Exclusive: Ontario spending millions to halt surplus electricity production
Published Wednesday, July 3, 2013 6:57PM EDT
As Ontario experiences a record year for surplus electricity production, the province is no longer paying the United States to take the extra power off the grid, CTV Toronto has learned.
Ontario regularly produces a glut of electricity, and in the past, the province has paid American states and Quebec to alleviate the system.
CTV Toronto’s Paul Bliss has learned that the privately-owned Bruce Power plant in Tiverton, Ont., is periodically asked to shut down one of its massive reactors, or alternatively, vent steam instead of producing electricity. When that happens, the province must still pay the plant for the down time.
Terry Young, vice-president at the Independent Electricity System Operator, says Ontario’s complex power grid has to find a way to manage massive amounts of extra electricity. He says the Bruce plant is reliable and helps Ontario cope with power surplus.
“Ontario has become a net exporter of electricity,” Young told CTV News. “We’re in a better situation today than we were six, seven or eight years ago when we were relying on our neighbours.”
Bruce Power has turned five units off at different times this year to cut supply for a total down time of 40 days. Since the plant is paid about $1 million per day, it cost Ontario $40 million for reactors to idle.
Bruce also conducted steam diversions from turbines to cut power production 84 times this year, which is the equivalent of approximately 22 unit days offline. For that, the plant was paid $22 million to vent steam into the air instead of operating turbines.
In total, $62 million was paid to the Bruce plant this year to suppress electricity production.
There is no way to store surplus electricity -- it can only be used immediately, exported or switched off.
NDP energy critic and Toronto MPP Peter Tabuns says the governing Liberals have been building private gas plants and signing expensive wind and solar contracts when it wasn’t necessary.
“Even years ago, we saw this as a sweetheart , private power deal – that these companies were going to make money, whether they made power or not.”
Coal plants used to provide 28 per cent of Ontario’s electricity. Coal plants, which are now virtually all closed, differed from gas plants in that they were less expensive and could quickly be fired up or down depending on demand.
Bruce Power’s vice-president James Scongack says the province expects nuclear reactors to have the same rapid-reaction and reliability as coal plants so that power is readily available.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Paul Bliss