Taking action to eliminate coal pollution is a key component of the Government of Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan. Emissions from coal-fired electricity generation will be phased out by 2030 with Alberta moving towards more renewable energy and natural gas-fired electricity.
Transitioning from coal-fired generation to cleaner sources of energy is the right thing to do to protect our health, economy and environment. We understand this is not an easy time. That’s why we formed an Advisory Panel on Coal Communities (APCC) – to ensure workers and community members are consulted and heard, and to understand their challenges and ideas for the long-term economic sustainability of their communities.
What will the panel do?
The three panel members are experts in the areas of jobs and training, economic development, industry, local governance and indigenous relations. They will meet with stakeholders and First Nations to:
- examine the potential effect of the retirements of coal-fired generation plants and associated mining operations on communities
- identify strategies to support worker transition
- explore economic development and investment opportunities
These meetings will help the panel fully understand the challenges and opportunities communities are facing so that next steps are responsive to concerns and align with community priorities.
The panel will submit a report with comprehensive advice and options to the government on an approach to support affected workers and communities. The report will include:
- what the panel heard from community members
- an assessment of relevant regulations, policies and programs that support workers and communities
- an assessment of local knowledge, interests and perspectives related to economic impact and retraining opportunities
- recommendations for connecting impacted communities to GoA resources
- recommendations and guidance to support community economic transition, as well as specific actions that government can take to support workers and communities during the transition
The panel is expected to report back to government in early 2017. We will work with local elected officials to get information to communities as soon as it’s available.
Stakeholder and public engagement
The panel will hold facilitated discussions with stakeholders and First Nations in communities most affected by the retirements of coal-fired generation facilities and associated mining operations. The panel will meet with:
- municipal leaders
- First Nations
- community economic development organizations
- small businesses
- affected workers in impacted communities
We also want to hear from Albertans. Share your ideas by completing the online survey.
Input from the community discussions and survey will inform the panel's final report.
Coal in Alberta
Effects from coal-fired electricity generation
Alberta’s electricity sector accounted for 16 per cent of Alberta’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2014. The majority of these emissions were from coal-fired electricity generation. Coal-fired electricity is one of the most emission-intensive forms of electricity generation and one of the highest man-made sources of air pollution. Today, Alberta produces more coal pollution than all other Canadian provinces combined.
This affects the health of Albertans. Poor air quality has been linked to a number of health conditions, including respiratory and heart diseases, stroke and diabetes. Doctors estimate coal pollution is responsible for more than 100 deaths and 4,000 asthma episodes each year. (Source: Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment)
This is in addition to the approximately 4,800 missed days of work and school caused by coal plants annually due to asthma. (Source: Pembina)
Government action on coal pollution
Under existing Government of Canada regulations, coal-fired power plants are required to meet strict standards to lower GHG emissions or retire when they reach 50 years of operations. Under these regulations, 12 out of 18 coal-fired generating units in Alberta will retire before 2030.
Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan will accelerate this timetable so there will be no pollution from coal-fired electricity generation by 2030. To achieve this, coal-fired generators will have to comply with both federal and provincial regulation. This means Alberta’s 6 remaining coal-fired generating units will be phased out and replaced by renewable energy and natural gas-fired electricity, or use technology to produce zero pollution.
Working with coal-fired generation owners
In addition to the panel’s work with communities, the government appointed a facilitator in March 2016 to lead discussions with coal-fired electricity generation owners on the transition to cleaner sources of power.
Terry Boston, the retired head of North America’s largest power grid, worked with coal-fired generation owners, the Alberta Electric System Operator and the government to develop options to phase out emissions from coal-fired generation by 2030. These options will strive to maintain the reliability of Alberta’s electric system, maintain reasonable price stability for consumers, and maintain Alberta’s reputation as a great place to invest.
Mr. Boston has completed his work and made recommendations to the government.
Coal production in Alberta
Eight coal mines currently operate in Alberta. Five of these mines produce subbituminous coal.
Subbituminous coal is used in Alberta for electricity generation. Five mines produced about 23.3 million tonnes of subbituminous coal for domestic coal-fired power plants in 2015. These include:
Bituminous coal, often referred to as metallurgical or coking coal, is exported for steel making and other purposes. Three mines produced about 4 million tonnes of coal in 2015. Metallurgical and export mines will not be affected by the phase-out of coal-fired emissions.
- Cheviot (Cardinal River)
- Coal Valley
- Grande Cache (suspended operations in late 2015)
For more information on coal in Alberta, visit What is coal?