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Canadian province of Alberta quits coal power six years ahead of schedule

A coal-fired power plant spewing pollution into the air.
A coal-fired power plant. Photo: Uwe Aranas/Dreamstime.

The Canadian province of Alberta, home to the city of Calgary, has stopped generating electricity from coal nearly six years ahead of a deadline set by lawmakers.

The latest: Electricity generator Capital Power says its Genesee Generating Station, which was Alberta’s last operational coal plant, has been fully converted to run on gas. This signals the province’s full exit from coal, well ahead of the 2030 mandate.

A brisk transformation: The region’s electricity mix has changed substantially over the past two decades. Coal’s share peaked at 80% in March 2001 before entering a structural decline, according to Scott MacDougall, director of the electricity programme at the Pembina Institute, a Canadian think tank.

Even as recently as 2019, coal accounted for 33.5% of the mix, data from the system operator shows.

The dirtiest fossil fuel has been replaced by gas, which now accounts for the majority of Alberta’s power, as well as renewables, which increased their share to 16.5% in 2023, from 7.3% in 2019. The province “appears to be on track” to reach 20% renewables by 2025, the system operator says.

“This is an incredible feat for the previously coal-dominant province and offers many benefits for Albertans, including cleaner air and cost-savings on energy bills,” MacDougall said in a statement, adding that the quick phase-out highlights “the importance of good policy design with target dates.”

The clear timeline provided certainty for the industry and stakeholders and allowed for efficient investment decisions. And there are clear lessons for other jurisdictions, MacDougall said.

“Modernising the grid means cleaner air, cheaper energy bills, and fewer grid alerts for Albertans. But we still need to bring online more wind, solar and battery storage… support demand-side management measures, and develop the necessary policies to achieve this.”

Jason Comandante, head of Canada for Capital Power, said the Genesee Generating Station repurposing project would deliver up to 3.4 million tonnes of annual emissions reductions.

“This achievement marks a significant moment in history for this legacy, baseload facility that has delivered reliable and affordable power to Alberta for more than 30 years,” Comandante said.

Tags: Alberta, Capital Power, Coal, Jason Comandante, Pembina Institute, Renewables
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