The average electricity bill will double in Ontario over the next 20 years under an $87-billion plan to modernize the province's electricity system.

Ontario's long-term energy plan, released Tuesday, calls for $33 billion in investments by government and the private sector to build two new nuclear reactors at Darlington and to refurbish 10 older units.


A wind turbine feeds electricity into the Ontario grid at the CNE grounds in Toronto in February 2007. ((J.P. Moczulski/Reuters))

It confirms Ontario's intentions to keep getting half of the province's electricity from nuclear and to phase out coal-fired generation by 2014 at the latest, with two coal burning units at Nanticoke set to close next year.

The province is forecasting moderate growth in demand for electricity, rising only 15 per cent over the next two decades.

Still, the plan calls for the average homeowner's electricity bill to double in that time.

The government admitted last week that green energy programs will be responsible for more than half of the expected 46 per cent increase in electricity rates over the next five years.

Spending on green energy

The plan calls for $14 billion to be spent on wind power, $9 billion on solar projects, $4.6 billion on new hydro-electric generation, $4 billion on biomass energy, $1.8 billion on natural gas plants, $9 billion on transmission lines and $12 billion on conservation programs.

Ontario's commercial sector will be responsible for 50 per cent of the government's conservation targets of reducing usage by 7,100 megawatts by 2030.

The industrial sector will be responsible for 20 per cent of the conservation targets, which Energy Minister Brad Duguid describes as among "the most aggressive in North America," and the residential sector the remaining 30 per cent.

The New Democrats said there are far less expensive options than nuclear power, especially when demand for electricity has been declining and is only starting to slowly recover.

"Study after study shows Ontario doesn't need to have half of its power generated by nuclear energy," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

"When will this government finally realize that nuclear energy is nothing more than a giant financial sinkhole?"

Expense questioned

The Progressive Conservatives complained the Liberal government's green energy policies, such as paying 80 cents a kilowatt hour for small solar projects and striking a $7-billion deal with Korean giant Samsung, are making electricity too expensive.

"Why can't the premier understand that Ontario families that struggle with their hydro bills cannot afford to pay six to seven times more for his sweetheart energy deals," said Opposition energy critic John Yakabuski.

The Liberals feel people will accept higher electricity prices in exchange for the cleaner air that results from phasing out coal-fired generation, and claim the opposition parties have no energy plan.

"The McGuinty government is sending a decisive message to opponents: we are seizing this opportunity to power the next century with clean energy," said Duguid.

"Our determination to eliminate the use of dirty coal will have the same effect as taking seven million cars off the road."

The province hopes to generate 9,000 new megawatts of electricity from new hydro-electric sources by 2018, plus another 10,700 MW of power from wind, solar and biomass projects in the same time.

There will be a new transmission line from Bruce to Milton that will be able to carry 4,000 megawatts of new clean energy.