Yes, summertime heat load. You don’t usually think of using bulk artificial heat in the summer, what with outdoor temperatures pushing upward of 30° C. But in Ontario last July, we collectively bought 1.1 billion cubic meters of natural gas (see StatsCan CANSIM Table 129-0003). By my calculation about 320 million cubic meters of this were purchased by the 45 or so power plants in the province that burn natural gas to make electricity. This means about 796 million cubic meters were used for other applications.
In some of these applications natural gas was used as a raw material to manufacture other substances, including polyethylene, the most common plastic in the world. But most natural gas by far is used as energy. Let’s assume that 90 percent of the 796 million cubic meters of natural gas purchased in Ontario in July 2015 were used this way. That works out to 717 million cubic meters. This amount contained 7.1 billion kilowatt-hours of energy, and when that energy was released as heat it produced 1.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).
In all cases where natural gas was used for heat energy, that energy could have been provided by electricity. Considering the 1.3 million tons of CO2 that came with the gas-fired heat in July 2015, that energy should have been provided with electricity—Ontario electricity in that month was four times cleaner than gas.
That energy was used to heat water, as well as for cooking and baking. Some was used for air conditioning.
Now, Ontario electric power generators, including the gas-fired ones I mentioned above, collectively made about 13.3 billion kWh of energy. (The gas plants contributed 12 percent of that energy.) Collectively all power plants made 635,000 tons of CO2—but almost all of this pollution came from the aforementioned gas-fired plants.
Out of those 13.3 billion kWh, 8.3 billion—or 62 percent of the total—came from nuclear plants, which produce zero CO2.
In all cases where natural gas was used for heat energy, that energy could have been provided by electricity. Considering the 1.3 million tons of CO2 that came with the gas-fired heat, that energy should have been provided with electricity. Electricity in that month came with about 47 grams of CO2 per kWh, making electricity four times cleaner than gas.
How could we provide 7.1 billion kWh of electricity? With nuclear. We could double the size of our nuclear fleet, and that fleet could run pretty much flat out all year long—there would be no need to curtail nuclear output. July and August were the low demand months, remember. In January and February of 2015, natural gas use was triple what it was in July and August.
We currently have 12,500 megawatts of available nuclear capacity. Doubling that would give us 25,000 MW. It would also wipe 15 million tons of CO2 off of our provincial GHG inventory. It is the only way we can wipe out those 15 million tons.
We should get started on this.