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Ontario power workers urge nuke refurbishment to smooth wind power flow

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Essential Energy Insights - February 2021

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Six trends shaping the industries and sectors we cover in 2021

Six trends shaping the industries and sectors we cover in 2021


Ontario power workers urge nuke refurbishment to smooth wind power flow

A study by a union representing power workers in Ontariosays the provincial government should consider bolstering its nuclear fleet toprovide backup electricity for wind generation instead of boosting the exchangeof capacity with neighboring Quebec.

The cost of using Ontario-based natural gas-fired generatorsto meet shortages of wind during Quebec's winter season peak would cost anestimated C$150/MWh, about double the cost of power from a refurbishedDarlingtonnuclear station, the study, commissioned by the Power Workers' Union, said.Natural gas-backed wind power would increase emissions by 40% and could costthe province 52,000 jobs, the study by Strategic Policy Economics said.

"[The] analysis clearly shows that continuing to relyon low-cost, low-carbon baseload nuclear energy is Ontario's best option,"Union President Don MacKinnon said in a July 13 statement. "Pursuing firmimports from Quebec to displace low-carbon nuclear or to supplement our province'svariable, expensive wind energy doesn't make environmental or economic sense."

Quebec, which sees its demand peak in the winter, has acapacity exchange agreement with Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator where eachprovince provides asmuch as 500 MW to the other during seasons of highest demand. Province-ownedHydro-Québec's HQEnergy Marketing unit oversees the contract for Quebec's government.

The Power Workers' Union report said the power trade willbecome more expensive as both provinces move to increase the amount of wind andsolar power on the grid, which requires non-interruptible energy sources forbackup. The union represents the majority of workers at Ontario power plantsand holds an equity stake in BrucePower LP, which runs the Bruce nuclear generating station. The report said thatboosting the intertie network is economically undermined by a lack of wintergeneration in Quebec and an expected shortage of generation capacity in bothprovinces.

Quebec is also a major electricity trader with the U.S.,shipping five times as much power there as it does to Ontario. With power fromits most recent developments costing as much as C$81/MWh, Quebec can use cheappower from Ontario to its advantage, the report said.

"Quebec's export practices with Ontario have recentlybeen characterized by price arbitrage, where Quebec has realized a premium of[C]$22/MWh," the report said. "Net flow to Ontario has averaged lessthan 1 TWh over the last three years. Historically, Quebec has drawn net energyresources from Ontario."