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Energy transitions

Ontario's approach is in stark contrast to that taken in Germany, which has a commitment to end the use of nuclear power and rely instead on renewable sources. This has seen significant coal capacity being constructed as a 'bridge technology' to a hoped-for renewable future. Japan too is struggling to replace the nuclear power kept offline since the 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi. Imports of LNG have leapt and officials recently began fast-tracking planning permission for coal plants. Meanwhile, a report by the International Energy Agency noted unhappily that the UK was the only country that has committed to not build any more unabated coal.

Air quality in Canada's Ontario province has improved dramatically in recent years, simultaneously with the ramping up of nuclear power and the phase-out of coal.

Ontario is home to a large portion of Canadian industry, the cities of Ottawa and Toronto and some 40% of the country's population of 33.4 million. Data from the Ontario Ministry of the Environmentshows a dramatic reduction in the air pollution that in 2005 was affecting these people for at least ten days during the year. The worst-affected places in 2005 had been 14 of 37 Ontario locations with more than 40 smog-warning days. Every location had at least ten smog days.

In 2011, by contrast, the worst-affected place had only eight smog-warning days, while 18 of the 37 locations had no smog warnings at all. Overall, days on which the people were warned about unhealthy levels of smog at one location or another have dropped from 53 in 2005 to just nine in 2011.

While Ontario has encouraged and facilitated investment in renewables and gas as well as efficiency in power generation and industry, two power sources have played leading roles in the province's transition: coal, because it has been gradually reduced and is set for phase-out; and nuclear, because it has increased to replace that supply.

Ontario has progressed steadily since a policy was announced in 2003 and is set to close its last operating coal-fired power plant next year. The 1140 MWeLakeview coal plantwas closed in 2005, leaving in operation Lambton with 1976 MWe, Nanticoke with 3964 MWe and small units amounting to 517 MWe. Those small units might be converted to burn gas and biofuels while Nanticoke and Lambton are being progressively closed, with final exit from coal planned for 2014.

All the above are owned by Ontario Power Generation, a province-managed utility which was instructed to improve nuclear capacity to replace that supply. Since 2003 it brought back to service two Candu units at Pickering and will also refurbish four reactors at Darlington for 25-30 years more life. The company also continues to move forward with a plan for two new large reactors at Darlington, for which environmental approval and a site perparation permit were granted last year.


Fossil fuels make their presence felt in a population's health, causing a range of respiratory problems. The former head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, James Hansen, recently co-authored a paper that conservatively put a figure of 76,000 on the number of lives saved each year through the use of nuclear power instead of a representative mix of coal and gas.

In the same timeframe another Ontario utility, Bruce Power, has brought online four units from a mothballed status at the Bruce A nuclear power plant. Units 3 and 4 came back into operation in 2003 and 2004 and units 1 and 2 followed in 2012.

Overall in Ontario nuclear capacity has increased by 4134 MWe since 2003, while coal has decreased by 4368 MWe. Renewable capacity grew by 2560 MWe and gas by 5672 MWe, according to the Independent Electricity System Operator(IESO).

In terms of delivered power Ontario was 85% carbon-free on 29 April, said IESO data. Nuclear provided 58% of electricity, with hydro at 26%, gas at 13% and wind at about 2%. This results in a carbon dioxide intensity of about 72 grams per kilowatt-hour.

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Researched and written
by World Nuclear News
Reprinted here with permission

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (10+ / 0-)

    Dr. Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny ...'"

    by davidwalters on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 09:46:40 AM PDT

  •  Did you read the story re Japan and solar (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau, FarWestGirl

    in the last issue of Solar today ?
    Page 16
    "Japan's big jump forward"

    Drop the name-calling MB 2/4/11 + Please try to use ratings properly! Kos 9/9/11 + Trusted Users have a responsibility to police the general tenor... Hunter 5/26/06

    by indycam on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 10:02:36 AM PDT

  •  As usual, David, you cite absolutely (0+ / 0-)

    no concrete figures on Germany's ostensible

    significant coal capacity being constructed as a 'bridge technology
    Conventional capacity
    Power plant projects on hold in Germany

    Germany is criticized for allegedly building new coal plants as a part of its energy transition, particularly as a result of the nuclear phaseout, with the general complaint being that Germany is in fact switching from nuclear to coal, not to renewables. Of course, the sudden nuclear phaseout of 2011 was irresponsibly quick; the power sector cannot respond to the shutdown of eight of 17 nuclear plants within a week.

    Paradoxically, however, those who complain of this alleged switch from nuclear to coal also fail to understand that not a single coal plant going up this year can possibly be a reaction to the phaseout. It simply takes years – around five, if you want a ballpark figure – to build a coal plant, so any that go online this year are the result of planning completed around 2008, which puts us in a time before the economic crisis, before Germany's reaction to Fukushima, and even before current German coalition took office (though Merkel was still Chancellor in a different coalition at the time).
    The first coal-fired plants that can possibly go up as a result of the sudden nuclear phaseout of 2011 therefore should not be expected until 2016. But don't hold your breath. Last week, the BDEW spoke of a new "ice age" for power plant construction, with a third of all projects currently in limbo – regardless of whether they already have permits are not. The main reasons for coal power are the current market design, which no longer works, and public resistance to new coal plants.

    Bolding is mine for emphasis

    Public resistance has stopped the building of 16 coal plants in the last four years, and the rising cost of coal is making it less and less attractive financially, in addition to its damaging emissions. Again, and I refer back to my liveblog with a Germany Green Party energy expert more than a year ago, that most of the coal plants being talked about will never be built, and the ones that will be are essentially all REPLACEMENTS for older, less efficient plants. But you only read what you want to read, and ignore the facts from reliable, honest sources.

    If you are so inclined, here is another interesting, must-read article, with graphs everyone should study:
    People who do not understand the politics of a country should refrain from making sweeping, unsubstantiated claims about that country's policies.

    „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

    by translatorpro on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 12:41:16 PM PDT

    •  This is not my article. It's news item from (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roadbed Guy

      todays World Nuclear News is a general perspective, mostly a commentary on Ontario as compared to Germany. Please note they are not bulding ANY coal plants in Ontario and the entire province runs on low-carbon alternatives to fossil fuel.

      Dr. Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny ...'"

      by davidwalters on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 02:29:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The concrete figures aren't that difficult to find (0+ / 0-)
      New coal plants with about 5,300 megawatts of capacity will start generating power this year, the Muenster-based IWR renewable energy institute said in an e-mailed statement today, citing data from the German regulator. About 1,000 megawatts of coal-fired capacity are expected to come offline, it said.

      Chancellor Angela Merkel, who shut Germany’s oldest atomic reactors two years ago in response to the Fukushima disaster in Japan, is seeking to replace the remaining nuclear plants with renewable generators and efficient fossil-fired stations. Greenhouse gas emissions in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, rose 1.6 percent last year as more coal was burned to generate power, the Environment Ministry said two days ago.



      In 2012 the German electricity sector increased its coal usage by 4.9 percent over its coal consumption value of 2011.[11] This increase in coal usage was largely due to a power gap in Germany created after the nation shutdown 8 of its 17 nuclear power plants.[12] The shortfall in electricity supply from these 8 power plants, is primarily being filled by building more lignite coal burning power plants.[13][14] The return to coal in Germany, beginning in 2011, could undermine the nations legal commitment to the kyoto protocol's carbon dioxide reductions.[15][16][17]

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