When it comes to electricity-related emissions, conventional methods can oversimplify and potentially distort the emissions impact of consumption, conservation, and the shift to renewables. An in-depth understanding of Ontario’s electricity emissions, and the use of appropriate emissions factors, is key to properly quantifying the carbon impact of projects, programs, and policies that affect electricity consumption or generation.
Correctly measuring carbon emissions from different forms of electricity generation is a cornerstone of a successful emissions reduction program. That’s why TAF published A Clearer View on Ontario’s Emissions, an updated set of electricity emissions factors to help Ontario communities understand the carbon impacts of their past and current electricity use, and anticipate the impacts of new projects or infrastructure.
With more and more jurisdictions getting serious about climate action, the push is on for municipalities to not only declare and take action on the climate emergency, but to make sure the actions they take deliver the intended emission reductions. At a moment of climate urgency, with mounting public demand for cities to just get on with it and address the crisis, it’s never been more important to set deliberate priorities, pick the projects that will have the greatest impact, and then quickly get on with it.
Precise emissions factors for electricity generation fit that picture because conventional measures can oversimplify and risk distorting the emissions impact of electricity generation, conservation, and the shift to renewables. Better carbon quantification means digging deeply into the characteristics of each generation source, its role in the provincial electricity grid, and the types of generation a new source would replace, then accurately translating that knowledge into a calculation of carbon dioxide or equivalent emissions.
TAF updated its electricity emissions factors in 2019 to include more recent grid data and reflect seasonal changes in the way the grid operates. The resulting handbook presents three different factors:
- The Average Emissions Factor (AEF) calculates past or present emissions from existing electricity generation
- The Marginal Emissions Factor (MEF) projects the impact of a proposed system change – like introducing new energy efficiency measures that reduce the need for carbon-intensive natural gas plants when electricity use is at its peak. The MEF incorporates the growing complexity of Ontario’s electricity system, recognizing that the impact of any change depends on where it takes place and which existing generation source it replaces
- With humanity facing a 2050 deadline to phase out carbon emissions, the Forecasted Emissions Factor (FEF) calculates future impacts across the electricity system, based on the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO)’s updated forecasts of the province’s generation mix. While any future forecast carries a degree of uncertainty, it’s essential to look at the longer-term emissions impact of any system change we make now
A Clearer View on Ontario’s Emissions explains the granular, technical details of how emissions factors work and how to use them. That makes it an essential guide for the provincial and municipal policymakers, engineers, scientists, electricity industry professionals, and non-profit organizations that are shaping Ontario’s future emissions reduction strategies.