

You really need to update yourself on wind/nuclear costs.

Here’s the latest Candu build costs – on budget at $2B/Gw or less than 3 cents a kwh when the 1.5 cent a kwh fuel and O&M cost is included.T­he last one was completed in 2007 in Europe.


With a lot of Hitech industry’s being repatriated from China it is obvious Chinese labor costs give it no advantage here. See any Chinese airliners flying around?

Here is Bloomberg on the actual cost $1.2B/Gw ($2007) of the recent AP-1000 builds.


Experience in China is showing nuclear costs dropping rapidly to under 2 cents a kwh as factory module production begins.


Here is a real wind project PGE’s latest wind farm build $15B/Gw (20 cents Kwh at PGE’s discount rate) The cost of wind power is over 30 cents a kwh when taxpayer provided 5 times sized transmission and filthy gas backup is included. When green storage replaces the filthy gas cost increases by a buck a kwh.

Google “pge-to-purchase-operate-246-mw-manzana-wind-project”

That’s an order of magnitude greater than nuke costs.

Steve Aplin
11 years ago
Reply to  seth

Seth, thanks — by “costs” I meant from the viewpoint of the consumer. I just wanted to compare the regulated per-kWh rate for OPG nuclear (5.5 cents per kWh) with the Standard Offer and FIT rate for wind/solar (11 cents under the SO, and 13.5 for FIT wind; solar starts at 42 cents).

11 years ago

Hi Steve,

Great blog and I will be sure to check out your appearance on The Agenda tonight. I recently caught the episode of the agenda (via podcast) with you and the 4 party reps including Brad Duiguid former Energy Minister. It seemed very odd and to be honest, scary, that our political figures are so far apart on what they say and what you were saying. You were talking about the 5.5 cents per kwh while the green party was saying all costs in Nuclear costs around .26 cents/kwh. Duguid was talking about putting more into Wind Turbines and you said we had enough as is and would not need anymore as it is expensive and unreliable. Also, I thought the way you put the debt retirement charge in view was perfect when you said “were talking .7 cents for Nuclear which delivers the goods”.

If Nuclear is clean and cheap then why has their been so much emphasis by the Liberals to build Gas Plants, Turbines and Solar Panels? also where did the Green Party get their number of 26 cents/kwh??


11 years ago
Reply to  D

If Nuclear is clean and cheap then why has their been so much emphasis by the Liberals to build Gas Plants, Turbines and Solar Panels?

Find out, if you can, how much money the provincial government makes when $14 in natural gas is burned to make electricity. Typical natgas royalties range from one-eighth to one-sixth of the $14 natgas deal.

Wind turbine and solar panels produce too little electricity to threaten this gas income.

Will D please post what he is able to find out about the government’s natgas income.

Steve Aplin
11 years ago
Reply to  D

D, the Green Party’s claim of 26 cents per kWh for nuclear comes from the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA). The OCAA is a gas-funded lobby group whose aim is to replace nuclear and coal plants in Ontario with gas-fired plants. The 26 cents per kWh is pure invention. OPG’s nuclear plants get 5.5 cents per kWh for their output, and that’s all-in — i.e. that includes waste and decommissioning.

Look at the OPG’s 2010 Annual Report http://www.opg.com/pdf/Annual%20Reports/Annual%20Report%202010.pdf

The OCAA doesn’t want you to consider that if gas replaced nuclear, gas plants would dump at least 40 MILLION TONS of CO2 into our atmosphere, every single year (some “clean air”). I haven’t begun to think of how much our power would cost if we put a price on all that pollution.

Like every anti-nuclear group, the OCAA promotes wind and solar, knowing full well that wind/solar are a public relations ploy and a Trojan Horse for gas.

[…] [1] Aplin, Steve. "Electric Campaign in Ontario: Minority Legislature Arrives at the Crossroads." Canadian Energy Issues. Canadian Energy Issues, 20 Oct. 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2011. <http://canadianenergyissues.com/2011/10/20/electric-campaign-in-ontario-minority-legislature-arrives…>. […]