My coffeemaker, a 1995-vintage Hamilton-Beach automatic drip filter machine, takes roughly eight minutes to make four cups of coffee. The appliance is rated at 1000 watts (one kilowatt), which means that in those eight minutes it uses roughly 0.133 kilowatt-hours. Of course, I don’t turn off the power as soon as the coffee is ready: I keep it on to keep the coffee hot until I, and any coffee-drinking female guest with the fortitude to endure my company, finish it off. So the machine therefore typically stays on for half an hour, and therefore uses about half a kilowatt-hour of electricity.
This morning my coffeemaker was on for the typical half-hour and used the typical half-kWh. While I drank my coffee, I read an article in the Ottawa Citizen by Mark Winfield, a York University professor and serial anti-nuke, on what he feels is the folly of continuing to rely on nuclear power in Ontario. It occurred to me that the printing presses that printed Winfield’s Citizen piece, and the internet servers that host the Citizen’s growing online presence, were powered mostly with the nuclear energy he opposes.
Moreover, the revenues that Ontario’s nuclear plants generate through the sale of low-cost electricity to provincial ratepayers helped to pay Winfield’s $109,636.32 salary. That revenue is taxed in a variety of ways, from taxes on profits, to income taxes on the salaries of employees at the nuclear plants, as well as the good old HST applied to every kWh of nuclear power, of which nuclear raises more than all other power sources combined because it makes more kWhs than all other sources combined. And, the profits of the provincially owned nuclear utility, OPG, go into the general coffers of the province. So, instead of criticizing Ontario’s most important energy source, Winfield should thank OPG and Bruce Power for helping to fund his ivory-tower lifestyle.
But to my point: I had my coffee, and read Winfield’s Citizen piece, at five-fifteen a.m. At the time I was enjoying my coffee and morning reading, Ontario electricity carbon intensity per kWh (CIPK) was 40.9 grams. That means that I, through my use of an electric-powered coffeemaker, was personally responsible for 20.45 grams of CO2.
Had Ontario listened to Winfield years ago and replaced its nuclear fleet with the fuel he would rather see used, i.e. natural gas, Ontario’s CIPK at five a.m. this morning would have been 388.7 grams. Which means that instead of being personally on the hook for 20.45 grams by virtue of my consumption of half a kWh to make coffee, I would have had 194.35 grams—over nine and a half times as much—on my conscience.
(You can do this counterfactual calculation yourself: simply multiply the kWh usage from any appliance you use by the current CIPK given in Table 1, then do the same calculation using the counterfactual CIPK given in Item 1 up on the right. That will give you your actual and counterfactual carbon footprint from the use of that appliance in Ontario. The counterfactual CIPK assumes Ontario’s nuclear plants have been replaced by gas plants, which emit 550 grams for every kWh generated.)
It’s easy for people making 109 grand a year to advocate expensive, carbon-heavy electricity. But the good news is, nobody has to listen to them. Sri Lankans, who live on less than $7,000 per year and who are currently protesting electricity price hikes, might, if they could, offer Ontario some good advice on who to listen to.