I love the smell of wasted electricity in the morning

August 24, 2005

I was changing some lightbulbs last night, and it reminded me of an article in Saturday’s newspaper about how the province of Ontario (where I live) will replace the generating capacity of the coal-fired plants that it plans to shut down. One of the options, of course, is nuclear. We already have 20 reactors in the province, but, frankly, they don’t appear to be doing us much good.

Take the Pickering A station, for example. It’s close enough to me that I get periodic mailings about what to do should there be an accident which will slowly cause my hair to fall out and give me leukemia. It has four reactors. Right now, just one is operating – unit four, which had been offline since 1997 like the rest of Pickering A, came back online two years ago. Unit one is expected to come back online sometime this year. The Ontario Power Generation (OPG) thought it would cost $1.3 million to return all four units to service. Hell, that’s pocket change to the government, right? They’ve already spent $2.6 BILLION bringing units one and four – about 1 000 megawatts of capacity – back into service. Units two and three, it turns out, aren’t worth fixing. I’m holding my breath for the shit to hit the fan at the newer Pickering B station any time now.

As if that isn’t enough money, OPG is set to pay out a whopping $2 billion to bring two bring two reactors – about 1 500 megawatts of generating capacity – back online at the Bruce A nuclear generating station on Lake Huron.

So what does all this have to do with lightbulbs? Well, I’m a Nazi about fluorescent lightbulbs. I refuse to use incandescent lightbulbs and I pester anyone that uses them to replace them with fluorescent ones. This is because incandescent lightbulbs waste most of their power in useless heat energy, so more efficient fluorescent lightbulbs can provide the same amount of light with far less electricity – usually less than a quarter. Since an equivalent fluorescent lightbulb uses about 47 watts less electricity than a 60 watt incandescent lightbulb, and there are about 12 300 000 people in Ontario, I figure that if every person replace one incandescent bulb with a fluorescent bulb, we’d save 47 x 12 300 000 = 578 100 000 watts of electricity or 578.1 megawatts. That’s the same as an entire unit at the Pickering station – or $1.3 billion in maintenance costs.

Go figure.

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