July 20, 2009
On June 29th, the Ontario government voted against building two nuclear reactors in Ontario. One reason for the decision was that it would cost $26 billion dollars. Even though their decision was due to the huge cost, it highlights some important questions about how much energy we need, and where we can get it.
Like many things that you buy, the price of electricity is decided by two things: how much energy we can make, and how much energy we need. This is called supply and demand. Because the government has decided against building more nuclear plants, we know that our supply of electricity is going to stay the same. However, demand for electricity is going up every day. If this keeps happening, the price of electricity will continue to go up. Since nobody likes higher prices, the question becomes, how can we reduce our energy usage to not need the new reactors?
Did you know? From 1990 to 2005 energy use in Canada increased by 22% while the population only increased by 17%.
The biggest user of energy in Canada is industry, with 38% of the total consumption. Now, this doesn't get us off the hook - industry spends all of its time making things for us to use. Pulp and paper, mining, and manufacturing are the three industries that use the most energy, and all of these are eventually turned into something that you use. The best way to reduce the energy that is needed is to reduce usage, and recycle more.
Another big user of energy in Canada is the residential sector. That's you and me! Altogether we use 17% of the energy in Canada. Because most houses have a fridge, washing machine, and other basic appliances, the fewer people who live in each house means more energy usage per person.
Did you know? A Canadian household has an average of 32 light bulbs in it — the majority of them being not energy efficient.
Now that we know where the electricity is used, the question is - how can we use less? Because industry uses the most energy, we can make the biggest impact by simply consuming less. Reducing how much paper you use and buying fewer items like toys and clothes will mean that industry won't use so much electricity.
However, there are other things you can do besides using less toilet paper. The biggest use of energy at home is heating, so besides insulating your house with double-paned windows and curtains, you can wear a sweater at home so you don't have to turn up the thermometer so high. Also, taking shorter showers, doing fewer loads of laundry, and fully loading your dishwasher will allow your hot water heater to do less work.
Did you know? The energy produced by the new reactors would heat an additional 7900 litres of water for each house in Canada
The last thing that can be done to reduce energy use is perhaps the easiest of all. Turn off the lights! While you may think that your one light bulb won't make a big difference, remember that you are only one of many, and every little bit helps.
In the end, just remember supply and demand when it comes to energy. As long as the Canadian government says 'no' to nuclear power, we are left with two choices: use less and keep the cost the same, or use more and pay more. Everything that you do in your day makes a difference. Canada is a big place and if we all can make small changes we can save money on power and be good to the Earth at the same time.
Picture Credit:Rafael Rigues
Energy use in Canada
From the National Resources Council:
Information and guides:
Ontario power generation.