While Ontario is taking steps to encourage electric vehicles, with higher incentives for buyers and a wider network of charging stations, a Toronto Star columnist says those efforts might be undermined by the province’s determination to refurbish its aging nuclear power plants.
“EVs are only as green as the electricity that powers them. If it comes from coal-burning generating stations, they can be responsible for more toxic and greenhouse gas emissions than internal combustion engines,” Peter Gorrie writes. “Things are supposed to improve as you travel along the scale from nuclear power to hydro, and then, in the best case, wind, solar and other renewable sources.”
But Gorrie raises a series of concerns about Ontario’s $13-billion plan to update the 3,400-MW Darlington nuclear station in Bowmanville, and a similarly-priced overhaul at the Bruce generating station at Kincardine. The plants produce greenhouse gas emissions through uranium mining, shipping, and processing, and through their own construction, operation, and decommissioning. And nuclear generation raises concerns about public safety, waste disposal, and a long history of cost overruns.
“The $26 billion estimate for the two Ontario refurbishments is a lot of cash,” he writes. “Worse, the actual total will likely be far higher, given the history and apparent inevitability of cost overruns. Construction and refits at Darlington and Bruce have ranged from 50 to 350% over budget.”
Just a couple of days before Gorrie’s post, CleanTechnica reported that Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) had just signed 300 MW of new wind generation contracts at an average cost of C8.6¢ per kilowatt-hour, 140 MW of new solar contracts at a price of 15.67¢, and 15.5 MW of new hydro at 17.6¢.
“The solar energy allocation in the tender was oversubscribed to a considerable degree (12 times over)—with 1,742 MW worth of bids being registered,” wrote correspondent Henry Lindon. That means one solar auction could have supplied half the electricity the province draws from Darlington, with none of the risks associated with nuclear generation.
Gorrie argues that energy efficiency and renewables are “at least worth an objective, open look.” But “pouring so much into nuclear power kills the chance to even consider other options. Sadly, while renewables spark growth and jobs elsewhere, that’s the route we’re on. We need to stop and examine all the choices.” And EVs “can only be considered truly green if they’re fuelled by the greenest-possible power sources, which is what we should demand.” (h/t to The Energy Mix subscriber Angela Bischof for pointing us to this story)