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Greening the Grid

September 26, 2016

September 2016

Paris is already the past and Marrakech is the future. The next United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) summit will take place later this fall in Morocco. The goal; build upon the pledges made in Paris just months ago.

Nuclear energy is critical to meeting climate commitments; providing safe, reliable energy while producing virtually no greenhouse gas emissions.


Commitments to curb climate change were echoed once more by Prime Minister Trudeau and President’s Obama and Pena Nieto at the Three Amigos Summit in Ottawa.

The North American trio agreed to curb rising temperatures by tackling pollution and cutting GHG emissions like methane and black carbon by close to 50 per cent within the next nine years. The importance of this agreement highlighted in a recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which stated:

“June marks 14 consecutive months of record heat for the globe and average sea surface temperature was also at a record high.”

One of the critical areas to addressing reducing climate change emissions and thereby limiting warming is the de-carbonization of the electricity sector.

A recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) pointed out that ten countries, including Canada, the USA, France and Russia are amongst the major contributors to global carbon dioxide emissions.

The report states, “Electricity generation in these ten countries accounts for more than one-quarter of global CO2 emissions.”

As widely reported, including in a recent submission by the European Commission, by 2050 our electricity generation must be 80% low-carbon.

It’s clear our grid needs some greening.

Solutions that work for the economy and the environment require a delicate balancing act. Looking at the environmental benefits alone, nuclear power releases almost 30 times less carbon dioxide than natural gas and approximately 60 times less than coal, making it one of the cleanest sources of energy. Then there’s the whole cycle of energy production. From the mining of uranium to the construction and operation of power plants nuclear power produces almost zero emissions meaning that it isn’t adding to the earth’s warming. It also is capable of supplying power when it’s dark out and when the air is calm; two challenges still facing solar and wind.

As reported recently in the New York Times, renewables, while making advancements forward in improved storage capacity, still require partnerships with fossil fuels, giving concern to rising greenhouse gas emissions.

In order to meet our environmental goals while not shutting out one electrical producer in favor of another, it is becomingly increasing clear that investments in research and partnerships in all energy sectors are of critical importance to greening our grid. Nuclear energy, which emits about as little CO2 as wind energy, and can produce power around the clock, can provide a partnership in clean power moving forward. It’s an important discussion. As we sift through our supply mix, we must acknowledge and invest in low-carbon energies if we are to green our grid.

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