Replacing coal-fired power in Canada with renewable energy will impose significant costs on Canada’s economy while only making modest reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, finds a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.
“Despite what advocates claim, renewable power—including wind and solar—isn’t free and comes with only modest benefits to the environment,” said G. Cornelis van Kooten, economics professor at the University of Victoria, senior fellow at the Fraser Institute and author of Canadian Climate Policy and its Implications for Electricity Grids.
The study finds that shutting down coal-fired power plants—which accounted for 9.2% of electricity generation in Canada in 2017—and replacing them with wind and solar would reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by 7.4% but increase the costs of operating the electricity grid by between $16.8 billion and $33.7 billion a year—or 1 to 2% of Canada’s annual GDP—depending on the weather impacting wind and solar power.
The study explains that part of the increased cost is a result of having to build and maintain backup power from natural gas to supply electricity when wind and solar are not available.
Crucially, the 7.4% emissions reduction would fall short of the federal government’s target—to be 40 to 45% below 2005 emissions levels by 2030.
“Reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by replacing coal-fired power with wind and solar would prove extremely costly, and still wouldn’t meet the federal government’s climate targets,” van Kooten said.
The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global network of think-tanks in 87 countries.