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Ontario Ponders Electricity Reform: Still Optomistic Despite Setbacks, Bad Press

Fortnightly Magazine - July 1 1998

them up and refurbish them.

The nuclear side, when we look at our plans, is really a function of a collective agreement, more than it is a function of money or anything else. A lot of this restructuring, and the success of Ontario Hydro's new companies, will depend on labor agreements. Private sector investors that are looking at us right now, I think, get bogged down when they see the rather generous agreements we have, [which are] rather stringent in terms of flexibility of the work force.

The plan is to look at Bruce A, beginning in the year 2000, [and] bring it back up between 2000 and 2003. Pickering A has already been re-tubed, it needs some new safety technology added to it that has come on stream the last few years. Conceivably, if we had flexible collective agreements right now with our workers' union, we could be working on Bruce A and Pickering at the same time. But you cannot move people around. We can't say today to a Bruce A electrician, "We need you there and next week we need you at Pickering A." There's no flexibility in the agreement; it's an all-or-nothing proposition. So what we have to do is take everyone from Bruce and move them over to Pickering, and bring Pickering up. Then, when that's done, bring everyone back to Bruce A.

We have a very good relationship with the union, but I would say this: They're running around in the Bruce community saying [that] the government's got it all wrong and Ontario Hydro has it all wrong. But the fact of the matter is it's the inflexibility of their own collective agreements. Hydro management will probably have a huge discussion with them. The plan is to bring [the nuclear plants] all back, but it will depend on price, and it will depend on Kyoto.

What are the plans for meeting future environmental regulations?

Right now Hydro is meeting [statutory] goals and voluntary emissions targets which are pretty stringent, and among the best in the world for environmental safeguards. We don't know how the Kyoto commitments will play out yet. We don't know whether the U.S. will ratify it; our federal government for its own politics went to Kyoto and signed a fairly tight agreement without any blueprint on how we provinces will have to implement it.

We also have our 275 local municipal electric utilities that are at various stages of amalgamations and restructuring themselves; they, of course, will have to do exactly what Ontario Hydro has to do, and that is separate distribution from services as Hydro has to sep-arate transmission and distribution services.

What does Canada need to do to make its power environmentally acceptable to the U.S.? Nuclear power, for example, generally seems more acceptable in Canada than in the U.S.

Yes, but again, the great benefit to competition is consumer choice, and you have to respect that in the market. If consumers decide they don't want power generated by a nuclear source, then that would be their choice. Certainly I think