Overview of Electricity Sector

Although Saskatchewan is one of the sunniest and windiest places in Canada, its electricity supply mix is overwhelmingly reliant on fossil fuels. Of its 4,200 MW of capacity, almost three quarters is coal and natural gas-fired generation, while the remaining quarter is renewable, mainly hydroelectric [i]. Most of the province’s generating assets are owned and operated by the Saskatchewan Power Corporation (“SaskPower”). SaskPower also purchases electricity from 11 independently operated generation facilities, mainly gas-fired plants, ranging from 5 to 260 MW, as well as a small number of wind and waste heat facilities[1].

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Continued reliance on fossil fuel generation is a key reason why Saskatchewan’s greenhouse gas emissions per capita are three times higher than the national average[2][ii]. As the second largest oil-producing and third-largest natural gas-producing province in Canada, Saskatchewan’s economy is highly dependent on the continued use of fossil fuels for energy generation and transport. The current Government of Saskatchewan refers to the province’s vast supply of minable lignite coal as “the most cost-efficient and secure fuel for baseload generation of electricity” [iii].

Accordingly, Saskatchewan’s energy policy has been focused on enabling the continuation of coal-fired generation by heavily investing in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). A 2012 federal regulation[3] requires that all coal plants built before 1975 to be closed by 2020 and those built after, as well as new ones, be equipped with CCS [iv]. Also central to SaskPower’s mandate going forward is investment in waste heat recovery and cogeneration to improve the efficiency and environmental impact of natural gas generation.

However, on November 23, 2015, SaskPower committed to doubling its share of electricity generation from renewable sources to 50% by 2030. By this target date, SaskPower plans to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40% from 2005 levels through an increased use of wind, solar and geothermal energy [v].

 

[1] Waste heat generation is a system that produces electricity from a heat source that is a by-product of an existing industrial process, heat that would have been otherwise wasted.

[2] 73.8 t of CO2 equivalent per person compared to 22.0 t

[3] The Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Coal-Fired Generation of Electricity Regulations (SOR/2012-167) sets new performance standards for new coal-fired electricity generation units and those that have reached the end of their useful life with the stated purpose of implementing a permanent shift to lower- or non-emitting types of generation, such as high-efficiency natural gas, renewable energy or fossil fuel-fired power with carbon capture and storage (CCS).

[i] Saskatchewan Power Corporation. 2015a. Our Electricity. Retrieved 14 Jul 2015 from http://www.saskpower.com/our-power-future/our-electricity/

[ii] Richards, G., Noble, B., Belcher, K. (2012). Barriers to renewable energy development: A case study of large-scale wind energy in Saskatchewan, Canada. Energy Policy, 42: 691-698.

[iii] Government of Saskatchewan. 2015. Energy. Retrieved 29 Jul 2015 from http://economy.gov.sk.ca/energy.

[iv] Environment Canada. 2012. Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Coal-Fired Generation of Electricity Regulations (SOR/2012-167). Retrieved 14 Jul 2015 from http://www.ec.gc.ca/lcpe-cepa/eng/regulations/detailReg.cfm?intReg=209.

[v] Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “SaskPower to use wind, solar, geothermal to hit 50% renewable mark by 2030”, November 23, 2015, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/saskpower-50percent-renewable-electricity-2030-1.3330892 

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