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Canadian Energy Centre

Reality check: Global emissions from coal plants

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A man walks towards a ferry as the Wujing coal-electricity power station is seen across the Huangpu River in the Minhang district of Shanghai. Getty Images photo

From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Ven Venkatachalam

Coal remains the primary fuel for global electricity generation, particularly in Asian countries

High energy prices, inflation, war, and the ongoing economic recovery from the pandemic has highlighted the general worldwide demand for electricity, particularly in Asia and Europe. The growing demand for electricity on these two continents has led some electricity producing plants to rely increasingly heavily on coal as a power source.

The electricity sector accounts for 34 per cent of the world’s energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In this Fact Sheet, we detail recent trends in electricity production and demand across the globe as well as CO2 emissions from the electricity sector worldwide.

Carbon dioxide emissions from the world’s top ten emitters between 2000 and 2022

A total of 38.2 gigatonnes (Gt) of energy-related CO2 was emitted globally in 2022, an increase of 53 per cent from 2000. However, the increase is not consistent for all countries; between 2000 and 2023, CO2 emissions trends diverged. Emissions from China, India, and Indonesia more than doubled in the last two decades, whereas emissions for other countries remained relatively consistent or even declined.

In 2022, Canada’s total energy-related CO2 emissions were 0.62 Gt, or 1.6 per cent of the global total. That compares to emissions of 0.64 Gt in South Korea, 1.09 Gt in Japan, 2.8 Gt in India, 5.0 Gt in the United States, and 13.0 Gt in China (see Figure 1).

Sources: IEA World Energy Statistics database and Enerdata

Demand for electricity and sources of emissions

Global domestic electricity consumption increased from 13,188 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2000 to 25,681 TWh in 2022 and estimates are that global demand for electricity will rise to 35,000 TWh by 2040.¹

That is a jump of 94 per cent, or 12,492 TWh, between 2000 and 2022. During the same period, electricity consumption in Asia rose a whopping 280 per cent. In Africa the demand for electricity increased by 90 per cent (see Figure 2). Coal remains the world’s largest source of fuel for electricity generation, with approximately 10,317 terawatt-hours of electricity generated by coal-fired plants in 2022 (see Figure 3).


1. The IEA’s Electricity Market Report 2022 states that nearly all of the increase is attributable to growing electricity consumption in developing countries across southeast Asia and Africa.
Sources: IEA World Energy Statistics database and Enerdata

 

Sources: IEA World Energy Statistics database and Enerdata

In recent years, electricity generated from the combustion of coal declined in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Africa. However, electricity generated from coal combustion has continued to grow in China, India, and other parts of Asia.

Between 2000 and 2022, the share of coal-powered electricity generation in Asia increased from 49.8 to 56. 3 per cent, while in Canada it decreased from 19.4 per cent to less than 5 per cent.

Sources: IEA World Energy Statistics database and Enerdata

Source of emissions in the electricity sector

The electricity sector accounts for 34 per cent of the carbon dioxide emitted across the world. The sector emitted 13.05 gigatonnes of CO2 in 2022, an increase of 5.01 Gt from 2000. In Asia, between 2000 and 2022, CO2 emissions from the electricity sector increased from 2.5 Gt to 8.3 Gt and the sector’s share of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions increased from just over 32 per cent to well over 40 per cent (see Figure 5).

Sources: IEA World Energy Statistics database and Enerdata

Coal burned to generate electricity accounts for the majority of the CO2 emitted in power generation. In 2022, coal-fired electricity\ generation accounted for 9.89 Gt, or nearly 76 per cent of the worldwide CO2 emissions from the electricity sector. The share was even higher in Asia where 92 per cent of emissions from the electricity sector come from coal combustion. Asian coal-fired plants accounted for 7.62 Gt of the total 8.26 Gt of emissions from the sector on that continent (see Figure 6).

Sources: IEA World Energy Statistics database and Enerdata

Conclusion

The global electricity sector, and particularly the sector in Asia, is a major source of CO2 emissions. Relative to Canada’s existing carbon emissions, emissions from the coal-fired power plants worldwide will make any reductions in Canada’s carbon emissions and resulting job losses, higher taxes, and higher costs for consumers and businesses—meaningless.

As 56 per cent of the electricity in Asia is generated by coal-fired plants, a transition from coal- to gas-fired electricity generation in the region could lead to significant reductions in CO2 emissions, reducing emissions by 50 per cent on average. The corollary is that there is a potential market in Asia for natural gas extracted in and exported from Canada. Canada has an opportunity to play a useful and meaningful role in reducing CO2 emissions from the electricity sector by encouraging and contributing to the global natural gas market.


Notes

This CEC Fact Sheet was compiled by Ven Venkatachalam at the Canadian Energy Centre (www.canadianenergycentre.ca). The author and the Canadian Energy Centre would like to thank and acknowledge the assistance of an anonymous reviewer in reviewing the data and research for this Fact Sheet.

References (live as of November 2, 2023)

Canadian Energy Centre (November 7, 2022), Canadian LNG has massive opportunity in Asia: report <https://tinyurl.com/2p9525j6>; Enerdata (2022), Power Plant Tracker database <https://bit.ly/3xfgOdF>; IEA (2022), Electricity Market Report – January 2022 <https://bit.ly/3M0723j> IEA (Undated), World Energy Statistics Database <https://tinyurl.com/ytz789m4>

Canadian Energy Centre

Hubs are the future of carbon capture and storage: Why Alberta is an ideal place to make it happen

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From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Deborah Jaremko

Alberta Carbon Trunk Line a ‘perfect example’ of a successful carbon capture and storage hub in action

Call it a CCS highway – a shared transportation and storage network that enables multiple industrial users to reduce emissions faster. 

So-called “hubs” or networks are becoming the leading development strategy for carbon capture and storage (CCS) as the world moves faster to fight climate change, according to the Global CCS Institute.  

Alberta, with its large industrial operations and more CO2 storage capacity than Norway, Korea, India, and double the entire Middle East, is an early leader in CCS hub development.  

“For Alberta, the concept of CCS hubs makes a lot of sense because you have many industry players that are trying to reduce their emissions, paired with beautiful geological opportunities beneath,” says Beth (Hardy) Valiaho, vice-president with the International CCS Knowledge Centre in Regina, Saskatchewan. 

Jarad Daniels, CEO of the Melbourne, Australia-based Global CCS Institute, says that historically, CCS would be a single project integrating a CO2 capture plant with dedicated CO2 compression, pipeline and storage systems.  

“Networks, where each entity typically operates only part of the full CCS value chain provide several benefits,” he says. 

“They reduce costs and commercial risk by allowing each company to remain focused on their core business.” 

The institute, which released its annual global status of CCS report in November, is now tracking more than 100 CCS hubs in development around the world. 

Alberta already has one, and Valiaho says it is a “perfect example” of what she likens to on and off-ramps on a CO2 highway.   

The Alberta Carbon Trunk Line (ACTL) went into service in 2020 as a shared pipeline taking CO2 captured at two facilities in the Edmonton region to permanent underground storage in a depleted oil field.  

Map of the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line system. Courtesy Enhance Energy

So far ACTL has transported more than four million tonnes of CO2 to storage that would have otherwise been emitted to the atmosphere – the equivalent emissions of approximately 900,000 cars.  

ACTL was constructed with a “build it and they will come” mentality, Valiaho says. It has enough capacity to transport 14.6 million tonnes of CO2 per year but only uses 1.6 million tonnes of space per year today. 

The future-in-mind plan is working. A $1.6 billion net zero hydrogen complex being built by Air Products near Edmonton will have an on-ramp to ACTL when it is up and running later this year.  

Air Products will supply hydrogen to a new renewable diesel production plant being built by Imperial Oil. Three million tonnes of CO2 per year are to be captured at the complex and transported for storage by the ACTL Edmonton Connector.  

Hub projects like this are important globally, Daniels says, as CCS operations need to dramatically increase from 50 million tonnes of storage per year today to one billion tonnes by 2030 and 10 billion tonnes by 2050 

“It’s clear the development of CCS networks and hubs is critical for achieving the multiple gigatonne levels of deployment all the climate math says is required by mid-century,” he says. 

Valiaho says Alberta is an encouraging jurisdiction to develop CCS hubs in part because the government owns the geological pore space where the CO2 is stored, rather than developers having to navigate dealing with multiple resource owners.  

“Alberta is a model for the world, and the fact that the government has declared crown ownership of the pore space is very interesting to a lot of international jurisdictions,” she says.  

There are 26 CCS storage project proposals under evaluation in Alberta that could be used as shared storage hubs in the future, including the project proposed by the Pathways Alliance of oil sands producers.  

If just six of these projects proceed, the Global CCS Institute says they could store a combined 50 million tonnes of CO2 per year, or the equivalent emissions of more than 11 million cars. 

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Canadian Energy Centre

Energy Perspectives: Trading Up – Canadian oil and gas exports

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From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Ven Venkatachalam

The composition of Canadian trade has changed significantly in the last 20 years, with oil and gas now Canada’s most significant export

Global trade patterns have changed in recent years due to ongoing political and economic turmoil. In Canada, these changes are apparent at all levels – provincial, national, and international. The share of goods and services exported has been exceptionally high since 2002 and stood at 33.7 per cent of GDP in 2022. In Canada, 1 in 6 jobs are linked to exports.

Exports have always been essential to Canada’s economy. In 2022, Canada exported $779 billion worth of goods and services, double the value from 2002. One main reason for the country’s substantial export numbers relates to soaring oil and gas prices. Oil and gas accounted for more than 50 per cent of the growth in Canada’s goods exports in 2022. Those numbers are part of a trend: in the last 20 years, from 2002 to 2022, oil and gas exports increased significantly, rising from $36.5 billion in 2002 to $182 billion in 2022, most of it going to the United States (see Figure 1).

Canada’s Top Five Exported Products, 2002 vs. 2022

Since 2002, the composition of Canada’s trade has shifted. In 2002, the top exported product was motor vehicle parts. That year Canada exported $61.1 billion worth of automotive parts, accounting for 16 per cent of total exports. Also, that year Canada’s oil and gas exports stood at $36.5 billion, or 9 per cent of exports (see Figure 2).

Since then, the share of automotive exports as a proportion of all Canada’s exports has declined, while the share of oil and gas exports has increased, mainly due to greater demand from the United States. In the last 20 years, on average, Canada exported $82 billion of oil and gas each year.

In 2022, Canada’s annual oil and gas exports reached a record $182 billion, and the sector accounted for 23 per cent of Canada’s total exports. Accompanying the increase in exports from the sector were increased prices for oil and gas, partly as a result of rising demand in the United States.

The Canadian Energy Centre’s “Energy Perspectives” are short analyses released periodically to provide context on energy issues for investors, policymakers, and the public. The source of profiled data depends on the specific issue.

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