McGuinty’s Kyoto opportunity: a recap

Ontario could easily achieve Kyoto targets in its electricity generating sector, by refurbishing or replacing the laid-up nuclear units at the Pickering and Bruce generating stations.

To make my case, I’m going to backhoe some of the historical numbers. Please bear with me. The numbers are important: understanding them is essential to learning the grammar of Kyoto.

Refurbishing or replacing laid-up nuclear units would return Ontario to the situation that existed in 1994, when the generating sector emitted less than two-fifths of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) as in 2003. What is astonishing is that Ontario generated more electricity in 1994 than in 2003—152.4 billion kilowatt-hours versus 149.9.

What accounts for this? Through the early 1990s, units of the Darlington nuclear station came on line. This reduced the need for coal-fired generation. The coal plants’ output accordingly dropped, from 26 billion kWh in 1990 to 16 billion in 1994.

As you can see in the graphic above, anybody who used electricity in Ontario in the mid-1990s was responsible for less than half of the generation-related emissions as in 2003. Emission intensity of generation was 104 tonnes per million kWh, versus 272 in 2003.

My source is Environment Canada’s greenhouse gas inventory (p. 278 of the PDF).

You don’t have to like nuclear generation, but you cannot argue with these numbers. If we want to reach Kyoto and clean air targets in the electricity sector, nuclear power is by far the best way to go.

In upcoming posts, I’ll deal with emissions related to space heating. Stay tuned.

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