By the end of 2014, Ontario will be the first jurisdiction in the world to replace dirty coal-fired generation with more sustainable alternatives such as wind, solar and bioenergy -- the equivalent of taking seven million cars off the road. This is the single largest climate change initiative being undertaken in North America and will lead to savings of $4.4 billion a year in health care, environmental and financial costs.-“Ontario Shutting Down Two More Coal Units” news release, December 1, 2011
This is one of the more recent quotes deliberately attributable to the Ontario government. Most statements regarding coal have their foundation in a document from April 2005, “Cost Benefit Analysis: Replacing Ontario’s Coal-Fired Electricity Generation,” which was prepared by DSS Management consultants. The quoted news release displays neither an understanding of the document, nor an attempt at understanding. The figure above includes the energy based on 2004 generation and costs - if if were possible to replace 2004’s roughly 27.6TWh of coal generation with wind turbine output, contracted at $135/MWh, the cost would be $3.725 billion, plus the significant environmental and heath costs of that source. There are no savings even if the report is accepted as gospel.
The figure people attempting honesty quote are found in Table I-4 of the report, and that figure is roughly $3 billion a year in ‘Health Damages.’
Enter the first non-governmental tool. Dr. - a title earned through studies in divinity, not medicine - Robert Oliphant’s letter writing campaign as President and CEO of the Asthma Society of Canada. Rob cites a Canadian Medical Association report called “No Breathing Room” - a report which notes lots of things, but not coal. If Oli is interested in Asthma cessaton, and not simply as a title allowing him to masquerade as a medical professional, he might want to study up on stressors of air sheds. I’d suggest reading through the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) Environment document’s section on just that issue, where you’d find, on page 17, contaminants named PM2.5 SOx NOx VOCs, NHx, TPM and CO.
Released in February, 2010 sector figures for these elements are available, for Ontario, from Environment Canada. I’ve edited the fields down somewhat, and highlighted where other sectors have higher emissions, impacting air quality, than the entire electricity generation sector.
|SECTORS||TPM (t)||PM10 (t)||PM2.5 (t)||SOx (t)||NOx (t)||VOC (t)||CO (t)|
|TOTAL INDUSTRIAL SOURCES||93,464||30,982||16,132||204,478||53,107||52,503||108,558|
|Electric Power Generation (Utilities)||3,306||2,736||2,120||38,448||28,130||500||13,576|
|Residential Fuel Wood Combustion||24,353||23,075||23,041||315||2,206||32,635||152,613|
|Off-road use of diesel||7,627||7,627||7,398||67||89,056||8,244||44,364|
|WITHOUT OPEN AND NATURAL SOURCES||144,432||79,673||61,893||267,650||382,951||408,563||2,329,499|
|Electricity Generation % of Total Without Natural Sources||2.29%||3.43%||3.43%||14.37%||7.35%||0.12%||0.58%|
The electricity sector has lower NOx emissions that the air transportation sector, and 1/3rd the emissions of the ‘off-road’ use of diesel. At the two remaining units at Lambton, and units 7 and 8 at Nanticoke, NOx emissions were largely removed with the installation of Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) systems. SOx is primarily an issue that data shows is being addressed everywhere, both in supply mixes and at the smokestack; the CIW document notes how effective existing policies have been (page 20).
Regarding NOx, the original 2005 document actually contains a scenario for mitigation through upgrades to existing plants. The costs of upgrades required at Lambton units 3 and 4 were minimal, as both already had both SCR systems, and scrubbers (Nanticoke 7 and 8 do not have scrubbers, but do have SCR systems). Thunder Bay and Atikokan were excluded from the DSS report as they, “are located in an airshed with few of the sensitive receptors common in the south. For these reasons, air pollution emissions and associated health and environmental damages for these two northern stations were not included in this analysis.” Health care costs on the only 2 units still in use at Lambton, and the Thunder Bay and Atikokan facilities, are not established, and unlikely to be significant - putting a dollar figure on shuttering the facilities is not honest.
Environmental Defence went further than writing local papers in inviting people to add their name to a canned letter equating the shutting down of “dirty coal plants” with wind turbines, and the David Suzuki foundation directs people to Environmental Defences’ site in claiming that, “ just two years, the GHG emissions from Ontario's electricity production fell by more than half. ..” The implication is that wind turbines have contributed to the reduction in coal. Aside from not being true, it’s the opposite of true at times. As high winds brought high temperature last Friday in Ontario, first the Bruce 8 nuclear reactor was taken offline, and then, on Saturday, Pickering unit 7 was removed. When the wind died and temperature dropped for Sunday and Monday (the highest demand in 6 weeks), the 1400MW of idled nuclear production was met with coal. Coal production was displaced by the return of nuclear units from 2002-2005, and since then primarily by natural gas. In 2006 about 35.4 TWh were produced by either coal or gas - in 2011 that figure was reduced to 33.1TWh, but a drop in demand of 9.6TWh accompanied the 2.3TWh drop in coal/gas generation.
The truth is wind cannot replace coal, and everybody knows it. Environmental Defence, Suzuki, the World Wildlife fund (WWF-Canada also had a campaign against rural power in siting industrial wind), and Greenpeace didn’t need a campaign, already having a man inside the legislature displacing the remnants of socialism in the rudderless NDP.
When Peter Tabuns spoke against observing rural concerns with industrial wind in Ontario, he did so by citing a French study which showed a link between nuclear plants and childhood leukaemia - a study based on 14 children having the disease, when only 7 would be expected. The study wouldn’t be significant, except for corroborating an earlier study in Germany with other minor percentage differences (but discredited because of claims there was one data cluster distoring all the data), and one in the UK … the one in the UK they don’t talk about much as the character of the people drawing wild conclusions from indeterminate statistics was revealed by George Monbiot, after the mistakes of the methodology were revealed by others.
Nonetheless, at least Tabuns touched on the real agenda of all the groups listed - most heavily financed by those who will profit from the displacement of the large hydro, and nuclear, projects that tend to be publicly owned.
Ontario’s rural residents deserve a more serious discussion on their ability to have meaningful input on the forced industrialization of their communities.
Wind cannot displace coal, and coal generation isn’t generating the medical costs being claimed.
Appendix: 2011 Coal Figures (estimated from IESO Hourly Output and Capability reporting).
|2011 Ontario Coal Generation Estimates|