August 2, 2012
Eighth in a series on the ‘Now or Never” report of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources (ENEV).
With Priority 8 we move away from oil and gas and to another giant on the Canadian energy scene: hydropower.
Hydropower accounts for nearly two thirds of Canada’s electricity production. Hydropower is a low emissions resource and Canada is fortunate enough to have the geography to support it. All provinces and territories have available hydropower to develop. So what does this mean for Canada’s energy future? Well, it is pretty simple actually, more hydropower. As basic as that seems, that is really all there is to it.
So today’s lesson is short but sweet. And fun. Here’s Rick under Niagara Falls running Big Becky. Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) Niagara Tunnel project is currently Canada’s biggest infrastructure project. When completed (2013) OPG will be able to generate a further 1.6 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually –enough to meet the electricity needs of about 160,000 homes for a hundred years or more.
And have a read about some of the other big players in the Canadian hydropower industry.
July 25, 2012
Second in a series on the ‘Now or Never” report of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources (ENEV).
Priority 2 moves us to connectivity. We’re talking about pipelines that move petroleum liquids and natural gas and the grid, smart and not, that moves electricity. With Canada’s vast resources, a sophisticated infrastructure is necessary to deliver energy to the consumer – you and me – every day. This topic brings a few key issues to the forefront: reliability, safety, and trade.
Now infrastructure isn’t a word that comes up in conversation too often. Pipelines and electricity systems are typically far removed from city life. But they are integral and essential to it. As stated in the ENEV report, ’80 per cent of Canadians live in or near cities.’ Needless to say, the energy used in these cities is often not produced there. And that is where infrastructure comes in.
Which brings me to reliability. Canadians assume energy is readily available. If it isn’t, then you don’t get to power your home, business, vehicle and all of your fancy things. The issue of reliability is immediate in the city as it relates to electricity. If the lights, heat or air conditioner goes out, you notice. The impact of a natural gas pipeline shut down can also have an immediate impact on an energy consumer’s life. The impact of a oil pipeline shut to a city dweller may typically be slower as petroleum products can be stored. However, reliability is still a top priority and issue.
These links also provide information on the second key issue: safety. Safety and reliability go hand in hand. Usually if something is functioning safely, it is also reliable. This is a pretty big topic, especially when it comes to pipelines. There have been several pipeline safety issues in the news recently. But safety extends to many other aspects of infrastructure – from environmental matters to working with landowners to planning wire and pipe routes. This is a big, important topic.
Aside from providing energy to Canadians, projects such as these are good examples of infrastructure to support trade and energy exports. Canada’s vast resources are not only valuable to Canadians, but valuable to North America, and the world. Energy trade allows Canada to build global relations, and provides incentive to further explore and develop our energy resources. Canada is a nation with a relatively low population to resource ratio, and this makes energy trade a very important piece of the Canadian economy.
So that’s a wrap on today’s lesson. Good luck with your additional reading assignment. As infrastructure isn’t the hottest of topics, it’s easy to forget how important it is to every day life. We all make use of this infrastructure on a daily basis so a little knowledge can help you better understand the process and issues behind it all.
January 3, 2012
This Red Dot award winner might be the answer for some consumers, but probably not for me.
April 27, 2011
Electricity is important to Canadians. It not only powers Canadian homes and businesses, in 2010 it contributed about $25 billion to the Canadian economy and provided more than 100,000 jobs. However, according to the Conference Board of Canada, approximately $293 billion need to be spent on infrastructure over the next 20 years to keep the current flowing.
Capacity growth was biggest in the 60s and 70s, averaging about six percent per year. In the 80s, this dropped to 2.9 per cent and decreased further in the 90s and 2000s to 0.5 per cent. And while infrastructure investment has been at record levels the past few years, it has gone more toward maintaining capacity and not to increasing it.
Between 2010 and 2030, $195.7 billion will be needed for capacity-building projects to either refurbish existing generating facilities or replace retired ones. About two-thirds of that will be spent in three provinces:
|Ontario||$60 billion||Refurbishment, retirement, Feed-in Tariff program|
|Alberta||$44 billion||Oil sands expansion, replacing coal-fired generation|
|Quebec||$29 billion||New wind projects, hydro refurbishment|
But it’s not just generation projects that are needed. Transmission and distribution projects account for about one third of the budget. Of the $36 million in transmission investment, 72 per cent will be spent in three provinces:
|British Columbia||$4 billion|
Distribution projects account for $62 billion of new investment, with three provinces spending about 87 per cent of the distribution total:
|Quebec||$22 billion||Distributed generation, smart meters, changing electricity requirements.|
It may seem like a high price to pay, but the expenditure is going towards updating or replacing old, inefficient generating facilities, many of which are coal fired, and building more efficient renewable generation. In the long run, it’s a worthwhile investment.
April 5, 2011
If you live in Ontario and want to know where your electricity is coming from at this hour, the Canadian Nuclear Society hosts a website called Where is My Electricity Coming From at this Hour?
All you have to do is go to the website and it not only tells you from whence your electricity comes, but also how many tonnes of CO2 have been avoided by not burning coal, the number of homes being supplied by each electricity source, from whence your electricity came in past 48 hours and the capabilities and output of pretty much every generating unit in Ontario, be it nuclear, coal, natural gas, hydro, wind or other. The source for the generation data is Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator.
We’re pretty excited about this service, not only because of the transparency it provides, but also of its false-impression-busting capabilities. For example, the amount of CO2 Ontario’s coal-fired generating plants emit gets a lot of coverage, and from this we get the impression that coal is one of the major sources of Ontario’s electricity, but in consulting Where is My Electricity Coming From at this Hour, we find that currently only four per cent is coming from coal. Forty-nine per cent is coming from nuclear power, 23 is coming from hydro, 18 from natural gas, five from wind and one from other, chiefly wood biomass.
And 16 hours ago, 4.6 per cent was coming from coal, and that was about as high as it got in the last 48 hours.
In fact, the website points out that 13,210 tonnes of CO2 that would have been emitted in the past hour if all the electricity in Ontario was coal-fired, have been avoided due to the use of other energy sources.
We wonder how many Canadians coast to coast know and understand where their electricity comes from, not only by the hour, but in general. Knowing where our electricity comes from may be useful in deciding how much we’re going to use and how we’re going to use it.
March 25, 2011
Because hydropower supplies more than 63 per cent of our electricity, Canada is one of the greenest electricity producers in the world.
In terms of total generation: hydro, nuclear, coal, natural gas, wind, et al., Canada ranks fifth overall, but only produces about 15 per cent of the electricity produced by the front runner.
Until recently, Canada and Brazil vied for first overall, but the recently completed Three Gorges Dam project in China has put that country in first place.
Three Gorges Dam has 26 generators with a total installed capacity of 18,200 megawatts. Six more generators to be installed by 2015 will raise that to 22,400. In addition, there are two 50-megawatt generators that provide power only for the dam’s operations.
Brazil’s Tucurui generating station, with an installed capacity of 8,370 megawatts is the fourth largest in the world. Brazil shares the 14,000-megawatt Itaipa generating station with Paraguay. It is the second largest in the world.
Canada’s Robert Bourassa generating station in Quebec ranks eighth in the world with 5,616 megawatts installed capacity and Newfoundland’s Churchill Falls generating station is ninth largest in the world with 5,429 megawatts capacity.
March 18, 2011
Despite there being in excess of 9,000* safe reactor years in the nuclear power industry since Chernobyl, the global reaction to the situation in Japan has been to douse the so-called nuclear renaissance.
Three mile Island image: Photo newstrending.net | Chernobyl image: Photo Reuters
After the nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, both of which were the result of mechanical failure and human error, nuclear power was deemed potentially too hazardous, and construction of new facilities virtually ceased. However, nuclear power is now seen as an emissions-free alternative to fossil fuel fired electricity generation and as of year-end 2010, 61 new nuclear plants were under construction and 158 were in the planning stages.
However, over the past few days, that has all changed.
Australia, which does not currently generate electricity from nuclear power, was firm that nuclear would not be part of its future. This despite the country having uranium exports worth more than $1.1 billion in 2009.
Building and replacing nuclear plants in Switzerland will be put on hold until safety standards are reviewed.
Germany reacted by proposing a three-month moratorium on the decision to extend the operating lives of its 17 nuclear power plants, although this is seen by some as a means of stalling a final decision on nuclear power until after this month’s elections.
Austria wants all of Europe to ensure all nuclear power plants are earthquake proof.
In the United States, politicians from both parties are re-thinking proposed green energy legislation that promotes a large role for nuclear power. Senator Joe Lieberman wants the U.S. to “put the brakes on right now until we understand the ramifications of what’s happened in Japan.”
Even China, which currently has 27 nuclear power plants under construction, announced it will stop approval of new nuclear plants until safety inspections are complete on all facilities under construction.
Only Ontario, it seems, is still damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, when it comes to new construction. A spokesperson for Ontario Energy Minister Brad Duguid said the government remained committed to building two new units at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Clarington, Ont.
The question is, “Are people overreacting?” Here are a few points to consider.
Japan is situated in a region prone to earthquakes and tsunamis. The nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant withstood both the earthquake and the tsunami; it was the back-up systems that failed due to inadequate protection from the tsunami. The four units at the Fukushima Dai-ni power plant 11.5 kilometres to the south were successfully shut down after initial problems with the cooling systems. No problems were encountered with the other 48 reactors in Japan.
In North America, only five of the 121 operating reactors are near the seismically active west coast. The others are in seismically stable regions of the mid-west and eastern parts of the continent where there is very little chance major earth quakes and tsunamis.
According to the European Seismological Commission, the risk of earthquakes in Europe, other than Italy, Greece and the Balkans, is low. There are currently more than 400 nuclear reactors safely providing power world wide. Since the beginning of the nuclear power industry, there have been more than 14,000** reactor years of operations during which there were two serious accidents.
With nuclear though, is seems two is the only number many need.
*9,000* safe reactor years was calculated by taking the number of years since Chernobyl (2011-1986=25) and multiplying it by the average number of reactors in service between 1986 and 2011 (388.3). 25 years x 388.3 reactors = 9,707.5 reactor-years. The average number of reactors on line was determined from World Nuclear Association data.
14.000** reactor years figure comes from the World Nuclear Association home page. They have ticker that says “As of Today: 14,424 Reactor-Years of Worldwide Experience in Producing Civil Nuclear Power.” That number is derived by multiplying the number of years from when the first commercial reactor went on line in 1954 to the present (2011-1954=57) by the average number of reactors on line during that time, which is 253.
March 18, 2011
Natural gas. Propane. Butane.
Three common fuels with common uses. There are natural gas barbecues, propane powered cars, natural gas and propane furnaces, propane and butane stoves and torches, but, there aren’t any butane cars or natural gas lighters.
What makes them interchangeable is they are all closely related. Very closely. In fact, propane and butane are components of natural gas, accounting for one to five per cent. The other components are methane (75 to 95 per cent), ethane (five to 15 per cent), pentane (less than 0.5 per cent) and traces of nitrogen, water vapour, carbon dioxide and sulphur.
Methane, propane et al. consist solely of carbon and hydrogen in simple chains; the relative proportions are given in the accompanying table.
What makes them not so interchangeable is their physical properties and relative abundances.
|Name||Formula||Melting Point||Boiling Point||Heating Value
Processed natural gas, which is about 90 per cent methane, is used as fuel for space and water heating, generating electricity and powering vehicles. When used for heat or electricity or a barbecue, it is delivered as a gas via pipeline. Powering a vehicle is a different story. The natural gas has to be either compressed (CNG) or liquefied (LNG). CNG is the most common. It involves pressurizing the gas to 20,000 to 24,000 kilopascals or 200 to 240 times the normal pressure at the earth’s surface.
At that pressure, the natural gas occupies less than 1/100 of its original volume. Liquefying natural gas involves cooling it to a temperature less than -162 °C at which point it occupies less than 1/600 of its original volume. Because of these requirements, natural gas lighters would be prohibitively expensive and far too large to carry in your pocket.
Propane makes a effective vehicle fuel because it is a liquid a lower pressures and higher temperatures than natural gas. It’s portable enough for barbecues and camp stoves, but still not enough for lighters. And it’s reasonably plentiful.
Butane is less plentiful than propane and much, much less plentiful than natural gas. Consequently, it isn’t used as vehicle fuel, but because of its low boiling point, it’s ideal for torches, cook stoves and lighters.
February 25, 2011
One thing the provinces of Canada don’t share is consensus on nuclear power generation. Three provinces, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have passed legislation prohibiting nuclear generation.
Despite Saskatchewan being the third largest producer of uranium in the world, providing more than 20 per cent of global supply, it has no plans for nuclear power, but it hasn’t banned it outright.
Future projects in Manitoba include three hydropower projects in early planning stages. Nuclear power is not part of the plan.
Prince Edward Island’s (1.4MB PDF) 2008 energy strategy focuses on renewable energy sources such as biomass, biofuels and wind as well as imported petroleum products. No mention is made of nuclear power going forward.
After appointing an expert panel and conducting public consultation, Alberta decided to treat nuclear power as it does all types of electricity projects. Because the province has a deregulated electricity system, any generation project proposed by private sector is considered on a case-by-case basis. The government does not have a position on nuclear power, nor does it subsidize any type of power. Once an application is submitted, the project is subject to a rigorous approval process which includes public consultation. The government essentially has no role until an application is submitted.
Nuclear power has been a fixture in Ontario‘s energy plan (660MB PDF) since the late 1950s when Ontario Hydro and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited began planning the Douglas Point Nuclear Generating Station. Douglas Point was the first commercial nuclear power station in Canada, and operated from 1968 to 1984 before being decommissioned.
The eight units at the Pickering Nuclear Power Station were put into service between 1971 and 1986. Pickering A consists of four 515-megawatt units, of which two are in safe storage. Pickering B consists of four 516-megawatt units, all of which are operational.
The eight units at the Bruce Nuclear Power Station were put into service between 1977 and 1986. Bruce A consists of four 750-megawatt units, of which two are being refurbished. Bruce B consists of one 790-megawatt unit, two 822-megawatt units and one 806-megawatt unit, all of which are operational.
The four units at Darlington Nuclear Power Station were put into service between 1982 and 1993. The facility consists of four 881-megawatt units, all of which are operational.
Nuclear power currently supplies about 57 per cent of Ontario’s total generation.
The Ontario government is committed to clean, reliable nuclear power remaining at approximately 50 per cent of the province’s electricity supply. To do so, units at the Darlington and Bruce sites will need to be modernized and the province will need two new nuclear units at Darlington. Investing in refurbishment and extending the life of the Pickering B station until 2020 will provide good value for Ontarians.
The first nuclear reactor built in Quebec, Gentilly-1, operated, somewhat problematically, from 1971 to 1977. Gentilly-2, a 635-megawatt CANDU reactor was put into service in 1983. It has operated since then, but is scheduled for refurbishment in 2012 to extend its operational life to 2035.
Gentilly-3 was planned, along with several other reactors, but a moratorium on further development was put in place in 1978 while Gentilly-2 was already under construction. The moratorium has since been lifted.
Nuclear power only provides less than three per cent of Quebec’s electricity, with hydropower providing about 97 per cent, so it has been argued that nuclear power could be replaced by renewables.
New Brunswick: The Point Lepreau Nuclear Power Station is New Brunswick’s first and only nuclear power facility. The unit is a 630-megawatt CANDU 6 reactor put into service in 1983. In recent years it generated up to 35 per cent of New Brunswick’s electricity.
Refurbishment of the reactor began in April 2008 and was expected to be completed by the end of September 2009, but is now scheduled for completion in May 2012. In the meantime, the province is investigating the feasibility of building a second reactor at Point Lepreau.
February 24, 2011
After a few years in the doldrums, the global nuclear power industry is alive and well once again. Nuclear power’s emissions-free electricity is driving a renaissance with 61 nuclear power plants currently under construction and another 158 in the planning stage.
Unfortunately Canada, a country with a long and successful nuclear history, may miss out.
The problem is the uncertain future of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL). Between November 2007 and May 2009, AECL underwent a review by Natural Resources Canada to determine if “AECL’s structure as a Crown Corporation best equips it, its employees and ultimately the Canadian nuclear industry to participate fully in the expanding global nuclear market.”
The findings of the review were announced in May 2009 and in a statement, Lisa Raitt, Minister of Natural Resources at the time, said “AECL’s current mandate and structure hampers its success and development and does not maximize benefits for Canada.” As well, the review found that the CANDU division is “too small to establish a strong presence globally in the high-growth markets that are key to its success.” Subsequently, Minister Raitt, announced the CANDU division was up for sale.
Despite “significant private sector interest in AECL’s commercial operations”, after 15 months of being on the block, only two Canadian companies and no foreign companies have made bids. The Canadian bids were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, because of AECL’s in-limbo status, interest in CANDU reactors from Ontario, Argentina and Romania aren’t being addressed.