Bruce Power ready to dial it down

The Owen Sound Sun Times: MARIA CANTON - August 25, 2009

Bruce Power officials say running at reduced capacity is the new reality for the nuclear plant for the foreseeable future, despite getting the green light to return a reactor to service after a 22-day shutdown due to a provincewide slump in energy use.

"This will have an impact on us, on our machines, our people -- this is an ongoing situation that we're going to have to work through," Steve Cannon, a Bruce Power spokesman, said yesterday.

"At the end of the year we are going to take stock of this year and determine exactly how big the impact has been on our business plan . . . when we compare it to what we expected the market to look like, what we expected our generation output to be and what we expected our revenues to be."

Unit 7 was restarted and returned to service this weekend after being offline since July 30 due to low demand, but the company reduced the output of other units.

The Tiverton nuclear plant is one of many power plants in Ontario that have been enduring shutdowns and reduced capacity situations this summer due to cool, wet weather and the downturn in the economy.

"We remain very optimistic that Ontario has a very good, strong economic base and will recover over time, but the reality is we are still seeing electricity demand far lower than it was at the height of the economic boom," said Cannon.

Overall electricity demand in Ontario is expected to decline by 4% this year and a further 0.3% in 2010, according to the Independent Electricity System Operator .

In July alone, demand throughout the province dropped 14% over the same period last year as the province experienced its coldest July since 1992.

In May, the IESO said the economic downturn had created a "noteworthy" drop in demand across North America.

A spokeswoman for the IESO said the decline is directly due to weather and the economy.

"You can see that this summer has brought with it more of a decline in demand than what we would see in other summers, but, basically as the economy recovers, demand will follow," said Alexandra Campbell, adding they are updating their forecasts this week and will be releasing new numbers in a few days.

"Demand fluctuates constantly even in periods of high demand and we require constant adjustments from operators."

The problem is further complicated, Campbell added, by the fact that there were fewer maintenance shutdowns this summer from plants throughout the province.

"Generator performance this summer has been much better than in previous summers so we're seeing lower demands at the same time that generators are showing excellent performance," she added.

Typically, periods of lower electricity demand are in the spring and fall when the weather is neither hot nor cold.