The federal government is beginning to indicate to energy companies that new or refurbished coal-fired power plants will not be a welcome component in Canada’s electricity generation system:
Under Ottawaâ€™s proposal, power companies would have to close their coal-fired facilities as they reach the end of their commercial life, largely over the next 10 to 15 years. The companies would not be allowed to refurbish the plants to extend their usefulness or replace them with new coal units, unless they include technology to capture the carbon dioxide and sequester it underground.
If they follow through on this, and give businesses the level of certainty necessary to prevent investment in new coal-fired facilities, this could be quite a step forward.
That said, the toughness required to make a moratorium on new coal effective isn’t necessarily demonstrated in the government’s recent statements, for instance in their assurance that “government intends to set flexible rules that would not force them to close down the plants at an arbitrary date.”
In total, Canada has 21 operating coal plants. Four are in Ontario, and it has already been legislated that they will shut down by 2014. By contrast, enthusiasm for coal is undiminished elsewhere – especially in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Capital Power and TransAltra are partnering to build the 450 megawatt Keephills 3 unit, which would go on producing large amounts of greenhouse gases for many decades.