The fossil fuel electricity generation sector is an important component of North America’s economy and provides an indispensable commodity. However, this sector is one of the major contributors to atmospheric pollutants in the region, including criteria air contaminants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter; and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.
Depending on the fuel used, power plants can also release trace metals such as mercury. There is growing concern about the effects of these pollutants on our local and global environments.
Each of the three North American countries has a unique profile involving private and/or public ownership of electric utilities, combinations of electricity generation technologies, and differences in fuel availability and usage. Interdependencies also exist among and within the three countries, not only in terms of electricity imports and exports to meet energy demand, but also in terms of the production and management of power plant emissions.
Because of these interdependencies, communities and governments across North America can benefit from adopting a regional approach and collaboratively exploring ways to minimize pollution from this sector. The Commission for Environmental Cooperation of North America (CEC) Council directive to promote greater exchange of environmental information of interest to the region led to the adoption of Council Resolution 01-05 (29 June 2001) to promote the comparability of air emissions inventories in North America. In the resolution, the Council called upon the CEC to produce periodic reports summarizing publicly available information from North American air emissions inventories, including greenhouse gases. The 2007 CEC Ministerial Statement reasserted this directive.
In 2004 the first “North American Power Plant Air Emissions” (NAPPAE) report  was released in which publicly available data on criteria air pollutants from power plants in North America for base year 2002 were compiled. That report was a North American milestone on the road to supporting trinational decision-making for reinforcing energy linkages among the three countries. The present report is a continuation of this ongoing effort by the CEC. Its aim is to present, in condensed form, updated, publicly available information on the release of specific air pollutants and greenhouse gases from individual plants burning fossil fuels for electricity generation in North America, in order to improve the data collected and increase the comparability and public availability of North American environmental information.
The most recent year for which data from the three countries were available at the time of writing was 2005; therefore, all the information presented in this report is for 2005 unless otherwise specified. Only public information is presented on facilities' installed capacity, electricity generation, technologies utilized, and fuels burned; in the absence of available data and where possible, estimates are calculated based on surrogate public information. The scope and level of information of the present report have increased since the 2004 edition, due to the recent availability of public data for emissions of methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and particulate matter (PM). These were unavailable for the previous report, which was limited to the analysis of data for emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), mercury (Hg) and carbon dioxide (CO2). The present report also covers a larger number of facilities than were included in the 2004 report, thereby offering a more complete picture of the contribution of each country to power plant air emissions across North America. Emissions and operational information on the facilities included in this report can be accessed at www.cec.org/powerplants.
Through the presentation and analysis of the latest available data on the sources, types and amounts of pollutants generated in each of the three countries, this report can improve our understanding of North American power plant emissions and their associated environmental and human health impacts for the region, and support decision-making relative to reducing and preventing pollution from this sector.