Canada

Canada's fossil-fuel powerplants rapped

Canada's fossil fuel-powered generating plants average higher greenhouse gas emissions for the same amount of electricity than American or Mexican stations, an a new report finds.
Canada's generating plants emit more greenhouse gas per unit of electicity than either the United States or Mexico. (Courtesy Joel Melcosky)

Canada's fossil fuel-powered generating plants average higher greenhouse gas emissions for the same amount of electricity than American or Mexican stations, an international report has found.

The figures, compiled by the commission that oversees the environmental portions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), 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 U.S. 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.

While the commission has released data on power generation in the three countries before, it's the first time it 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 U.S. still generates far more greenhouse gas from electrical generation than either of its NAFTA partners. The report finds that the 16 largest American emitters released more greenhouse gases than the combined output of all Mexican and Canadian plants.

However, 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.

Variety of emissions

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 per cent between 2002 and 2005.

Information breaking down emissions for each power plant is included in a publicly available database with the report.

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

As world leaders gathers in South Africa to consider how to reduce climate change-causing emissions, Lloyd said the report points to one conclusion.

"In North America, we are still heavily dependent on burning fossil fuels for our electricity. 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."  

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