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

Fortnightly Magazine - July 1 1998

there's an educational role for our utility as it moves into American markets to ensure that people know that nuclear is environmentally clean, that our reactors [are under] very stringent safeguards and oversight bodies like the Atomic Energy Control Board, and that it's very safe. We're trying to sell CANDU reactors all over the world and we're very successful at it; it's good technology and it's not Chernobyl technology - it's the furthest thing from it. There's going to be need, and there's great opportunity in the private sector, to improve transmission ties between the two countries, the physical flow of electricity. A lot of the market will be a paper exchange, though.

The advantage, I think, that Americans should consider is that a lot of our neighboring states are more dependent on fossil-fueled generation than we are, and the winds go our way. So Kyoto, if it's ratified by both countries, will have something to say eventually about whether nuclear power should be favored. I think nuclear power will do very well in any environmental contest.

So will gas, though. Gas is only 4 percent of our generating output now; we can see that growing almost immediately once the market opens up. They're expecting about a 3 percent boost in the year 2000, [which is] almost double. Environmentally, I suppose, after nuclear it's favored.

We're going to try to really encourage renewable forms of energy. There are a lot of entrepreneurs and innovators in this province that have small projects and they were never able to get their power to customers, though, because the grid was held in monopoly hands. They'll certainly have the opportunity to do that [now].

Right now, adding up all our renewable forms of energy it's about 1.7 percent of capacity. We have a huge agricultural sector and clearly there's a lot of talk about biomass. We haven't had, as the States have, the large fields of windmills, but there's talk about it. We're hoping that consumers will put their money where their mouth is with respect to green power; they may want to pay half a cent or a cent more per kilowatt-hour. To what extent the market will cheer for biomass and solar and wind I don't know, we're just hopeful. Certainly legislation and the government's pulse of the White Paper leaves us the option to favor renewable energies if it becomes an imperative to meet environmental mandates. So we've left that open for the next 20 years or so, and we'll see how things go.

Is electric restructuring going to become an integrated, national issue in Canada?

I think it will. When I took office to this particular portfolio in October, we signed an Interprovincial Flow of Power Agreement that opens up the transmission grid to anyone who wants to transport. Conceivably, Quebec - which is damming up every river and stream, getting into hydroelectric in a big way - and Newfoundland - [which] is looking to further develop its hydroelectric, they may very well want to sell into the Ontario market, depending on