Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, announced an important part of the vision for a clean-growth economy: the acceleration of the transition from traditional coal power to clean energy by 2030. Traditional coal-fired electricity does not use carbon capture and storage to trap carbon dioxide and store it.
The accelerating phase-out of coal power will significantly improve the air quality and the health of Canadians. These actions will reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than five megatonnes, in 2030. This reduction is the equivalent of taking 1.3 million cars off the road.
The Government of Canada will support this transition by using the Canada Infrastructure Bank to finance projects such as commercially viable clean energy and modern electricity systems between provinces and territories. Canada will attract global investments that grow the economy and create good middle-class jobs by providing investor certainty and a clear signal to the market that Canada is a leader in clean energy.
The regulatory actions announced today will put Canada on a path to move from 80 percent towards 90 percent non-emitting sources by 2030. Clean electricity will power cars, businesses, and homes across the country. By building a smart, integrated, clean-electricity system, we will deliver reliable and affordable power where it is needed.
- Coal-fired electricity is responsible for close to three quarters of the GHG emissions from Canada’s electricity sector and over 8 percent of Canada’s total GHG emissions.
- Accelerating the phase-out of traditional coal units that do not use carbon capture and storage will result in more than five megatonnes of reductions in GHG emissions, in 2030.
- Coal units are among the largest sources of air pollution in the country, including sulphur dioxides, nitrogen oxides, and mercury pollutants, which cause significant health and environmental impacts.
- Health studies completed by the Pembina Institute estimate that, in 2014, pollution from coal power resulted in more than 20,000 asthma episodes and hundreds of emergency room visits and hospitalizations, costing the healthcare system over $800 million annually.
- Clean, non-emitting energy is one of the fastest growing energy sectors, with wind capacity increased 20 times and solar capacity increased 125 times, in the past decade, according to the National Energy Board. Canada has some of the most abundant and affordable sources of hydro, wind, and solar power.
- This fall, the Government of Canada announced an additional $21.9 billion over 11 years for green infrastructure and the Canada Infrastructure Bank. Together, this investment could support the attraction of the capital investments necessary to transition Canada’s electricity system towards 90 percent non-emitting by 2030.
- Canada’s commitment to invest in green infrastructure could also support remote Indigenous communities that are reliant on diesel generation, to increase the use of clean, non-emitting energy. More details on the green-infrastructure funding are forthcoming.
- Provincial equivalency arrangements may also be established to support the transition from coal towards cleaner non-emitting sources of electricity.
Coal in Cananda
In 2003, the province committed to phasing out all coal consumption by the end of 2014.
Coal made up 25 per cent of the province’s power generation in 2003, which successfully fell down to zero in 2014, according to the Government of Ontario.
According to the Alberta Utilities Commission, 55 per cent of Alberta’s electricity came from coal in 2014.
The province currently operates 18 coal-fired power plants.
About 33.8 million tonnes of coal were produced in 2014 (24.1 thermal and 9.8 coking), according to Alberta Energy. This represents just under half (49%) of Canada’s coal production.
The province plans to phase out coal power by 2030.
TransAlta believes converting these coal plants to natural gas is cheaper than building a new plant and would be a very competitive alternative. True, a converted thermal steam plant would be cheaper, but it is far less efficient than a modern combined cycle gas turbine, or CCGT, plant. This strategy has not played out in U.S. deregulated markets and we think it is unlikely to be successful in Alberta.
An estimated 28.3 million tonnes of coal were produced in 2014, according to B.C.’s Ministry of Energy and Mines. This figure represents approximately 41 per cent of Canada’s coal production.
About 70 to 90 per cent of the province’s coal production is steel-producing coking coal, according to the Government of British Columbia.
The province does not utilize coal for power generation.
The province produces roughly 10 million tonnes of coal per year, according to the Government of Saskatchewan.
Around 44 per cent of Saskatchewan’s energy came from coal in 2014, according to SaskPower.
Saskatchewan has no plans to phase out coal entirely, but is working to retrofit existing coal plants to include carbon capture and storage – a “clean coal” technology.
About 60 per cent of the province’s energy production was derived from coal in 2014, according to Nova Scotia Power.
Nova Scotia has plans to move to cleaner energy sources. While the province has an agreement with federal government to keep the province’s coal plants running longer than federally mandated, caps are set in place to reduce greenhouse emissions over the next 15 years.
About 13 per cent of New Brunswick’s power was generated by single coal-fired plant (Belledune) in 2014, according to NB Power.
There is no concrete plan in place to close the Belledune plant, though a federal government mandate has it slated to close by 2043.
Coal-energy use in Manitoba is limited to emergency production. Coal represents less than 0.1 per cent of the province’s total energy production, according to the Government of Manitoba.
There are plans to phase out coal for home space heating by June 30, 2017.
The remainder of Canada’s provinces and territories — Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon — do not use coal-fired power generation and do not produce a substantial percentage of Canadian coal.