Power swap would benefit Ontario, Quebec: report ; ELECTRICITY: Less pollution and fewer nuclear power stations would need to be built

The London Free Press: JONATHAN JENKINS - April 14, 2009


Ontario can pollute less and build fewer nuclear power stations if it swaps more power with Quebec, the Ontario Clean Air Alliance says in a report to be released today.

"Increased electricity flows between Ontario and Quebec could provide economic benefits in excess of $1 billion per year," states the report, titled The Power of Mutual Benefit.

That figure could rise to $2 billion a year if Quebec's declining aluminum and forestry industries, plus conservation plans, leave it with excess power to sell and the two provinces increase their transmission capacity, it says.

Improving transmission lines would help Ontario shut down its dirty coal burning plants and reduce the need to build expensive nuclear reactors. The province will announce in June the company that will build two reactors at Darlington for a cost estimated by Moody's Investor Services of $26 billion.

"It makes no sense to proceed with new nuclear reactors -- which are very expensive -- before we've proceeded with a contract to buy electricity from Quebec," said Jack Gibbons, Ontario Clean Air Alliance chairperson.

The alliance report says a new 1,250MW line between Ontario and Quebec will be finished in 2010, bringing total interprovincial capacity to about 2,800MW.

But because Ontario electricity usage peaks in summer, mostly from air conditioners, and Quebec's peaks on the coldest winter days, the report says the two can trade juice back and forth for considerably less than producing themselves or buying elsewhere.

And feeding Ontario's expanding wind power into that system will help stabilize the intermittent nature of wind generation, helping Quebec in the winter when the wind here blows hardest.

Almost all of Quebec's power comes from clean hydroelectric generation and the excess is sold mostly to the U.S. for about eight cents a kw/h.

Even if Ontario paid a significant premium over and above that price, it would be cheaper than building new generation, Gibbons said.

High-voltage transmission lines can be as expensive and as controversial as new generating capacity -- a proposed line between hydro-rich Manitoba and Ontario has been scrapped after years of delay.

But GIbbons said the distances between Quebec generation and Ontario customers are considerably shorter than from northern Manitoba and underground or underwater lines could sidestep controversy.

Ontario has about 33,000MW of generation, but more than one-third of it is from nuclear plants, many of which are at or near their expected lifespan. Another 20% comes from coal, which the government originally promised to stop burning by 2007. That promise has been delayed until 2014.

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