Alberta’s current climate-change strategy includes introducing a broad-based carbon tax that would eventually phase out coal-fueled power generation. The government plans to phase out coal-fired power plants by 2030.
Coal plants are a major source of toxic air contaminants including mercury, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and particulate matter. Alberta’s coal power plants produce about one-third of all the sulphur dioxide released in the province. The health impact cost associated to burning coal for electricity in Alberta are nearly $300 million annually according to a report from a coalition of Canadian health and environmental groups. More than that, the analysis shows that Alberta’s coal burning releases almost as much greenhouse gas emissions as all of the oilsands and climate change impacts from coal-fired power are approximately $1.1 to $4.5 billion annually.
Robin Campbell, the president of the Coal Association of Canada shared his views on the governments plan to phase out coal-fired plants. He commented that doing so could have negative affects like job losses and undermining other industries by boosting the cost of electricity.
“We think the government should be investing in new technology and research to do a better job of reducing emissions,” Mr. Campbell said in an article published by the Globe & Mail, “making sure that we don’t lose our competitive advantage when it comes to our other industries in the province that depend on electricity.”
That would mean money would go into retrofitting the plants so they cause less pollution, while continuing to burn coal. Campbell suggests the government pulls funds from Alberta’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund to do so. This is what industrial companies pay into when they can’t meet their greenhouse-gas reduction targets.
“Money from this fund would be better spent on improving efficiency of businesses and homes rather than supporting coal research and development or retrofits,” said Chris Vilcsak, President and SEO of Solution 105.
“When the coal plants reach the end of their current approvals and licenses, there should be absolutely zero public money spend on upgrades.” Vilcsak continued, “The costs should be directly borne by the generation companies and their shareholders.”
The Alberta government stated that a negotiator has been appointed to help broker the phase out of the plants. They commented the phase-out will be fair to workers, companies and communities.
There is no shortage of feasible renewable energy and low-carbon alternatives in Alberta. Perhaps the phase-out of carbon emitting, coal-fueled power plants will bring these alternatives to a level playing field.
Read Globe & Mail Article: Coal Association of Canada warns Alberta against power plant phase out.