Guy Bruce, the vice-president of planning, environment and regulatory affairs for SaskPower, says that the new standards for coal-fired generating stations strike a good balance.
The restrictions were released by federal Environment Minister Peter Kent earlier this month in Saskatoon. The regulations aren't as stringent as those that were drafted a little more than a year ago.
New coal plants will only be allowed to proceed if they emit less than 420 tonnes of carbon dioxide per gigawatt hour of electricity generated, as opposed to 375 tonnes. The time allowed for old plants to meet the new standard will be about 50 years, instead of the originally proposed 45 years.
"The main benefit … is it allows us the time we need to properly evaluate the carbon capture project that is going on at Boundary Dam (Power Station Unit 3) right now," said Bruce.
The new restrictions won't jeopardize the clean coal demonstration project that is currently under construction at Unit 3. The unit will surpass the new regulations for coal power.
Unit 3 is expected to be completed in 2014. SaskPower then wants two or three years of actual operation time to prove out the technology and gage how it performs.
"What we learn from that project will help us design the next one, and help us make a decision on moving forward with the next phase of clean coal at Boundary Dam," said Bruce.
Units 4 and 5 at Boundary Dam would be the next to receive a carbon capture retrofit, Bruce said. SaskPower will have to make a decision on the future of those two units by 2019.
"Assuming that we do go ahead with the next phase of carbon capture, which is our plan right now, we would have until the end of 2025 to get that facility fully up and running," said Bruce.
Bruce believes a decision on Unit 6, which is the most powerful at Boundary Dam, will have to be made by 2029.
"SaskPower's intention is to keep that plant running for a long time, and it looks like we'll be able to do that," said Bruce.
Decisions on the Poplar River Power Station near Coronach, and the Shand Power Station southeast of Estevan, won't have to happen until around 2030 and 2040, respectively, Bruce said.
Preliminary negotiations are underway between Saskatchewan Environment and the federal government on an equivalency agreement for coal-fired generating stations, that would allow the provincial government to eventually set the environmental standards.
Environmental groups have criticized the final regulations, but Bruce said it's a good balance between what he called "very strict regulations" and practicality. Utilities like SaskPower now have the time to make proper decisions about the future that coal will play in electricity.
Souris-Moose Mountain MP Ed Komarnicki applauded the new standards.
"The final version of regulations in respect to greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired electricity plants is indeed good news for Estevan and Saskatchewan," said Komarnicki.
Komarnicki believes the government's commitment to carbon capture and storage will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the environment, while supporting jobs for many families.
The new performance standard for coal-fired electricity generating units will come into force on July 1, 2015.