Half of North American power from renewable sources by 2025: plan

Ontario Power Generation Nanticoke Generating Station coal power plant

Ontario Power Generation Nanticoke Generating Station coal power plant

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The leaders of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico plan to announce a major renewable-energy goal when they meet in the Canadian capital of Ottawa this week.

At the Three Amigos summit, they will unveil a plan to generate 50 percent of North America’s power from renewable sources by 2025.

It’s an ambitious plan, at least for two of the three participants.

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Canada has ample renewable-energy generating capacity, but the U.S. and Mexico may have to work hard to meet their obligations under the proposed plan, reports the CBC.

Currently, 37 percent of North America’s power comes from sources that do not produce carbon emissions, according to the Canadian news agency, which cited U.S. State Department figures.

The U.S. specifically generates 13 percent of its electricity from renewable sources including solar, wind, and hydroelectric, according to the CBC report.

Photovoltaic solar power field at Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Photovoltaic solar power field at Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee

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An additional 19 percent of electricity is generated with nuclear power, which produces no carbon emissions.

It is still opposed by many environmental advocates, however, because of the danger of radiation releases and concern over the short- and long-term handling of nuclear waste.

If reducing carbon emissions is the only goal, then including nuclear power would make it far easier for the three countries to reach their 2025 target.

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Citizens who fear another Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, or Fukushima catastrophe may not easily accept that, of course.

Mexico generates about 25 percent of its power from sources other than fossil fuels, including nuclear power, the report said.

In comparison, Canada generates 60 percent of its power from hydroelectric sources, and 3 percent from solar and wind sources.

Wind farm, by Flickr user Patrick Finnegan (Used under CC License)

Wind farm, by Flickr user Patrick Finnegan (Used under CC License)

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Nuclear plants now provide 18 percent of the country’s power.

In addition to the renewable-energy goal, Mexico is expected to agree to the targets previously agreed upon by the U.S. and Canada for reduction of other harmful emissions.

Specifically, those are methane and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a chemical used primarily in refrigeration.

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North America produces about 20 percent of the world’s methane emissions, primarily from leaks in oil and natural-gas pipelines.

Methane is a greenhouse gas that is believed to trap 25 times as much heat as carbon dioxide.

The U.S., meanwhile, remains ahead of Canada and Mexico in both sales numbers and percentages of plug-in electric cars, though last year they represented less than 1 percent of new-car sales.

[hat tip: Brian Henderson]

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