Provinces Push Back on Federal Pitch for Early Coal Phase-Out
The federal government is running into opposition from some provinces for its plan to include an accelerated coal phase-out in its long-awaited pan-Canadian climate strategy.
“Ottawa made the proposal—which would move up the timeline for eliminating electricity generated at coal-fired plants from the current goal of about 2040—at talks with the provinces on the climate plan,” reports the Globe and Mail [subs req’d]. But “Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, which include coal in their power plans beyond 2030, say such a move could leave them with worthless technology and drive up electricity rates. New Brunswick also expects to use coal until 2040, and its utility opposes an earlier deadline, which it also says could increase prices.”
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“The question is whether they want real strategies with long-term results, or whether they want to put something shiny in the window that would cost us billions of dollars,” a provincial official told the Globe.
Environment and Climate Minister Catherine McKenna confirmed that a faster coal phase-out is on the table, but would have to be done in a “thoughtful way,” the Globe reported late Friday. “Clean electricity will not only reduce our emissions, but help improve air our families breathe and reduce smog days while creating new jobs and investment opportunities for Canadians,” she told the paper via email.
Ian Culbert, executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association, noted that coal pollution is linked to lung and heart disease, autism, cancer, and developmental issues in children. While utilities “reportedly oppose an earlier deadline that might result in an increase in hydro prices, they seem willing to accept the ongoing serious damage being inflicted on the health of taxpayers as a result of coal-fired power plants in their jurisdictions,” he said in a release.
CPHA, along with the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Lung Association, and several other health groups, called for a full coal phase-out by 2025.
But in its report earlier in the day, the Globe said Ottawa is unlikely to impose even a 2030 deadline that would force coal plants to close before the end of their operating life. “We don’t want to strand assets,” said one federal source. (Even though a recent analysis in Colorado showed it would be cost-effective to do exactly that with 6,000 GWh of capacity, after comparing the cost of existing coal and new wind generators.)
“No detailed decisions have been made on the climate strategy,” writes the Globe’s Shawn McCarthy. “But battle lines are being drawn for the final push this fall, and any effort by Ottawa to impose a solution would provoke a provincial backlash.”