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Canada’s New Coal-Fired Power Emission Rules Weaken Compliance Levels

SUGAR LAND–September 11, 2012–Written by Richard Finlayson, Senior International Editor for Industrial Info Resources (Sugar Land, Texas)–Following 12 months of hard-fought negotiations with power companies and provincial premiers, Canadian Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent has launched the final version of a new set of regulations to limit emissions from coal-fired power plants. Consensus opinion among the various stakeholders is that the new rules are weaker than what was in the initial 2011 draft.

In the 2011 draft, the minister proposed that new coal-fired plants would be allowed only if emission levels were less than 375 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per gigawatt hour (GWh) of electrical power generated. In the final version, which will come into force on July 1, 2015, the rate of permissible emissions will be raised to 420 tons of CO2 per GWh of power produced. The new emission standard is designed to make coal-generated power as clean as that fired by natural gas. This should be achieved by the application of new technologies, such as carbon capture and storage.

The lifetime allowed for old plants will now be set at 50 years instead of the initial plan for 45 years. The new rules have been scheduled to gradually phase in the restrictions based on the date when a plant was first commissioned. The new rules also include broad exemptions for the transition to compliance of existing coal-fired plants. Power units commissioned before 1975 will be closed either by the end of 2019 or earlier. Those commissioned post-1975 and pre-1986 will be closed by 2029 or earlier, according to their commissioning dates.

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The minister said that the regulations are expected to reduce cumulative emissions from the generation sector by about 214 million tons over a 20-year period. Nova Scotia has already negotiated a deal with Ottawa to reach the goals set by handling the emissions issue with its own approach. Saskatchewan and Alberta are expected to use the same approach. The three provinces are the most dependent on coal-fired power in the country. British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia have already introduced major reforms in their coal sectors.

There has been some strongly negative commentary from the environmental lobby, which has criticized the length of time “dirty” old plants will be allowed to run with no limit on their emission levels. The new rules probably will deliver less than 30 million tons of emission reduction by 2020. In 2009, coal-fired power provided 77% of Canada’s electricity-related greenhouse gases to produce 20% of the country’s power.

In response to these negative views, Kent said that the regulations both significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet 2020 targets. They also ensure that a balance is found between responsible regulations and maintaining the still-recovering economy.

Industrial Info Resources (IIR), with global headquarters in Sugar Land, Texas, and eight offices outside of North America, is the leading provider of global market intelligence specializing in the industrial process, heavy manufacturing and energy markets. Industrial Info’s quality-assurance philosophy, the Living Forward Reporting Principle™, provides up-to-the-minute intelligence on what’s happening now, while constantly keeping track of future opportunities.

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