Written for my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner; publised under the title "Don't tolerate the electricity shell-game".
Electricity may dominate the fall election, in terms of dollars and cents. But to make an informed choice, voters need all the facts. Sadly, few parties seem willing to present them.
The current Liberal government, and the PC opposition, both include new nuclear in their future supply plans. From our own history, this is a frighteningly expensive choice, one we’ll pay for either through higher electric bills or taxes. Our nukes have cost us, on average, 2.5 times sticker price. (And it’s not just Ontario; Finland, France, and New Brunswick all face massive cost overruns on current nuclear builds). That means a promised $16 billion project will actually cost us $40 billion. And sadly, the practice has been to pass all those cost overruns to you, the taxpayer. You can even see it on your monthly bill, as the debt retirement charge.
No other energy source gets this guaranteed taxpayer hand-out, only nuclear. If solar panels cost more than expected to install, or a wind turbine breaks down, we don’t pay a penny extra to cover it.
It has long been Green Party policy not to cover any nuclear cost overruns, and both the NDP and Liberal leaders have also recently made this pledge to the Ontario Clean Air Alliance. The PC leader, however, has refused to respond, so presumably he plans to hand those cost overruns to you, in what Greenpeace has dubbed “Tim Hudak’s Sneaky Nuclear Tax.” Meanwhile, his anti-Green power messaging ignores the 57% of his own supporters who favour wind and solar initiatives.
A recent infographic by EnergySavvy.com shows that, for half the price of a new nuclear plant, efficiency retrofits reduce electric demand the same amount and create at least 4 times as many new local jobs. Plus, instead of paying more on your bill for the nuclear option, you save by using less energy. From a dollars and cents perspective, it’s a no-brainer. So why don’t more parties understand?
Another option is cheap hydro imports from Quebec, like Vermont just acquired. Even after setting up transmission lines, these would cost less than new nukes. So why are only the Greens committed to this course, with the NDP at least willing to explore the option? Why do the Liberal and PC plans make you to pay more for nukes?
Energy has costs, and we either pay now or pay (more) later. Wishing it away by pretending our debt has already been paid, or responding to high energy prices with a 10% discount or dropping the HST, isn’t going to save you money – just move the cost around. Either you, or your children, will pay. Don’t accept the electricity price pandering shell-game – demand real, fully-costed solutions.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is an educator, father, volunteer, and politician.