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Canada

Canada

Plan offers no renewables support

A proposal by the Ontario government to liberalise the province's electricity sector has been criticised both for its lack of provisions for renewable energy and for a structure that seems to defy true competition. The plan, revealed in a long awaited White Paper, calls for splitting up the publicly owned utility, Ontario Hydro, into three components for generation, transmission and distribution. Private sector power companies from inside or outside Ontario will be allowed to sell electricity into the Ontario market and by 2000 retail customers will be allowed to choose their supplier, states the plan.

On renewables, the government has merely said it will "examine market mechanisms" that could encourage electricity production from sources which have less impact on the environment than Ontario Hydro's current mix of generation, dominated by nuclear and coal power. Ontario Hydro carries debts that range in estimates from C$15-21 billion; most of these are due to uneconomic nuclear. While some of this will be passed on to the three new companies, the government suggests establishing a transmission charge as one mechanism to eliminate the remainder.

Martin Montague of the Municipal Electric Association of Ontario believes the plan simply extends the life of one of the largest monopoly generation companies in North America and advocates levelling the market through a series of independent, competing companies. The Independent Power Producers' Society of Ontario has endorsed the plan, however.

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