Ontario’s carbon reductions from electric power generation have since 2003 been simply remarkable. From a peak of over 40 million metric tons of CO2 in the year 2000, these fell to just over 16 million tons in 2012. That represents a 24 million ton annual reduction. This is by any standard a stunning achievement, worthy of great celebration—especially in light of recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which warn of climate catastrophe unless the human race reduces the amount of carbon we dump into our atmosphere.
And how did Ontario achieve this remarkable result? Simply put: we added six nuclear generators to our fleet of operating generators. The smallest of these are rated at 515 megawatts; the largest at 750 MW. Collectively, more than 4,000 MW were added to Ontario’s fleet of operational generators between 2003 and 2012. Because nuclear generators tend to run 24/7 for many, sometimes hundreds, of days at a time, their power output is huge.
The most recent of these newly operational nuclear units, while technically grid-ready in 2012, really entered service in the summer of 2013. Here is the environmental impact the nuclear fleet had in 2012 and has had so far in 2013:
|Nuclear % total generation||56.69%||59.14%|
|Total CO2, tons||16,181,577||10,796,240|
The key in the above table is the CIPK row. CIPK stands for CO2 intensity per kilowatt-hour, and is a measure of the grid-level environmental impact of electric power generation. Think of it as a measure of the carbon content of your personal power supply: multiply each kilowatt-hour of Ontario electricity you use by that hour’s CIPK, and you have a pretty accurate picture of your carbon footprint from electricity use.
As you can see in the above table, the CIPK of Ontario grid electricity was 110.3 grams in 2012; that translated into the 16 million tons of total CO2 I mentioned above.
Ontario’s grid CIPK has been 86.4 grams so far in 2013. If the rest of the year goes similarly to the first ten months, we will have achieved an all-time low in CO2 emissions: something in the order of 13 million tons.
That is to say, we will have gone from 40 million tons in 2000 to 13 million in 2013—an annual reduction of 27 million tons.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that is the single biggest CO2 reduction from a single industrial sector anywhere in the world that wasn’t the result of an economic downturn.
This happened because we returned nuclear units to service. It is not surprising: CO2 emissions from Ontario electricity generation skyrocketed when the same nuclear units were removed from service in the late 1990s.
Nuclear is the decisive element in any strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from electricity generation.