"Green power" is most commonly defined, world-wide, as renewable low-impact electricity, that is, electricity from renewable energy sources having low adverse environmental impact relative to conventional large-reservoir hydroelectricity and relative to non-renewable forms of electricity.
Renewable electricity comes from energy sources that are replenished naturally or through sustainable management practices, without being depleted at current levels of consumption.
In Canada, the criteria for low environmental impact are set under Environment Canada's Environmental Choice Program (ECP). Most provinces, utilities and the green power industry use the ECP-criteria. The ECP also provides certification and recognition with the EcoLogo for green power generating facilities and electricity products.
Sources of green power are wind, hydro (typically run-of-the-river), solar, tidal, geothermal, biogas-fuelled and biomass-fuelled power sources, where the sources meet the ECP-criteria for environmental performance.
Not only do green power operations have little or no greenhouse gas emissions, but also other air pollutant emissions which cause smog, acid-rain or toxic pollution are zero (or in the case of geothermal, biogas and biomass-fuelled sources, are controlled to specified limits). Impacts on ecosystems, such as might occur from flooding or variable water flow in hydroelectric operations, or from the effluent or waste ash from biogas and biomass-fuelled sources, are also small compared to conventional electricity generation.
Environment Canada views green power as a preferred option for new and replacement electricity generation. Many utilities choose to generate a portion of their electricity as green power as part of their environmental leadership, or due to provincial policies.
Environment Canada also supports green power retail markets as a way to enable consumers to exercise their own choice for green power through their purchasing power. In fact, Environment Canada started customer choice of green power through its purchase of wind power in Alberta in 1997, the first purchase of green power in Canada.
Many corporations and provincial and municipal governments are also showing their leadership by buying some of their electricity as green power. The Government of Canada seeks to partner with provincial, territorial and municipal governments, and with larger private organizations, to increase green power purchases in Canada. So far, about 20,000 Canadians and Canadian organizations choose to buy green power.
While green power currently makes up only a small percentage of Canada's electricity, Canada's green power resource potential is enormous -- perhaps sufficient to account for up to half our electricity needs, contributing to substantial reductions of greenhouse gas and other air pollutant emissions compared to conventional fossil-fuelled generation. Growth of the industry would also provide significant potential for innovation, job creation and regional diversification.
However, some green power technologies have not yet matured to be able to compete in cost or reliability with other more conventional generation. The Government of Canada maintains several programs to assist in research, development and demonstration, or to help in widespread deployment of emerging green power technologies. For example, it introduced the Wind Power Production Incentive (WPPI) in 2002, to help reduce costs and encourage the development of up to 4,000 megawatts of new wind power across Canada by 2012--enough to power more than one million homes.
A useful Government link for more information:
- Renewable Energy Information and Awareness Program (Natural Resources Canada)
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