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Canada’s power plants: most GHG intense in NAFTA

A CEC report has found that Canada’s fossil fuel-powered generating plants average higher greenhouse gas emissions for the same amount of electricity than American or Mexican stations.


December 7, 2011
by CANADIAN PRESS

MONTREAL: An international report has found that Canada’s fossil fuel-powered generating plants average higher greenhouse gas emissions for the same amount of electricity than American or Mexican stations.

The figures, compiled by the commission that oversees the environmental portions of the North American Free Trade Agreement, found that Canadian plants release an average of 0.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent for every megawatt-hour generated. That compares with 0.8 tonnes for US plants and less than 0.7 tonnes for those in Mexico.

“It’s an issue that has to do with the plant age, the technology, the fuel,’’ said Orlando Cabrera, one of the authors of the report for the Commission on Environmental Co-operation (CEC).

While the commission has released data on power generation in the three countries before, it’s the first time the commission has compiled data on greenhouse gas efficiency. The report considers more than 3,100 fossil fuel-powered electricity generating plants using 2005 data – the latest available internationally comparable information.

However, the US still generates far more greenhouse gas from electrical generation than either of its NAFTA partners.

As well, the federal government has enacted new legislation requiring new coal-fired plants to release no more carbon dioxide than an equivalent natural gas-fired plant.

The report finds that the 16 largest American emitters released more greenhouse gases than the combined output of all Mexican and Canadian plants. But the report adds that Canada provides the least information on its power plants.

“We had to go and dig pretty deep to extract facility specific data across Canada,’’ said commission director Evan Lloyd.

In addition to looking at greenhouse gases, the report looked a wide variety of power plant emissions, including mercury, nitrogen compounds and particulates. It found that Canadian plants did manage to reduce emissions of acid rain-causing sulphur dioxide by 20% between 2002 and 2005.

Lloyd said the report is intended to be a tool to isolate problems and suggest efficiencies.

“In North America, we are still heavily dependent on burning fossil fuels for our electricity,” he said. “Two-thirds of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels. We have a long ways to go in terms of truly achieving a cleaner energy supply.”

Click here to access the report.

© 2011 The Canadian Press