Air QualityIssue Summary | Industry Response | Issue Management | Resource Library
ISSUE SUMMARYAir quality is an issue of growing concern to Canadians. The emission into air of substances such as Particulate Matter (PM), as Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) that contribute to Smog, Acid Rain as well as other hazardous air pollutants such are mercury are coming under increased scrutiny. The generation of electricity with fossil fuels is a significant contributor to the release of a number of these substances into air.
In 1998, the electric power generation share of national emissions of SO2, NOx, and Mercury were 20%, 10% and 25% respectively. The majority of these emissions are found in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, reflecting the importance of coal-fired generation in these regions as well as some continued reliance on oil in Atlantic Canada.
Electricity generation contribution to air quality concerns is largely dependent on fuel type, combustion process and regional/local air quality. These factors can vary significantly both within a region and across the country; coal burned in Nova Scotia is quite different from that in Alberta, combustion processes vary from plant to plant, and air quality issues can be quite regional (i.e. acid rain in the east, smog in Ontario and Quebec).
INDUSTRY RESPONSECurrently, the electricity Industry is working cooperatively with the federal government to find an equitable approach for emission reductions under the Clean Air Regulatory Framework. Measures to address air emissions must be adapted, however, to suit the diversity of technologies, fuel/generation sources, environmental pressures, political and socio-economic climates from region to region. Strategies adopted to address these issues generally adhere to a set of principles aimed at optimizing solutions:
- Continued provision of safe, affordable, and reliable electricity
- Integrated management of various air emissions (SO2, NOX, PM, Hg, and CO2)
- Accommodation of full fuel/generation source diversity
- Consideration of regional differences, in electricity supply and demand as well as air quality issues
- Flexibility of implementation mechanisms, allowing a full array of market and other instruments
With these principles in mind, companies are working along the four basic paths available for effectively managing air emissions: reducing electricity demand; reducing emissions associated with electricity generation; capturing/controlling emissions; and reducing emissions from other sources (offsets). Companies are developing and implementing strategies that incorporate some or all of the above pathways. In the changing marketplace the impetus for company-run demand-side management strategies is much diminished, however, CEA is currently working with Natural Resources Canada to investigate mechanisms for promoting such strategies. Significant work has also been done through the implementation of processes and technologies that effectively reduce the level of emissions from generation and control releases. Ongoing research and development will continue to improve the effectiveness of these approaches. The industry also continues to pursue strategies to address greenhouse gas emissions that have significant implications for air quality emissions.
In 2002 CEA embarked on an intensive program to improve the information around mercury inventories, measurement and control. Information about this program can be located on the dedicated website, www.CEAMercuryProgram.ca.
ISSUE MANAGEMENTAir Quality at CEA is managed by the Generation Council.
Director, Generation and Environment
- CEA Fact Sheet on Mercury: Taking Action on Mercury Emissions (pdf) May 2002
- Understanding Mercury (pdf) May 2002