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Region seeks cap and trade exemption for incinerator

Durham requests facility not have to pay for carbon emissions when legislation comes into effect in 2017


As part of its comments to the provincial government on the upcoming cap and trade laws, the Region of Durham has requested that the Durham York Energy Centre be exempted when the new rules come into effect in 2017. Under the new legislation, facilities that pump our more than 25,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases will have to pay for allowances from the government. As the report on 2015 emissions for the incinerator has not been completed, it is currently unknown how much greenhouse gases it puts out.

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

With the province’s cap and trade program coming into effect in a few months’ time, the region is seeking to gain an exemption for at least one of its facilities: the incinerator.

According to a report approved by the finance and administration committee and on the agenda for the next meeting of regional council, included in the region’s feedback to the province on the new program is a request to not have to pay any of the charges associated with carbon emissions from the Durham York Energy Centre.

Cliff Curtis, the region’s works commissioner, tells The Oshawa Express that the request was made because landfills have been exempted under the new law, due to take effect on the first day of 2017.

“Landfill does generate, depending on how much organic material is in the stuff, generates quite a bit of methane. Of course, methane is a very potent greenhouse gas. It’s many more times more damaging compared to carbon itself,” Curtis says.

“So one of the reasons we wanted to get an exemption on the energy from waste system was that it wasn’t going to be a level playing field anymore because landfill gets a complete break. We didn’t want to be hit with getting a reduction put on us as well because we wouldn’t be competitive with the alternative.”

As part of the new legislation, facilities that produce more than 25,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas per year will be required to purchase allowances from the provincial government.

According to a report presented to the finance and administration committee, the amount of emissions given off by the incinerator for 2015 is still unknown, with the data collection and reporting still underway by the region. However, while he could not give an exact figure as to how much greenhouse gas is emitted from the incinerator, Curtis did say the amount is lower than it would be for a landfill processing the same amount of waste.

“The big reason we wanted to be exempted is that incineration – I know it’s counterintuitive – produces less carbon than landfill from a general perspective,” he says, adding that according to the environmental assessment for the facility, there would be 0.1 fewer tonnes of carbons emitted per tonne of garbage burned, compared to a landfill.

“We were already ahead of the competition, which was landfill, and we wanted to get some credits for that.”

Planning for cap and trade

While the region is seeking an exemption for the incinerator for the upcoming cap and trade program, it is also getting ready for both the financial repercussions that are sure to follow.

When announcing the program earlier, Premier Kathleen Wynne said that Ontario residents can expect the price of gas to go up 4.3 cents because of the program. According to a report presented to the finance and administration committee, this will cost the region between $500,000 and $600,000 per year.

“Percentage wise, it’s not really a big hit, but money’s money,” Curtis says.

“Generally, about a third of my budget goes for energy. After salaries, energy is my next biggest cost. Anything that impacts the price of energy is going to flow through to the taxpayers.”

Curtis adds that a large amount of the fuel costs goes towards heating the buildings under the region’s purview, and will be looking at installations and retrofits to help bring the fuel consumption down.

To help gain credits under the new program – and to become more energy efficient overall – Curtis says the region is looking into several options.

“We are looking at where we can lower our emissions and we’re taking a look at some new programs like trying to create biogas, because we do get some credits for that,” he says.

“We’re looking at what we can do fairly easily and fairly quickly to try and offset. We’ve already picked most of the low hanging fruit because we’re already quite energy efficient, but this will serve as a driver to get us a little more efficient than we have been. It starts to make the business case for more energy efficiency.”