- The Canadian government on Monday announced a plan to end coal burn in traditional power plants by 2030, but left open the idea of continuing to utilize facilities with carbon capture technology installed.
- The federal government has committed to backing the transition through the Canada Infrastructure Bank, saying it would finance commercially viable clean energy and modern electricity systems between provinces and territories.
- Coal-fired generation is responsible for almost 75% of greenhouse gas emissions from Canada's power sector and over 8% of the country's total GHG emissions.
Canada is continuing its efforts to decarbonize, and Ottawa's plan to phase out traditional coal generation will be paired with backing clean energy projects and grid edge solutions. The result would be equivalent to pulling 1.3 million cars off the road, regulators estimated.
The decision "sends a clear signal to the world that Canada is a great place to invest in clean energy," Catherine McKenna, Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said in a statement.
Canada has regulations in place which apply performance standard to new coal-fired electricity-generation units and to units that have reached the end of their useful life. According to a policy statement published by the government, the amendments announced today would ensure that all "traditional" coal-fired units will be required to meet a performance standard of 420 tonnes of carbon dioxide (tCO2)/GWh within the next 14 years.
"This approach would accelerate the phase-out of traditional coal-fired units across Canada," the government wrote. "Traditional units are those that don't use carbon capture and storage that traps carbon dioxide and stores it so it can't affect the atmosphere."
The plan sets Canada on a path toward 90% non-emitting generating sources by 2030. The country's government announced this fall that it would commit almost $22 billion over 11 years for green infrastructure.
"Connecting provinces with a clean and modern electricity system is a nation-building effort that positions us to compete for significant global investments in our power sector," said Dominic Barton, chair of Canada's Advisory Council on Economic Growth.
Clean energy has taken hold in Canada over the last decade: wind capacity increased 20 times and solar capacity increased 125 times, according to Canada's National Energy Board. But the country has also pioneered some for the world's first clean coal technologies.
The world's first post-combustion coal-fired carbon capture project came online in 2014 in Saskatchewan. The Boundary Dam CCS produces 115 MW of baseload electricity and is operated by SaskPower. Captured CO2 is sold and transported by pipeline to nearby oil fields for use in enhanced oil recovery.
Canada is also developing new performance standards for gas-fired plants, that would require new units to be built using efficient technology with clear parameters around the use of boilers converted from coal to run on natural gas.
The regulations would cover new and modified natural gas-fired combustion engines that sell or distribute more than a third of their output to the electrical grid. Less stringent standards will be considered for smaller combustion engines; boiler units converted from coal to natural gas would have to meet a performance standard of 550 tCO2/GWh for a 15-year period or until 2045, whichever comes first. A standard of 420 tCO2/GWh would then apply.
Only four of Canada's ten provinces still burn coal for electricity generation, and the country sources about 80% of its power from non-emitting resources. Even so, the Wall Street Journal notes it is the world's 12th largest coal producer and a major consumer of U.S.-mined coal.