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Canada’s electricity sector is responsible for 17 percent of national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Most of that -13%- comes from 51 coal-burning electricity plants, along with mercury, particulates, NOx/ SOx and other health hazards. [i], [ii]

Minister of the Environment Jim Prentice has promised new regulations for these coal-fired plants. Scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2015, the proposed regulations will impose tougher performance standards on new coal-fired electricity generation units and on those units that are no longer “of economic value”.[iii] The second rule could be the one that matters, depending on the details in the regulation. In the US, old coal fired plants have been allowed to keep spewing massive amounts of GHGs and health hazards long after they were expected to retire. 33 of Canada’s 51 existing coal burning electricity plants are predicted to reach the end of their economic life by 2025.[iv]

According to Minister Prentice, the new regulations will encourage electric utilities to transition towards lower- or non-emitting types of generation such as high-efficiency natural gas, renewable energy, or thermal power with carbon capture and storage (CCS).[v] Also, the policy would dovetail with the commitments of several provinces (like Ontario) and companies to close old coal plants. Together, Prentice predicts that phasing-out inefficient coal-fired generation will reduce emissions by 15 megatonnes (Mt) by 2020.[vi]

Draft regulations are to be published in Canada Gazette early in 2011 with final regulations following later that year.

Footnotes


[i] Environment Canada. Backgrounder: Canada’s Electricity Story. Media Room, At http://www.ec.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=714D9AAE-1&news=0A6CF209-AF7A-4913-A27F-527B4ECF811B

[ii] Environment Canada. News Release: Government of Canada to Regulate Emissions from Electricity Sector. Media Room, At http://www.ec.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=714D9AAE-1&news=E5B59675-BE60-4759-8FC3-D3513EAA841C

[iii] Environment Canada. News Release: Government of Canada to Regulate Emissions from Electricity Sector. Media Room, At http://www.ec.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=714D9AAE-1&news=E5B59675-BE60-4759-8FC3-D3513EAA841C

[iv] Environment Canada. Canada moves to reduce emissions in the electricity sector. Reports and Publications: Issue 101, At http://www.ec.gc.ca/envirozine/default.asp?lang=En&n=5AE042C9-1

[v] Environment Canada. Canada moves to reduce emissions in the electricity sector. Reports and Publications: Issue 101, At http://www.ec.gc.ca/envirozine/default.asp?lang=En&n=5AE042C9-1

[vi] Environment Canada. News Release: Government of Canada to Regulate Emissions from Electricity Sector. Media Room, At http://www.ec.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=714D9AAE-1&news=E5B59675-BE60-4759-8FC3-D3513EAA841C

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