Hydropower: Key to Limiting Climate Change?

As energy consumption continues to rise, the share of carbon-intensive fossil fuels in the energy mix keeps increasing while that of renewable sources such as hydropower declines, said hydropower producers at a recent forum.

Ottawa, Canada – October 25, 2002 [SolarAccess.com] Experts speaking at the third Canadian Hydropower Association (CHA) annual Forum on Hydropower addressed the obstacles to the development of hydropower and other renewables as hydropower producers, manufacturers and developers met in Ottawa to discuss the future of their industry. Participants were reminded that fossil fuels are linked to climate change problems and that more than 60 percent of electricity produced in Canada comes from low-emitting and renewable hydropower. “If we are serious about reducing emissions that cause air pollution, smog and climate change, we will have to decrease our dependence on carbon-intensive fossil fuels,” said Pierre Fortin, executive director of the CHA and organizer of the Forum. “One obvious solution is to implement energy efficiency and conservation programs, and use clean, renewable sources such as hydropower to generate electricity,” Fortin said. Solutions proposed to climate change problems included developing a sustainable energy mix that would take into account social and ecological, as well as economic considerations, and implementing energy efficiency and conservation measures. Among the issues debated were green certification, renewable portfolio standards, and that obtaining environmental permits for new hydropower projects is a lengthy and arduous process. The present environmental assessment process places excessive emphasis on local impacts and does not take into consideration large-scale negative impacts such as climate change or air pollution, which have serious detrimental effects on the health of Canadians and on the environment, said the CHA. They argued that the present process favors fossil fuel power plants over hydropower plants. Many agreed that the Canadian government’s implementation strategy of the Kyoto Protocol should contain fiscal incentives for the use of renewables – including all hydropower, large and small – and for energy efficiency and conservation programs.

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