Thank you very much.
First let me thank the committee for the invitation to appear today. This is an important study. Interties are a very important component to the electricity system and I'm glad to see the committee studying it. I do want to stress that while it's an important key, I sometimes think people see transmission and interties as a bit of a silver bullet. They're not, and I'll elaborate on that a little more as we go along. However, that's not to dismiss them. They're a very important part.
I'll begin with a quick overview. Bruce Power runs the world's largest nuclear operating site. We supply 6,400 megawatts of power, 30% of Ontario's electricity, and we do that at 30% less than the average cost to generate residential power. We are Canada's only private sector nuclear generator and we're a Canadian-owned partnership. Our principal owners are TransCanada Corporation and OMERS Infrastructure. We have two other important owners. We are 90% unionized, and our two unions, the Power Workers' Union and the Society of Energy Professionals, are both owners of the company. Both have small pieces.
Operations at the Bruce Power facility have a significant economic impact. We're one of the drivers in our region of the province. We support 22,000 direct and indirect jobs annually and provide about $4 billion in annual economic benefit through direct and indirect spending on operational equipment, supplies, material, and labour income.
Over the past 16 years, Bruce Power has been one of the largest investors in Ontario's electricity infrastructure. We've invested billions of private dollars into the Bruce site, which remains a site owned by the Ontario government. Bruce Power runs it through a long-term lease.
We're also one of the few nuclear facilities globally that has the ability to produce cobalt-60, which is a valuable resource in treating cancer and other diseases, both domestically and across the world.
I want to just touch on something we call “major component replacement”. In December 2015, Bruce Power signed a long-term agreement with the independent electricity system operator in Ontario to extend the life of the Bruce facility out to 2064. This is a $13-billion private sector investment and will enable us to continue providing low-cost, emission-free power for decades to come. The agreement has two parts. It allows us to immediately invest in life-extension activities, which are currently on time and on budget. Our major component replacement program begins in 2020 and will see $8 billion invested in our units over the 15 years, ending in about 2035. It will create or support 5,000 direct and indirect jobs annually and provide $1.2 billion in labour income.
Before I get to interties, I'm going to touch quickly on isotopes. As I mentioned, Bruce Power is one of the largest cobalt-60 suppliers in the world. Cobalt-60 is a mainstay of the global health system. It's used as a radiation source to sterilize medical devices and supplies such as gloves, syringes, and other medical equipment, and in the decontamination of spices and consumer goods, as well as a phytosanitary measure for the reduction of pests on produce, which is a growing and important asset. We have a partnership with Kanata-based Nordion, which is a leading provider of gamma technologies and medical isotopes, and we're able to supply them with a stable supply of cobalt-60 for the next three or four decades. We also have an agreement with Nordion to supply something called high specific activity cobalt-60. It's produced in only very few reactors globally and is used in innovative radiation-based treatments of cancer, such as something called the Gamma Knife.
In regard to interties, I'll start with the battle against climate change. As I think most of the committee members are aware, Ontario's decision to shutter its coal-fired generation is probably the single largest step that Canada has taken towards fighting climate change. It wouldn't have been achievable without nuclear power.
When Bruce Power took over the Bruce site in 2001, the four Bruce A units were not operational. We invested money to bring them back, and as a result we were able to restart all four units, which provided about 70% of the baseload electricity needed to shut down coal-fired generation. It has not only dramatically reduced our greenhouse gas emissions, but it's also had a profound impact on air quality. In Ontario in 2005 there were 53 smog days. There haven't been any since 2014.
As I said, I want to talk about greenhouse gases. One of the keys to meeting Canada's greenhouse gas targets is to reduce emissions. We do that through greater electrification, but of course this will only work if the electricity we use is non-emitting generation. Canada is blessed to have vast hydroelectric resources, as well as a strong, vibrant nuclear industry. These two sources are able to provide us with vast amounts of baseload generation, which is what we will need if we are to achieve our climate change targets.
With respect to interties, interties are an important tool for balancing the peaks and valleys in daily and seasonal demand, as well as ensuring grid stability and reliability. Provinces are in need of power or sometimes have excess power over a certain time period, and they can benefit from these interjurisdictional electricity trades to ensure that the power is available to consumers at the best rate possible.
Of course there are differences in our provinces in seasonal demand, as well as different characteristics in the nature of generation. This provides opportunities for reciprocal benefits between neighbouring electricity systems through open, competitive electricity trade. I want to give an example, one I'm most familiar with, which is Ontario and Quebec. It's a good case to look at.
Ontario is able to supply Quebec with electricity in the winter, because there is baseboard electric heat in most homes. That is when the peak is, and in a cold winter it is often tight and often needs additional supply. Ontario is able to supply it through our four different interconnections. Because we have a surplus, we'll also supply some power to Quebec in the summer, which allows them to back up their hydro dams and store water there, which allows them to generate more electricity during the day when the peak is a little higher.
In contrast, as I said, because Quebec is able to store that power, they are able to supply additional power to Ontario, particularly in these hot summer months. I didn't look at the grid before I came, but I suspect the trade is pretty good between the two provinces today, although it's the same weather in both provinces so both provinces will be using a lot of their own supply.
As the committee knows, electricity is a provincial responsibility. Canada's been blessed with vast and varied sources of electricity generation. One of the results of this is that we've developed an independent provincial electricity system with a large focus on local generation. As mentioned previously, interties have largely been seen as supplemental to domestic generation.
I want to go back to what I said at the beginning. It's important to bear in mind that interties are a major asset and continue to do more, but they're not a silver bullet. Large-scale transmission, in my view, is not much easier to site than pipelines. It has a long time frame and is expensive. Canada should pursue it, but only where practical and cost-effective.
Going forward, a Canadian energy strategy should focus on energy solutions that drive innovation, support local economies, and provide affordable power to people who rely on it every moment of every day. Ensuring a diverse, affordable emissions-free supply mix to maintain the reliability of the grid should be a permanent consideration. Affordable emissions-free electricity is an extremely valuable commodity on all sides of the border in the fight to battle climate change.
In our view, investments in these resources, along with the socio-economic benefits to local economies, will create a benefit for all Canadians over the long term.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to your questions.