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Science & Tech

Canada's hydroelectric future

How Canada's century-old renewable hydro power has evolved – and may be an answer to a fossil-fuel-free future

  • May 24, 2016
  • 347 words
  • 2 minutes
Ontario — Sir Adam Beck generating stations I & II Expand Image
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LATE LAST SUMMER, with the Paris climate conference looming, United States President Barack Obama unveiled an ambitious effort by the Environmental Protection Agency that could provide Canadian hydro power producers with the kind of growth potential not seen in decades.

The reason? Seven years after the EPA decreed that greenhouse gases pose a threat to human health and would be regulated under the Clean Air Act, Obama’s Clean Power Plan laid out a strategy to push state governments to implement a major shift in power generation, away from dirty fossil fuels, especially coal, to cleaner sources such as natural gas and renewables (including wind and hydro imported from north of the 49th).

Power exports are nothing new for Canada’s electrical utilities. Canada’s hydro sector each year ships about 40 terawatt-hours, or just more than a tenth of our overall production, south to the United States. While Canada’s net electricity exports to the U.S. have been rising over the past decade (mostly from Quebec and Ontario), they account for less than two per cent of total U.S. consumption, says Jacob Irving, CEO of the Canadian Hydropower Association. In the post-Paris Agreement era, he argues, America “is where the huge opportunity lies.”

Herewith, a survey of Canada’s water energy present — and its potential future.

Canada’s hydroelectric potential
Canada has about 160,000 megawatts of untapped hydro power. How can we access it?

Aboriginal hydropower
Navigating the the collaborative future between First Nations and the Canadian hydro industry

Innovation in hydro power
How Hydro-Quebec is turning problems into opportunities for innovation

Sharing hydroelecticity across national borders
How Canada and the United States are using transmission lines to reduce reliance on coal

Hydroelectricity in Quebec
Four experts discuss Hydro-Quebec and the driving force behind its gigantic network of generating stations

Climate change and hydro power
What does the future of hydroelectricity look like in Canada?

Explore an interactive map of hydroelectric infrastructure in Canada

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This story is from the June 2016 Issue

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