The electricity sector is unique among industrial sectors in its very large contribution to emissions associated with nearly all air issues. Electricity generation produces a large share of Canadian nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide emissions, which contribute to smog and acid rain and the formation of fine particulate matter. It is the largest uncontrolled industrial source of mercury emissions in Canada. Fossil fuel-fired electric power plants also emit carbon dioxide, which contributes to climate change. In addition, the sector has significant impacts on water and habitat and species. In particular, hydro dams and transmission lines have significant effects on water and biodiversity.
Electric utilities in Canada generate most of the nation's total electricity. Facilities used to generate electricity include coal, oil, and natural gas fired power plants, hydro, nuclear and green power (renewable low-impact electricity). Additional generation comes from units at industrial sites which use similar types of fossil fuel-fired combustion equipment and which produce electricity mainly for on-site use. These units may also generate other energy products such as heat or mechanical power in combined heat and power systems.
The provinces and territories determine the particular mix of electricity sources that is appropriate for their region. The regional mix varies widely across the country. The provinces and territories also regulate emissions from the sector. The federal government, which has jurisdiction over transboundary air pollution and toxic releases, considers appropriate actions under federal law when warranted.
With a view to protecting the environment, Environment Canada works with the provinces and territories to take action to reduce the environmental impact of electric power generation sources both domestically and internationally. Environment Canada's preferences for reducing emissions from electric power generation include energy conservation and efficiency, climate policy, energy sources with low air emissions and low environmental impacts, and cleaning up sources with high air emissions, such as coal-fired plants.
Use the following links for information on:
Canada's electricity regulations
Canada's electricity sector
Canadian energy forecasts
United States and electricity
United States electricity policies are of significant interest to Canada, and vice versa. For information on U.S. electricity issues and policies, please follow the link for United States Department of Energy and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
The Canadian and U.S. electricity systems are highly interconnected. For information on the integration of the Canadian and U.S. electricity markets, please follow the link to the Canadian Electricity Association.
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