Toronto Electric Transit: Clean, Affordable, and Nuclear Powered

Today’s post comes from guest contributor Steve Aplin. Steve works at the HDP Group and authors the great blog, Canadian Energy Issues.

Toronto is a beautiful, modern, clean, world-class city which is—sometimes unfairly—nicknamed The Big Smoke. The nickname comes from the smog that sometimes hovers over the city on hot summer days. Smog is caused in part by fossil fuel combustion, and in Toronto that means cars. Therefore the city’s biggest and most effective weapon against smog is its electric-powered subways and streetcars.

Subways and streetcars run on steel rails, and rail transportation is far more efficient, in terms of fuel used per kilometer traveled, than road transportation. And electric-powered rail is far more efficient than fossil-powered. If the electricity comes from mostly zero-carbon sources, as it does in Ontario, then electric rail transit is, on a passenger-by-passenger basis, twenty to eighty times as clean as car transportation.

In 2010, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) used 4.4 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity to move millions of passengers on electric subways and streetcars. Most of those 4.4 billion kWh came from Ontario’s three nuclear power plants. Because most of that electricity came from nuclear plants, each individual subway or streetcar rider’s carbon footprint was tiny: nuclear emits no smog or greenhouse gas pollution.

And because Toronto’s subways and streetcars are mostly nuclear powered, TTC fares were low—nuclear is among the least expensive types of electricity in Ontario.

Nuclear energy is affordable because it is also among the most efficient and reliable ways we know to make electricity.

So I congratulate all Toronto subway and streetcar riders: every day you prove that modern transportation is affordable, reliable, and clean.

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