The people of Ontario paid Bruce Power nearly $60 million in 2009 to not generate electricity for the province, CTV Toronto has learned.

A deal between the nuclear generator, a private company, and the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) sets out a guarantee for a certain amount of power to be purchased -- even if it's not needed.

The technical term is called surplus baseload generation. The agency agreed to pay Bruce $48.33 for each megawatt hour of electricity that was not needed.

In 2009, demand for electricity was down in Ontario, largely as a result of the recession. This meant Bruce's nuclear reactors weren't operating at full capacity.

As a result, the OPA paid Bruce power $57.5 million for about 1.2 terawatt hours of electricity that was not produced. A terawatt is a million megawatts.

Ben Chin, a vice-president of the OPA, said the arrangement is like having a fire station. They aren't needed all the time, but one must still pay to keep it open.

The OPA also said this deal keeps taxpayers off the hook for any cost over-runs. Bruce is spending billions of dollars to refurbish its nuclear reactors and may be about $3 billion over-budget.

The OPA said taxpayers actually got a bargain through the arrangement with Bruce. A Bruce Power spokesperson said the company is fulfilling its side of the deal.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Paul Bliss