LASER TALK: Stop the Dash to Gas in the Electricity Sector

POST BUDGET 2023 UPDATE: Given the inequitable and catastrophic impact that exceeding a global temperature rise of 1.5°C will have on everything and everywhere, planning for any new fossil fuel infrastructure on the premise that it can be reversed by unproven carbon capture and sequestration funded by taxpayers is indefensible.

The Corporate Knight’s Building Back Better Report indicates that greening the grid will create 905,000 jobs/and add $284.5 billion of gross value to the Canadian economy between now and 2030. Achieving this transformation will require strong measures—how can we get there?

Currently, the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act and provincial regulations for big emitters in Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick permit existing gas plants and those converted from coal to emit most of their GHGs for free.

Rather than charging gas plants for only a small portion of the GHGs they emit, CCL Canada advocates that the federal government makes natural gas electricity plants pay the full carbon price on all the natural gas they use. This needs to be done while continuing to increase the national carbon price past 2022 and continuing to return the revenue to Canadians.

A 2017 study by Dolter and Rivers showed that an incrementally increasing carbon price with no loopholes over time would eliminate about 90% of GHG emissions from Canada’s electricity system, increasing the average cost of electricity by 1.2 cents per kilowatt-hour.

This recommendation should result in the displacement of gas electrical generation by renewables—with a reduction of up to 15 Mt of GHGs per year achieved in Ontario alone (Figure 1). Significant reductions could also be made in Alberta (Figure 2). Furthermore, future additional generation is more likely to be non-emitting with an increasing carbon price.

For more information, see our media packet.

Figure 1: Ontario Electricity Sector GHG Emissions, Historical, and Forecast 

Source: Figure 32 from Annual Planning Outlook, January 2020, Independent Electricity System Operator. The drop from 2005 through 2014 is mainly due to the shutdown of coal plants.  The projected increase from 2017 is all from gas plants. If the carbon price is increased, renewables will fill the generating gap instead of natural gas.


Figure 2: Growth of Gas Plants in Alberta

Source: OPINION | Alberta’s shift away from coal power is a climate action success story, CBC Alberta,  Andrew Leach and Blake Shaffer, October 15, 2020













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