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Backgrounder

Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Coal-Fired Generation of Electricity Regulations

Coal-fired generating units are responsible for 77% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the electricity sector in Canada. These regulations, in addition to commitments made by provinces and industry and other measures, are projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity generating sector to 41 megatonnes below 2005 levels by 2020. This constitutes a 33% reduction in GHG emissions from electricity generation over this period.

This approach will apply a performance standard to new coal-fired electricity generation units, and units that have reached the end of their useful life, through regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA, 1999). The performance standard will come into effect July 1, 2015. Regulated firms will be subject to enforcement and compliance requirements and penalties as specified under CEPA, 1999.

End-of-useful-life is generally 50 years from the unit’s commissioning date; however, 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.

The performance standard is set at 420 t/GWh, which is the emissions intensity level of Natural Gas Combined Cycle (NGCC) technology[1] a high-efficiency type of natural gas generation.

New and end-of-life units that incorporate technology for carbon capture and storage may apply for an exemption from the performance standard until 2025.

Equivalency agreements with provinces, under which the federal regulation would stand down and the provincial regime would apply, may be established under CEPA, 1999, if there is an enforceable provincial regime that delivers an equivalent environmental outcome. A draft equivalency agreement has been developed with Nova Scotia; the federal government and Saskatchewan have announced that they are working towards equivalency; and discussions on equivalency have also begun with Alberta.


[1] Natural Gas Combined Cycle (NGCC) is a type of power process whereby a gas turbine generates electricity, and the waste heat is used to make steam to generate additional electricity via a steam turbine. The process is more efficient than a simple generation cycle.

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