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Hydropower and Other Renewables: Best Source of Electricity for Canadians

Oct 31, 2006 Canada NewsWire

Minister Lunn Speaks at the 7th Annual Forum on Hydropower

Over 120 energy experts from across Canada met in Gatineau, Québec last week to discuss the opportunities and challenges for the renewable electricity industry, and how hydropower and other renewables can build on potential synergies for a cleaner and more sustainable future.

Since Canada signed the Kyoto Protocol almost ten years ago, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have continued rising despite our increasing understanding of the sources and solutions. Oil, gas and coal industries, transportation, and electricity generation represent the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants in Canada. Since 1997, electricity sector emissions alone have increased by 30 percent because new growth in demand has mostly been met by coal and natural gas-fired plants.

Minister Lunn Highlights the Role of Hydropower

"Using additional hydropower capacity could make a substantial contribution to reducing greenhouse gases and air pollution both in the United States and here at home," said federal minister of Natural Resources Gary Lunn, addressing delegates at the seventh Forum on Hydropower. "However, action on regulatory efficiency is essential to ensure the continued development of hydropower and other renewables."

Fulfilling Our Renewable Potential

"With renewable energies working together, Canada can hope to achieve a clean, sustainable, and renewable electricity mix," said Pierre Fortin, president of the Canadian Hydropower Association. "Today hydropower supplies about 60 percent of current electricity production - wind and solar less than 1 percent - but the potential for development is enormous(1)." A recent study(2) reveals an untapped potential of 163,000 MW of hydropower, over twice the amount in operation.

"This potential," added Mr. Fortin, "is available in all 13 provinces and territories, and can be developed with respect for the environment and in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, as recent historical agreements in Québec and Manitoba have shown."

Hydropower is the best source to support the development of other renewables such as wind and solar, which need the support of a base load source of energy. As the production of electricity from intermittent sources of renewable energy increases, the need for complementary energy storage systems will also increase. Hydropower and wind energy in particular are a great match because their peak production times complement each other. Wind is at its mightiest in winter when hydropower reservoirs are low.

Lifting Obstacles to Clean, Renewable Development

By further developing hydropower and other renewable sources of electricity, Canada can preserve its traditional role as a world-renowned leader in clean renewable energy. However, to do so Canada must place caps on industry emissions and set more ambitious targets for the development of renewables, including more hydropower. Changes to the environmental permitting of electricity projects are also necessary to ensure that hydropower projects continue to be developed in Canada.

The current environmental assessment process puts excessive emphasis on local impacts and does not take into consideration large-scale negative impacts on the environment such as acid rain, smog or global warming, which have serious detrimental effects on the health of Canadians as well as fisheries and forests; that it does not do so privileges fossil fuel power plants over hydropower plants. On average, a hydropower project requires eight to twelve years of preparation, from the preliminary step to its commissioning, whereas a thermal power plant can be operational in two to four years.

Hydropower and other renewable sources of electricity provide greater ecological, economic and social advantages than any other energy source. They are the solution to meeting our electricity needs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and controlling air pollution. However, to ensure the realization of their potential, regulatory obstacles must be lifted.

Founded in 1998, the Canadian Hydropower Association (CHA) is the national association dedicated to representing the interests of the hydropower industry. Its principal mandate is to promote hydropower nationally and internationally as a source of renewable energy, to make the economic and environmental advantages of hydropower better known, and to publicize the benefits of hydropower in the search for sustainable energy solutions. CHA members represent more than 95% of the hydropower capacity in Canada.

(1) Based on the experience of other countries it is possible for Canada to achieve 20% of its electricity needs from wind energy; that would be 50,000 MW of wind energy capacity. Canadian Wind Energy Association. (2) Study of the Hydropower Potential in Canada, report prepared by EEM for the Canadian Hydropower Association, March 2006.


Updated: 2003/07/28