Quantcast

The High Costs of Cheap Power in Canada

Energy

The Pembina Institute

When we flick on the light switch or run our appliances, most of us don't think about where our electricity comes from. Many Canadians think our electricity simply comes from hydroelectric generation. As such, we do not associate it with the images of smoke stacks and billowing plumes that we see south of our border or elsewhere in the world where coal-fired electricity gets more attention.

The reality is that the combination of electricity sources—and therefore the qualities and characteristics of the electricity system—depend on where we live in the country. Some provinces live up to the common conception of predominantly hydroelectric power, but six provinces still burn coal to generate electricity and three of these—Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia—rely more on coal than any other source of electricity combined.

Provinces that are heavily coal-power-reliant experience a range of social and environmental costs from its combustion. By direct comparison—kilowatt-hour for kilowatt-hour—coal power is the dirtiest major source of power in Canada. It is also the highest contributor to greenhouse gases (GHGs). These emissions come with serious environmental and health costs—costs that clearly undermine the view that coal power is “cheap.” However, provincial leadership, particularly in Ontario, is proving that historical reliance on coal power can be traded in for cleaner, more reliable and more cost-effective alternative sources of electricity.

In light of the high GHG emissions from coal power, Environment Canada’s proposed regulations begin to reduce GHG emissions from the coal sector. While this is a step in the right direction, important opportunities to improve the regulations could provide better results. Worryingly, there are indications that some industry players are asking that Environment Canada weaken the proposed regulations, asking for changes that would reduce the expected GHG reductions by more than half over the first 15 years after the regulations come into effect.

This report makes clear that, despite popular misconceptions, Canada’s electricity is not, in all cases, “clean.” Nor is coal power particularly “cheap” when considering its high social and environmental costs. By acknowledging the real costs of our current electricity grid, we can better identify the need for an energy transition within Canada’s electricity sector. Alternatives are available today, and given the scale of the pollution caused by coal electricity highlighted in this report, that transition needs leadership now.

Read the Pembina Institute's full report by clicking here.

Visit EcoWatch's COAL page for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

American bison roaming Badlands National park, South Dakota. Prisma / Dukas / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

By Clay Bolt

On Oct. 11 people around the world celebrated the release of four plains bison onto a snow-covered butte in Badlands National Park, South Dakota.

Read More Show Less
An EPA sponsored cleanup of the toxic Gowanus Canal dredges a section of the canal of industrial debris on Oct. 28, 2016 in Brooklyn. The Gowanus is a Superfund site from years of industrial waste spilling into the water, and it is listed in GAO's report to be at risk from a climate disaster. Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis / Getty Images

The climate crisis has put at least 945 designated toxic waste sites at severe risk of disaster from escalating wildfires, floods, rising seas and other climate-related disasters, according to a new study from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO), as the AP reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
(L) Selma Three Stone Engagement Ring. (R) The Greener Diamond Farm Project. MiaDonna

By Bailey Hopp

If you had to choose a diamond for your engagement ring from below or above the ground, which would you pick … and why would you pick it? This is the main question consumers are facing when picking out their diamond engagement ring today. With a dramatic increase in demand for conflict-free lab-grown diamonds, the diamond industry is shifting right before our eyes.

Read More Show Less
Rob Greenfield pictured above is driven by the concept of "living a life where [he] can wake up and feel good about [his] life." Rob Greenfield / Facebook

For one year Rob Greenfield grew and foraged all of his own food. No grocery stores, no restaurants, no going to a bar for a drink, not even medicines from the pharmacy.

Read More Show Less
Apple has removed all 181 vaping-related apps from its App Store. VioletaStoimenova / E+ / Getty Images

Apple has removed all 181 vaping-related apps from its App Store, the company announced on Friday. The removal of the apps comes after thousands of people across the country have developed lung illnesses from vaping and 42 people have died.

Read More Show Less