The Ontario Energy Board wants to know what you think of the Ontario Power Authority Integrated Power System Plan (IPSP). And the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) wants to know if you think the IPSP reflects the government’s wish to reduce peak electricity demand, increase the contribution of renewables, and cap nuclear capacity.The reason this all sounds convoluted is because it is. But it really comes down to whether Ontario can—or should—replace coal-fired power generation without increasing nuclear generation.And so begins a new version of the debate that has raged since before the McGuinty Liberals came to power in 2003. What role can conservation and renewables play in picking up after coal’s departure? In my most recent appearance on The Agenda with Steve Paikin, I said that their role is way overblown.
The advent of smart meters will prove me right. Smart meters won’t reduce our overall energy use. If they bring about the desired change in Ontarians’ electricity demand patterns—i.e., if electricity consumers, en masse, shift their current peak use to off-peak periods—the effect will merely be to flatten the provincial load curve. If peak demand drops, baseload demand must rise.
That won’t happen if there is not enough baseload. And there won’t be enough baseload without nuclear. Nuclear is essential if smart meters are to play any role in reducing our peak demand.