Conservation, anti-nuke style: still more carbon, even if successful

The other day I put up a table showing the carbon implications of the brave new world Ontario is heading into when perhaps 10 nuclear reactors come out of service (six of them permanently). It’s not pretty: in a single typical July weekday, Ontario electricity generators could, in the course of delivering the same amount of power they did on July 18 2013, dump nearly 50,000 metric tons more carbon dioxide (CO2) into the already-CO2-choked air than they did this year.

… but try it on an extremely hot day. Who would want to? We need to cool off, especially if we are in the city. So the idea that conservation can solve any serious energy problems is a head-in-the-sand approach.

That dire prediction is based on a totally plausible grid mix scenario: it is totally plausible that (1) Ontario needs the same amount of power on a hot July weekday, and (2) carbon-heavy gas plants step in to supply the power that carbon-free nuclear plants once did.

Nonetheless, some have complained that I did not give any credibility to claims that conservation could play a role in reducing overall demand. Fair enough. So here is what I have done. I have showed the grid mix of one of the hours on July 18 2013, four a.m., which represented the lowest grid generation output on that day: 18,245 megawatts. Here it is:

Actual Ontario generation and carbon emissions, July 18 2013, 4:00 a.m.
Fuel MW   CO2, tons    
Nuclear 11,222 0
Hydro 3,012 0
Gas 3,083 1,614
Wind 200 0
Coal 557 547
Other 171 33
Total 18,245 2,194
CIPK: 120.25 grams

Now here is a snapshot of a 2020 scenario in which the conservation advocates have been pretty successful: it envisions that Ontarians have managed to reduce their collective demand, also on a hot July weekday, by a whopping three thousand megawatts. So the nuclear fleet has been reduced to generating 6,470 megawatts (a cause for celebration among anti-nukes), and the total generator output has been reduced from 18,245 MW to 15,245 MW. Here is a grid mix that could conceivably provide that amount:

Projected Ontario generation and carbon emissions, hot July weekday in 2020, at 4:00 a.m.
Fuel MW   CO2, tons    
Nuclear 6,470 0
Hydro 3,860 0
Gas 4,014 2,207.7
Wind 741 0
Coal 0 0
Other 160 13
Total 15,245 2,220
CIPK: 145.67 grams

Well guess what. Even in that impossible scenario in which Ontarians have reduced their collective electricity demand by 3,000 MW, CO2 emissions are higher—as you can see, total CO2 at four a.m. on July 18 2013 was 2,194 tons; in July 2020 on a similar day at a similar hour it could be, even with a totally successful conservation effort, 2,220 tons.

And why is that? Because Ontario will still be using fossil fired generators in 2020! Ontario will actually be using MORE fossil generation in 2020. Cut more nuclear, and we use more fossil plants. It is that simple.

If you are anti-nuclear, you are pro-fossil. You are not fighting carbon. You are helping dump more of it into the atmosphere.

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