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Questions and Answers: Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Coal-Fired Generation of Electricity Regulations

Q1. Why is the government regulating emissions from the coal-fired electricity sector?
Q2. How does the government intend to reduce emissions from this sector?
Q3. When will the regulations come into effect?
Q4. Will these regulations impact coal units that become operational between now and when the regulations come into force?
Q5. When will the first units close as a result of these regulations?
Q6. What overall impact will these regulations have on Canada's greenhouse gas emissions?
Q7. What is the overall impact of these regulations in monetary terms?
Q8. Will these regulations have a direct impact on the health of Canadians?
Q9. Will electricity supply be compromised in any regions?


Q1. Why is the government regulating emissions from the coal-fired electricity sector?

Despite generating only about 15% of Canada's electricity supply, based on Canada's National Inventory Report, coal-fired electricity is responsible for 11% of Canada's total GHG emissions and 77% of GHG emissions from the electricity and heat sector.

In addition, Canada's electricity generating industry is faced with an ageing coal-fired electricity generating fleet. Regulatory certainty will allow companies to make investments in new generating capacity.

Q2. How does the government intend to reduce emissions from this sector?

The regulations for the coal-fired electricity sector will set a stringent performance standard for new coal-fired units and units that have reached the end of their useful life. The performance standard will foster a permanent transition towards lower or non-emitting types of generation such as high-efficiency natural gas and renewable energy.

New units are those which start producing electricity commercially on or after July 1st, 2015.

Units that have reached the end of their useful life are, in general, those that have reached 50 years since starting to produce electricity commercially. However, as a transition measure:

  • Units that were commissioned before 1975 will reach their end-of-life after 50 years of operation or at the end of 2019, whichever comes earlier.
  • Units commissioned in or after 1975 but before 1986 will reach their end-of-life after 50 years of operation or at the end of 2029, whichever comes earlier.


Q3. When will the regulations come into effect?

The performance standard will come into force on July 1, 2015.

Q4. Will these regulations impact coal units that become operational between now and when the regulations come into force?

Units that are producing electricity on July 1, 2015 will be subject to the performance standard when they reach their end of useful life date. Building a coal unit is a long process, so we don't expect many units to come on stream between now and 2015.

Q5. When will the first units close as a result of these regulations?

The first unit closures as a result of the regulations are expected to occur in 2020.

It is also expected that a number of units will close prior to this date in Ontario and Saskatchewan due to provincial actions and company plans.

Q6. What overall impact will these regulations have on Canada's greenhouse gas emissions?

In the first 21 years, the regulations are expected to result in a net cumulative reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of about 214 megatonnes. These reductions are equivalent to removing some 2.6 million personal vehicles from the road every year over this period.

Q7. What is the overall impact of these regulations in monetary terms?

It is estimated that Canadians will be better off by $7.3 billion as a result of these regulations due to avoided costs associated with climate change and electricity generation, and avoided health problems from smog and air pollutants. There are also large benefits from the use of carbon capture and storage technology in which captured CO2 is used for enhanced oil recovery.

Q8. Will these regulations have a direct impact on the health of Canadians?

Yes. Coal-fired electricity generation emits a significant amount of air pollutants. The reduced air pollutant emissions that will result from these regulations will improve local and regional air quality and lead to better health for Canadians. In particular, it will lead to reduced risk of death, avoided emergency room visits and hospitalization for respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

Q9. Will electricity supply be compromised in any regions?

No. The regulations are designed to complement the normal replacement of ageing coal-fired electricity generating units, and contain flexibility provisions to ease transition and ensure the electricity supply will not be compromised in any region.