Study of Ontario power needs finds nuclear is best option

A new study of options for Ontario’s future electricity needs finds that nuclear power is the best choice for the province. The study finds that Ontario’s current plans to increase wind power will cost ratepayers more money and lead to a surplus of power generation. Going with the nuclear option, however, which would see refurbishing existing nuclear facilities and building new facilities, will provide the greatest benefits to the province. Those benefits would be in the form of cost savings, employment gains, and reduced greenhouse emissions between now and 2035. The study was funded by the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries and supported by the Power Workers’ Union.

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A study of Ontario’s electricity needs by Strategic Policy Economics finds that the current plan to increase reliance on wind-generated electricity while cutting nuclear will lead to greater costs for electricity as well as depriving the province of jobs. Chart from Ontario Electricity Options Comparison.

The “rigorous and fact-based” study comes as the province conducts a six-month review of its Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP), first released in November, 2010. That plan was intended to ensure that Ontario’s electricity system became cleaner, with lower dependence on greenhouse gas energy sources and greater reliance on renewable sources, especially wind. The review notes that the demand for energy in the province has slowed, and that building the system to the capacity originally envisioned in the LTEP could lead to over supply. Completing all the generating capacity contemplated in the LTEP would lead to cost growth of 125 per cent from 2011 to 2035, the report claims.

The report’s authors compare two “supply mix scenarios,” which they call the Retained Wind scenario and the Retained Nuclear scenario. The first assumes that wind development proceeds as outlined in the LTEP, while nuclear is curtailed. The second scenario assumes the reverse.

Their results indicate that the nuclear scenario would deliver $56 billion in direct benefits, through savings of $27 billion and direct investment of $29 billion. The “net incremental benefit” of the nuclear scenario is $60 billion, compared to the Retained Wind scenario, the authors conclude. This would include $9 billion in employment income benefits, with the creation of 100,000 more PYE (person year equivalent) jobs than the wind scenario.

The nuclear scenario would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 108 million tonnes “after 2023,” which is 80 per cent less emissions than the wind scenario would add.

Reducing the nuclear footprint would cost electricity ratepayers more, result in lower investment in the Ontario economy, and increase greenhouse emissions.

“We commissioned this study to help ensure that Ontarians have as much information as possible to make these important decisions about our energy future,” said PWU President Don MacKinnon. “The study confirms that focusing our investments in nuclear power generation will lead to lower electricity costs and greater investment in Ontario while delivering some $60 billion in greater direct benefit to Ontario’s economy.”

Read the report here.

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