Ontario’s wicked hydro problem

by KRB on October 10, 2017 - 10:46pm

Ontario’s wicked hydro problem

Ontario’s electricity has been a hot topic for years as it continues to pay the highest price for hydro nation-wide. According to a study conducted by the Fraser Institute, in the last decade Ontario’s electricity costs have risen 71% - a significant growth in comparison to the average 34% across Canada (CBC, 2017). Though the price is high and many factors come into play, Ontario boasts its reputation as the first jurisdiction in North America to completely eliminate the use of coal for electricity purposes (Canadian Encyclopedia, 2015). This was in 2014, it was part of the Wynne governments renewable energy plan which involved heavy investment in nuclear, wind, and hydroelectric.

Now, just over three years later the topic persists however with a different plan, one that may frustrate Ontarians further. An article written by the Global News in late 2016 first explains Premier Kathleen Wynne’s $12 billion-dollar plan to refurbish one of the three Ontario nuclear power plants. A spokesperson from the Ontario Clean Air Alliance argues the refurbishment costs will be just one of several additional increases that will follow, and in their opinion, Ontario should forget nuclear and begin purchasing hydroelectric power from Quebec. Fast forward to late summer 2017, and negotiations for Quebec’s hydroelectric power is underway, and to much shock – Ontario is now a shareholder in coal power, again, as Hydro One purchased Avista Corp, a US based coal company, for $7 billion-dollars (Toronto Sun, 2017).

It is apparent Ontario’s hydro problems is of a wicked nature, it’s complex with an undefined solution as almost every option has its share of pros and cons. The negotiations with Quebec are considerably cheaper than the costs of refurbishment; however, the loss of jobs from the nuclear power plants will accumulate. The war between nuclear and hydroelectric – though considered flow resources which are considerably more sustainable then stock sources like coal – involves different types of conflict including differences in interests, values, and cognitive understanding of the situation from a variety of stakeholders.

Three aspects are clear in this battle; firstly, relying on another provinces resource to fuel our own is comparable to a staples trap – which as we’ve seen in the east coast with the cod fishery collapse, heavy reliance on one resource is not sustainable. Secondly, re-investment in nuclear power is expensive but also very uncertain – the waste created is radioactive and as of right now there is no clear, cheap, or ecologically safe long-term plan. And lastly, returning to coal is like taking three massive carbon steps backwards. Uncertainty is an inherit problem in resource management, unfortunately Ontario’s hydro crisis does not appear to have a clear way forward, at least right now.



CTV News. (2017). Ontario energy minister says hydro negotiations with Quebec still underway. CTV News. Retrieved from http://www.ctvnews.ca/business/ontario-energy-minister-says-hydro-negotiations-with-quebec-still-underway-1.3537537

Global News. (2016). Exclusive: Shutting down Ontario nuclear plants, buying Quebec hydro is path to cheaper electricity. Global News. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/3091882/ontario-hydro-rates-buying-quebec-power-cost/

Ontario Power Generation. (2017). Nuclear waste management. Ontario Power Generation. Retrieved from http://www.opg.com/generating-power/nuclear/Pages/nuclear.aspx

The Canadian Encyclopedia. (2015). Coal. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/coal/

The Toronto Sun. (2017). Ontario back in coal burning business. The Toronto Sun. Retrieved from http://www.torontosun.com/2017/07/21/ontario-back-in-coal-burning-business  

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