Canada

The coal phaseout

June 4, 2021  |  James Lin

Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@kovalenkophoto?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Nikolay Kovalenko</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/coal?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>

Photo by Nikolay Kovalenko on Unsplash

Coal has been a reliable source of power for electricity for decades, but has come under scrutiny for its greenhouse gas emissions and air quality pollution. Canada pledged in 2016 to eliminate coal-fired electricity generation by 2030, as part of its commitment to the Paris Agreement, the 2015 international United Nations-led climate agreement. More recently, the United Nations’ Secretary General called for OECD countries to phase out coal-fired generation by 2030, and for other countries to do so by 2040. What exactly has Canadian provinces been doing about it?

A couple of provinces have taken steps to phase out their coal plants. In 2003, Ontario’s provincial government announced the intention to eventually shut down its coal plants, which at the time accounted for 25% of the electricity supply mix. In 2014 Ontario’s last coal plant shut down.  Other resources, such as nuclear, natural gas and renewables, have compensated for the shortfall.

Meanwhile in Alberta, the provincial government pledged in 2015 to phase out coal by 2030, which at the time accounted for 39% of the supply mix, and to increase usage of natural gas and renewables.  Progress is on track; in fact, owing to the competitiveness of the alternate fuels, the coal plant owners themselves have decided to speed up the transition, and are scheduled to eliminate the province’s coal generation by 2023!

Hold on a minute, this may all seem fine and dandy, but what happens to the unemployed workers resulting from this transition? In Alberta, the government has implemented the Coal Workforce Transition Program, with financial assistance for re-employment, retirement, relocation and education.

And why does any of this matter? In 2020 Canada formally committed to achieving net zero by 2050, a step towards fulfilling our pledge to the Paris Agreement. The decision to phase out coal and using less polluting alternatives is a also major step in this direction. We are on track on this phase out – stay tuned until 2030!

 

Unrelated ending comic (source: https://xkcd.com/451/)

James Lin

James is the son of INZ founder Charles. He has a PhD in economics from the University of Alberta, and his day job is with Alberta Energy. The views expressed on this site do not reflect those of his employer.

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