Changes to Ottawa’s clean electricity rules possible after consultations

Click to play video: 'Alberta continues to push back against clean electricity regulations'
Alberta continues to push back against clean electricity regulations
RELATED: Alberta continues to push back against clean electricity regulations – Nov 3, 2023

Ottawa is considering alterations to its proposed clean electricity regulations after consultations with industry, opening the door to more flexibility for individual power generators.

“We can still get to the same aim,” said Oliver Anderson, a spokesman with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The proposed changes, released Friday, would change several provisions that industry and provincial governments objected to in the original version.

The changes suggest dropping intensity-based standards from greenhouse gas emissions limits. That means generators would no longer be forced to meet a single standard of how much carbon is emitted per unit of energy.

Instead, each generator would be assigned an annual emissions limit.

Click to play video: 'Province, feds pledge $475 million toward Manitoba green energy goals'
Province, feds pledge $475 million toward Manitoba green energy goals

As well, companies that own a number of generators would be allowed to pool emissions from facilities operating in the same jurisdiction. Companies would also be allowed to buy carbon offsets to compensate for overshooting their assigned limits.

Story continues below advertisement

The government is also considering changes to how new plants are brought in under the regulations.

Under the previous scheme, operators were concerned about the requirement that all generation would have to either be renewable or be equipped with carbon abatement by 2035. They argued that projects already under construction would be disadvantaged and could be left stranded once the new rules took effect.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

The government now proposes a time-limited exemption to that rule for fossil fuel generators that come into operation before 2025.

“Any fossil fuel-burning electric generation built before 2025 can operate for 20 years without having the regulations apply to it,” Anderson said. “There could be a bit of wiggle room on the start date.”

Click to play video: 'Federal government’s clean energy goal timeline ‘unachievable’, SaskEnergy minster says'
Federal government’s clean energy goal timeline ‘unachievable’, SaskEnergy minster says

Industries that generate their own power and feed extra back into the grid are also affected by the proposals.

Story continues below advertisement

Previously, all generated power would have been affected by the regulations.

Under the suggested changes, only the power that gets fed back into the grid is affected. Power generated and used on-site would not be.

Finally, small generators producing under 25 megawatts would still be exempted. But any new units at the same facility collectively generating more than that would have to follow the regulations.

Anderson said the government hasn’t calculated how the changes would affect greenhouse gas emission reductions.

“That’s part of what we’re going to be consulting on, to see what the impact would be,” he said. “The department has a strong sense this puts us in the same ballpark.”

The government is asking industry to respond to the suggested changes by March 15.

Click to play video: 'B.C. & Newfoundland sign clean energy deal'
B.C. & Newfoundland sign clean energy deal

They come after sharp criticism of the initial proposals.

Story continues below advertisement

Both Alberta and Saskatchewan said it isn’t possible for their grids to achieve net-zero by 2035. They said they can’t eliminate fossil fuel-burning plants or build enough carbon capture without hurting reliability or costing their residents a fortune.

Energy economists also called for more flexibility in the regulations.

Climate advocates welcomed the new proposals.

“The revised design for the draft Clean Electricity Regulations is a welcome change that will deliver more flexibility for grid operators in order to protect reliability and support affordability for people and businesses,” said Jason Dion, research director for the Canadian Climate Institute. “Finalizing the regulations as early as possible would give policy certainty to grid operators, which would help with planning and investment.”

Evan Pivnick of Clean Energy Canada also called for the regulations to be finalized as soon as possible.

But he warned any changes shouldn’t compromise their original goal.

“Flexibility should be balanced with the necessary stringency, and more details on the new proposal are needed to determine if the former compromises the latter.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2024.

Sponsored content