VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canadian politicians and ratepayers alike must accept that the days of cheap electricity are over as aging infrastructure demands investment and the choice of power sources -- renewables, fossil fuels or nuclear -- becomes more limited, green energy CEOs said on Wednesday.
It is not only green energy, such as solar and wind power, that is lifting electricity prices but also investment in infrastructure, such as transmission lines, which has been neglected for decades, they said at a conference in Toronto.
“We’re all living off the legacy of 60 years ago because we did not invest a lot in the energy infrastructure in that time,” Brookfield Renewable Power Chief Executive Richard Legault said.
“We still believe, ‘I live in Quebec and get power delivered to my house for 6 cents a kilowatt’. It doesn’t cost that,” Legault said.
Buttressed by large hydroelectric stations, especially in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia, Canada has some of the lowest electricity rates among industrialized nations.
An aversion to coal-fired power stations, because of pollution, and increased wariness about nuclear-generated electricity after Japan’s Fukushima disaster mean there are fewer options in the future for generation.
“Certainly, the political appetite to recognize that power will cost a lot more in the future than it does today is something that we think has to occur,” Legault said.
Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, has become a flashpoint for unhappiness over rising electricity prices, fueled by a pre-election battle between the incumbent Liberal Party and the opposition Progressive Conservatives (PCs).
The PC party has said that, if it wins the October provincial election, it will end the Ontario’s feed-in tariff (FIT) program, which pays fixed, above-market rates to producers of energy from sources like wind and solar for 20 years, if it wins the provincial election in October.
It blames the program -- which the Liberals launched in late 2009 as a way to create jobs and replace power lost from shutting down coal-fired plants -- as one of the main reasons for rising power prices.
Polls show the PC party in the lead.
The company executives played down the impact of a possible shutdown of the FIT program and said they would continue investing in Ontario.
“To me, what the PCs are saying is nothing new... It’s really just another way of saying something that’s already in the FIT program, which is a built-in price review every two years,” said Northland Power Inc CEO John Brace.
The FIT program comes up for review in October. Rates for most categories of green power, especially generous solar rates, have for some time been expected to be cut as industry costs have dropped.
Editing by Rob Wilson