Thursday, May 25, 2006

Nuclear power and hybrid vehicles: McGuinty’s Kyoto opportunity, part I

Ontario is on the verge of becoming the very first North American jurisdiction to take a giant step to full Kyoto compliance.

Some time soon, energy minister Dwight Duncan will announce the provincial government’s plans for adding refurbished or new nuclear capacity to Ontario’s system. Even if Duncan limits his focus to just the laid-up Bruce units, he will give Ontario the ability to generate over 10 billion kWh of carbon-free power per year. That translates into an annual greenhouse gas reduction of over 10 million tonnes (because the nuke power will displace coal-fired power).

Replacing the laid-up Pickering units with new CANDUs (or even light water reactors) will add another 1,000 megawatts of capacity, and thereby annually displace a further 8–9 million tonnes of GHGs.

These moves would make Ontario’s generating sector totally Kyoto compliant, and bring the entire province within 8 million tonnes of full compliance.

How could we wipe out the remaining 8 million tonnes? My May 23 post talked about hybrid vehicles. Toyota, Honda, and Ford—all of whom build cars in Ontario—are expanding hybrid production. Ontario already offers a $2,000 sales tax credit to anyone who buys a hybrid vehicle in the province. The federal government should do the same, and include fleet purchasers.

If and when plug-in hybrids become available, Ontario will be well placed to accommodate them. And the power that recharges their batteries would be even less carbon-intensive than it is now. The carbon intensity of Ontario electricity is already pretty low: roughly 272 tonnes per million kWh—less than one-third that of Alberta’s system. (See Environment Canada’s greenhouse gas inventory, pp. 278–281 of the PDF).

Stay tuned for part II.

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