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Alberta is a province that wears its fossil-fuel heritage with pride. But it’s taking aim at coal-fired electricity generation.
There may be no more power plants burning coal in Ontario, but it was only a decade ago that the province generated enough electricity from coal to supply three million households.
When the last coal-fired facility was closed in 2014, it capped the single-largest effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in North America.
Now coal-dependent, Alberta is giving it a shot. It is something that would have been unthinkable less than a year ago in a province that wears its fossil-fuel heritage with pride. Depending on the plan, Alberta could set the stage for Canada to become virtually coal-free by 2030 – conceivably earlier.
“From a technical standpoint it’s possible to do by 2025. It’s a timeline that is supportable,” said Benjamin Thibault, director of the energy program at the Pembina Institute, a Calgary-based think tank.
Industry and environmental stakeholders widely expect Alberta will unveil a coal phase-out timeline ahead of the UN climate summit in Paris in December, part of a broader climate strategy that would mark a dramatic shift in the province’s treatment of its heat-trapping emissions.
NDP Premier Rachel Notley set the wheels in motion in May after ending 44 years of Conservative Party rule. She is likely to attend the Paris summit in an effort to rebuild Alberta’s – and to a large degree Canada’s – international reputation on the climate file.
A coal phase-out alone won’t address rising emissions in the oil sands, but environmentalists have long considered it low-hanging fruit on a list that would put the province on a lower-carbon path.
“The direction Alberta is taking is bold,” said Zoë Caron, a senior policy advisor with Clean Energy Canada, a program out of Simon Fraser University that promotes the transition to renewable energy. Caron credited the new government for setting the tone. “It’s really opened the door for everyone to come forward with solutions.”
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