Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Opportunities and Obstacles for nuclear in Alberta

The prospects for new nuclear reactors has been a hot topic this summer, particularly following Ontario’s announcements exploring new builds of large reactors and additional consideration of smaller (modular) reactors (SMRs). Ontario had been exploring SMR’s with other provinces, initially with New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, and more recently Alberta joined the group. Alberta’s electricity mix last week became a second hot topic. The current Canadian government is also a topic as it threatens to force, "a net-zero electricity system by 2035."

This seems an appropriate time for me to revisit Alberta’s electricity system in search of a route to nuclear power in that province.

Alberta’s electricity system underwent radical changes since I wrote on a former government’s activities in 2017’s Alberta.Bound. In this post I’ll concentrate on data from the Alberta Electricity System Operator (AESO) in this post, mostly from their Annual Market Statistics data visualization which currently contains data from 2015 thru to June 2023. The AESO's data indicates rapidly declining potential for nuclear in the AESO’s market in recent years.

Alberta’s coal generators saw the wish for them to disappear grow for over a decade. In 2012 I wrote on the rapid opposition to federal regulations that would see emissions from new coal-power plants limited to something impossible with any operational technology, and a maximum lifespan of 50-years mandated, then, through emissions regulation, the goalpost essentially moved to 40 years within Alberta, and then a 2030 death data was mandated, and other generation sources incented. Alberta's Climate Leadership Plan (CLP) of 2017 noted the, "drive toward the development of 30 per cent of electricity generation capacity from renewable sources connected to the grid by 2030." [emphasis added] While the CLP itself spoke of efforts to remove, "policy barriers of the conversion of coal units to natural gas," many of the people that set policy had already created an understanding that ,"Two-thirds of the coal-generating capacity (4200 MW) will be replaced by renewable energy, and one-third (2100 MW) by natural gas."

Summarizing the changes in generation capacity since 2016 by grouping fossil fueled generators together (gas, coal, dual fuel), “green” together (wind, solar and storage), displaying co-generation alone and lumping everything else in under “other” (including hydro), the decline in generating capacity of firm generators fueled by coal and/or gas is apparent, as is the, related, meteoric rise of “green” ones.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

on the risk of power shortages in Ontario this summer

A regulatory body with a mission “to assure the effective and efficient reduction of risks to the reliability and security of the grid,” delivered its “Summer Reliability Assessment” for North American jurisdictions last month. The brief news release for the document:
warns that two-thirds of North America is at risk of energy shortfalls this summer during periods of extreme demand. While there are no high-risk areas in this year’s assessment, the number of areas identified as being at elevated risk has increased. The assessment finds that, while resources are adequate for normal summer peak demand, if summer temperatures spike, seven areas — the U.S. West, SPP and MISO, ERCOT, SERC Central, New England and Ontario — may face supply shortages during higher demand levels.
Toronto Centre MPP, the NDP’s Peter Tabuns, used that document to launch an attack on the government’s management of the electricity system in the Ontario legislature on June 1st:
“…the body that oversees electricity grids in North America reported that Ontario risks power outages this summer. In fact, Ontario is the only province in Canada that is rated with elevated risk that it can’t meet peak demand. After five years, this government’s policies of cutting funding for efficiency and conservation, of demolishing wind farms and cancelling other renewable projects have led to this.”
This has gotten the rabble roused - if the media is any indication. The Toronto Star and CTV news both reported on topic. CTV’s reporting included comments from an expert, who advised, “There really is not any cause to be alarmed”, but also commentary from the opposite sort - politicians Tabuns and the leader of Ontario’s Green party.

Since this topic doesn’t seem to be going away I’ll explain some of the structure and content of reporting on reliability, and address the substance, or lack thereof, in the criticism of the government as reducing reliability through canceling plans for additional ‘green’ energy.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

87 years of electricity demand history ought to be relevant for planning

I’ve assembled a long view of annual Ontario Electricity production and/or consumption, from 1935 to 2022. There should be policy implications to take from the data.

Over 12 years ago I published the first article on my first blog: “The Current and Future State of Electricity, as the [Ontario Clean Energy Benefit (OCEB)] comes to Ontario.” I noted in that work that 2010, “[Seemed] like a good time for a big picture overview…” The OCEB was a 10% reduction of bills to, “help consumers manage rising electricity prices for the next five years.” Twelve and half years later the discount has a different name (Ontario Energy Rebate), and is 11.7%. 2023 strikes me a lot like the period running up to the Green Energy Act, so here’s the long view of Ontario’s demand history as information to protect for a repeat of that heist as we renew interest in procuring new sources to meet future provincial demand..

The graph of demand for the last 88 years contains 4 data sources, none of which are matched precisely to another:
  • “Porter” refers to the chair of 1980’s “The Report of the Royal Commission on Electric Power Planning”, and specifically data contained in appendix A of Volume 2. The figures shown are cited as originating in “Ontario Hydro’s Power Resources Report No. 790201.” In terms of comparison to other data sources in the graph the notable thing about this is that the figures represent production (not demand), and they’re a partial representation of production as there was electricity generated by entities other than Ontario Hydro.
  • CANSIM 127-001 is a Statistics Canada monthly dataset built from survey data that existed, at a couple of levels of complexity, from 1957-2007. For purposes of attempting alignment with other data sets, I’ve subtracted from the report’s “Total Available” value the figure shown for “Total Industrial Generation.” Without diving into the exact meaning of the latter field I assume it is self-generated (or behind-the-fence) generation which, while nice to know, is not a component of the other data sets in the chart. It must also be noted “Total Available” includes imports and excludes exports, unlike the “Porter” data
  • “IESO Demand” is the figure reported by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) as “Ontario Demand” - by which I understand they mean demand for supply from the IESO-controlled Grid (ICG). This differs from CANSIM 127-001 in a couple of ways: it will not capture generation from generators embedded within local distribution companies’ grids but it is data based on data far more reliable that that collected through surveying
  • “IESO Consumption”is a figure from the calculation of global adjustment charges as that proportional chargeback tool (for costs of supply not recovered through market revenue) requires calculating a consumers usage as a share of all consumers’ usage. As confusing as that sounds, this measure essentially differs from Ontario Demand in that it does capture the impact of distributed generators in supplying demand, although it omits the share of generation that is lost in transmission lines (as does the CANSIM 127-001).
The initial graphic is minorly distorted as Porter misses some generation, the survey data is inherently more prone to error, and at the latter years show the growth of distributed generation as the IESO’s “Demand” diverges from its “Consumption”.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Nuclear bros and environmentalists

 I'm Scott. 

You may know me as a nuclear bro' as I'm male and staunchly support nuclear energy. I need to preface the following as I'm only now publishing work I wrote mostly last summer only now, slightly edited with some extra paragraphs to compensate for me not having not completed the work. The motivation to put it out in the wild comes from things that impacted me in the past couple of days. On a positive note the federal government has shifted to include nuclear in programs aimed at eliminating emissions - perhaps it needs a push to reconstruct the Ministry of the Environment to align it with the new government position and this will provide it. Ignobly the greater motivation really comes from reading this interesting Twitter thread from the Patrick Brown associated with the Breakthrough Institute, and the invasion of my Twitter thread with formerly curious and interesting climate commentators/academics who stagnated intellectually a decade ago and now come out mainly to bless the words of other old stale 'environmentalist'.


One benefit I’ve gotten from social media is learning I am hated by some people I’ve never met - or even heard of. It comes when I enter arcane discussions on obscure topics and some viciousness enters from the periphery. I recognize the emotion in the irrational histrionics as I’m not immune to behaving similarly when losing my composure. I empathize with my haters. After viewing profiles to learn something about them I realize they have reason for animosity as they draw income from some pursuit I’ve attacked, repeatedly, in the past. This has worried me - I do know and like some people in fields I am not keen on (such as solar and efficiency), and I think in recent years I’ve worked at remaining civil. Unfortunately, this is now problematic. The same institutions, and people, I railed against over a decade ago in fighting the assault on the Ontario electricity consumers launched by the Green Energy Act, and related feed-in tariffs, are being manipulated in the same way by many of the same people with the same playbook as they perceive a political environment receptive to their same manipulation. If there’s hating to be done, I’m damn well going to be doing it!

What is an environmentalist?

I suggest an environmentalist is somebody considered an environmentalist by others marketed as environmentalists. There’s some requirements for that group to emerge: money, influence/access to media, communication and social skills… cinematographers.

What there hasn’t been is any requirement for accomplishment.