Poll supports wind over nuclear

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Greenpeace has weighed into the debate over whether Ontario should turn to nuclear power to meet its growing thirst for electricity, releasing a poll showing 91% of Ontarians support the increased use of solar and wind power to meet the province's needs and 92% want to see more energy efficiency and conservation programs. "There's a disconnect between public opinion and the government's direction," says Greenpeace's Dave Martin.

Ontario recently released a request for proposals for 1000 MW of renewables, but has also approved plans to restart a laid-up 512 MW unit at the Pickering A nuclear plant. In addition, it reached a tentative deal with Bruce Power to restart two units at its nuclear facility, which would add 1540 MW to the grid.

Energy Minister Dwight Duncan stirred controversy recently when he announced the province would look at whether to build new nuclear capacity, saying the issue is one the province cannot afford to ignore any longer. According to the Greenpeace poll, a bare majority of 51% of Ontario citizens think nuclear power is dangerous and should be phased out.

Ontario needs to rebuild, conserve or replace 25,000 MW of generation over the next 20 years, equivalent to more than 80% of Ontario's current generating capacity. "We have to look at all options," says Duncan. "What I've done is directed the power authority to come up with an integrated system plan which will make recommendations on a whole range of things, including nuclear, including making sure that we maximize our renewables potential."

But Greenpeace says Duncan is only paying "lip service" to green energy, arguing that his renewable energy targets are minimal compared to the province's potential and other jurisdictions in the world. The government wants 5% of Ontario's generating capacity come from green sources by 2007 and 10% by 2010.

Duncan says he is ready to consider increasing those goals when he is confident the industry can respond. "When I become convinced that we can set a target and achieve it and exceed it, then I will. But I don't want to set a target I can't achieve and then be accused of not keeping a promise." He points out the 2010 target is equivalent to nearly 3000 MW of new capacity. "If the industry can come up with more than that and be price competitive, then we'll go for it."

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