Looking at this morning’s Ontario electric grid numbers, you might get the impression that the morning energy peak in this province was around 18,000 megawatts, and that that peak will, if today is similar to yesterday (i.e., a hot and humid mid-week day across most of the high-population areas in Ontario) gradually increase through the day till it reaches the real peak of roughly 22,000 MW. That impression would be wildly wrong.
The Ontario energy peak this morning was not anywhere near 18,000 megawatts. It was at least twice that, and I’m not even counting the energy we get from our morning ingestion of pharmacological hydrocarbons (caffeine). My own estimate is that it was in the neighbourhood of at least 40,000 to 43,000 megawatts; possibly much more. That does include the roughly 18,000 MW of electricity, but it also includes another huge, and hugely overlooked, energy category: vehicle transportation. Vehicle transportation, I estimate, used 22,000 to 25,000 MWh of additional energy between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. this morning.
I base this estimate on two things. First, Statistics Canada (CANSIM, table 405-0002) reports net gasoline sales of 16.4 billion liters in Ontario in 2013. I strongly doubt that many of those litres spent the year in storage. They were stored, but in vehicle fuel tanks, whereupon they were shortly after burned in order to provide motive power. Convert 16.4 billion litres to energy (the whole reason for buying them), and you get 154.2 billion kilowatt-hours.
The second thing on which I base my estimate of an additional ~25,000 MWh of energy is my personal observation that downtown streets in Ottawa, where I live, are typically clogged with bumper-to-bumper car traffic from seven a.m. to nine. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of those cars are powered exclusively with an internal combustion engine using gasoline as fuel. Every single one of those burns gasoline, at the rate of at least one litre per hour but more often at two to three liters per hour, during its journey. Each litre contains roughly 9.4 kilowatt-hours of chemical energy.
On this basis, I figure there are, on any given morning rush hour, around 1.3 million cars on Ontario roads. If anyone can corroborate this figure, please let me know.
As you can see, the CIPK of the energy from the electricity grid is much much lower than that.
Here’s a question. If we wanted to reduce the CO2 from vehicles, how should we go about it? By conserving fuel? Or by using cleaner energy to drive our cars?