Existing coal plants in Canada
As of June 2010, Canada has 24 coal-fired power plants (51 generating units) producing 19 percent of the country's electricity and 13 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions. Table 1 lists these plants.
Old coal plant phase-out
On June 23, 2010, Environment Minister Jim Prentice said Canada will phase out older coal-fired power plants to cut the country's greenhouse gas emissions, moving toward gas fired plants. The new standards, expected to be firmed up by early 2011, will force electricity producers to phase out older, high-emitting coal-fired plants and require newer facilities to match the emissions of gas fired plants. 33 of 51 of Canada's plants will reach the end of their economic lives by 2025; unless the operators make substantial investments to cut emissions from the aging facilities, they'll be required to shut down. According to Prentice: "Our regulation will be very clear. When each coal-burning unit reaches the end of its economic life, it will have to meet the new standards or close down. No trading, no offsets, no credits." The measure is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the country by 15 megatonnes. Along with the proposed regulations, Prentice also announced the government would contribute C$400 million ($384 million) for its share of a fund set up under the Copenhagen accord to help impoverished countries cope with climate change.
Ontario Phase-Out Program
In 2001, Ontario generated 37,000 Gigawatt hours of electricity from coal. As of 2008, Ontario had four coal-fired fuel stations: Nanticoke, Lambton, Thunder Bay, and Atikokan. Together they account for approximately sixteen per cent of Ontario's generating capacity. In 2007, Ontario's Labor government committed to phasing out all coal generation in the province by 2014. Premier Dalton McGuinty said, "By 2030 there will be about 1,000 more new coal-fired generating stations built on this planet. There is only one place in the world that is phasing out coal-fired generation and we're doing that right here in Ontario."
Oct 2010: Ontario to shut four coal units
In October 2010, the Canadian government announced that they will be shutting down four coal-fired units in Ontario, a move applauded by the Green Energy Act Alliance (GEAA), nurses, farmers, First Nations, trade unionists, environmentalists, and builders of clean energy. Since 2003, when coal-fired electricity use peaked, the Ontario Power Generation's emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are down 81 and 77 per cent. The plant's carbon dioxide emissions are down 71 per cent from 2003. 2009 generation by Ontario's coal plants was at the lowest levels in 45 years. In 2004, the Ontario Ministry of Energy estimated that when the health and environmental impacts are factored into the cost of electricity, coal costs 16.4 cents per kilowatt hour compared to 9.6 cents for wind.
The 2008 report by the Ontario Medical Association, "Illness Cost of Air Pollution" found that air pollution was a factor in almost 9,500 premature deaths each year in Ontario. In 2005, smog was a factor for over 16,000 hospital admissions. Doris Grinspun, Executive Director of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO), said in a press release: "Nurses are pleased with today's announcement because it will save lives. We know up to 250 deaths each year are directly related to the burning of coal. That's why we are calling on the government to keep moving forward and accelerate its plan to shut down all coal plants." The RNAO is pleased that the four units are shutting down but would like the 11 remaining units that are running to also be non-operational.
November 2010: Senate rejects CO2 reductions
In November 2010, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government defeated climate change legislation put forth by opposition parties calling for carbon dioxide emissions cuts. The motion called for a reduction of Canadian greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels. It had no legal weight but would have pressured the government to explain its lesser emissions reduction target to the UNFCCC. The legislation was passed by the House of Commons one year ago with the support of all three of Canada's opposition parties, and reintroduced and passed again in May 2010, but was defeated in the Conservative-dominated Senate.
The Harper government has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from 2006 levels by 2020, leading to a 60-70 percent reduction from 2006 levels by 2050. But the figures are less significant when compared to the efforts of other nations and political-economic blocs -- notably the European Union, which is to cut emissions by up to 30 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, as required by the Kyoto Protocol. If pegged to 1990 levels, Canadian carbon reductions would amount to a mere 3 percent, critics note. And carbon emissions are currently up more than 35 percent from 1990.
- "Coal-Fired Power Plants in Canada," Power Plants Around the World, accessed November 30, 2010
- Scott Haggett, "UPDATE 3-Canada to phase out older coal-fired power plants" Reuters, June 23, 2010.
- Ontario Public Health Association website, accessed July 2008
- Ontario Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure website, accessed July 2008
- "Ont. Liberals promise to close coal plants by 2014," CTV.ca, 6/18/07
- KJ Mullins, "Four coal-fired units to be shut down in Ontario" Digital Journal, Oct. 1, 2010.
- "Canada’s Conservatives kill bill to cut CO2 emissions" Grist, Nov. 17, 2010.
Related SourceWatch articles
"Coal phase out," Wikipedia