Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Ontario's High Electricity Exports, and Low Emissions

I've been exchanging comments on Twitter initiated by claims, from others, that nuclear generation, not intermittent wind and solar, are the cause of dumping excess production on export markets.

It occurred to me that I was about to revisit ground I covered in my very first blog post back in 2010; I updated an old spreadsheet as best I could and recreated a graph from that post, along with one that didn't make it into the blog post.

The twitter comment, from Adam Scott at Environmental Defence, was; "Far too much of our power is inflexible, surplus baseload was an issue here in the 90's even before wind."

Which is true - and a negative

But the flip side is that the larger the share of our generation that has come from nuclear generation, the lower our CO2e emissions.

The relationship between net exports, and emissions, is striking, with elevated export levels matching low emissions levels.

The truth is more nuanced than these graphs indicate.  Today, for instance, Ontario's coal plants have been generating fairly high amounts of power (~1500MW) during business hours while net exports have remained about 2000MW.  That isn't due to nuclear or wind.

My position remains that maximizing baseload allows for the cleanest system - baseload here meaning high capital cost, and low fuel cost (hydro and nuclear) rather than commitments to intermittent renewables requiring complimentary capacity from traditional (gas/coal) generation.

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