Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Homeowners are angry about skyrocketing hydro bills. Manufacturers warn that uncompetitive industrial rates could cause them to take their business elsewhere. And blame is landing squarely on a government under fire for spending $1-billion to relocate gas plants, and more than that for new wind and solar power that might not really have been needed.

In short, Bob Chiarelli will have an obvious imperative when he delivers Ontario's long-term energy plan before the end of this year. One way or another, the provincial Energy Minister needs to show cost containment somewhere on the horizon.

There's not much Mr. Chiarelli can do now about the gas, wind and solar costs, most of which are locked in. But within the energy sector, there is chatter that he is grappling with one very contentious option: further scaling back the province's spending on nuclear power.

Story continues below advertisement

Already, it has been revealed that the province will not proceed with long-standing plans to build two new nuclear reactors at the Darlington generating station. Now, amid whispers that the long-term plan will show nuclear's share of the energy supply mix shrinking to somewhere between 40 and 45 per cent from 56 per cent, the question is whether the province will ramp down plans to invest in existing reactors as well.

While such a move would likely be attributed to a focus on conservation, it would mostly be reflective of decreased demand caused by slower-than-expected recovery from recession. The province currently has a big surplus of power, with many gas plants sitting idle – and that's before two new such plants and a whole lot of wind power come online in the next few years.

The lack of demand helps explain why some within the sector are arguing that the province should scrap plans to keep its aging reactors at the Pickering generating station open until 2020. Doing so, they contend, would save hundreds of millions of dollars in life-extension and surplus generation costs.

That, however, would also require Mr. Chiarelli to delay plans for refurbishments at both of the province's other nuclear plants – Darlington and Bruce – starting around 2016. That's because part of the reason Pickering is supposed to stay operational until 2020 is to make up for lost generation while some Darlington and Bruce reactors are taken offline. Even with decreased demand, it would be enormously risky to reduce output at all three nuclear stations at once.

While Mr. Chiarelli has been unequivocal that the refurbishments will happen at some point, slowing one of them would have the added advantage of helping put off some more costs. But both the publicly owned Ontario Power Generation (which operates Darlington) and the privately owned Bruce Power are currently arguing that their refurbishments are of the highest priority. Mr. Chiarelli has to take into account warnings that without prompt refurbishments the reactors could face untimely closings.

He also has to consider the potential impact on a nuclear sector that is already struggling mightily. Between shutting Pickering early and delaying one of the refurbishments, a government that has identified jobs as its highest priority would be taking away thousands of them.

Those caveats, not to mention worry of low-balling demand and getting caught without enough supply at peak times, could well be enough incentive to stay the course. But for a government under siege, hastening Ontario's decreased reliance on nuclear could offer savings that are hard to resist.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies