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Response: Auditor General Blames Renewable Energy

Dec 07, 2015

As most of us are aware, the recent release of the auditor general's annual report put a lot of focus on spending in the province’s electricity sector. Renewables were once again blamed for high-energy costs for residents. And news of the $13B refurbishment of the Bruce Nuclear Station couldn’t be timelier.

The Auditor General blames renewable energy for creating surplus supply in Ontario, ignoring the fact that these sources supply less than 6% of our power.

Nuclear plants provide the largest amount of electricity in Ontario – over 60%. The main problem with nuclear, besides producing waste that remains dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years, is that it is inflexible. It can’t be “turned down” when it isn’t needed – it keeps right on supplying, even when there is a surplus. Other energy sources can be adaptable depending on needs. No other Canadian jurisdiction relies so overwhelmingly on nuclear power.

Preferred rates for producing renewables (such as the feed-in-tariff rates) are clearly documented for the taxpayer. Although the auditor general’s report compares our fixed feed-in-tariff prices to the Historical U.S. Average Cost, which is like comparing apples to oranges, Ontario has steadily cut the rate it pays for wind and solar energy over the past decade and costs will continue to fall. This isn't the case for nuclear.

The cost of nuclear is kept muddy for taxpayers. The kWh rate appears reasonable on our bills, but here are a few of the other ways we pay for it:

  • The building of the reactors used in Ontario is funded by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, which is subsidized by millions of government dollars each year.
  • Subsidies for nuclear generators are the largest percentage of the global adjustment charge paid by each Ontarian

  • The billions of dollars of stranded debt remaining from the development of the first nuclear plants in Ontario have been paid down by taxpayers for decades via the debt retirement charge. 

  • Delivery – nuclear is produced at 3 major sites in Ontario: Pickering, Darlington, and Bruce. It’s costly bringing that electricity throughout the province.
  • Repositories to store radioactive waste will continually need to be built and maintained

We urge Ontarians to read the report themselves and do a little digging. Perhaps the auditor general’s reports are not as comprehensive as they should be.

Image courtesy of the Independent Electricity System Operator