Ontario: Power Crisis Feared

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Friday, January 19, 2001

Power crisis feared Government, industry deny California chaos possible here


TORONTO -- Ontario is not insulated from the kind of electricity crisis that has caused chaos in California, Energy Probe spokesman Tom Adams says.

"If Ontario doesn't smarten up soon, we could end up with a California situation," Adams said yesterday as the U.S. state continued to struggle with rotating blackouts.

California cut off power to hundreds of thousands of people for a second straight day yesterday as legislators rushed to enact an emergency law to buy power at taxpayer expense and keep the lights on.

The rolling blackouts across the northern half of the state lasted about two hours and affected up to 1.8 million homes and businesses.

California deregulated electricity in 1996, but failed to create an attractive climate to encourage the private sector to invest in generation, said Adams of the energy watchdog group.

Ontario, which is in the midst of deregulation, has also failed to wrestle firm commitments from investors with the exception of a plant under construction in Sarnia, he said.

"A lot of the generation they're pointing to are paper power plants."

Michael Krizanc, a spokesman for Energy Minister Jim Wilson, said the Ontario and California situations aren't comparable.

"What they have is a supply problem, not a competition problem or an open market problem," he said.

Political opposition to nuclear power plants and other types of electricity generators have limited supply in California, he said. Not only does Ontario have a sufficient supply to meet its needs for years, investors have announced $3 billion in generation projects here, he said.

Kevin Dove, of the Independent Electricity Market Operator, said the province has an ample supply and is seeking approval to increase generating capacity at the Pickering nuclear plant.

In addition to the Sarnia plant under construction, a number of investors are proposing projects which would add 3,000 megawatts to the system, he said.

Dove said California didn't have enough supply when it began to deregulate.

"No we don't believe it will happen here," he said. "We've got a solid supply and we're not concerned that we're going to run out."

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), January 19, 2001

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