Choosing to scale up green energy to replace a retiring nuclear power plant is more affordable for residents of Ontario, Canada, than buying expensive replacement reactors, says a report released today by Renewable is Doable, an alliance of organizations including the Pembina Institute, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and Greenpeace.
Last summer, Ontario suspended its purchase of two new replacement reactors when their cost reportedly topped $26 billion–$20 billion more than expected in 2007.
"Faced with increasing nuclear costs the McGuinty government wisely suspended its purchase of new reactors last June. Our analysis shows it would be cheaper to continue building on the success of the government’s Green Energy Act than buy expensive new reactors," says Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Greenpeace’s nuclear analyst.
The report, Ontario’s Green Energy Plan 2.0 (available at the link below), shows that a mix of green energy technologies and conservation acquired through the government’s Green Energy Act would be 12% to 48% cheaper than buying new reactors to replace the aging Pickering nuclear station, which is set to close in 2020 due to high maintenance costs.
"Replacing outdated power plants with a portfolio of renewables, smart grid technology and efficient use of natural gas is a trend we are seeing in many other jurisdictions all over the world", said Tim Weis, Director of Renewable Energy and Efficiency Policy at the Pembina Institute. "Opening up more space for green energy on the electricity system will allow the burgeoning renewable energy industry to continue grow and create new jobs in Ontario."
The report points out that electricity demand is expected to continue to be reduced over the next decade, thanks in part to successful energy efficiency programs. As a result, the province’s plan to maintain nuclear generation at historic levels will place constraints on transmission accessibility and flexibility and soon limit the expansion of green energy in Ontario.
"Ontario has already contracted more green electricity in 2010 than it expected it would over the next 17 years, but outdated nuclear commitments limit clean power’s long-term growth. Upgrading the McGuinty government’s successful green energy and conservation programs would allow Ontario’s green collar workforce to continue expanding and create 27,000 green jobs over the next decade," said Theresa McClenaghan Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association.
The report details how nuclear costs have risen dramatically while green energy has exceeded expectations since 2006, when Ontario made plans to build new nuclear reactors. This, the groups say, should encourage the government to go well beyond its current targets for green energy.
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The U.S. federal government is moving forward with support for two new nuclear reactors to be built in Georgia. Staff from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission released a draft report yesterday stating there are no major environmental issues to prevent Southern Company (NYSE: SO) from building the reactors, which have received loan guarantees from the Department of Energy. If approved, the reactors could be the first to be built in the U.S. since 1978.