CELA Annual Report, 2005 - excerpted article

Power for the Future - Focus on Ontario

CELA’s involvement in energy issues has expanded quite dramatically in recent years. Working in partnership with the Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development, CELA has conducted extensive research into the means by which Ontario can achieve a sustainable, renewable energy future including an orderly phase-out of coal and nuclear technologies. In addition, our partnership with groups in the Low Income Energy Network has resulted in detailed recommendations for ensuring the affordability of energy policy changes. Most recently, CELA has been part of the work of Energy Vision, a coalition of over three dozen energy, environmental, health, peace, women’s and citizen’s organizations from across Ontario working together toward a common energy vision for Ontario’s future.

Alongside this focus on creating a safe, affordable energy future for Ontario, casework on energy policy issues has included involvement as co-counsel representing the Inter-Church Uranium Educational Cooperative in Federal Court and Supreme Court proceedings seeking to have the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act properly applied to phased uranium mining licensing decisions.

Conservation and Efficiency
First and foremost, Ontario can and must make substantial changes to maximize the potential for conservation and efficiency in the province.  Changes to Ontario’s Building Code and other standards could provide enormous energy savings.  In making conservation affordable to all Ontarians, CELA and LIEN have advocated that fiscal policies must give conservation as much import as new energy generation. In supporting a new conservation and efficiency path for Ontario, the Energy Vision partners are insisting that all of Ontario’s citizens and businesses be given the time and support to make conservation and efficiency really work before Ontario makes any decisions about new energy generation capacity.

Phase-Out of the Coal and Nuclear Plants
Much good-will and support has been created within the public and the environmental community with Ontario’s decision to phase-out coal-fired power plants. CELA and Energy Vision partners consider that this goodwill is being squandered with Ontario’s ongoing, mistaken commitments to nuclear power generation. As a founding member of the Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout, CELA remains committed to the phase-out of nuclear power on economic, ethical, health and environmental grounds.

The colossal mistake that is nuclear power is reflected in mammoth costs and cost overruns alongside the many omissions in these calculations including waste disposal costs and health costs among many others. The on-going legacy of generating highly hazardous radioactive waste is unacceptable. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization informs us that this waste will be extremely hazardous for a million years. This technology is inherently risky and presents unthinkable implications for Ontario’s heartland in the event of a serious accident during waste transportation or if a catastrophic event were to occur at one of Ontario’s nineteen nuclear reactor sites. Also of concern are the on-going health impacts and long-term risks associated with routine radioactive emissions from operating nuclear power plants in Ontario.

A Public Debate on Nuclear Power in Ontario
The Ontario public has been promised an open and public debate on the future of nuclear power in Ontario. That debate has not occurred. Yet, the Ontario government has continued to make serious commitments to nuclear power through decisions to refurbish existing nuclear generation units. Energy Vision partners insist that the Ontario government must avoid any additional commitment to nuclear power generation in Ontario while giving time and effort to making conservation, efficiency and renewable power generation actually work. The Ontario public wants a debate on nuclear power and wants it to be open, transparent, accessible and thorough. CELA and Energy Vision partners are seeking a commitment to such a debate. Under Ontario’s new Electricity Act, the Minister of Energy is given the power to issue supply directives as to the type and proportion of any particular type of generation that the Ontario Power Authority should secure over a specific time frame.  With our Energy Vision partners, CELA has asked for an assurance that the Minister will not issue such a supply directive covering nuclear power before the Ontario public has a chance to debate this question. 

Renewable Energy
Renewable energy of course is the only sustainable energy future.  There exists in Ontario, among Energy Vision partners and many others, the sophisticated expertise, enthusiasm, ideas, support and resources to make sure that Ontario makes the very most of renewable energy that can possibly be obtained.  Achieving a renewable energy future will require real dedication and commitment by the Ontario government to supporting the continued rapid development of renewable energy through pricing, policies, contractual support, access to the grid, and planning for a distributed energy system as opposed to a system focused on centralized mega-generation projects.  The enthusiasm across the province for renewable energy is palpable.  By championing this sector to success, the Ontario government will be not only providing for a liveable, healthy, affordable energy future, but meeting today’s enormous public demand and expectation for renewable power.