Putting Conservation First Means Big Savings For Ontarians
Insight By gaining a better understanding of energy usage patterns, we can better address the need for increased efficiency
Conservation first means knowing your options.
Electricity production from large central power plants has gained a dominant position in the North American electricity landscape.
In Ontario, 72 percent of electricity is generated by thermo-electric nuclear and gas power plants. The majority of these electricity generation facilities are not connected to heating loads despite the fact that upwards of 65 percent of the energy produced is in the form of heat that is in most cases wasted.
Why are we buying twice as much energy as we need?
In most parts of the province, consumers are making two energy purchases, paying for electricity and fuel for heating needs. This unnecessary doubling of the overall energy consumption could be avoided with an integrated energy management approach, pairing power production with heat consumption.
If heating loads are directly linked to generation, greater efficiencies can be realized, shifting the waste heat fraction from 65 percent down to 10 percent with properly sized local Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems.
A practical option to replace end of life generators, reduce emissions and save money
We are squandering a tremendously valuable resource by not looking at distributed CHP as a replacement option for our power and heating needs.
Imagine if every household in Ontario could save $1,700 a year on energy bills by reducing waste energy in the province. With 4.9 million households in Ontario and more than $8.4 billion in heat being wasted from our near end of life centralized nuclear power plants alone (never mind our gas plants), imagine the savings for the province.
If conservation is first, make sure our focus is right
While the Ontario Ministry of Energy places great emphasis on energy conservation measures, the energy use shares for Ontario buildings suggest that emphasis be placed on the thermal needs of buildings rather than lower consumption activities such as lighting or refrigeration.
By understanding who uses energy, and what it’s used for, we should be better positioned to develop energy conservation programs that maximize their impact.
"We are squandering a tremendously valuable resource by not looking at distributed CHP as a replacement option for our power and heating needs."
An analysis of heat energy sources indicates 78 percent of the heating needs of Ontario buildings are met by natural gas with electric heating comprising only 9 percent of the market.
The fact that such a significant proportion of Ontario’s energy consumption is already in the form of natural gas presents an opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of Ontario’s electricity generating sector through a wide spread deployment of small and micro distributed CHP systems, rather than continued reliance on inefficient thermo power plants.
Combined heat and power puts conservation first
Upon examination, it becomes apparent that building heat in Ontario’s commercial and residential building sectors consumes 115 percent more energy than is generated by the entire electricity sector. The strong demand for natural gas heating could serve to anchor a robust CHP industry in Ontario where heating needs for buildings serve as the basis for distributed generation with a fleet of “hyper-flexible” CHP units. Based on a full conversion rate, there is potential to replace upwards of 8,000 MW of relatively low efficiency thermo electric generation capacity.
Such a rate of conversion to onsite generation and energy consumption has the potential to save consumers upwards of 63.3 TWh/yr of electricity or $12.5 billion per year.
While such an undertaking would be significant, it’s estimated that the cost to do so would only require an initial capital investment in the range of $10 to $20 billion.
Such a conversion would put conservation first and relieve pressure on aging central power plant infrastructure at a lower cost than refurbishment of Ontario’s nuclear power plants.