Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Julie Dabrusin, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Luke Barber, Chief Operating Officer, University of Toronto and Scott Hendershot, Senior Manager, Sustainability Office, University of Toronto, standing together on a rooftop covered in solar panels. Government of Canada handout

Saskatchewan will not “defy the laws of thermodynamics,” says Moe

 

TORONTO, REGINA – The federal government released its Clean Electricity Regulations on Aug. 10, which call for the near elimination of carbon dioxide emissions from grid-connected power generation. In doing so, if you want to burn fossil fuels, you will need carbon capture catching nearly all the emissions.

A 75-day consultation period was announced on these proposed regulations.

Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, in collaboration with Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, announced draft Clean Electricity Regulations on Aug. 10 in Toronto. “The draft regulations are designed to help Canada achieve a net-zero electricity grid by 2035, in close collaboration with provinces, territories, Indigenous partners, industry, and others,” the press release said.

Guilbeault said, “If we are serious about tackling the climate crisis, and we want to take full advantage of the opportunities in a clean economy, then it’s time we roll up our sleeves together and build the clean electricity grid of the 21st century. A net-zero grid will serve as the basis for climate actions across the economy, like helping Canadians switch to electric transportation and heating, or the development of new and cleaner industries. The benefits, in terms of good jobs and clean air in our communities, are enormous. Our Government is committed to working closely with all provinces, territories, and partners on delivering the benefits of a clean grid in a way that ensures reliability and affordability to all Canadians.”

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Wilkinson said, “Bringing clean, reliable, and affordable power to every region of Canada is an enormous undertaking. It is a nation-building project that requires significant investments, thoughtful regulations, and our fullest collaboration. Today’s announcement brings us one step closer to achieving a clean electricity system for the benefit of all Canadians. We look forward to hearing from provinces and territories, Indigenous partners, and all Canadians during the consultation period of this draft regulation to ensure that it provides the certainty that Canadians want, and the emissions reductions that we must achieve. With a thoughtful, comprehensive, and collaborative approach, we can ensure that every region of Canada thrives in the global race to fight climate change and seize the economic opportunities of a low-carbon future. That will continue to be our focus as we move forward.”

The press release noted, “Canada starts from a position of strength. Our electricity grid is already one of the cleanest in the world, with more than 84 percent of electricity generated from non-emitting sources like hydro, nuclear, and wind. The draft regulations will ensure we decarbonize the remainder of our grid, while meeting the needs of increasing demand for electricity. As drafted, they would cut over 340 megatonnes of greenhouse gas pollution between 2024 and 2050.”

However, on Aug. 6, when Saskatchewan saw exactly zero power production from its 617 megawatts of wind generation for three hours and 17 minutes, SaskPower saw 84 per cent of its power generation coming from natural gas and coal – the inverse of what the federal government says of the national grid.

The release noted, “More than $40 billion in new tax credits and other major federal investments will help drive even more economic opportunities through the construction of new power sources and retrofitting of existing plants.” But SaskPower Minister Don Morgan has previously said nuclear reactors could cost up to $5 billion a piece, meaning Saskatchewan’s four planned reactors alone, never mind the rest of the country, would be worth up to half the federal incentives. And those reactors would only replace current coal generation, and not account for more than doubling the electrical grid.

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The regulations are not listed on the website provided, but rather a difficult to read PDF plastered with large “Unofficial version” watermarks across each page. It’s going to take a while for Pipeline Online to digest this, but requests for more detailed comment in the coming days have been made to the Premier’s office and SaskPower. Expect more detailed coverage soon.

The stated purpose of the Clean Electricity Regulations are, “These Regulations establish a regime for limiting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that result from the generation of electricity from the combustion of fossil fuels.”

And it all comes down to this – there is a prohibition on burning fossil fuels to operate an electrical generating unit that produces more than 30 tonnes of CO2 per gigawatt-hour of generation. There are exemptions for carbon capture and storage, as well as short-term usage and in emergency situations. But that short-term usage is limited to 450 hours per year (18.75 days).

There is also discussion of “behind the fence” generation, industrial applications such as mines or oilsands operations, where locally used power generation that is not sold to the grid is not covered under these regulations. But those are covered by other, increasingly stringent regulations like Output-Based Pricing.

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Electrical grid expected to more than double

Some highlights that are evident within the document is the expectation the electrical grid demand will increase by a factor of 2.5x. “The comparison is performed for the low demand scenario, modeled as 1.4 times (“1.4 X”) increase over current demand by 2050 and used in the CBA and for the high demand scenario, modeled as 2.5 times (“2.5 X”) increase over current demand by 2050.” There are allowances for fossil fuel consumption with carbon capture and storage, but the efficiency standards of that CCS are very high, initially 40 tonnes of CO per gigawatt hour, and falling to 30 tonnes after seven years to tune up the CCS plant.

The press release implied that doubling the electrical grid wouldn’t be that difficult, stating, “Canada’s electricity sector has shown strong ability to mobilize capital and grow capacity in the past, all while significantly reducing emissions by phasing out coal. For example, Canada’s total electricity generation capacity almost doubled between 1980 and 2021, while emissions from the electricity sector have decreased to 62 megatonnes in 2020, which is less than half of 2000 levels.” But the new projectionss call for more than doubling the grid, in 26 years and 3 months, and doing so without fossil fuels unless they have carbon capture attached.

Jail if you don’t comply?

And, as Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault had previously intoned a few months ago, criminal prosecution is listed as possible enforcement activity.

“This Policy sets out the range of possible responses to alleged violations, including warnings, directions, environmental protection compliance orders, tickets, ministerial orders, injunctions, criminal prosecution and environmental protection alternative measures (which are an alternative to a court prosecution after the laying of charges for a CEPA violation),” the related discussion noted.

There are some allowances for natural gas-fired generating units that have come online or will come online prior to Jan. 1, 2025. But it also notes, “All units that are commissioned on or after January 1, 2025, regardless of the fuel combusted, will need to achieve the 30 t/GWh performance standard starting on January 1, 2035.”

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Saskatchewan reacts

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said on various social media platforms, “Trudeau’s net-zero electricity regulations are unaffordable, unrealistic and unconstitutional.

“They will drive electricity rates through the roof and leave Saskatchewan with an unreliable power supply.

“Our government will not let the federal government do that to Saskatchewan people.”

In a graphic, Moe released the following statement:

“Today’s announcement from Minister Guilbeault does not take into consideration that electricity generation is a constitutionally-protected provincial responsibility, nor does it take into consideration the feedback and perspective that provincial governments and utility providers offered.

“Trudeau’s net-zero targets are simply not achievable in Saskatchewan, and we will not ask our residents to pay the extraordinary price for the federal government’s divisive policies, nor will we risk the integrity of our provincial power grid to defy the laws of thermodynamics.

“We will always put Saskatchewan first, and our province’s path to a net-zero grid will be no different.”

 

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Alberta premier reacts

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith posted on social media channels:

The draft federal 2035 net-zero power grid regulations are unconstitutional, irresponsible and do not align with Alberta’s emissions reduction and energy development plan that works towards a carbon-neutral power grid by 2050.

These regulations make desperately needed investments in new natural gas generation almost impossible. If implemented in Alberta, these regulations would endanger the reliability of Alberta’s power grid and cause massive increases in Albertans’ power bills.

Alberta’s government will protect Albertans from these unconstitutional federal net-zero regulations. They will not be implemented in our province – period.

One of the only positives at this point is that these are ‘draft’ regulations and Alberta is about to commence a working group with the federal government to discuss how to bring Ottawa’s efforts to decarbonize the economy in line with Alberta’s Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan.

If this alignment is not achieved, Alberta will chart its own path to ensuring we have additional reliable and affordable electricity brought onto our power grid that is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

This will be accomplished by ensuring an appropriate amount of high-efficiency natural gas base load is added to the grid while incentivizing carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) abated natural gas generation, small modular reactors, hydrogen generation and a sustainable amount of wind, solar and other renewables to drive down electricity costs.

Albertans and our government care deeply about responsible environmental stewardship. We are confident Alberta’s plan will get us to a reliable and affordable carbon-neutral power grid by 2050.

This is the direction Alberta is going. We invite the federal government to support us, rather than hinder us, in doing so.

 

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