Coal Reductions and Health

William Palmer continues to gather facts about Ontario’s electrical grid and the uselessness of wind energy in it.  This is very much unlike Ontario’s government and any number of ENGO’s, who simply repeat their slogans over and over until enough voters believe them to keep them in power.  This time he has put together two charts and a longer paper showing Ontario’s generation mix for the last quarter-century and they pretty much put to rest two of these pervasive slogans: (1) that wind energy is eliminating coal generation, and (2) that coal generation is related to asthma and respiratory deaths.

UPDATE – Feb 29, 2012.  Palmer has also started a series at MasterResource that expands upon this topic. Part two.

First, lets look at the generation mix (clickable, thank goodness).Coal generation, the red line, does in fact trend downward.  The Ontario government would like you to believe that the purple line in the lower right corner is the cause, and that you should just ignore the far more obvious causes – like the decreasing demand, increasing nuclear and increasing gas.  As Palmer writes:

Back in 1988, we were running coal, (about 35 TWh per year), hydro (also about 35 TWh per year) and nuclear (about 65 TWh per year). Those sources met the Ontario load.

In the early 1990’s (1992 and 1994, and 1995) Darlington Nuclear generating station came in to service and the coal generation dropped to about 15 TWh in 1994, as nuclear output increased.  Also, a bit of a recession in the early 1990’s dropped the Ontario load a bit. In the latter 1990’s, as the economy recovered some, the nuclear stations at Pickering and Bruce had some operational difficulties, in part because there had been a significant staff exodus brought about by an attempt to control costs by letting senior staff accept early retirement. A decision was made to lay up Bruce A and Pickering A, and focus resources on bringing the newer “B” stations at Bruce B, Pickering B, and Darlington up to a higher operational level, and nuclear generation dropped. Coal picked up the slack, rising back over 40 TWh as nuclear fell back to about 60 TWh.

By 2003, nuclear performance was improving, and 2 units were brought back into service at each of Pickering A and Bruce A nuclear stations. Nuclear output started to rise, and coal usage fell correspondingly. Also, in 2004, we started to put natural gas fired generators into service. You can see coal use dropping, as nuclear picks up load, and so does gas, even though the system load was rising, in the growing economy up to 2006. But, then, in 2007, a pin was put into the inflated economy, and the electrical load started to drop, as manufacturing jobs were lost from Ontario. You can see that load dropped from over 155 TWh to under 140 TWh, erasing nearly 15 years of growth. Meanwhile more natural gas generators are coming on line, the nuclear performance is holding at about 80 TWh, and two more nuclear units come back on line in the coming year. Not surprisingly, given the government mandate to shut down coal, the coal load fell – replaced by gas, and nuclear, and with the need also partly erased due to the falling load.

Oh, and wind, well, yes, you can see it starting to appear at the bottom of the curve, but the 3 TWh of wind hardly can be claimed to have resulted in the shutdown of the 40 TWh of coal that was running up to 2003.

Coal was shut down due to:
1) nuclear units coming back on line, and nuclear performance increasing from 60 to 80 TWh per year – with more nuclear coming.
2) Natural gas units coming on line and producing up to 20 TWh per year – and capable of more yet.
3) The System load dropping due to the economic crunch, dropping 15 TWh.

And of course, we still have the problem that the 3 TWh that wind does produce is not when needed, but when the system generally does not need it.

To this chart Palmer then adds the asthma and respiratory death stats.  The government would have you believe that as coal generation goes down the health effects from coal emissions should improve.  Here’s the chart:The scale for the two new sets of lines is on the right.  The greenish lines are the death rates (about 27/100,000) from respiratory illnesses.  The line drifts lower, but at a very slow rate that has nothing to do with the red coal generation line, and is more likely due to better health care.  The bluish lines are the asthma rates, about 8% of the population, and that line actually increases over time, again having nothing to do with coal generation, and is more likely due to increasing traffic.  Again, Palmer:

The second curve shows the same generation data, but also includes the Statistics Canada data for deaths from respiratory disease and asthma. One might suspect that there would be a big drop in both due to the big reduction in coal use … but looking carefully, the drop is certainly not significant, and is more just scatter. Plotting the regression lines for each, the asthma rate is ever so slightly increasing even while coal use drops, and the death rate is ever so slightly deceasing even while coal use drops from 40 TWh to 3 TWh. It hardly presents the clear linkage picture claimed by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) under Gideon Forman.

And where did Palmer get this information, that apparently has eluded the government?

The electrical data came from old Ontario Hydro Reports, Ontario Power Generation Reports, Bruce Power Reports, IESO reports, and Sygration Reports (this is a web site that uses the IESO data to do various charting and value added operations.)

Palmer is not alone is noticing the facts.  The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers has also commented that many people believe  wind has been replacing coal, but “this has not been the case”.

Too bad the government is too busy spreading your money out to its friends and its friends are too busy scooping it in to notice.


2 thoughts on “Coal Reductions and Health”

  1. Very interesting and very persuasive. I would love to be able to use this information in my own arguments – in order to do so the chart data has to be referenced properly so it can be easily checked.

    I am not trying to be critical, I am trying to help make this important information more useful.

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