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I envisage a future in which electricity from non-fossil sources almost completely displaces fossil fuels. Nuclear power supplies reliable base load electricity. Renewable energy sources provide intermittent power that should be sold as interruptible electricity.
We need to make a popular video which explains that there is only one practical solution to climate change. Failure to promptly adopt this solution simply exacerbates the climate change problem. The key issues to be raised in this video are:
1) A consumer will not willingly substitute clean (non-fossil) electricity for fossil fuel energy unless the cost of a marginal kWhe electrical energy is less than the cost of a marginal kWht of fossil fuel energy. In this respect a fossil carbon tax helps but alone is not sufficient.
2) At least as important as a fossil carbon tax is repricing electricity. For historical reasons in most jurisdictions electricity is sold to consumers based on the consumer's monthly electrical energy consumption and on a published cost per kWh consumed. However, clean (non-fossil) electricity consists of two distinct components: clean dependable electric power and clean interruptible energy. Clean dependable power, such as from hydroelectric and nuclear power plants, provides electricity whenever consumers want it. Clean interruptible energy, such as provided by intermittent wind and solar generation, is only available when the wind blows, when the sun shines or when dependable electricity customers choose to not use their full dependable electricity allocation.
3) Thus dependable electricity has a much greater blended monetary value per kWhe than interruptible electricity. The dependable and interruptible electricity components used by a consumer can be separated using an interval meter and radio/internet broadcasts. However, if the electricity billing system does not distinguish between the dependable and interruptible electricity components, the dependable electricity priced is too low and the interruptible electricity is price is too high.
4) The consequence of the dependable electricity price being too low is that investors cannot afford to build capital intensive hydroelectric and nuclear plants.
5) The consequence of the interruptible electricity price being too high is that consumers do not purchase interruptible electricity for displacement of fossil fuels.
6) Thus today we have the worst of both worlds and governments around the world are either too incompetent or too corrupt to face this electricity billing matter. The fossil fuel industry politically opposes separation of dependable and interruptible electricity components, because soon after these components are separated the fossil fuel industry will lose much of its load.
7) Thus the first steps in solving the climate crisis are repricing electricity and introducing a fossil carbon tax. There will be little reduction in CO2 emissions until the consumer's cost per marginal kWhe of interruptible electrical energy is significantly less than the consumer's cost per marginal kWht of the competing fossil fuel.
8) Reducing the cost of interruptible electricity forces an increase in the cost of dependable electricity so as to keep the electricity system revenue constant. However, increasing the value of dependable electricity has the effect of making new capital intensive hydroelectric and nuclear power projects much more attractive to potential investors.
9) There is a second issue that is equally important in the long term. Present water cooled nuclear power reactors obtain most of their energy from fission of the relatively rare uranium isotope U-235. These reactors are very fuel inefficient. If water cooled power reactors are built on a sufficient scale for displacement of fossil fuels, in a few decades the known rich deposits of natural uranium will be depleted. To avoid this natural uranium fuel shortage new reactors should be primarily fueled by U-238, which is 140X more abundant than U-235.
10) Reactors fueled by U-238 operate by converting U-238 into low concentration Pu-239. Then electro-chemical fuel reprocessing is used to concentrate the Pu-239 sufficiently to support a nuclear chain reaction.
11) Fossil fuels presently provide an ongoing thermal power of about 20,000 GWt. The law of conservation of energy demands that much heat from any alternative clean energy source.
12) There are environmentalists who are mistakenly convinced that the climate solution is to build only more renewable power, not more nuclear power. However:
13) Geographical factors limit hydro power to about 5% of the total clean energy requirement.
14) Electricity grid stability issues limit wind and solar power generation to about 20% of the total clean energy requirement. While that fraction might theoretically be increased by addition of enough transmission and energy storage, the size and costs of the required transmission and energy storage are prohibitive.
15) Hence about 75% of the total future clean energy requirement must be met with sustainable nuclear power that is fueled by U-238 and is supported by fuel reprocessing.
16) If nuclear power must provide 75% of the required clean energy the total nuclear reactor capacity must be at least 15,000 X 1 GWt.
17) Human standard of living is indicated by average per capita power demand.
18) In Canada and the USA the average per capita thermal power supplied by fossil fuels is about:
9 kWt / person.
19) World wide the average per capita fossil fuel thermal power is about;
2.7 kWt / person.
20) A reasonable social goal is to double the world average per capita thermal power to about:
2 X 2.7 kWt / person.
21) Over the next three decades the world human population is projected to increase about:
22) Hence to meet both climate change and social betterment goals the world will require at least:
1.25 X 2 X 15,000 1 GWt reactors = 37,500 X 1 GWt reactors
in addition to 12,500 GWt of wind, solar and hydro electric generation.
23) To put a 1 GWt reactor size in context, in Canada and the USA 1 GWt will meet the total energy needs of about 100,000 people.
24) There is reasonable expectation of extending the world nuclear fuel supply to several thousand years via use of Th-232, which can be converted into fissile U-233. However, that conversion process relies on the U-238 > Pu-239 reaction for both reaction initiation and for elimination of the associated nuclear fuel waste.
25) There is a theoretical possibility that in the distant future useful energy can be obtained from fusion of the heavy hydrogen isotopes H-2 and H-3. However, today, after more than 50 years of developmental work, more electrical energy is still required to initiate this reaction than can be recovered from this reaction. There is presently nothing on the horizon that might make this process viable for bulk power generation in the foreseeable future.
26) There is no means of avoiding use of plutonium in sustainable nuclear power generation.
27) An issue that the US government is particularly concerned about is rogue parties that might might use Pu-239 to make atomic bombs instead of heat and electricity.
28) It only takes one rogue country with one rogue reactor to make atomic bombs sufficient to threaten world peace.
29) International monitoring of operations at 37,500 different reactors is a major task.
30) Fortunately there are various methods of remotely supervising reactor operations to thwart potential bomb makers.
31) If belligerent parties engage in rogue nuclear weapon activity, there may be no practical solution other than to assassinate them.
32) The concluding message is that there is no other physical solution to climate change.
33) If mankind is to survive he has to build about 1000 X 1 GWt urban sited nuclear reactors per year. This project has to take priority over all other public expenses. Maintenance of the present Canadian standard of living requires construcion of 10 to 20 such reactors per year in Canada.
The rate of implementation of this energy vision is primarily a function of the future price of fossil fuels relative to the future price of electricity.
INTEGRATED ZERO EMISSION (INZEM) ENERGY SYSTEM
An issue that many governments have failed to face is that energy conservation will not solve the fossil CO2 emissions problem. Raising the price of electricity as a means of encouraging energy conservation has the opposite effect of increasing fossil fuel consumption, which makes the atmospheric CO2 concentration worse. To address the fossil fuel consumption problem there must be a surplus of non-fossil electricity, so that the cost of non-fossil electricity falls with respect to the cost of fossil fuels. This electricity surplus must be made available to the general public, not constrained. If an electricity surplus is only available some of the time it should be sold via an interruptible electricity rate. Suitably priced interruptible electricity is essential for displacing existing fossil fuel consumption and for production of synthetic hydrocarbon fuels.
The bottom line is that to substantially reduce fossil fuel usage delivered electrical energy from non-fossil electricity sources must be less expensive than delivered energy from fossil fuels. Both a fossil carbon tax and a change in the electricity price structure are likely required to achieve this relative cost relationship.
TRANSMISSION AND DISTRIBUTION:
History has shown that on average the costs of energy transmission and distribution constitute about half of the delivered electricity price. Hence any policy that seeks to encourage consumption of non-fossil electricity in place of fossil fuels must also address the costs of electricity transmission and distribution. Politicians as a group have failed to reserve sufficient land corridors for electricity transmission and consistently procrastinate about this matter. Transmission planning requires 50 to 100 year planning horizon and hence is an activity inherently unsuitable for politicians who make decisions on two to four year election cycles.
One of the most effective ways of producing non-fossil electricity is via nuclear fission. However, today most nuclear power is made via fission of U-235, which is a limited resource. To address this limitation the source of the primary energy must be changed to U-238, which is about 140 times more abundant in nature than U-235. However, use of U-238 means adoption of fast neutron reactor technology, which few politicians understand and still fewer are willing to embrace, in part due to fears related to nuclear weapon proliferation. It is time for politicians to realize that fast neutron reactors are essential for disposing of high level nuclear waste and are essential for preventing further formation of fossil CO2. Politicians simply have to face the issue of appropriate use of fast neutron reactors.
For the last 60 years the world has been aware that most of the readily accessible energy in the universe comes from nuclear fusion reactions. If human civilization is to persist on Earth in the long term humans are going to have to master fusion as a controlled energy source. However, for fundamental thermodynamic reasons obtaining controlled energy from fusion is more difficult and is more expensive than obtaining controlled energy from fission. The appeal of fusion is that it is inherently safer than fission and cannot be used to produce fission weapons.
To make nuclear power economic it must be applied in situations where it makes financial sense. A nuclear power plant (NPP) outputs both electricity and heat. The heat can only be efficiently transmitted a relatively short distance so most NPPs must be urban sited.
THE PRESENT SITUATION:
In November 2021 the Ontario consumer's cost of home heating oil reached $1.431 / litre including taxes. If the furnace efficiency is 85% the corresponding cost of a kWht derived from combustion of oil is:
($1.431 / litre) X (1 litre / (38.2 X 10^6 J X .85)) X (1 j / Wt-s) X (1000 Wt / kWt) X (3600 s / h)
= $.1586 / kWht
The corresponding cost of a delivered kWh of electricity from Hydro One including taxes charged to low density residential customers without TOU rates during the 2021-late summer was:
$.1620 / kWh
If we are serious about stopping global warming human beings MUST CEASE COMBUSTION OF FOSSIL CARBON FOR PRIMARY ENERGY GENERATION. To achieve this objective there must be economic alternative energy sources, enforceable international fossil carbon tax agreements and effective population control.
A fossil carbon tax levied at the point of fossil fuel extraction has a minimal cost to administer and enforce. In the case of parties such as suppliers of below grade water proofing materials, that do not burn much of the fossil carbon that they purchase, the onus is on them to prove to regulatory authorities the fraction of their fossil carbon purchases that do not eventually convert into carbon dioxide.
Any process for replacing the liquid and gaseous fossil fuels that we presently use for transportation and general purpose heating, without use of fossil carbon, involves large amounts of energy and heat that can only be obtained from renewable energy or nuclear energy. There are a variety of methods for obtaining renewable energy and to the extent that these methods are available they are preferred over nuclear energy because nuclear electricity generation often results in low grade reject heat being dumped into the atmosphere. However, in many circumstances renewable energy is not available when and where required and hence there is no practical subsititute for nuclear energy.
Another key issue is the range of important industrial processes, such as ammonia production and reforming of methanol into energy dense liquid fuels, that require high temperatures. Realizing these high temperatures without combustion of carbon requires electrolytic hydrogen and/or use of liquid metal or molten salt cooled fast neutron reactors.
Disposal of the used fuel from CANDU nuclear reactors can be done in a fast neutron reactor (FNR). FNRs can burn the highly radio toxic actintides that are generated in water moderated reactors. Hence CANDU reactors should be gradually replaced by FNRs.
In the future the supply mix should consist of a mixture of about 75% nuclear and about 25% renewable generation. The nuclear generation must be sufficient to meet the peak load associated with the Dependable Electricity Service. The renewable generation, which fluctuates both daily and seasonally, together with the unused off-peak part of the nuclear generation, should be sold as Interruptible Electricity, which is primarily used for displacing other fuels and for producing synthetic fuels and fertilizers.
MATCHING GENERATION TO LOAD:
Once fossil fuels are a negligible portion of the supply mix, the most efficient way to match generation to load is to vary the load, not the generation. Then only in the most extreme circumstances is generation constraint warranted. Most ongoing generation to load matching requirements can be met by varing the load connected via the Interruptible Electricity Service. Then the role of fossil fuel generation diminishes to being strictly emergency reserve to meet the Dependable Electricity Service load in extreme circumstances when, due to the combination of a nuclear reactor failures and exceptionally low renewable generation, there is insufficient clean electricity generation.
1. By the year 2025 governments throughout the world will have accepted that the world is over heating and will have a political mandate to take corrective action.
2. Evaporation of lakes will convert the dissolved calcium bicarbonate in the lakes into calcium carbonate, releasing yet more carbon dioxide gas. This carbon dioxide plus carbon dioxide released from ongoing combustion of fossil carbon will cause the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to further increase.
3. Melting of permafrost will melt cathrates (methane hydrates) which will quickly release the stored methane. That methane is a strong greenhouse gas. Over a few years that methane spontaneously breaks down to become yet more CO2.
4. Much of the arable land that presently relies on winter snowpacks for summer irrigation will become desert. In the process this land will release additional CO2 to the atmosphere.
5. Many people will be forced to migrate due to agricultural and livestock failures caused by lack of fresh water seasonal storage in mountain snowpacks.
6. Many important agricultural and forest commercial species will be driven into extinction by runaway pestilences. The rate of temperature change is too great for most biosystems to adapt. eg. Several major commercial tree species in Canada are presently being wiped out by invasive insects, which no longer die off during mild winters (eg Pine trees in British Columbia and Ash trees in Ontario).
7. The floating sea ice bordering Greenland and Antarctica will melt. One of the fuctions of this floating sea ice is to contain the high pressure fluid underneath the land borne ice to prevent this fluid flowing into the surrounding oceans. The released fluid will flow into the oceans causing a substantial increase in sea level. The rate of sea level rise from this process will sharply increase from its present value of a few mm / year to several cm / year. Geological records indicate that the sea level could easily rise by as much as 6 m over the coming century. Low elevation countries such as the Netherlands and Bangladesh will be inundated by the rising sea level coupled with extreme storms. The populations of presently populous river deltas, coastal cites and low elevation Pacific islands will also be forced to migrate.
8. Over the coming two decades more than 100 million people will likely be displaced by the aforementioned mechanisms.
9. The net Canadian immigration rate will likely increase to about 0.5 million persons per annum so that Canada can absorb a reasonable fraction (10%) of the displaced population. An additional incentive for this immigration increase will be a change in the demographics required to fund Canada's medicare system. Approximately half (250,000 per year) of these immigrants are likely to settle in Ontario causing a 2% per annum population increase. By the year 2025 Ontario's population will likely reach 16,000,000.
NEW ENERGY VISION:
1. In order to attempt to stabilize the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide tax laws will be enacted world wide to make combustion of fossil carbon for primary energy generation prohibitively expensive.
2. The Ontario electricity system will be faced with two major challenges:
a)The net immigration rate and hence the rate of population growth will likely be much larger than previously anticipated. Even without global warming a larger immigration rate will be required to sustain funding of the medicare system in Ontario as post WWII baby boomers become elderly;
b) The electricity system, in addition to meeting the past load categories, will also have to provide the prime energy required to displace liquid fossil fuels for both transportation and rural heating. Even with no population increase the total clean electricity generation and transmission/distribution will need to be approximately doubled. Much of this new electricity generation will have to be used for rural off-peak hydrogen production for efficient conversion of biomass into methanol.
3. Single family rural residences and similar isolated buildings will eventually adopt ground source heat pumps to reduce their space heating and potable water heating related electricity requirements by about a factor of three as compared to electric resistive heating. The potable water heating may involve a combination of solar heating, off peak electric resistive heating and ground source heat pump heating.
4. Urban buildings will likely adopt nuclear district heating with water source heat pumps to meet space heating and potable water heating requirements.
QUANTIFICATION OF ADDITIONAL ELECTRICITY GENERATION REQUIREMENTS:
1. Assume that the residential space and domestic hot water heat required per person is 6000 kWh thermal per year (typical for existing well insulated one bedroom apartment suites). The corresponding average power is 0.685 kW / person. For a population of 17 X 10^6 people the corresponding load is 11.645 X 10^6 kw. Assume that heat pump or like technology is used to reduce the electrical component of this load 3 fold. Then the corresponding residential electricity requirement is:
(11.645 X 10^6 kW) / 3 = 3.882 X 10^6 kW
2. The dominant automotive technology will likely be battery electric vehicles.
3. On average each vehicle directly or indirectly draws 10 kWh per day from the electricity grid. This estimate is based on present plug-in hybrid vehicle performance, each vehicle going 110 km per day.
4. Assume that in 2025 there are 10 million automobiles in Ontario. Then the average electricity load increase due to vehicles is:
10 kWhe /day-vehicle X 10 X 10^6 vehicles = 100 X 10^6 kWhe / day.
Thus the average grid power requirement for powering automobiles in 2025 is about:
100 X 10^6 kWhe / day X 1 day / 24 h = 4.17 X 10^6 kWe.
6.Thus the total increase in the average electricity load due to displacement of fossil fuels for heating and automotive purposes is estimated at:
(3.882 + 4.17) X 10^6 kWe = 8.052 X 10^6 kWe.
7. Allowing for a 80% availability factor of generation plant gives an additional daily average generation plant requirement of:
8.052 X 10^6 kWe / .80 = 10.06 X 10^6 kWe = 10,646 MWe
8. This additional generation plant requirement could be met by clean nuclear and renewable generation and out of province hydraulic generation. There is no possibility of meeting this electricity load increase from conservation.
9. In addition to the aforementioned urban driving there is a comparable amount of rural driving that likely requires synthetic liquid fuels. Hence about another 10,000 MWe of clean electricity generation capacity will likely be required just to meet the rural electricity requirements.
10. Almost every building will need a peak demand controller to assist in maintaining a high load factor. The sheddable loads will include charging of vehicle propulsion batteries, charging of stationary energy storage systems, off-peak hot water heating, off-peak ice making for comfort cooling, clothes dryers, dishwashers, and generation of hydrogen for cooking and/or methanol production.
11. Some vehicle battery charging and hydrogen production for making methanol and ammonia will be under central dispatch control via an Interruptible Electricity Service to regulate grid voltage and to match the electricity load to the available electricity generation capacity. The electricity generation capacity is anticipated to be highly variable due to a larger component of wind generation. Some of this variability will be filtered by energy storage systems.
12. The energy storage between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario will be used to filter the weekly and seasonal variations in wind energy generation and run-of-river hydraulic generation. Behind the meter energy storage will be used at wind generator sites to more efficiently utilize electricity transmission.
13. The estimated extra clean electricity generation requirement of:
2 X 10,000 MW = 20,000 MW
is in addition to the extra generation that was anticipated by the OPA in its September 7, 2006 load forecast.
In the non-fossil fuel future the principal generation types are:
The main problem with Run-of-River hydraulic generation is that it is seasonal being high in the spring and low in the late summer and early fall.
The primary role of nuclear generation is to meet the high priority Dependable Electricity Service load and winter base heating load. Maintenance of nuclear generation should be scheduled for the late spring when there is a reliable surplus of hydraulic generation.
Hydraulic plus daily energy storage:
The primary role of hydraulic generation in combination with a dam that can provide daily energy storage is to provide (1/3) base load generation and (2/3) daily load following generation. The load following generation can be used to balance short term variations in wind generation.
The primary role of wind is to provide energy for electrolytic hydrogen production.
Hydraulic plus weekly or seasonal energy storage:
The primary role of hydraulic generation with weekly or seasonal energy storage is to provide load following generation. A secondary role is to make up for shortfalls in the other generation types. A tertiary role is to operate as storage to absorb excess energy generated by wind during times of loww grid demand.
An important issue is that during the hottest days of the summer the daily average run-of-river hydraulic generation and the daily average wind generation are both at seasonal minimums whereas the daily average grid load is at a seasonal maximum. Hence the capacity of hydraulic generation with energy storage must be sufficient to meet the difference between the grid peak load and the grid peak coincident supply from nuclear generation.
In Ontario the issue is that the water flow from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario during peak demand periods on a hot summer day must be several times the average water flow. Conversely, at night during a low load time in April or September, when the wind is strong, it will be necessary to stop the Niagara river generation and possibly to pump water up hill from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie to usefully absorb excess wind power. There may be implications and constraints related to changes in the levels of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Note that the average water flow from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario must remain unchanged to keep the St. Lawrence River flow constant downstream from Cornwall. This constant flow is required to maintain navigation through the St. Lawrence Seaway. In effect it is contemplated that Lake Ontario and Lake Erie together will comprise a giant pumped storage system that can be used for daily and weekly energy storage and load following.
A further complication is that due to global warming and excessive water flow through the St. Clair River, the levels of Lake Superior and Lake Huron have fallen. Restoring these lake levels means reducing the average water flow downstream from Cornwall, regardless of the consequent implications on St. Lawrence Seaway traffic. Some of the present lake freighter cargos may simply have to move by rail.
A key issue is implementation of a peak load dependent electricity rate structure with a seasonal component. Without such an electricity rate structure there is insufficient economic incentive to store energy when electricity is plentiful and to minimize grid load at peak demand times. These measures are necessary to reduce the cost of the transmission/distribution grid which otherwise will escalate rapidly due to the low average capacity factor of most new renewable generation and the increased average distance of this generation from loads.
1. The September 7, 2006 OPA load forecast does not take into account the electricity load increase that is necessary to limit global warming. The principal components of this electricity load increase are:
a. A 2% per annum increase in population;
b. Displacement of fossil fuels for space heating and potable water heating;
c. Displacement of fossil fuels for vehicle propulsion;
d. Increased use of mechanical cooling to combat local and global warming.
2.Another few years of severe climate impact in the USA could suddenly change US and hence Canadian government policy with respect to fossil carbon taxes. Such taxes would make continued reliance on fossil fuels very imprudent.
3. Meeting the projected electricity load related to displacing transportation, space and water heating fossil fuels in Ontario will require at least 20,000 MW of electricity generation capacity above and beyond the amount of generation projected by the OPA in its September 7, 2006 load forecast.
1. The problem of rising sea levels manifests itself at coastal cities around the world. The flooding of New Orleans and then New York-New Jersey was but a foretaste of what is to come.
2. This web site identifies the electricity rate changes that are necessary in order to make environmentally acceptable distributed electricity generation in Ontario economically viable, thus reducing the required amount of central nuclear generation capacity.
3. The present government of Canada has shown itself unwilling to meet the challenges of global warming. Consequently this author does not anticipate any significant improvement in Canadian carbon dioxide emissions or the Ontario electricity supply until after the voters implement changes in these governments.
4. The delay associated with implementing these governmental changes will simply exacerbate existing problems. The consequences of Canadian inaction are exceedingly grave because other nations, with collectively with more than 100 times the population of Canada, are emulating Canadian government energy policies.
5. The greater efficiency of energy usage by the EU countries, UK, USA, Japan, China, India and Brazil is leaving Ontario's manufacturers in an uncompetitive position. Much work is necessary to catch up. There is no alternative but for Ontario to increase its on-peak electricity price and decrease its electrical energy price to improve load factor and to reduce the average electricity cost and the electricity system debt.
This web page last updated November 15, 2021
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