No Twin Peaks in Ontario energy, but lots of inconsistent energy policy

Ontario electricity is the cleanest energy we have. It is much cleaner than the energy we use for transportation. In every one of the 384 hours from December 1 to December 16, each kilowatt-hour of Ontario grid electricity came with less than 67 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2). A kilowatt-hour of the energy used to move our cars, trucks, and buses, no mater what the time of day, comes with roughly 251 grams of CO2—making it at least four times dirtier than electricity.

Not only is transportation energy—and I’m mostly talking about gasoline and diesel, which fuel almost all road transportation in this province and everywhere else—far more CO2-intensive, it is used far less efficiently than electricity is when it is used in road transportation. The gasoline portion of the transportation mix is particularly egregious: for each kilowatt of gasoline power that moves your car, four are wasted because of the built-in inefficiency related to the Otto-cycle spark ignition engine.

That means every kilowatt-hour of gasoline motive energy actually comes with 1,223 grams of CO2.

Have a look at the table below; it shows Ontario electricity generation and road transport energy, and associated carbon pollution, in December 2015 (up to December 16).

You can sort the table; if you sort by Electricity Total MWh, notice the general but highly variable correlation of those values with Road Transport Total MWh.

You will notice that Road Transport Energy is lower in the early morning hours, and much higher in the morning and evening rush hours on weekdays, and pretty much all through the day Saturdays and Sunday afternoons.

Notice also the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that come with each type of energy. Electricity CIPK varies through the day; the CIPK of Road Transport Energy is an average based on proportions of gasoline and diesel vehicles on Ontario roads. We can vary the amount of zero-carbon energy that makes our electricity; the overwhelming majority of us cannot do so with current motor vehicles—they burn gasoline and diesel and that’s it. Their CIPK remains constant.

There has lately been a huge amount of attention in the world media to the issue of climate change. In light of this it is interesting, and distressing, that we in Ontario have gone out of our way to discourage electricity use by making it hugely expensive during peak hours. Electricity is by far the cleanest energy we have.

Look at the amount of carbon that is being dumped into the air by road transport. Look at the table above: look at the times of the day that this is occurring. Most road transport fuel combustion takes place during peak electricity hours.

Do we avoid high electricity use by getting into our cars?

Time of use electricity rates should be abolished.

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 years ago

If ToU rates were abolished, wouldn’t people’s consumption trend more toward peaks which must be served by fossil-fired generators instead of emissions-free nuclear base load?

It makes more sense to me to keep the ToU rates, while adding programs to help people avoid them.  Battery-electric vehicles are ideally suited for overnight charging as managed demand at preferential rates.  Ice-storage air conditioning can also be a managed load, freezing water at a steady quiet pace overnight to meet peak cooling loads the following day without having to run the compressor/condenser system (or generate its noise).  DHW is a natural for storage systems.  With the big loads time-shifted to the cheapest hours, ToU rates work to maintain the economic incentive to keep demand away from the peaks which require fossil-fired generators to run.

4 years ago

I think you know my solution to the rent-seekers:  terminate the provisions so no new contracts can be signed, enact taxes on their rents which effectively take them all back, and just rip up the contracts when they go out of business.  You’d do massive damage to the supporters of the opposition party, and terminating the fees on electric bills would be very popular.

The daily energy consumption peaks in transport are a fact.  Are they a problem?  IMO the issues are carbon, criteria emissions and noise.  The actual timing and rate of consumption doesn’t matter because the energy is supplied from storage (millions of years old, but still).  If that storage was a battery charged the previous night things would be much improved.