The Climate Leadership Plan will improve air quality by ending coal power emissions and transitioning to cleaner sources of electricity. Under the plan, all pollution from coal-fired electricity will be phased out by 2030.

The plan also sets a "30 by '30" renewable energy target, in which 30% of electricity used by Albertans will come from renewable sources like solar, wind and hydro by 2030.

Moving to more renewable energy and natural gas will protect the health of Albertans - especially vulnerable groups like children and seniors - and save money in health-care costs and lost productivity.

Alberta’s electricity sector today

Coal has traditionally been Alberta’s low-cost source of electricity. In 2014, Alberta’s electricity sector accounted for 16% of Alberta’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The majority of these emissions were from coal-fired electricity generation. In fact, Alberta produces more coal pollution than all other Canadian provinces combined.

Under existing federal regulations, coal-fired power plants must meet GHG emission standards or retire when they reach 50 years of operation.

This means that 12 of Alberta’s 18 coal-fired generating units are already slated to retire by 2030.

Without action, the remaining 6 generating units could continue emitting harmful pollution, reducing air quality and impacting human health – in one case until 2061.

Phasing out coal

In support of our made-in-Alberta transition to a stable, reliable and cleaner electricity system, the government plans to phase out all coal pollution by 2030. This will be achieved through the following actions:

  • having 30% of Alberta’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030
  • allowing coal units to convert to natural gas where it is economically viable
  • creating a market for private investment in technologies such as natural gas, cogeneration or other technologies

Coal phase-out agreements

As part of this transition, the government has elected to provide transition payments to the companies which were originally slated to operate their coal-fired units beyond 2030.

These payments, calculated using a methodology provided by energy expert Terry Boston, represent the approximate economic disruption to their capital investments. They also provide investor confidence and encourage them to participate in Alberta’s transition from coal to lower emitting sources of electricity, such as natural gas and renewables.

The transition payments will be paid from revenues generated by Alberta’s price on industrial carbon emissions – not from consumer electricity bills.

These transition payments are a cost-effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The total payments represent less than $10/tonne of emissions eliminated, which is approximately one-tenth the government subsidy that would be required to retrofit the coal units with carbon capture and storage.

Mr. Boston, the retired head of North America's largest power grid, has led transition discussions with coal-fired electricity generation owners.

Coal units in Alberta

Chart showing the retirement timeline for coal units and associated mines in Alberta

Additional work being done

Phasing-out coal pollution is part of a larger commitment to building a stable, reliable electricity system. Workers, communities and affected companies will be supported and treated fairly during the transition from coal-fired electricity generation.

We’ll work with the companies, affected communities and the Government of Canada to explore options for the future, including coal-to-gas transitions, hydro-electricity and economic development initiatives.

We've appointed the expert Advisory Panel on Coal Communities to meet with community, labour and industry leaders in regions affected by the transition away from coal.

The Government of Canada has also committed to a successful transition for provinces and workers affected by the accelerated phase out of traditional coal power, and will use the Canada Infrastructure Bank to finance projects such as commercially viable clean energy and modern electricity systems.

Health effects of coal pollution

Coal plants are a major source of air pollution, releasing pollutants like:

  • cadmium
  • lead
  • mercury
  • nitrogen oxides
  • sulphur dioxide

This has an effect on the health of Albertans. Poor air quality has been linked to a number of health conditions, including:

  • chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, chronic bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • heart disease, including chest pain and congestive heart failure
  • stroke and diabetes

The following groups are the most affected by poor air quality:

  • children and seniors
  • people participating in sports or strenuous work outdoors
  • people with lung disease, heart disease or diabetes

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) found that an accelerated Alberta coal phase out will prevent 600 premature deaths, 500 emergency room visits, and will avoid nearly $3 billion in negative health outcomes.

Who supports the plan?

A phase-out of coal pollution has been endorsed by a coalition of health professionals, including:

  • Alberta Medical Association
  • The Lung Association, Alberta & Northwest Territories
  • Asthma Society of Canada
  • Alberta Public Health Association
  • Canadian Public Health Association
  • Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
  • United Nurses of Alberta
  • Health Sciences Association of Alberta