Ontario’s regulated power generator, OPG, has asked the provincial regulator for permission to increase rates by 14 percent. OPG says it needs to raise money to build new nuclear and hydro facilities. It appears that green groups, or at least those who talked to the Toronto Star’s Ian Urquhart the other day, approve of the rate hike.
This is a bit of a switch. Have the greens accepted nuclear’s predominant role in our energy mix? Either they missed the part about the proposed rate hike paying for new nukes or they’re finally prepared to admit that conservation and renewables cannot play a significant role in our power system.
I have no problem with a utility raising rates to cover costs and maintain reasonable return on investment. I have been calling for new nuclear plants, and this is at least part of the way we’ll pay for them. I also suggested a way to make this palatable to electricity consumers, by rewording the Debt Retirement Charge portion of the bi-monthly power bill (see article).
But that’s how OPG can pay for its regulated assets (assuming Pickering 2 and 3—and the entire Pickering B station—stay regulated if and when they’re replaced with new reactors). How will the operator of OPG’s non-regulated nuclear assets, Bruce Power, raise the money to replace the reactors at Bruce B? Should government provide the same kind of financial assistance—loan guarantees, construction delay insurance, tax credits on zero-emission power production—that the U.S. EPAct does? To me that’s not a bad idea. Ontarians and Canadians have indicated they approve of money being spent to reduce emissions, and nuclear has a proven track record of doing that on a grand scale (see article).
And with the greens’ uncharacteristic mildness on OPG’s overt nuclear-related rate hike, maybe this is not as much of a political non-starter as it seems at first blush.