OEB asks for more data

A central part of Ontario’s electricity supply strategy has involved refurbishment of two reactors at the Bruce nuclear plant.  Hydro One has claimed that a transmission reinforcement is required in order to carry the power.  The proposed new transmission line requires the approval of the Ontario Energy Board.  Yesterday, the Board demonstrated that they will indeed confirm if this transmission line is needed.

The Board sent Hydro One away, requesting data on how often the lines had been used to capacity in the past.  It is a valid question.  The Bruce plant has 8 reactors.  Six of the reactors are operating, two have been laid up.  One of the operating reactors is current off line for maintenance right now.  The transmission that carried the power for the 8 reactors in the mid 90’s is still there.  Why is new transmission needed?  Also, several of the Bruce reactors will require refurbishment in the middle of the next decade, and so will be off for several years, if that refurbishment is to be done.
Already proposed is a $250 million upgrade to the line, that would involve no new towers.  The expansion of the number of towers will cost another $600 million.  Hydro One has argued that the new line is needed to carry the output of plant, as well as the 700 MW of wind that is being installed in the area.

The Ontario Power Authority has declared an “orange zone” in the area of the Bruce plant, extending from Grand Bend to Meaford, to Orangeville.  This is an area where they will not provide contracts to wind developers, as they say the transmission needs to be upgraded first.  I call it the “orange zone of death”.

I also object to the logic used by Hydro One and the OPA in setting this orange zone.  I can not see where they have used any analysis of local load (if the power is consumed locally, you don’t need to transmit it), nor the fact that no source of generation is always running.  Ontario nuclear fleet has run less than 70% of the time.  It is rare indeed when all 6 current reactors at the Bruce are operating.  It will be rarer still when all 8 are running.  And the wind doesn’t always blow.  And sometimes local load is high.  I have always believed that there was something wrong with the logic used to create the orange zone, and there has been a complete lack of transparency in communicating the reasons for providing no new contracts.

Now the OEB will seek to uncover some of the logic used, and in the process, will make the thinking more transparent.  Good for them.  Should we spend $600 million that may not be needed?

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