Exploring the Use of Remote Sensing CO2 Data to Measure the CO2 Concentration Enhancements Caused by Coal-fired Power Plants
Ontario’s power generation system is undergoing significant changes towards a modern and sustainable electricity system. One significant objective for the planned system transition is to reduce CO2 emissions. CO2 emissions from Ontario’s power generation are expected to be cut significantly as coal is phased out and more renewables and natural gas capacity are incorporated into the provincial electricity supply. This restructuring of Ontario’s electricity system and associated reduction of CO2 emissions need to be monitored. Equally, the dynamics of CO2 in the atmosphere are also a major issue of interest in the scientific world and how the reduced CO2 emissions from power plants can influence the distribution of CO2 concentration remains an important question. In this regard, remote sensing which provides global-coverage, near real-time and 3-D information on atmospheric CO2 is proposed as a useful tool for monitoring the processes and phenomena of interest. The ongoing space-based instruments such as GOSAT TANSO provide accurate CO2 concentration information at different altitudes especially near the Earth’s surface where interactions between power-generation CO2 emissions and the atmosphere are intensive. These data can be used for both long-term CO2 monitoring and short-term CO2 detection by measuring the emitting activities of power plants. Therefore, this project examines the use of remote sensing to estimate the change of CO2 enhancements due to the variation of coal-fired power generation intensity and to evaluate the effect of Ontario’s energy decision/policy. Partial column CO2 data are more capable of presenting the surface CO2 fluxes compared to column CO2 data. By introducing the ‘background’ observations, the fossil fuel CO2 flux in the Nanticoke area can be clearly detected and identified. The reduction of coal-fired power generation by Nanticoke Generating Station leads to decreased enhancement of local atmospheric CO2 concentrations. It is shown that Ontario’s decision to shut down coal-fired power plants is an effective measure to reduce atmospheric CO2 and to mitigate climate change. More policies and actions are encouraged along with new monitoring techniques that include remote sensing tools.