Sources of pollution: electricity
Canada’s electricity generation mix is already one of the cleanest in the world. Currently, 66% of our electricity is from renewable sources such as hydroelectricity, wind and solar. When nuclear is included, this means over 80% of our electricity comes from sources that are good for air quality and climate change.
Impacts of fossil fuel-based electricity
Burning fossil fuels (such as coal and natural gas) and petroleum-based fuels (such as diesel and heavy fuels) has negative impacts on our environment and human health including:
- producing a large part of Canada’s air pollution – including sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter (soot) and mercury pollutants which contribute to the formation of acid rain and smog
- creating the largest uncontrolled industrial source of mercury emissions in Canada
- emitting large amounts of climate-warming greenhouse gases
- harming water quality, biodiversity and species’ habitats
Benefits from clean electricity
Canada is investing in cleaner sources of electricity. While the transition away from coal and other fossil fuel-fired electricity will take time, it will provide many environmental, climate and human health benefits.
Hydropower is a clean, renewable resource that has low operating costs once the infrastructure is in place. It accounts for approximately 60% of Canada’s total electricity. Almost all provinces and territories generate some electricity from hydro power plants, such as the Churchill Falls generating station in Newfoundland and Labrador. Installing this infrastructure requires careful consideration to minimize any impacts to the environment and communities located near hydro plants. We work with provinces and territories to provide expert advice during the environmental assessment process of these projects.
Renewable energy such as solar energy and wind energy produce approximately 5% of Canada’s electricity and continue to grow each year. Electricity generated from renewable energy does not create carbon pollution. Canada is currently developing other emerging renewable energy sources by investing in tidal energy systems that harness the power of the world’s highest tides in the Bay of Fundy (Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) and in Canada’s first geothermal power facility in Estevan, Saskatchewan.
Electricity from nuclear power produces approximately 15% of Canada’s total electricity. Currently, Ontario and New Brunswick operate nuclear power plants. While it does not produce any greenhouse gas emissions, this type of power must be developed in an environmentally- responsible way to maximize safety and waste management. In addition, Canada is examining a new technology called small modular reactors to help remote communities and heavy industry transition away from fossil fuel-based electricity to reduce their emissions.
Reducing our emissions
Our goal is to generate 90% of the country’s electricity from non-emitting sources by 2030. Canada is working with provinces and territories to reduce environmental impacts from electricity generation both domestically and internationally by:
- phasing out traditional coal-fired electricity
- introducing new regulations to cut emissions from natural gas-fired and diesel-fired electricity
- investing in smart grids that will allow clean electricity from neighbouring provinces to be more accessible
- implementing a carbon pollution pricing approach that requires the electricity industry to pay if it does not reduce its emissions below certain levels
- providing incentives for Canadians to conserve energy and reduce their emissions through initiatives such as the Low Carbon Economy Fund and the Climate Action Incentive
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