Monthly Archives: December 2013

Toronto needs reliable power. Apply pressure at all gov. levels to upgrade.

Not sure what is worse. Sitting alone at a table for two in a very noisy bar waiting for my phone to charge or going home to a dark apartment with a flashlight and candles.

I am sitting at one of the noisiest bars in Toronto. I am here on a Sunday night because the power is out for the 4th time in 3 years. Yet this bar, across the street from where I live has all its power all day. Why do the stores along Bloor on both sides all have power? The power infrastructure in Ontario is seriously out of date.

The temperature is hovering around freezing but will get colder tomorrow. Many of the locals have so much ice on their cars that they gave up on de-icing.

I spoke to Steve Foster, my new friend from Barrie, who has power yet 300 thousand others need to wait a few days while Christmas is around the corner.

Steve said his city has no visible power lines (meaning they have been wisely buried underground). Why we continue to suffer 19th century style inconveniences has to do with mismanaged government at all levels.

Extreme weather is no longer a freak event. We should expect these events to happen. I see no reason why we should suffer or worse, have our lives threatened. The cold, if not prepared for properly, can be lethal. We need to change our power grid. Forget about a “smart” grid. Just a working reliable grid would help enormously. We now know that if power lines are vulnerable to falling tree branches during ice storms that we would be better off burying the lines. Who can monitor when an where trees are growing?

We also need to update our power facilities so that they don’t flood in extreme weather like what happened July 2013. What is really ironic is that I’m sitting right across from a wall of 100 year old enlarged black and white photos of my neigbourhood. If it was 1913 I might have electricity right now.
1913_photo_king_yonge

Our times have changed considerably. Yet we still have power lines above ground through most of Toronto. We need to change our grid infrastructure. Forget about “smart” grids. Let’s start with reliable grids. We now know that power lines are vulnerable to ice storms.

hydro-quebec
A series of Hydro-Quebec high voltage towers near St-Bruno, Que., south of Montreal that collapsed after a severe ice storm hit the southwest Quebec January 1998. The storm left over one million households in the Quebec Provence without of electricity. Jacques Boissinot/CP PHOTO

Toronto’s first electric company started up 130 years ago. It ran on boilers. 20 or so years later Niagara Falls generated power to the city. 60 years after that nuclear power was added. But 50 years of nuclear and we still have power lines above ground.

How much business is lost on account of power failures? Each year the US loses over $100 Billion due to power failures. Imagine Ontario’s losses. Besides robbing us of our rights to normal comforts we also lose business. Our power infrastructure is also expensive because we are forced by law to include wind and solar energy into our grid. We need to subsidize the unreliable, natural gas dependent so-called “renewables” because of a perceived need for an all of the above energy mix. Our energy bills are higher because of an idealist yet proven to fail method of powering the grid. Germany now has the highest electricity rates in Europe because they have decided to go green and discontinue nuclear energy. Germany has been forced to increase the building of coal plants to make up for the lost nuclear energy. Italy no doubt will face the same consequences. Just like California who shut down San Onofre Nuclear Plant over irrational fears over a possible accident. An interesting fact is that worst ice-storm in Ontario’s history did not affect the hydro plants at all.

With three levels of government having elections in the near future it is now a good time to put pressure on them to upgrade our power system. i.e. put power lines underground and make the power stations flood proof and allow new build of nuclear to replace the plants that will be decommissioned because of age.

Economics of Nuclear

We can help the stakeholders of energy decision-making understand more about what costs affect nuclear energy and provide some perspective that will help shape policy once the stakeholders are educated on such matters.

Factors that affect costs:

1) Size of reactor

2) Regulatory issues

3) Construction costs

4) Political interference in the form of protests and review processes