Phasing out of coal-fired electricity could cost taxpayers dearly

Edmonton, November 20 (CINEWS): Ask the average Canadian if he cares about the environment and emissions causing greenhouse gases and they will all say they care deeply. Now ask if they are willing to pay more to help reduce greenhouse gases and their resolve changes somewhat.coal_fired_power_plant
Coal power is the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the province, behind the energy industry. As Alberta formulates a climate change policy, it’s an obvious step forward.
But it’s not going to be easy, partly for logistical reasons; 55 per cent of Alberta’s power comes from coal, so replacing that capacity will be challenging.
The other problem is that the power industry was spending billions of dollars building new coal-fired plants in the past decade — one was commissioned in 2005 and another in 2011. Industry is not keen to see newer, efficient plants closed before they’ve earned back their capital investment.
The stage is therefore set for a fight over compensation, if Alberta moves quickly to wean itself off coal.
Alberta named a climate change panel in August, and part of its role was to consider moving away from coal-fired power in the province. The public, industry and environmental groups were all consulted.
It will surprise no one that that industry and environmental groups took different approaches to the timeline.
The industry submission from TransAlta, ATCO, and Maxim Power was called Dial Down, Dial Up. It suggested a cap on emissions, a 20 per cent decrease in coal-fired generation immediately and ultimately having only 10 per cent of Alberta’s power generated by coal, presumably from the more efficient, newer plants, by 2030.
TransAlta makes the case that a gradual shift will protect jobs and communities where it mines coal and operates power plants and will allow it to increase investment in renewable energy.
The submission from the environmental NGO, the Pembina Institute, suggested that 10 of the province’s 18 coal plants be shut down within five years and that no coal power be produced after 2030, unless there was a system to capture carbon or otherwise offset the emissions.
Almost all climate change discussions come down to weighing the cost to the economy against the benefit to the climate. Alberta’s move away from coal-fired power is no different. The province can chose to move slowly and buffer the industry, or move quickly to have an effect on greenhouse-gas emissions.

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