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Higher electricity bills in store as Canada cuts back on carbon
March 7, 2017
NEWS

Higher electricity bills could be one of the many consequences for Canadian homeowners and businesses if the country fulfils its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s one of the findings of the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, which is studying how Canada is going to transition to a low-carbon economy.

“The government has committed Canadians to meet a target that seems impossible to achieve,” committee chair Senator Richard Neufeld said.

The committee’s first interim report focuses on what Canada’s electricity sector has done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and how it can cut them more to help meet Canada’s commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, often referred to as the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Canada has agreed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below its 2005 levels by 2030. Greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, trap heat inside the atmosphere, leading‎ to climate change.

“We’ve now reached the point where we know we can no longer afford to do nothing in the face of climate change. The cost of not taking any action is now simply too great,” said Senator Paul Massicotte, the committee’s deputy chair.

For decades, burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas has been a stable, safe and cheap way to generate electricity. But it results in the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Canada’s electricity producers have already begun to invest in cleaner ways of producing power, for instance by harnessing more electricity from renewable sources, by burning less coal, or by using new technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide from emissions.

All of those changes, however, come with a cost – a cost that will be passed on to electricity customers.

As it continues its study, the committee will present its findings on a sector-by-sector basis throughout 2017. Future reports will focus on the oil and gas industry, transportation and buildings, and emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries (industries that use a lot of power or that are sensitive to trade fluctuations).

The committee’s final report, scheduled for release at the end of the year, will make recommendations to the federal government about measures Canadians can take to do their part in reducing greenhouse gases.

Senator Massicotte puts the issue in context: If all the cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships were to disappear from Canada by 2030, the country would still fall far short of meeting its greenhouse gas reduction commitments.

Committee member Senator Dennis Patterson comments from his experience as a resident from northern Canada of the implications of carbon pricing. Unless there is a major overhaul of the aging electricity infrastructure, the cost of living will dramatically increase.

Committee deputy chair Senator Paul Massicotte explains that an increase in the price of electricity for Canadians is inevitable as Canada transitions to a low-carbon economy.